Friday, August 17, 2012

On the Rocks

The last couple of summers I've been brewing iced oolong in the evenings after work.  Who wants to sweat over a steaming brew when he's been sweating all day long?  I've had good results with Taiwanese high mountain stuff and Dong Ding, quite refreshing. I have tended to brew the leaves hot and pour the tea over ice, but a few weeks ago I tried a cold brew in the refrigerator overnight to good effect.  I had my doubts about the leaves opening and giving up their juice in such an environment, and though the leaves don't tend to open all of the way, they do brew up nicely in the cold.  It is quite pleasing not have to adjust leaf volume for ice melting and watering your tea down as happens with the hot-brewing method.  

It's a good way to deal with run-of-the-mill oolong-of which there is a great abundance available for purchase over the web (some, unfortunately, without a price tag to match its unremarkableness.)  I'm talking about oolong that is "fine"- nothing off, but nothing vibrant.  I've recently been cold brewing a Dong Ding and a TieGuanYin that are a bit dull when brewed gongfu style, but are quite refreshing when iced-down.  Of course, they do not become extraordinary once you ice them, no alchemical transformation occurs.  But they make a clean, tasty drink to cool you down when you are running hot.  

The temperature dropped down to 29 F on the thickly timbered ridge where I slept last night.  This seemed weird for mid-August at 5300 feet.  Before I zipped myself away in the sleeping bag, I dropped a small handful of cheap TieGuanYin pellets into a quart mason jar and covered them with water from a cubie we kept in the shade.  I set the jar on the hood of the truck.  When we woke and dragged ourselves out into the hard frost, an amber tea slushie sparkled in the early light.  It was delightful to slurp from this chilled vessel during breaks while we worked clearing downed trees with axes and crosscuts and the day grew hotter.  The day was clear with a hint of the cold fall light that sharpens the landscape.  Traces of wildfire smoke were blown out by the cold front and the air was clean and new.  It was a good day to be drinking tea like this.  I am reluctant to attempt the experiment with nicer tea, afraid of "wasting" it.  But it will probably just be better.  We'll see.  There will be hot days yet. 

"Iced" Tea



  1. I've been doing the same this summer. Some average teas become quite refreshing when cold!

    I've also been putting spent leaves into water and leaving it in the refrigerator. If I'm drinking the same tea, I add to the jar each day. You need more leaves then usual, but there is often a surprising amount of life left in the spent leaves...

    1. M. Handler,

      After a couple of weeks of this, I've noticed that teas brewed this way tend to be a bit light. Not surprising since cold water must not play on the leaves in as focused a manner as hot. It's still good stuff, though.

      I'll have to try that with spent leaves of teas that I'm reluctant to throw in the compost.

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