Gene said

Cloudy Iced Tea

Now that Summer is in full swing here I’ve been brewing lots of iced tea, Golden Monkey, Earl Grey, Jasmine, among others. They’ve all tasted great (pardon my lack of humility here) but they’ve all been cloudy. Is this normal for brewed iced tea (as opposed to powders mixed with water)?

I brew my tea at twice the normal strength, then quench it over ice, add simple syrup to sweeten, and serve.

is my brewing method to blame for the cloudy tea? Any help?

16 Replies

It’s totally normal, and doesn’t affect the taste or anything. Some people don’t like the visual aspect of it, in which case you can use Ceylon or Nilgiri black teas, which tend to produce a clearer result. I’ve also heard that cold brewing or adding citrus can reduce cloudiness.

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Uniquity said

I’ve heard that a pinch of baking soda (??) in the brewing helps with cloudiness but I rarely drink iced tea and if I do I cold brew so I have never tested it!

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ashmanra said

I have also heard that it is typically Assam that clouds the most. My mother always used the baking soda pinch to clear the tea, but I find that cold steeping really takes care of the problem and gives the most beautifully clear pitcher of tea! Using a tea blended especially for iced tea helps, I think ceylons are preferred?, and I would recommend Harney and Sons iced tea sachets and 52teas as great ones.

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One of the best ways to keep iced tea clear is to steep it for the minimum time (usually 3 minutes for blacks), filter it well by using a fabric infuser bag and even to pour it through some sack cloth as you transfer it from the teapot to the pitcher. The number one, best way though, seems to be chilling it quickly by pouring it over enough ice to get it immediately to below 40 degrees.

Keep in mind, cloudiness in iced tea is in no way a sign of poor quality. We in the U.S. put too much importance in our iced tea being crystal clear.

Certain teas simply will never be clear when they are iced. This is often the case with Jasmines and most Golden Monkeys tend to get cloudy as well. I make large quantities of iced tea regularly and find the instructions above yield acceptably clear iced tea with most teas.

Thank you for this information!

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Gene said

Thanks to everyone who took the time to answer my concerns. The last post especially hit home: Golden Monkey and Jasmines are the teas i most use for icing, along with Earl Grey.

Again, Thanks for everything.


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Excelsior said

I often found this as a problem as well. The cloudy tea may taste the same but visually, in my opinion, it is not appealing. Try cold brewing the teas. This should not induce cloudiness.

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Angrboda said

Are you using ice cubes then? Ice cubes will make anything cloudy, because of the way the water freezes, especially if you have hard water. All the mineral particles in the water will precipitate somewhat. That’s why when you make ice cubes, they aren’t clear. The larger mineral particles will be clearly visible when the ice cube has melted. Adding a pinch of baking soda clears the tea because the baking soda dissolves the precipitate.

Like others have said, try cold brewing. (Personally, I think cold brewed tastes better anyway. I find ice chilled tea develops a bit of astringency that cold brewed doesn’t)

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Actually, this brings up another issue. Always use filtered water for tea. No matter how good your tap water is and especially if it is bad. If your tap water is bad, then use filtered water to make ice as well. I’m kind of surprised how much trouble people will go to looking for good teas, then use bad water to prepare it. Where I live, we have some of the best municipal water available anywhere, and it still needs to be filtered. At home, I installed a 9" whole-house filter right in the cold water line on the kitchen sink, so all cold water is automatically filtered. Use a good filter too. The initial cost is around $60-70, but then the filters are pretty reasonable. About $15 each (made by GE, available at any home center, I forget the model, but they have purple/pink caps) and they should last 6-12 months, depending on use and how bad your water is.

I really can’t emphasize enough how important good, clean water is. Use good water, don’t use too much tea, don’t steep the tea too aggressively and most of those complaints of astringency will go away. Many black teas yield excellent results with 3 minutes steeping time, but I know most people go longer than that.

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Here is an article explaining creaming effect of black tea:

Many Chinese black tea and puerh drinkers tend to believe creaming is a sign of high quality tea (although they drink tea hot). But it’s not absolute. Generally many high quality puerh and some black tea have creaming effect when brewed in high concentration and then cool down. But not every tea that has creaming effect is of high quality. Generally it’s not seen as a negative sign for tea quality and is sometimes associated with high quality.

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This is another issue that has a lot of speculation passing as fact, but it’s always a big issue in the summer. I started wondering about it more recently when an employee asked why her iced tea was so cloudy, while mine is almost always perfectly clear, and we are using the same teas. I’ll try to do some experimenting, but it will probably get time consuming and take a while. I’m sure I’ll do a blog post on site.

Since this employee and I are using the same teas and she is getting extremely cloudy tea while mine is clear, the two obvious differences between what we are doing is, I am using filtered water and immediately chilling the tea with plenty of ice. We are both hot steeping. As I stated before, the quick chilling appears to be a major factor. I suspect filtered water is as well.

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