Entertaining with ease: the art of cold brewed tea

I’m starting a new series of posts here on the blog. Entertaining with ease is something I still strive to master. We all get better at it with time, sure, but I hope to help you along your path with a few low-cost, success-building entertaining skills I’ve picked up as a result of inviting myself over to all sorts of hip hosts’ houses.

A beverage makes sense as the inaugural post. The gateway to entertaining like it’s no big deal lies in your beverage capabilities. Having cup-like objects and something to put in them can instantly turn a few people standing around awkwardly into a relaxed hey-we’re-hanging-out kind of moment. Contents of cup are not important i.e. alcohol not required.

lime-infused British breakfast tea

Cold brew tea method

Cold brewing iced tea is one of those things that is so easy I can’t fathom why I haven’t been doing it forever. 

As my personal period of creative income mapping has progressed, I find myself periodically in my friend’s commercial kitchen, helping her prepare seasonal fruits for her small-batch artisan jam business, Confituras. Andrew, the owner of the kitchen, would pinch portions of my preserver’s waste, peels, skins, pits, unneeded juices to make infused teas. He began sharing them with me, peach, citrus or apple teas all delicious, unique creations essentially made from trash.

No boiling water, no fancy equipment. Time and tea are the only things you need to cold brew. Experimentation is encouraged, if not required. Failure is usually thwarted by the addition of some honey, sugar and/or water (to turn a too bitter infusion into something deliciously drinkable).

I’d hoped to post this a month ago. Seasons are not really of the essence though, because iced tea is something that can and should be enjoyed year-round and there’s usually something delicious laying around to infuse into your tea by way of scraps from your kitchen.

Okay, I think you’re ready. Get out your pens and write this down somewhere:

1 heaping teaspoon loose tea (or one intact teabag) per every quart of water/liquid, make it stronger if you want; this is just a loose guideline to get you started.

Let it sit in the fridge, covered for 24-48 hours (any longer and the tea will become bitter).

Strain with a fine sieve or a cheesecloth-lined colander.

Sip triumphantly.

Juice from softening apples for apple butter, infusing with Ceylon black tea

Adding flavors

Use cores, peels, and fruit scraps of your liking for flavor additions, and remember that if you plan to use the skins/peels in this or any continued way, consider buying organic. Pesticide tea is probably not what you have in mind for delicious party bev, right?

You can use raw scraps (cores and peels from an apple pie-making session), or post-processed scraps (like I did with my concord grape skins and pits after juicing for jelly).

You can even use a fruit juice to infuse the dried tea (instead of just water). Update on the apple juice and ceylon infusion: the juice was too pectin-rich and viscous to absorb any of the tea. I made jelly with that slightly-ceylon-infused juice instead.

Now go make something delicious and invite some friends over to drink it. Oh, and I’d drink it within the week, since you’re not adding preservatives to it. Tea can ferment with age (hello kombucha).

concord grape-infused lemon ginger tea

“Recipes” for the above teas:

  • Lime-infused British breakfast: roughly 1-quart of juiced lime rinds, tossed in my 4 quart food storage bin, 4 British breakfast teabags, filled with ~3 quarts water
  • Concord grape-infused lemon ginger: Directly in pitcher 1-cup juiced, spent grape scraps, 2-4 lemon ginger teabags, fill with ~2 quarts water.

Disclosure and appreciation: I’d like to thank Takeya for sending me this fine tea infuser/pitcher pictured above. By its sheer size, I’ve found it a great resource in my house both for cold brewing iced tea and for serving all kinds of bevs (without the infuser cup). It’s made of BPA-free plastic, which is a huge plus around here [clumsy dish-do’er raises her hand].

When I realized it was unwieldy for hot tea brewing for the masses, a simple mathematical error on my behalf as my kettle only holds 1 litre and the pitcher (which must be full to infuse properly) is nearly 2 litres, they sent me the smaller infuser/pitcher, too.