Cold brewing is a pretty popular method for making coffee. It’s easy, it takes the bitter edge out of the coffee, and your brew is ready and waiting when you get up in the morning. But cold brewing isn’t necessarily everyone’s go-to method when it comes to herbal tea. While cold brewing isn’t ideal for every situation, it can definitely be an incredible tool for making herbalism simple, accessible, and an easily integrated part of your daily routine! (And for the record, it is my go-to more than half of the time!)
When is cold brewing herbal tea ideal?
There are plenty of scenarios in which cold brewing your herbal tea overnight in the fridge is a great option.
If you’re using fresh herbs like lemon balm, mints, and rosemary, cold brewing brings out all the freshest, greenest flavors and energies and pairs well with fresh fruit.
When working with bitter herbs like chamomile and nettles, cold brewing works wonderfully to cut the bitter edge. This also goes for black and green teas—and it renders them slightly less tannic and caffeinated, if that’s what you’re going for. And if you’re a sweetener or sugar type, you might even find that your cold brewed teas don’t need any added sweetness like hot teas do!
Some herbs are more mucilaginous and simply do better in cold water, or are at least very well-suited to cold water. Marshmallow root, licorice root, and hibiscus fall into this category.
For convenience, I love to cold brew big jars of my daily sips overnight. I use this method especially for daily nourishing and supportive tonic teas I want to sip through the day. They’re just there, ready and waiting when I need them—no excuses or barriers to getting my “health potion!” And if I’m going to be on the go, I can just grab my jar and take it with me, for even more convenience.
Obviously cold brewing your tea is especially useful in hot weather, or anytime if you’re simply a cold beverage person. You don’t have to wait for the hot tea to cool down if you brew it cold!
When is cold brewing not the best method for herbal tea?
Sometimes, there are certain factors that make cold brewing teas less than ideal. Here are a few occasions to think twice about cold brewing.
If you’re using your tea to treat a cold or cough, hot tea may be best. Hot tea extracts quickly to address your symptoms, it can make a stronger tea more quickly, and the heat may soothe your nose, sinuses, mouth, throat, and lungs more effectively.
There are certain botanicals that just don’t brew well, or as well, in cold water. Roots, woody herbs, and seeds tend to need hot water in the form of a regular hot brew, or even a decoction, to extract all the flavor and constituents effectively. Some examples of these herbs include chai-type spices (cloves, dried ginger, allspice), dandelion and burdock roots, astragalus, reishi, dried hawthorn berries, dried rose hips, and many others.
Even a few tender herbs sometimes do better when brewed hot, too, if you’re looking to extract vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients more fully to make a true “nourishing infusion.” Nettles are a good example of this—though I personally dislike the taste of them as a hot tea enough that I’ll take my chances with the lesser amounts of nutrients in a cold brew! Raspberry leaf and red clover are other herbs that must be brewed hot if your goal is to extract the most nutrients possible.
Cold weather is also, of course, a possible factor. Sometimes you prefer a cozy, warm drink to encourage circulation and warm you up!
What do you need to cold brew herbal tea?
Cold brewing herbal tea does not require much in the way of equipment, tools, or skills. The most important part is a container—large glass jars work best—and herbs! You can even begin getting your feet wet by cold brewing about 3 store bought tea bags at a time per quart jar. (Jasmine green tea bags are my favorite to do this way.)
You will also need a way to strain your tea, whether you opt for a mesh kitchen strainer, a metal tea strainer, or environmentally-friendly paper tea bags (my usual choice for convenience). You can also bypass all these separate items by using a French press (reserved only for tea and not used for coffee) or a cold brewing jar.
My method for cold brewing herbal tea is very simple and takes little effort or thought. I either place three store-bought tea bags into a quart jar, fill with water, and place in the fridge overnight, or I fill a large eco-friendly paper tea bag with dried herbs and use the same sized jar, also brewing in the fridge overnight.
Here are some ideas if you’d like specific recipes for loose leaf, dried herbs to cold brew. In these recipes I’m using a quart jar and the parts are probably heaping tablespoons.
1 part chamomile, 1 part lemon balm, ½ part lavender
1 part mint, 1 part nettles, ½ part rosemary, ½ part lavender
1 part calendula, 1 part chamomile, 1 part elderflower, ½ part ginger
1 part tulsi, 1 part hibiscus, 1 part mint
Have you ever tried cold brewing your herbal tea? Which herbs are your favorite to cold brew?