Consumers have come to expect their fresh brewed iced tea to be clear and bright. Whether right or wrong, cloudy or hazy tea signals a bad tea experience by the consumer. There are five main reasons why iced tea becomes cloudy. These include: equipment that is not properly cleaned and sanitized, tea that has gone from the hot brewing phase to the iced phase too quickly, tea that was brewed as iced tea that was historically meant to be brewed as hot, water chemistry, and refrigerating the tea overnight.
Preparing a quality cup of tea from Art of Tea does not stop after the brew cycle has finished or even after your customer has consumed every last drop. One of the most overlooked parts of a premium iced tea program, which can lead to cloudy tea, is cleaning the tea brewing equipment. Dirty equipment is one of the main reasons why tea tastes “off” or has a cloudy appearance. Dirty equipment can lead to the growth of pathogens that can potentially sicken the customer. Dirty equipment can also reduce the quality of the overall beverage, leaving a bad taste in their mouth. Remember, often times, tea is the first and last impression your guest has of your restaurant, and you want to make sure it is of a quality, tasty tea beverage. Your quality iced tea program is not complete unless you ensure that your tea equipment is properly cleaned and sanitized. Don’t lose customers because your equipment wasn’t properly maintained.
Shocking the Brewed Tea
If you have ever tried brewing tea at home over ice you might have created a cloudy, or even muddy, iced tea. Certain teas are susceptible to fast temperature changes. Shocking the tea, from hot to iced, quickly creates a chemical reaction that severely clouds the tea. Commercial iced teas have built in time delays and dilute the tea with line temperature water to help prevent this. However, when making iced tea at home or via the “pitcher method” it is best to mix the brewed hot tea with room temperature water and allow the beverage to cool before serving over ice.
Type of Tea Used
Though most teas can be steeped hot and enjoyed when cool, not every tea can be brewed through a commercial iced tea machine. The gravity-flow type commercial machine can lead to certain teas clouding. This is why you may hear iced tea professionals state that not every tea can be brewed as iced tea. Certain hot teas, when steeped hot, may also tend to cloud, but for some reason cloudy or hazy hot teas are usually not an issue for consumers when the quality of the tea is known. Unlike the other reasons stated, this cloudiness is not a bad thing. These teas are often wonderful high quality teas. However, there is a learning curve for the average consumer to understand, since most consumers will think something is wrong with the tea.
The average glass of iced tea (without ice) contains, on average, only 1% tea solids and 99% water. If your water quality is poor, it can leave customers with a bad taste in their mouth for their entire dining experience and potentially result in a cloudy or hazy beverage. The results of your water testing will help you determine which type of filtration system is best for you. It’s important to look at your water chemistry as a whole to determine the optimal filtration approach. While the testing process is relatively simple, it can be more complex to interpret the results. We recommend you consult a trained expert to help you with this step. For Art of Tea customers, this is a service we are happy to provide for you.
As tea professionals know, refrigerating fresh brewed iced tea has a huge impact on the quality of the product and the overall customer experience. However, restaurant operators are often unaware of this and are inclined to refrigerate tea overnight, thinking this will save them money. Some believe this is just a myth so that tea companies can sell them more tea. But now there is scientific evidence that explains what happens to the tea while refrigerated.
When tea is refrigerated, it not only absorbs refrigerator odors, it also undergoes a fundamental chemical change that degrades the taste and creates a cloudy, off-color appearance. The chemical change is caused by the reaction between calcium and/or magnesium in the water (which is needed for the extraction / steeping process) and the polyphenols (like EGCG and others). The chemical reaction forms insoluble salts, which are most apparent when the solution cools down. The more polyphenols in the tea — the stronger the change. Polyphenols are what give tea its health benefits, mouthfeel, and color. Orthodox style, hand processed teas take only the fresh new shoots of the plant (typically the unfurled leaf bud and the next 2 leaves); which tend to have higher concentrations of polyphenols. So, the better the quality of the tea, the greater the potential chemical change.
Restaurant operators do not like throwing food away, as this affects the bottom line. When dealing with prime cuts of meat and top quality fish, this is a good mindset to have. However, when it comes to tea, it is not! Tea is the most profitable item on the menu. On average, one glass sold per brew (up to and including a 3-gallon brew) pays for the entire batch brewed. Based on this, there is no financial reason to save the tea overnight in the refrigerator. Especially knowing that doing so will significantly lower the quality of the tea. In fact, there is a solid case, that selling such tea will reduce overall sales due to unhappy customers. This is due to the fact that, often, tea is the first and last item customers consume.
Fresh brewed iced tea should be held at room temperature and served within 6–8 hours of brewing, to meet food safety and quality guidelines. This will ensure your customers have the best experience possible and are sure to come back again and again.
Art of Tea is an award winning purveyor of specialty and organic teas, based in Los Angeles, CA.
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