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TIP OF THE DAY: How To Keep Home-Brewed Iced Tea Clear

Iced Tea

Cloudy Iced Tea

Top: Iced tea should be clear (photo courtesy Mighty Leaf Tea. Bottom: Black tea can cloud when you add juice or other flavorings, like this peach iced tea. Herbal teas can also be cloudy. But we got cloudy tea from plain English Breakfast (photo courtesy Peet’s).

 

We’re capable of consuming four or five bottles of iced tea per day in warm weather; maybe even more. Given our desire to keep plastic out of the landfill—not to mention the $2 to $3 a bottle, we began home-brewing our iced tea years ago. We pour it into re-purposed beverage bottles, or keep it in a pitcher.

One thing we noticed this season is that our tea, which is clear when we put the bottles into the fridge, is cloudy when they’ve chilled down. It doesn’t taste as “clear,” either.

This was top-quality English Breakfast from Rishi Tea. So we put on our science hat to discover why.

We made hot tea, which was perfectly clear; thus, not a problem with the tea or our kettle. We used a glass pitcher instead of a plastic one to brew. We placed the pitcher in the fridge without pouring into serving-size bottles. We tried distilled water, from which the minerals are removed.

The result: still cloudy.

So we asked our wine editor, Kris Prasad—who happens to be a Ph.D chemist—how to solve our problem. Here’s his response:
 
WHAT MAKES ICED TEA CLOUDY?

  • Generally, higher-quality tea leaves contain more tannins, which are the source of the cloudiness.
  • When tea steeps, the tannins dissolve into the boiling water.
  • When the brewed tea goes into the fridge, the cold can cause tannins to separate out. This causes the cloudiness and adds what we perceived as “nano-grit” to the mouthfeel.
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    So that’s the “why.” Now, what can you do about it?
     
    HOW TO AVOID CLOUDY ICED TEA

  • Do not add ice to hot tea or stick the pitcher in the fridge. Let the tea cool to room temperature—not “slightly warm”—first.
  • With a cloudy pitcher of iced tea, you can add boiling water to re-dissolve the tannins (1 cup of boiling water per quart of tea. This should clear up the cloudiness, but will also dilute the tea. If you anticipate the problem, make a stronger brew.
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  • If you’re new to the area, check to see if you have hard or soft water. Hard water can make iced tea cloudy. Get a water filter or buy distilled water.
  • If all else fails, add 1/8 teaspoon of baking soda per quart of tea.
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    ICED TEA VS. ICE TEA

    Properly, the drink is iced tea: tea that has been chilled with ice. It is spelled this way in primers on editing and by the line editors* of quality publications.

    But, as more and more Americans care less and less about the rules of English, ice tea—tea with added ice—has been making inroads, even among some editors.

    There is precedent: Ice cream and ice water were originally “iced cream” and “iced water.” We presume that editors in that era were equally chagrinned.

     
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    *A line editor is responsible for reviewing each sentence for consistency, grammar, punctuation, spelling and word usage prior to publication. Here’s more.

      




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