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Freezing Tea?

Liu recently posted about what to do with all that tea that keeps accumulating in the Liu household. I just glanced at my favorite cookbook - Shizuo Tsuji's Japanese Cooking A Simple Art.

The book says tea freezes well and can be kept in the freezer for about a year. "Let leaves come to room temperature before brewing, it only takes about 10 minutes for a few Tbsps to thaw." Otherwise, the book says you can only keep green tea in an airtight container for "a few months."

What do the tea masters out there think about this advice? Can you actually freeze tea? I'm sure one wouldn't want to freeze those obscenely expensive oolongs, but what about those middle range teas? Could be a solution to all that tea that keeps accumulating that you are not yet ready to throw out.

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  1. There's another way to enjoy tea - Ice Brew. Not to be confused with regular ice tea, nor sun tea!

    Some tea leaves that I have that are not in their prime - either sold to me that way, or stuff that's been opened a while - turn out surprisingly well when it NEVER gets in contact with hot water, in the form of Ice Brew.

    Some of those expensive oolong tea are even more sublime as ice brew.....There's something about the intense focus of the scent and flavor that comes with this way of brewing. Also, with boiling water, if it's over-boiled the water becomes the biggest flavor-sucker (is that a word?) and just sucks all the good things out of the tea leaves, but that's a separate thread about tea, I guess.

    Anyway, if you end up freezing some tea leaves, maybe you can use them as leaves for experiment. I've played around a lot with ice brew before reaching something that works for me. It's actually quite fun and when done right, can offer you a most exquisite side of the tea leaves that you could never get from the hot brewing technique.

    This is totally the opposite of the Gong Fu tea making where you try to get into the groove and catch the perfect timing, and in the process, sometimes, meet with disappointment when the timing got off, or when the focus break...etc. Ice brew lets you develop the easy going, leisurely, yet rewarding system of tea making..(not unlike how that Bittman/Lahey Kneadless recipe is giving so many people joy in baking!)

    I had wanted to reply to Liu's post about tea leaves that she doesn't LOVE. Maybe some tea can be loved when brewed differently....

    11 Replies
    1. re: HLing

      How do you Ice Brew? I make ice tea by making hot tea and then either pouring it over ice or just pouring the hot tea from the tea pot into a container to be stored in the fridge once the container cools.

      1. re: omotosando

        Try experimenting on your own. It's not ice tea as in tea that's been chilled after using hot water to make tea. No hot water is used to brew the tea.
        Get really good water in its coldest form and let time to its magic.

        1. re: HLing

          As in pour very cold water over tea leaves and let sit?

          1. re: omotosando

            whatever you think might work, test it out. It's half the reward.
            I don't believe in formulae without regard to particular circumstances.
            There is more than one way, so it's better that I don't get in the way of
            your approach.

            1. re: HLing

              I am definitely going to try ice brew with this oolong that I just bought from Rishi and hate - Golden Phoenix. I guess I should have read the "tasting notes" more closely - "a subtle dryness that complements its apricot, peach and floral notes much like a dry-fruity wine." I didn't detect any subtle dryness, but it sure tastes like flowered water. The only way I could imagine liking it would be ice cold.

              A bit off topic, but since you are the oolong expert, how do I make sure my next oolong does not taste of flowers?

              1. re: omotosando

                That's funny...I tried my first "Dan Cong" a couple of years ago. That was the first time I actually became interested in Mainland Chinese tea. It had a natural orchid scent even though it wasn't flavored. When I came back to the States I tried it with good water, and it had this slight bitterness (maybe that's what they mean by "dry") that's quite refreshing. It didn't have the roundness or the body of a good Taiwanese high mountain tea but was still intriguing enough for me to keep trying. One time I had something that's been left in the teapot overnight, cold and everything. It had a lot more depth than I could ever get brewing with hot water. So I tried ice brew with that Dan Cong and finally got something out it that I liked.

                A year later I was in China again, but I couldn't find Dan Cong in the northern part of China too easily. What I did manage to get wasn't as good. The expensive stuff I got from Hong Kong was pretty awful. If I hadn't had the frist batch I'd totally dismiss this tea. I think I got lucky to have gotten my first batch from that small shop in Guangdong province whose owner claimed that his family has the tea farm in Wu Dong mountain. (the tea was "Zhi Lan Xiang") So, good luck with it..hope you find the "other side" to this tea, and don't write off all Dan Cong just because this one isn't great.

                Thanks for the title of "oolong expert" but I'm far from it. I'm really just exploring as I go. As for avoiding the floral scent, there are lots of choices. In general if you ask for Nong2 Xiang1, literally "Dark" "Fragrance" (as opposed to Qing1 Xiang1 - "Light" Frangrance") you will not get anything floral. You know it's great that there are so many tea websites now available, but I think for commercial reason they tend to carry more stuff to cater to the fruity and floral (added scent, not naturally) description or accenting on the benefit of first green tea, and then white tea instead of educating and helping tea drinkers get a great basic cup of tea, because the subtleness of the oolong tea is just so hard to get right. So, if you go to a Taiwanese tea shop, you will be able to ask about Nong Xiang and Qing Xiang types of tea, and hopefully get a taste before you buy. Ask about the "Feng" or "degree" system of I forget whether it's from one to six or eight. ...wait, before i go further, do you speak Chinese?

                1. re: HLing

                  Speak not a word of Chinese. I see it could be helpful for learning about oolong, but alas I do not have a head for foreign languages.

                  Is floral a mainland thing or will you also find it in teas from Taiwan? Also, would you take a top-grade tea and add floral notes? It seems to me a top grade tea could stand on its own and you do not have to try to disguise the true essence of the tea plant, but I know little about this.

                  I love grassy Japanese teas so I am on the opposite spectrum of someone who would like fruity floral flavors. Still I am anxious to learn about oolong because I know they are not all bubble-gummy.

                  1. re: omotosando

                    It depends on what kind of "floral" you mean..There is the kind of floral that hits you straight on, separate from the tea leaves. You smell the scent but it's not part of the tea leaves. That's the lower grade of jasmin tea where the flower scent fights with the tea, or in some cases try to make up for the lack of taste of the leaves. (by the way, Taiwanese jasmin tea seem to have a rounder scent than the Mainland jasmin I've had) I think there are, or were, more sophisticated ways of making Xiang1 Pian4 (floral tea) in the olden days where the floral tea are made with proximity of the best flowers with the tea leaves over long period of time so that the scent of the flower is absorbed by being in the same air, but not aggressively smoked, and definitely not flavored with powder of any sort! (as in the Cha2 Wong2 - "Tea King" series of Tien Ren, where liquerish powder is added to the tea, and which to me has a very unnatual taste.) I read that back in the days, Beijing has the best Jasmin tea - you don't get any flowers in the tea leaves, but the scent is beautifully integrated.

                    It's interesting to think about whether floral is a mainland thing or if Taiwanese also has it. I thought about this a lot when first trying the Tie Guang Yin (Iron Goddess) tea that the Mainland people love so much. I tried all kinds and all grades, and found that though there were no flowers involved, their version of this tea seem to have a grassy fragrance that is somewhat illusive, but no body of the liquid to support the scent. I couldn't make myself like it. Once again my Taiwanese tea drinking is interfering. But things do change. People change. Tea preference changes. The last few years, Taiwanese also has the tea that can be harvested more often in a year. IT had a very strange fragrance to me that I just can't get used to with my background in the Dong Ding Oolong (Now there's one where you don't worry about floral. Do you like this tea?) Anyhow, it makes me wonder if this Si4 Ji4 Xiang1 (4-season fragrance) is Taiwan's answer to the Mainland's Tie Guang Yin? If so I wish it didn't happen. One of the earliest Taiwanese tea started in Lu4 Gu3 (Deer Valley). I forget which tea provider (black and orange packaging) offers a "Nantou Oolong" that was pretty good. That is if you like the 'milk' fragrance that comes naturally with some of the leaves.

                    I don't think top grade tea needs any floral scent added, BUT, some of the best high mountain tea has a very faint Gardenia-like scent that comes in and reaches you in a way that's half way between physical plane and ethereal plane...That's the kind of moment you want to keep in your mind's library! And no, there were no flowers used to scent the leaves. That's just the nature of the leaves and the good luck that your tea making allowed it to manifest.

                    Yeah...if it's bubble-gummy, it's not natural, and you won't like it.

                2. re: omotosando

                  Not to be a killjoy, but if you are going to try ice brew, I woul definitely recommend you brew it in the refrigerator. Tea left for long periods of time (8 hours or more, but I wouldn't even go that long) at room temperature is a great breeding ground for bacteria. This is why people were getting sick from sun tea a few years back.

                  1. re: Low Country Jon

                    Good point. Definitely, the temperature must remind ice cold at all time!

                    1. re: Low Country Jon

                      Low Country Jon - Thank you for posting this. I will often brew up a large pot of tea in the morning in a pot with an infuser, rush off to work with the leaves still in the infuser and when I come home at night, pour the tea remaining in the pot over ice for ice tea. I had no idea this was a health hazard, although I guess I should have known that leaves would be a good medium for breeding bacteria. Once I brewed up a pot of tea, rushed off to make a plane and when I got home a week later, it was pretty scary what was growing in the tea pot. Definitely no more leaves sitting in water at room temperature.

        2. I would actually see no benefit in freezing tea for up to a year and potential harm if ice-crystals were to form in your tea and ruin it when you thawed it out. I've found very little flavor drop-off in any of the high grade teas I use--black, oolong, green, or white--for periods up to a year. Beyond a year, all bets are off, except for pu ehr, which just gets better with age.

          Interestingly, I followed a thread recently to this tea blog, where the blogger discusses aging oolong teas by lightly baking them once a year to remove moisture. He has teas that date back to the 1960s!

          http://teamasters.blogspot.com/2005/0...

          1. You should not freeze your tea. It should be stored at room temperature away from sunlight and heat. The tea has been dried out for a reason and freezing the tea allows moisture to get at it. This ruins the tea.