Monday, July 18, 2011

Energy Saving Tips for Making Iced Tea

There is a hot week in store for many parts of the U.S. this week, and I'm gearing up for more iced tea brewing this week. Currently I have two batches made for today, one an herbal blend of fresh spearmint, fresh lemongrass, and dried lemon verbena, and one a straight black tea, an English Breakfast blend. While many of us get ready to brew more iced tea, I want to share a tip or brewing method that I have found is very easy and saves considerable time and energy.

When I brew iced tea, I always recommend steeping a large amount of loose tea leaves (or tea bags) in a small amount of hot water, because the process of cooling water to make iced tea is both time- and energy-intensive. Then, you can dilute the concentrated tea to taste, to make a large batch. However, even if you are already practicing this method, there is an additional step that can save you both time and energy.

What is going on in this photo?

This is a photo of my kitchen sink. In this photo, I have already brewed the concentrated cup of tea, which I will later dilute. I have then poured this hot tea into a jar, which I have closed with a lid (this is important--otherwise the aroma of the tea can escape into the air). I then place the jar inside a large pot and fill the pot with cold water. Avoid using delicate or temperature-sensitive glassware--a quick hot/cold contrast can shatter some glass.

The cold water from the tap, which is typically well below room temperature even in the summer, rapidly cools off the hot tea to below room temperature. If you want to speed the process, you can let it sit for a couple minutes, pour off the water in the pot, which will have warmed up, and then refill the pot with cold water.

Now, after a few more minutes, your tea can be diluted with additional hot water, and chilled in the refridgerator, or can be poured directly over ice if you want to drink it immediately.

The benefits of this method:

  • Time-saving - Other than pouring the hot tea over ice directly (which requires a lot of ice), this is the fastest way to make iced tea--the water will cool much faster by this method than if you set hot tea to cool in air, or if you place hot tea in the fridge.

  • Energy-saving - By cooling the tea as much as possible before placing it in the fridge, you save considerable energy required to cool the hot tea to the temperature inside the fridge. The low temperature of the cold tap water is free, in the sense that no electricity or energy is required to cool it. Keep in mind also that making ice requires energy, so if you use this method so that you reduce the amount of ice needed to make iced tea, you are still saving energy.

  • Cool-saving - Whenever you save energy on refrigeration, you also save excess heat from moving out into your kitchen. A refrigerator simply moves heat--pumping it out of the interior and into the exterior, which is your kitchen. If your home is not air conditioned, you will enjoy the additional comfort of a slightly cooler kitchen; if your home or kitchen is air conditioned, however, this additional savings will translate into additional energy savings because your air conditioner now has less heat to remove from your home or kitchen.

Conserving energy is both valuable in its own right to reduce the negative impacts that humans have on the environment, and it is also immediately beneficial to you in a financial sense, by reducing your electric bill. This method will not only save you time and help you to get your iced tea quicker, but, if you pay for your own electricity, it will save you money as well, and regardless of whether or not you do, it will help protect the environment.

How do you brew your iced tea? Do you do anything in your iced tea preparation process to save energy like this?


  1. I didn't quite get it why not just using cold water to brew the tea. But I totally agree with your point that energy saving is important in everybody's life. For tea drinkers who value a more natural life style, energy saving should be always in our mind.

  2. Do you find that cold brewing works well with many teas?

    I find cold brewing works better with some teas than others. I have not yet found a clear, predictable trend of which teas I find work well with cold brewing. Maybe this is something I can experiment with in the coming weeks.

    Some of the things that I've found that can go wrong with cold brewing...some Chinese green teas become astringent and heavy but without being brisk and refreshing, and some black teas work okay but have flatter aromas, not as complex.

  3. Hmmm, I usually use the stick it all in the fridge method and have been very satisfied. My greens haven't become astringent, in fact one was in the fridge for 3 days during a power outage and was very good. I haven't thought about the aromas of black teas, as I usually do greens and my husband does black and he is not a bit fussy. I'll have to experiment and see.

  4. Oh yeah indeed some teas are almost tasteless when cold brewed and do need hot water to infuse out the flavors.