The End of Summer: Cold-Brew Teas That I’ve Enjoyed in the Heat

I’ve posted some images recently on my Instagram of my experiments in cold-brewing tea, and I’ve even teased on my YouTube channel that I would do a cold tea video sometime. But I’ve decided that to really do justice to my cold-brew adventures, I needed to devote a blog post to it. And stay tuned to the end, when I share a little recipe for one of my favorite summer iced tea drinks!

At its heart, cold-brewing tea is incredibly simple. You just put some tea leaves into some cold water, stick it in the fridge, and wait. I used this article from Serious Eats as my guide, specifically the author’s recommendation of about 10-12g of tea per quart of water. I tend to brew a pint of tea at a time, so that’s about 5-6g of tea per brewing.

Then I decided to go a little nuts and try brewing in sparkling water. I got some good-quality 500-ml bottles of sparkling mineral water from the store and experimented with green, black, and oolong teas. I haven’t tried white tea yet, but I imagine it would be pretty nice. Here’s what I’ve found so far.

Green Tea:

I started out with Rishi Sencha as my first experiment. I’d heard a lot about brewing Japanese green teas cold, and I thought it would be a good place to start. The Rishi sencha is a decent sencha, with a nicely balanced flavor profile of grassy and umami, but it’s also available in my local grocery store and not so expensive or difficult to get that I would worry about “wasting” it on an experiment. So I started there.

Cold-brewed, this sencha retains a lot of it’s interesting umami flavor, with a nice green undertone. It doesn’t have any bitterness or even really astringency, apart from a mild tartness that is quite pleasant. It’s very refreshing. It also shines in sparkling mineral water, as the minerality of the water offsets the umami. I could also see using this as the base in a gin-based tea cocktail, if I liked gin (or were indulging in hard liquor at the moment).

Black Tea:

I will admit, I only tried cold-brewing black tea because my husband made a nostalgic comment about Wawa peach iced tea and I wanted to see if I could make something better using cold-brew and homemade peach syrup (spoiler: I did; read on for the recipe at the end of this post). So I grabbed an old tin of Harney & Sons Darjeeling that my mother brought over for a tea party at my house. I chose the Darjeeling for two reasons. The first was the aforementioned rationale about not using teas I would miss if the experiment failed, and the other was that the Serious Eats article doesn’t seem to recommend cold-brewing black teas because their flavor profile is muted, so I thought if I went for a lighter black tea, rather than a big, punchy Assam, it might work better with the cold-brew method.

I was right about the tea. Despite the fact that I only brewed this to be sweetened, I tried a taste of it before adding sweetener and it’s fantastic. The infusion is a deceptively light color, but it has a lot of black tea flavor, without any dry-your-mouth-out tannins or unpleasant bitterness. It tastes like perfectly-steeped black tea. And it stands up quite well to the peach syrup, too. I also enjoyed it in sparkling water.

Oolong Tea:

Oolong is my favorite tea and one that seems well-suited to cold-brew, as it has a lot of complex flavors that seem like they would work well in a refreshing cold beverage. I only tried oolongs steeped in sparkling mineral water, though their charms would almost certainly translate to still water. The first one I tried was a Golden Lily oolong that is a “milk oolong” variety. I idly thought to make a sort of oolong cream soda. It worked well enough, but the green-ness of the tea made for a rather light cold-brew infusion.

But, wow, my next experiment did not disappoint. I found some old heavy-roast Tieguanyin in the back of my tea cabinet and thought, hey, why not chuck it in some fizzy water? I had thought to try it with my peach syrup. Well, the resulting brew was so lovely and complex — with notes of peaches, honey, flowers, and cream already — that I didn’t dare touch it with sweetener. This is my favorite yet and will likely become a new regular in my daily tea rotation. The absolute only thing I would ever add to it would be a shot of bourbon.

Cold-Brewed Peach Darjeeling Tea:

As promised, I’ve also come up with a recipe for peach iced tea using cold-brew. The first step is to steep 5g of Darjeeling tea in 16 oz. of water. Then, you’ll need to make the peach syrup by roughly chopping one fresh peach and putting it in a small saucepan with 1/2 cup of water. Let this simmer until the peach is soft enough to be mashed with a fork, about 15-20 minutes. Then, stir in 1/2 cup of granulated sugar and simmer until all the sugar crystals have dissolved. Strain the syrup into a jar and let cool.

To put together the drink, strain the tea leaves out of the tea, and add about 2 Tbsp. of peach syrup (or to taste) to the tea. Stir well and serve over ice with a slice of lemon and a couple slices of fresh peach. Makes two glasses of iced tea.

My husband’s review was that “it’s pretty good.” So there’s that. Happy steeping!

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Tea Review: White2Tea Tea Reviews, the Black and the White

NB: I received these products for review for free from the company, but all opinions are my own. More about my review sample policies here.

I’m going to take a break from recapping Scotland today to continue my reviews of the generous PR samples that I received from White2Tea recently. Today, I’m going to talk about the two full-sized products they sent me. I was absolutely delighted to see that Paul included both a full-sized brick of their ChocoBrick White Tea, and their A&P Black Tea. I tasted both teas by using the recommended brewing methods from White2Tea, as well as brewing the ways I like to enjoy tea.

ChocoBrick White Tea: This is a large-leafed, sun-dried Yunnan white tea that has been compressed into a 100g brick that is scored for easy breaking into nine portions. So each portion is about 11g. This is a little much for my 150ml gaiwan, but I did persevere to taste it first in gaiwan. This takes a bit to get going, so the first steep or two were light, but eventually, it brews a very richly-flavored, floral cup of tea. It’s quite pleasant, although I felt like I was wasting too much of the potential of the tea steeping in gaiwan. So I tried it grandpa-style in my large china tea cup and enjoyed that just as much. Honestly, I don’t think I would repurchase this simply because I think it is scored into portions that are too big. Each block can provide so much flavor that I felt like, even steeping grandpa-style over an entire day, I was probably wasting much of the tea’s potential. And the brick is not easy to break except along the scores. So I will probably save the rest of this tea to enjoy with friends, when I’m brewing for more than myself.

A&P Black Tea: This tea somewhat exemplifies what I think of when I think of White2Tea: an interesting tea, pressed into a cake, and named after a deep literary reference (in this case a short story by John Updike). This is a deep, full-bodied Yunnan Dianhong black tea that has been pressed into a traditional large bing cake. The tea pick that Paul included in the order came in handy for this one. I find it easy to pick off a portion of tea suitable for any style and size of brewing vessel. I did enjoy this in gaiwan, but thought the rich mouthfeel, raisin-y flavors, and round tannins suited a western style of brew as well. I also brewed this up one morning when I just wanted a cuppa black tea, without much attention or care for the leaf, and found it just as delightful. I would buy this again.

All-in-all, I was impressed with these two offerings from White2Tea, but now it is time to move on to their bread-and-butter, the Pu’er teas. Stay tuned for after the Scotland recap finishes for those reviews!

Autumn 2016 Teas I’ve Been Loving

Good morning. As my blog name implies, I am an avowed tea-drinker. And I haven’t done a tea review in a while now. Lately, as the weather cools down, I find myself reaching for more rich black teas, sometimes with milk and a touch of sugar, or else a more-oxidized oolong tea. So I thought I’d share a few of the things I’ve been drinking that I rather enjoy in the chilly weather.

Beautiful Taiwan Tea Company Asian Beauty Oolong: This was my autumn transition tea. It is a large-leafed, moderately-oxidized oolong that gives a robust, amber-colored cup of tea. It does tend towards bitterness if brewed too hot or for too long, and I find this is one of the few oolongs I actually prefer brewed Western-style than in a gaiwan. And, of course, given my love of Asian beauty products, I couldn’t resist the name.

Harney and Sons Black Tea Sampler: As I’ve mentioned before, when the weather gets cold, I turn to rich black teas. The thing is, I tend to drink a lot of breakfast tea with milk and occasionally sugar, and then a lot of Earl Grey. Not a lot of variety. So I decided to get myself a four-tin sampler set of black teas from H&S this autumn. It includes teas from China, India, Sri Lanka, and Kenya, which is a nice assortment and goes beyond the standard Assam and Darjeeling teas I know and love. I believe my favorite is the Kenilworth Sri Lankan tea, but all of them are distinctive and have their appeal. If you’re looking to expand your black tea horizons, these samples are varied and generous for the price.

Harney and Sons Earl Grey: Of course, I couldn’t go all autumn and winter without a nice Earl Grey. So I bought a four-ounce tin of H&S Earl Grey. It’s a rather large amount of tea, which is perfect for everyday tea drinking. If I’m not in the mood for something specific, I generally turn to the Earl. This is a nice blend, not too bergamot-y, and not too bitter. It handles oversteeping when I occasionally forget about my tea on a busy morning. And it doesn’t send me bouncing off the walls with caffeine, but it’s a proper morning pick-me-up. A solid Earl Grey offering.

Disclaimer: I purchased all products described and was provided no incentive for review. I have not used any affiliate links.

On Black Tea and the Beginnings of Autumn

After quite a hot August and a September that refused to cool down for long, it seems we’ve finally seen the beginnings of autumnal weather. I was still glad for a weekend retreat to FiancĂ©’s parents’ house up north, but upon returning home, I found I now need a jacket in the morning and don’t arrive at home again drenched in sweat.

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Keemun Mao Feng from Harney & Sons. #tea #blacktea

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Now changing seasons means changes of all kinds. People change their wardrobe, perhaps even wearing different colors. I know I find myself less inclined to wear pastels, and more inclined to wear heathered knits. Some change their skin care, adding in more moisture and removing products that helped them deal with the sliminess that summer’s heat can bring.

But perhaps my favorite seasonal change is my change of tea. You see, in cooler weather, I prefer richer teas. While I drink all teas year-round, in the summer, I find myself drawn to light, refreshing green teas and lightly-oxidized oolongs. As the weather cools, I reach more for fuller-bodied teas, like more-oxidized oolongs, as well as black teas. While I have had my share of black tea cuppas over the summer, I tend to save them for days when I’m lying about the house, not doing much of anything, and enjoying the artificial coolness of air conditioning. On days when I’m out and about in the heat? No way.

In honor of the changing seasons, I decided to treat myself to a new tea-for-one set and a new sampler of black tea leaves. So far I’ve tried two of the teas and they’re lovely. Rich and malty and just a little astringent. Warming and comforting, like a cozy blanket in tea form. Perfect for autumn.

Rainy Days and Earthy Tea

It’s raining today. Right now, it’s really coming down. I can hear the rain pelting my office window, coming down constantly, with little bursts of potency occasionally. The whole landscape is grey and chilly and dreary. It’s a wonderful day to be inside. If I were at home, I would be curled up with a blanket or shawl, probably one of my cashmere shawls, on my favorite chair, with a cup of tea, maybe a book or television show, and a lovely snack that I made because it’s a dreary day and dreary days require snacks.

Sadly, I am at work. While I still have a shawl and a chair, neither are as cozy as being in your own spot at home. And there is no lovely complicated snack. But I do have a cup of tea.

This week is also tech week, which means late nights after long work days, and little sleep in between falling into bed and rising the next morning as the alarm blares so much earlier than one expects it. Little sleep and long days ahead call for fortification and the light oolongs and green teas that enticed me when the weather was warm just are not satisfying me now. So I was pleased to see a sample of Pu-erh black in my Simple Loose Leaf box this month. Today simply called for it.

Pu-erh is certainly an acquired taste, and it has been a while since I enjoyed it, but I love the earthy richness. This Pu-erh has a subtle dirt smell to the dry leaves, but blooms into a complex medly of scents and flavors in the brewed cup. The aroma has a note of fish almost, like really good gardening soil, and opens into a soft, round richness on the tongue, with absolutely no tannin, but a nice mineral quality that makes it feel comforting and uplifting. While Pu-erh is supposed to be high in caffeine, I get no immediate jittery buzz like I do from coffee or some strong black teas. Instead, I get a rising warmth and energy as it works its way into my system.

All in all, a lovely way to greet what promises to be a long day.

Simple Loose Leaf: First Boxes, and Early Impressions

I mentioned earlier that I had joined the Simple Loose Leaf subscription tea service. To be completely honest, I chose them because they were one of the least expensive options, and I liked that it was a small business run out of the US. I considered some other services, but they either seemed focused on flavored teas, or else had excessive shipping times from being based overseas.

Before I joined, I emailed the company to express some concerns I had, primarily about the types of teas they choose for the box. Andrew assured me they are a company of tea-lovers who love the flavor of tea and are not overly concerned with making tea taste like something else. So I dove in.

I’ve received two boxes, one for March and one for April. Right away, the snow at the end of February put a cramp in their style, and I received a lovely email from Andrew explaining that the boxes would be delayed as weather prevented them from receiving some of their supplies. Sadly, I had hoped that my first box in March would be a birthday box, but it was not to be. That said, once I did receive the box, it was a pleasant gift.

The highlights of the March box were a gunpowder green tea, which came with a sample of spearmint tea to make a Moroccan mint with the recipe and packets of Turbinado sugar included, as well as a lovely Darjeeling. I’ve gotten more into Darjeeling teas with the spring, so that was a nice sample. It also included some herbal and flavored blends I haven’t tried yet.

April’s box had a Fujian black tea and a Taimu Mountain green tea that were a lot of fun to try and right up my alley. It also had some flavors I wasn’t so excited about. There was a Thai Chai that I still haven’t tried, but I like other chais, so maybe it will be good. The really out-there one was Nutty Mocha Mate, which I tried and did not like. I thought it kind of tasted like really weak coffee, which isn’t my preference. It also included a Jasmine Rooibos, which I haven’t tried because I don’t generally like Rooibos, but I like jasmine, so I may try it in the future.

I have to say, my current favorite part of the store is the 50% discount you get with a subscription! I got an order of 4 1-oz. bags of tea recently that I picked myself. It was three oolongs (Four Seasons oolong, Jade oolong, and Magnolia oolong) and their Four Horsemen black tea blend.

Four Seasons oolong is a really lovely, interesting tea. I was out of oolong but in the mood for it. It’s a variety of Tie Guan Yin oolong, which I’ve had before elsewhere and liked, but I noticed a particularly lovely milk oolong quality to it. It’s more subtle than the milk oolong I got from a local tea store and much more refreshing.

Four Horsemen blend is my go-to morning cup of black tea right now when I need a pick-me-up. It’s a blend of Assam, Darjeeling, Yunnan, and Keemun teas and you can pick out the qualities of each. In particular, it has the full body of an Assam, but without smothering the delicate quality of the Darjeeling.

Magnolia oolong is my new favorite tea right now. It’s a scented tea, like a jasmine green tea or a rose black, but the sweet scent of magnolias just go with oolong tea, and bring to mind the slowly-emerging spring. I highly recommend it for spring. I drink it at work when I can’t get outside, but I imagine it would be even more lovely sipped in the garden in the sun under a giant hat among the flowers.

So far I’m impressed with the quality of the teas and the service with Simple Loose Leaf and look forward to more from them. I’ve purchased the subscription myself, so I get nothing in return for this review.