A few years ago I had a serious coke problem. Not the powdery white stuff, but the corn syrup-sweetened chemical syrup available everywhere in the US. One of the things that finally helped me kick my soda habit was learning to always keep a pitcher of iced tea of varying types and flavors in my refrigerator. Rather than substituting my pop habit with juices and lemonades, I started experimenting with cold-brewing tea.
The downside was that brewing 8 tea bags at a time (the amount of standard tea bags needed to brew 2 quarts) made my tea habit expensive! Over time, I worked out this method to create cheap family size tea bags that don’t require hot water to brew:
Fact: ALL teas can be cold brewed.
Though marketing would have you believe that you have to pay more for teas that can be cold brewed, all teas can be brewed in cold water, if allowed to sit for about 6-8 hours. A pitcher of cold water placed in the refrigerator with tea bags at night is fully brewed by morning.
Additionally, cold brewing positively affects the flavor of most teas! Hot water brings out the bitter tannins in tea, especially green tea, so teas brewed in cold water have less tannins. Additionally, cold-brewed teas are lower in caffeine and better for you than hot-water brewed counterparts- due to being more efficient at removing free radicals from your body, according to a study published in 2008 in the journal “LWT — Food Science and Technology.”
How to Make Family Size Tea Bags:
Making your own tea bags, for hot or cold brewing, is easy! Though it involves a few steps, it’s very simple- and though it looks like one of those things that might fall into the category of “Why bother?!” the process is quick and saves an impressive amount of money. I experimented with a half dozen or so methods (brewing loose and straining, brewing in homemade cloth tea bags, various infusers, brewing in stitched paper tea bags, folding different ways, etc etc) and this method is by far the fastest and easiest and produces the highest quality tea.
How Much Can you Save?
Making your own tea bags significantly cuts costs. It’s about 50% cheaper to make tea with homemade tea bags than with prepackaged tea bags, and it’s about 80% less expensive than soda! (and my calculations were made comparing organic tea to conventionally grown tea. Tea is always on my “always buy organic” list, because the part of the plant we soak for tea is the same part of the plant pesticides are applied to)
Purchased through Amazon, the Coffee Filters cost 4¢ each. + A 1 lb bag of Organic Gunpowder(**see note below) Green Tea (which makes about 25 tea bags) costs $9.99. 9.99 / 25 = 40¢. 40¢ + 4¢ coffee filter = A cost of 44¢ for each two quart pitcher of tea.
If you were to make the same amount of iced tea by using the necessary number of tea bags (generally, 8) of a non-organic value-brand tea, the cost per pitcher jumps to 80¢ per pitcher (and I used bulk pricing for my calculations!) The cost savings compared to prebrewed teas are even more dramatic.
(** “Gunpowder” refers to the leaves, not a flavor. Gunpowder green tea features leaves rolled into tiny balls- this texture requires large pieces of leaves, rather than the tiny shreds of tea sold in packaged tea bags, so gunpowder green tea will almost always be a better quality than any tea in tea bags)
[as of 2016, I’m almost exclusively drinking Moroccan Mint tea from the leaves sold at the tea shop in Pike Place Market]
1. Gather your supplies: You’ll need:
Loose Leaf Tea,
Standard Cone Coffee Filters, No. 4
and small measuring cup or tablespoon.
If you are making multiple varieties, you might want to use a Food Doodler
marker for labeling tea bags.
Working one at a time or in assembly line style production:
1. Scoop loose tea into a coffee filter. For tea bags for standard 2 quart pitchers, 1/8th cup of tea leaves for green or black tea, for herbal teas use 1/4 cup. (It’s hardly an exact science, so if you don’t have a 1/8th cup measuring cup, using a half-filled 1/4 cup measuring cup should suffice)
2. Fold down two corners of the filter- “dog ear style”
3. Next fold the top down, as shown.
4. Staple twice, making sure to secure all folds.
LABELING: After giving up on homemade strings and tags, I now use a FooDoodler pen
to mark my tea bags. Although they write like any marker, the dye in Food Doodlers is edible (and will dissolve into your tea during brewing). This type of labeling works best when done before filling the tea bag.
Favorite Teas for Cold Brewing Ice Tea
My amazon subscribe and save shipment almost always includes tea. Here are a few of my absolute favorites:
Celestial Seasonings Herb Tea, Country Peach Passion, 20-Count Tea Bags (Pack of 6) (Not available Loose Leaf- But Makes a great cold-brewed iced tea)
I enjoy keeping things interesting by lemon juice or flavored stevia. Berry Liquid Stevia is especially good in the gunpowder green tea.
Left to right: Herbal Cranberry Orange Iced Tea, Tulsi Mango Peach Iced Tea, and Gunpowder Green tea with Berry Stevia