When prepared traditionally, homemade iced tea tends to be quite tannic, practically begging for a heaping spoonful or two of sugar. But it doesn't have to be that way. The secret to a smoother, more mellow brew will sound familiar to coffee drinkers: cold-brew it. Like how cold-brewing coffee yields a more nuanced, better tasting end result, cold-brewed tea is much smoother than tea that's steeped hot and then chilled down with ice.
This technique can be applied to virtually any variety of tea, but I love cold-brewing chai. When steeped overnight, the ginger, cinnamon, and other spices get their chance to shine. Not weak nor too strong, it's tasty even without milk or sweetener, but I like it best shot through with whole milk or almond milk for a creamy pick-me-up.
For an undiluted drink even on the hottest of days, steal another trick from iced coffee drinkers. Freeze cold-brewed chai in an ice cube tray (I'm smitten with this sturdy square mold). Pop a few of the cold brew cubes into your drink and sip away.
If you own a scale — I'm partial to OXO's model — I highly recommend using it here, as it's much more accurate and will help to account for variation in the density of brands. Do not substitute powdered chai for loose leaf.
The same cold-brew technique can be applied to other varieties of tea: per quart of water, infuse 8 to 12 grams of loose leaf tea (1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons for a dense rolled tea like oolong or 4 to 5 tablespoons for a lightweight voluminous tea like some white varieties) for 8 to 10 hours or overnight. Play around with the amount of tea and the timing until you get it just right.
- Add the chai and water to a quart-sized mason jar. Seal and refrigerate for 8 to 10 hours (or overnight).
- Strain out and discard the tea solids.
- Add milk (or nondairy milk) and simple syrup to taste. (I prefer 2:1 ratio of tea to milk without any simple syrup.)
- 1 quart cold-brewed chai