Cold Brew Tea: What It is & How to Make It Properly

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The secret to making the best iced tea is to cold brew it, steeping tea in cold water for a few hours. Get tips and step-by-step directions on how to make refreshing cold brew tea at home from a Tea Sommelier.

Bottles of cold brewed tea.

What is Cold Brew Tea?

  • Cold brewing is a slow and gentle process where tea steeps in water for hours in the refrigerator. Cold brew tea makes absolutely the best iced tea. It’s also the easiest way to make iced tea, but it does take several hours.
  • Cold brewing makes a sweeter, smoother tasting tea since tannins, which make tea bitter, aren’t steeped out of the tea in cold water the way it does in hot water. This means no more bitter iced tea!
  • Because cold brewing doesn’t involve hot water, it’s perfect to make in the hot summer months.

Love iced tea? Try making my Raspberry Iced Tea, Peach Iced Tea, Lemon Iced Tea, and Thai Iced Tea.

For a quick overview, see the cold brew tea web story.

Ingredient Notes

Cold brew iced tea ingredients.
  • Loose tea or tea sachets
    Any and all kinds of tea can be cold brewed.
  • Water
    Use filtered water for a better tasting cold brewed tea.
My Glass Container Pick

Photo Credit: williams-sonoma.com

In the summer, I fill these Weck jars with all different kinds of iced tea.
SEE PRICE ON WILLIAMS SONOMA

Step-by-Step Instructions

Two photo collage showing steps to make cold brewed tea.

For complete brewing guide, full ingredients, and instructions, scroll to the bottom.

  1. Put tea and water in a pitcher or glass container. Cover and place in refrigerator to cold brew.
    Use cool or room temperature filtered water. No need to boil any water to make cold brew tea.
  2. Strain out tea leaves.
    Use a mesh strainer if using loose tea or just take out the tea sachets or tea bags.

Expert Tips

  • Ice is optional since the tea is already chilled, but add ice to keep it colder for longer.
  • Not all tea is cold brewed for the same amount of time. Green tea in general is trickier to cold brew. It can taste bitter if not made properly so always check brewing guides. Black tea, oolong tea, and herbal teas are the easiest to brew since it’s harder to mess up and should be cold brewed for 12 hours.
  • Instead using a strainer, the easiest way to cold brew tea is in a cold brew maker since you can just take out the infuser instead of straining the tea into another container.
  • Make and store your tea in glass containers. Plastic tends to stain and leave behind odors.
  • Keep cold brewed tea in constant rotation by starting a new brew 1-2 days after starting the first.
  • Cold brewed tea can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

Questions You May Have

Is there caffeine in cold brew tea?

Unless it’s an herbal tea, there’s caffeine in cold brewed tea. There’s less caffeine in a cold brew tea (about half) than tea steeped in hot water.

Can I cold brew any kind of tea?

Yes!

How long can I keep cold brewed tea in the refrigerator?

Up to 4 days. After that, it loses quality and starts tasting off.

Why should I use loose tea instead of tea bags?

Cold brew made from loose tea is so much better and more flavorful since loose tea is a much higher quality tea. Tea sachets are great for cold brewing too.

What’s the best way to sweeten cold brew tea?

If you want to sweeten your iced tea, use simple syrup. It’ll be the easiest to incorporate into your tea since it’s liquid. Also try flavored simple syrups to sweeten and flavor your iced tea.

Conversion Chart

TO MAKEWATERTEA
1 serving1 cup1.5 teaspoons loose tea or 1 tea sachet
2 servings2 cups1 tablespoon loose tea or 2 tea sachets
4 servings4 cups
(1 quart)
2 tablespoons loose tea or 4 tea sachets
8 servings8 cups
(2 quarts)
4 tablespoons loose tea or 8 tea sachets
Cold brewed tea in glass bottles.

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Easy Cold Brew Iced Tea

Author: Jee Choe
How to make the best iced tea — cold brew it! Super easy and refreshing.
4.8 from 73 votes
Prep Time 2 mins
Steep Time 12 hrs
Total Time 12 hrs 2 mins
Course Drinks
Yield2 servings

INGREDIENTS
 

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon loose tea or 2 tea sachets or tea bags

INSTRUCTIONS
 

  • Put tea and water in a pitcher or glass container. Cover pitcher and put in refrigerator for at least 12 hours.
    Use cool or room temperature filtered water. No need to boil any water to make cold brew tea. Use filtered water for the best tasting cold brewed tea.
  • Strain out tea leaves.
    Use a mesh strainer if using loose tea or just take out the tea sachets or tea bags.

NOTES

Cold Brewing Guide

  • TEA: 1 ½ teaspoons loose tea or 1 tea sachet or 1 tea bag
  • WATER: 1 cup (8 oz.)
  • WATER TEMPERATURE: Cold water
  • STEEP TIME: 6-12 hours in the refrigerator depending on the type of tea

Cold Brew Time

  • White tea: 6 hours
  • Green tea: 3-6 hours
  • Oolong tea: 12 hours
  • Black tea: 12 hours
  • Herbal tea: 12 hours

Tips

  • Ice is optional since the tea is already chilled, but add ice to keep it colder for longer.
  • Not all tea is cold brewed for the same amount of time. Green tea in general is trickier to cold brew. It can taste bitter if not made properly so always check brewing guides. Black tea, oolong tea, and herbal teas are the easiest to brew since it’s harder to mess up and should be cold brewed for 12 hours.
  • Instead using a strainer, the easiest way to cold brew tea is in a cold brew maker since you can just take out the infuser instead of straining the tea into another container.
  • Make and store your tea in glass containers. Plastic tends to stain and leave behind odors.
  • Keep cold brewed tea in constant rotation by starting a new brew 1-2 days after starting the first.
  • Cold brewed tea can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

NUTRITION

Calories: 1 | Carbohydrates: 1g | Sodium: 12mg | Calcium: 7mg
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68 thoughts on “Cold Brew Tea: What It is & How to Make It Properly”

  1. I’ve ruined more than my share of sweet iced tea using boiling water. I have to give this a try, before the warm season passes. I think I’ll use a sheng puerh that I’m not too fond of, just as an experiment. Thanks!

    Reply
  2. Hello! I was wondering about reusing the loose tea leaves? I assume they lose potency with each batch. So how often would you switch from reusing to new leaves? Also can you maybe recommend a ratio of old/new leaves if I want to have a consistent brew each day?

    For context, I plan on making about 3 cups to drink throughout the day each day. So that’s about 4-5 tsp of leaves for each batch. Maybe I should do half old and half new? What do you think?

    Reply
    • Hi Matt, I wouldn’t mix the new and used brewed tea leaves. Make the first batch with new leaves, cold brew it for 12 hours, then strain out the leaves and put it in a new container and cold brew that one for 18-24 hours. So shorter cold brew time for new leaves and longer cold brew time for used leaves. I would cold brew used leaves just once.

      Reply
  3. I put 9 black tea bags in a gallon container, add appx. .5 gal. boiling water and steep for 8 min. Lightly press bags, discard, and fill container with cold tap water. Pour out some to fill 20oz. ice-filled mug. Refill container with more tap water. Leave out to cool for a few hours, then put in refrigerator. Outstanding! I will try your method for comparison.

    Reply
  4. Hi! How long it last the ice tea in the refrigerator after the cold brew? It would be better to add the fruit and the leaves of mint or basil when i am going to serve it if i want my ice tea last longer? Thank you!

    Reply
    • Hi Florencia, the cold brew will last up to five days in the refrigerator. You can cold brew with the fruit and herbs for 2 days (you want to make sure the flavors get a chance to infuse into the tea) then discard so that it’s not in the cold brew for the entire 5 days.

      Reply
  5. I’m making an 8 cup pitcher of loose tea iced tea by adding 1 teaspoon of loose tea for every cup so basically i’m using 8 teaspoons but if i wanted to make a stronger tasting tea how much more teaspoons can i add to the pitcher. Should i double that amount (16 teaspoons) or less than that.

    Reply
    • Hi Lenny, I would double if you want it to be super strong. But if you just want iced tea that’s stronger than normal, I would go with 12 teaspoons for 8 cups.

      Reply
    • Hi Abdulazis, you can use simple syrup which is half sugar (you can also use honey) and half water that comes to a boil on a stovetop.

      Reply
  6. What would be the maximum time that i can cold brew my loose iced tea in the refrigerator before having to strain it

    Reply
    • Hi Lenny, you can probably go up to 48 hours but I wouldn’t do it for longer since the cold brew would be too strong.

      Reply
  7. I usually make a 2 quart (usually 8 cups all together) pitcher of cold brew tea what would be the right amount of equal parts sugar and water for my simple syrup that would give me just the right amount of sweetness but not overly sweet.

    Reply
    • Hi Lenny, it’s a little hard to say since everyone’s idea of the right amount of sweetness is a bit different. I would start with 1/2 cup of sugar for the 8 cups and adjust from there.

      Reply
  8. Would it be okay to add a simple syrup to my loose tea iced tea and if so should i wait for the syrup to cool down to room temperature before adding it to the cold brew tea.

    Reply
    • Hi Lenny, best to wait till the simple syrup cools down a bit before adding into your iced tea but if you’re in a hurry, you can just add more ice. And yes, definitely ok to add the simple syrup to your iced tea if you prefer.

      Reply
  9. Great summary! What are your thoughts on brewing at room temperature vs in the refrigerator? I tend to do my coffee at room temperature on the counter but my tea in the fridge but I’m curious if anyone here prefers tea at room temperature?

    Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
    • Hi Chip, I like my tea either hot or cold so I’ve never tried to brew it at room temperature although I know some people like to brew it at room temperature for a couple of hours before storing it in the fridge. If you like yours room temperature, I don’t see any reason not to brew it that way!

      Reply

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