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What’s brewing? Tea, coffee off the boil

Enlarge Font Size  Decrease Font Size Date: 2016-09-02  View: 35

Cold brews may conjure up a frosty beer to some, but the term actually extends to the non-alcoholic realm of summer coffees and teas. Anything cold is welcome during the August heat in Shanghai.

Cold brews served in cafés and teahouses take longer to make and cost a bit more than traditional espressos and fresh brewed teas. They shouldn't be confused with standard iced coffee or tea.

When making the brews at home, there's no need to even boil water. Cold brews are made by slow infusion of tea leaves or ground coffee. The method of letting ingredients sit for more than 10 hours boosts the intense flavors and releases aromas to their fullest.

The best part about cold brews is they are very convenient to store and take along on travel. You can prepare a few bottles of tea or coffee before going to bed and wake up to enjoy the drinks with a quick breakfast.

Before cold brew tea found its way onto the summer beverage menu, sun tea was the most popular way of making tea the slow way.

To do that, tea leaves or tea bags were put in a pitcher of water and then left to stand out in the strong sun. After three to five hours on a hot day, the water was infused with the tea, and the container was stored in the fridge until it cooled. Or, sometimes the sun tea was served straight from the outdoors with ice cubes.

Cold brew tea is the opposite to sun tea. Instead of using heat to help the tea infuse, cold brew tea achieves the same result in way that doesn't require a hot day's sun or run the risk of bacterial growth lurking in the warm environment.

Making cold brew tea requires two steps. First, place the tea leaves or tea bags in glass bottles or containers of purified water. Use more tea leaves than you normally would in standard tea making. Seal the container to prevent air or bacteria from entering. Let steep three to four hours at room temperature or overnight in the fridge.

Most varieties of teas lend themselves nicely to this method, from light and fresh green, oolong and white teas to the herbal and floral blends. The long steeping time reduces bitterness. It's probably a waste of money to use a premium tea in a cold brew. Longjing tea, for example, is best prepared in the traditional way, with water that's about 80 to 90 degrees Celsius.

However, black teas don't seem to complement the cold-brewing process. Their rich, bold flavors cannot be released, and the golden, ripe taste is lost. The high level of tannins also makes cold brewed black tea quite dry.

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