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Cloudy Iced Tea

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Every time I make iced black tea, it gets cloudy once it is cold. If I pour a glass and take long enough to drink it that it gets back to room temperature, it stops being cloudy. This doesn't happen when I make iced green tea or iced white tea, or even with a light bodied black tea like spring Darjeeling. I've heard that this can be caused by hard water, but I use a good water filter. I've also heard that adding citrus or vitamin c will keep it from clouding, but I don't like adding things to my tea. The flavor is not at all affected by the cloudiness, but it is too gross looking to serve to a guest or anything.
Why is this happening? And is there a way I can make it stop?

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  1. I think its because you might be chilling the tea too fast by putting it in the refrigerator after brewing. I was always told after brewing the tea to let it sit until it reaches room temperature before refrigerating or it will get cloudy.

    2 Replies
    1. re: monku

      I agree wth Monku that you may be putting the tea in the fridge while it's still too warm. I also add a pinch of baking soda to my iced tea. It doesn't change the flavor at all.

      1. re: SoulFoodie

        Thank you to both of you. Letting it sit out for awhile worked, and I had nice clear iced tea with breakfast.

    2. I've also heard that you can reverse it by adding a bit of boiling water to the cloudy tea to clear it.
      You can also cold brew iced tea in the refrigerator.

      1. Make your tea using the "sun tea" method rather than with boiling water. Just place tea bags in a big jar with cold water and place in the sun - or just on your counter (I don't think the sun is essential) - and let it brew until it's strong enough. Don't add lemon until you're ready to serve, but you can add sugar to the tea before chilling.

        13 Replies
        1. re: Nyleve

          Sun tea is the way to go! Eco friendly & fast. For java drinkers, coffee bags will also work as sun java for a quick iced coffee beverage.

          1. re: HillJ

            I sun tea, never cloudy, takes a while, but so much better. Never cloudy. I make lots of teas for partys, mixed with bourbon is great :) Or just tea. But no I really prefer it tht way and always works well.

            1. re: HillJ

              Sun tea is the way to go if you want to get food poisoning. Just because it's "natural" or "eco-friendly" doesn't mean it's safe. http://www.snopes.com/food/prepare/su...

              1. re: glenviewjeff

                glen, i've been making sun tea from loose tea leaves since I'm 8 years old. Still here to tell the tale and enjoy another batch. My pitcher sits on the counter near a window but the light or sunshine doesn't play a roll in cold brewing. SUN tea is not literally teas brewed outside in the direct sun at my house.

                YMMV but I have no reason to stop.

                1. re: HillJ

                  I used to be the same way; my parents have made sun tea since I was a kid, and I did every year. Until last summer...

                  I made my tea in the same way as always: tea bags in filtered water, inside my well-scrubbed glass jar (used only for sun tea) sitting on my patio for 4 hours. Tasted and looked as it always did, and roommie and I both enjoyed it that day and the next. Then we both got food poisoning. We didn't even suspect the tea, until I went to get some a couple days later and saw ropy stands floating in it!

                  I have no idea why this batch got "infected" but I tossed the pitcher out and haven't made sun tea since. Of course, I had heard the same warnings, and ignored them. I'm not typically worried about a lot of the food spoilage tales some are so scared of, and had more than 30 years' experience with sun tea to 'prove' that it was perfectly safe. Boy, have I learned my lesson!

                  Not that my experience should change anyone else's mind... no one else's changed mine! Just thought I'd share, for those who might be a little worried... if in doubt, might want to reconsider.

                  1. re: Ditdah

                    hi Ditdah, that experience had to have been very scary at the time.
                    I don't actually use a) tea bags or b) place the pitcher outside or in the sun.
                    I use loose leaf tea and let the pitcher brew on my kitchen counter before placing it in the frig.
                    Have you ever tried making sun tea this way?

                    1. re: HillJ

                      That actually sounds like a much better idea... I'm sure the temperature sitting in the sun gets hot, but not hot enough to kill anything; I probably made a breeding ground for bacteria, and had something in the pitcher/bags that I didn't realize was there.

                      I always assumed you needed the sun in order to get the water warm and extract decent flavors, but clearly not, or you wouldn't still be making it that way. How long do you let it sit for? Do you time it, or just go by color/taste?

                      1. re: Ditdah

                        Here's my simple method. I am brewing a pot of green tea with rosemary herb right now. In a large glass pitcher I add cold from the tap water. Then I rinse the fresh rosemary and slightly bruised it with a knife then wrapped it inside a small piece of cotton cloth (natural organic that I reuse a million times) and I let the herb steep in the cold water for 20 mins and remove it. Then I eyeball about 1/4 cup of loose leaf green tea and wrap that in the cloth and steep it on the counter for 20 mins and remove it. Then the whole shebang goes in the frig for use.

                        I typically float lemon zest ice cubes in my glass to enjoy it.

                        But this method works well with any tea configuration. I don't use warm water to activate the brew; I let time do its job. I like a dark brew, so experiment until you get the brew u like. I don't let anything float in the pitcher. I use add-in, in my glass (sometimes fruit, sometimes rose water, sometimes lime, etc) as I enjoy it.

                        If you follow indoor instruction for sun tea, you should be fine!

                        1. re: HillJ

                          HillJ, what I tell my daughter with these sorts of things is that you could probably cross the street blinfolded with earplugs many times--and in your experience not get struck by a car, but it doesn't mean that you'd want to do that given that there are safer alternatives. Also, many people who get food poisoning don't even realize it--though the effects of food poisoning can be long lasting and serious: http://www.scientificamerican.com/art...

                          1. re: glenviewjeff

                            glenview, with all due respect to your concerns about food poisoning and sun tea and what I'm sure is excellent parenting, I'm going to continue to enjoy my version of sun tea for years to come.

                            Have a nice holiday weekend!

                          2. re: HillJ

                            I tried this method yesterday using a loose black tea I had (minus the rosemary, because I didn't have it on hand.) I feel much safer drinking this indoor sun tea, since it never sits outside in the sun and makes that "lukewarm breeding ground" that I'm sure I created before. I didn't think the tea was the right strength, so I'll have to experiment with the types of tea and steeping time, but I was very excited by the results.

                            I just want to thank you for providing me a much safer way to make sun tea! I feel like I can once again enjoy one of my favorite summer beverages!

                            1. re: Ditdah

                              Excellent, Ditdah and good for you. I had to play around with my preference for how strong the teas are too. And black, red, white & green are all different. Floral teas and fruit teas another sort. But I think the fun of it is to experiment. Work a small batch and then decide. I keep a bartender/beverage note card for myself so I know how to duplicate each as I go. Have fun this summer!

                  2. re: glenviewjeff

                    Glenviewjeff..... How bad is the water where you live? Please let us all know so we don't move there... When you make lemonade, Popsicles or even a glass of tap water do you need to boil your water first? Do you use bottled water to rinse your veggies and brush your teeth? If you are writing from the third world, I understand your aversion to cold brewed tea, but seriously, I think you are spreading undue fear if you think that iced tea needs to be boiled before serving.

              2. In addition to what the others have said, make sure you are not boiling the tea. Bring the water just to a boil, pull it off the heat, and then add your tea. That solved my cloudy iced tea problem. I sometimes have to put it straight into the refrigerator, and it doesn't get cloudy. I usually use half the amount of water for the brewing, remove the tea, then add cold water to bring down the temp, then right into the refrigerator.

                1. Avoid cloudy iced tea by preparing it in the refrigerator rather than boiling the water. This method resolves the cloudiness problem as well as producing just about the clearest, cleanest tasting iced tea you'll ever taste! It's also really simple to do.

                  Pour water into a pitcher or other large container. Add tea -- if you prefer loose tea over teabags, t-sacs are helpful; no straining necessary and no mess to clean up after serving.

                  Leave the pitcher with water and tea in the 'fridge for at least two hours, preferably overnight. Remove tea and serve.

                  "Sun tea" is not a good idea as it is a wonderful breeding ground for bacteria of all types. The refrigerator method is similar, produces great results, and prevents bacteria and mould from growing in your tea as it would at sun or room temperature.

                  If you mix anything into your tea -- sweetener, juice, lemon, whatever -- do so after you've removed the tea from the pitcher.

                  As others have pointed out, if you do decide to go through the hassle ;-) of boiling water for your iced tea, a few drops of boiling water will clear up a cloudy glassful.

                  1. Quite often it is the type of tea itself. The easiest way to avoid cloudy tea is to buy a brand blended for icing. Louizanne is the brand i prefer and it never gets cloudy.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: Candy

                      You remind me of the old Burl Ives advertisement from the 1970's: "Luzianne...[ding!] Clear as a bell!" ("In Birmingham, 82% prefer Luzianne....")

                      1. re: Candy

                        I found this thread because I am having cloudy tea too and will try the "letting the tea cool down before refrigerating." But, I think Candy is correct; I usually buy Peet's Summertime tea to make my ice tea. Not only is it delicious, never tannic, it is never cloudy.

                        1. re: caseycm

                          Sometimes the culprit is your water. Water can cloud ice cubes too; even with filters.

                          I have never had to spend extra dollars to buy teas/coffees marked "cold brew" just to achieve a desired Iced tea.

                          I also don't use hot water or warm water to brew the tea before chilling.

                          1. re: HillJ

                            You can keep your ice cubes clear by making them using hot water. I know that sounds dumb on the face of it, but it must be a corollary of the cloudy tea effect.

                            Flavored ice cubes are great for iced tea, too. Not only do you get extra taste, but the flavor balance changes slightly over time so your palate doesn't get jaded. Lemonade cubes, raspberry tea cubes, ginger tea cubes, Earl Grey cubes...

                            My personal favorites are iced tea with cream and sugar (no lemon or it'll curdle on you), and best of all, iced tea with apricot nectar. Takes me back to when I used to spend summers in the Adirondacks as a kid. To me, that's one of the classic tastes of summer.

                            1. re: eclecticsynergy

                              Love your tips eclec! Couldn't agree more.

                      2. Not for nuthin' but! I am an iced tea freak. Never enough. I used the Lipton Cold Brew tea bags and they work great and make a very tasty tea.
                        I am not sure if it's "black tea" or not.
                        If you want a stronger tea let them "steep" longer.