Iced tea is the perfect way to keep people happy, engaged with tea and refreshed all summer long.
But what is the best way to incorporate iced tea into your drink program?
We’ve seen a lot of programs derailed by the incorrect assumption that you need special equipment, or need to buy special tea just for serving cold. Luckily iced tea is one of the most flexible and adaptable beverages you can serve.
For drink service, we recommend two techniques:
cold brew method and flash chill method
Both techniques are easy, cost effective and food-safe, and neither technique requires any fancy equipment taking up precious space on your counters.
Method 1: Cold Brew Iced Tea
Cold-brewing is by far the easiest and simplest way to run an iced tea program.
Cold brew requires no special techniques or practice- just loose leaf tea, a container and a refrigerator. The only trick is that it requires planning ahead, because loose tea takes 8-12 hours to brew fully. This is easy if you make a rotating plan of iced teas you want to have available each day of the week and simply start the brew process as part of closing the night before. When you come in to open, your iced tea is ready to go!
You have a couple options for brewing depending on your refrigerator space and daily volume. For high volume days, if you have a walk-in refrigerator, we recommend using either 5 gallon pails or extra-large cambro containers. If you are tight on space or expecting lower volume, use 1 gallon jugs or large glass mason jars for brewing.
As always, make sure your container is not only clean but also free of any aromas from previous use.
The golden ratio for cold brew:
25 grams of tea per gallon of water
If you plan on using the tea as a concentrate for making specialty drinks like tea + lemonade or other mocktails, you can alway use more loose leaf tea. After about 75 grams a gallon, you won’t get stronger infusion without heat, so that is as strong as we would recommend trying.
Add loose tea directly to your container, and fill it with room temperature filtered water. Seal completely, write the brew date and time, and refrigerate overnight.
After cold brewing, you can either strain the tea into a new container for a consistent flavor, or you can strain throughout the day from the original container directly into each cup as you serve. The leaves do not oversteep easily once cold, so you will not have to worry about exact timing.
For convenience, brew your tea up in 5 gallon pails and strain it right into kegs.
You can either serve sparkling iced tea for a special treat, or offer Nitro cold brew tea. The nitro movement is sweeping the country with coffee, and we’ve seen great results with tea. You get a fuller, creamier body, a cascading instagram-worthy look and – of course! – an improved shelf life.
By purging oxygen from the keg with CO2 or nitrogen, you end up slowing oxidation, and giving the tea an extra week of shelf life in the keg, not to mention easy pouring, and the opportunity to gain higher margins by offering something unique enough to charge a higher retail price.
Flash-Chilled Iced Tea
Flash chilled tea is a great instant way to make iced tea on the spot to order without having to plan a tea regimen in advance. It allows you to potentially offer every tea on your menu iced if that is what your customer prefers. It also requires slightly more leaf since you don’t have 12 hours to get a full extraction from less leaf.
The basic principle is brewing a tea concentrate hot, chilling it over ice and then pouring the chilled tea, diluted with ice melt into a cup with more ice.
The golden ratio for a 12 oz flash-chilled tea:
5 grams of leaf in 6oz of water.
Use a brew basket in a small mug, or use a gaiwan and strainer.
Steep for 1 minute with boiling water.
If you want to commit to serving a lot of tea flash-chilled, commit an espresso head to just tea and keep it super clean. If you pack an espresso head with tea leaves, you can pulse the head to soak the leaves for about 5 seconds and then pull a shot.
It is faster, more regulated, creates less dishes, and looks awesome. Customers are always intrigued to see coffee hardware working so well for tea shots!
You can either pour into a prepared glass of ice and stir to cool the tea quickly or – for a showier and more memorable service – you can pour into a cocktail shaker of ice and shake vigorously. Either way, strain after about 20 seconds of cooling. Pour the finished tea into a new cup of ice and serve.
We prefer to let customers add their own sweetener to taste. This is why we always recommend trying the tea first on its own. Fine tea hand picked from small family farms is already sweet, smooth and nuanced. However, when sweetness is called for, we like to offer a diluted honey simple syrup that is easy to dissolve, as well as agave syrup.
BEYOND ICED TEA
Once you have great iced tea to serve, you can use it for all kind of specialty drinks!
We’ve done great cold brew jasmine with a splash of mango and aloe, or rich dark pu’er with raspberry lemonade. We’ve even seen people garnishing iced tea with fresh fruit or mint and cocktail bitters.
Have fun and try out weekly drink specials to keep people excited about the latest and greatest!
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