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Tea-drinking is a major part of Chinese and Japanese culture, enjoyed casually from households to diners, available in bottled products at supermarkets, convenience stores and even vending machines; as well as savoured by connoisseurs in elegant teahouses and fine-dining restaurants. Among the most popular types of tea is green tea, and with the Japanese people’s deep love and adoration for it, there is, of course, a cooler way to enjoy green tea in the summer.
Why cold brew?
Now, maybe you’re thinking: drop some ice-cubes in hot tea, and done, right? Well, not exactly. You see, green tea when brewed hot, actually tastes more bitter, contains more caffeine, and has a higher acidity; and adding ice-cubes can at most, dilute the flavour. This is because hot water releases the tannins in the leaves, which gives your tea that signature bitterness and astringent taste. Hot water also releases the tea’s caffeine into your drink. So, if you’re looking for a pick-me-up rather than a refreshing drink, hot green tea does the job.
Cold-brew, however, gives you less caffeine so you won’t get the jitters; and doesn’t release the astringent agents that make your green tea taste bitter. It’s literally brewing your tea in ice-cold water. Besides a cooling summer drink, you might also be surprised that cold brew green tea tastes more refreshing, and leaves a very subtle but soothing sweetness. For an added health bonus, cold water also extracts the leaves’ antioxidants into your drink but doesn’t destroy them as hot water might do.
Green tea-types good for cold
Any of your preferred Japanese green tea is good for cold brew, but standard Sencha and high-grade Gyokuro are generally the better options. Sencha are grown in the sun, with the thinner leaves in the upper shoot harvested for processing. Gyokuro are grown in the shade, under specially-made mats. This allows the tea plant to produce more amino acids, which makes the leaves more aromatic and gives a sweeter, richer flavour. Both leaf-types are rolled and dried into tiny needle-shapes for brewing.
Make it at home
It’s super easy to make cold brew green tea at home!
Step 1: Put your tea-leaves in a bowl.
Step 2: Scoop and fill the leaves into small filter-bags, and seal tightly. If your green tea comes in tea-bags, then just go straight to the next step!
Step 3: Choose a sealable container and fill with cold water. Drop the tea-bag in. Poke it gently to immerse in the water and to get the brewing started.
Step 4: Put on the lid, and keep the tea in your fridge for 3-24 hours. Cold water takes longer to brew your tea but doesn’t get bitter in a day as hot tea does. It also locks in the green tea’s refreshing flavour. But more than a day and your cold tea will become more astringent and sour, even in the fridge; so do savour it before that.
Step 5: Remove from your fridge, add a couple of ice-cubes, and voila! Fresh cold brew green tea to beat the summer heat!
Want it even easier? Fill a teapot with ice, put your tea leaves in, close, and let it sit for a few hours until the ice melts completely. Then steep the tea, and you’re good to go!