How much the country loves its hot cup of tea is anyone’s guess. It sure made a chaiwala into India’s Prime Minister twice over! The brew is serious business in this part of the world, right from the temperature at which it is served to the ingredients that infuse taste and aroma cherished by countless Indians. But, to experiment with the national drink by serving it cold instead of piping hot is an act of valour. Yet, cold brew tea, sans the strength of adrak, laung and elaichi, and milk and sugar is the new trend among mixologists, market players and an increasing amount of converts.
What distinguishes chai’s chilled sibling is that it’s caffeine-free with smaller quantity of tannin. Some of the blends pack a punch with fruit infusions, using black currant, peppermint, lemongrass, orange, even jamun as base flavours and innovation as the mainstay. For instance, British tea brand Typhoo’s Orange Spicer is a delectable blend of flavours tangy orange, hibiscus, clove, ginger, and cinnamon. Combined with warm spices, tea aficionados can sip it chilled or warm (like mulled wine). It also offers Black Currant Bracer (juicy blackcurrant berries, hibiscus, and rose hip), Green Tea Lemongrass, Peppermint among others as healthy alternatives to sugar-loaded ice teas.
Indigenous Teabox has kept seasonal fruits in mind for its cold brew pairings. For instance, their Mango Strawberry Black Tea, Mint Jamun Black and Chilli Berry Black, all creatively explore with passion fruit, hibiscus, apple, spearmint and other unconventional concoctions. “We want to give an experience different from traditional chai, and replace the usual sugary drinks with healthy, freshly blended fruit teas that can be consumed cold and hot,” says Kausshal Dugarr, Founder and CEO, Teabox.
But can cold brew replace a steaming hot cuppa? Varun Sharma, mixologist at Comorin delves into the science of the trinity behind cold tea – palate, tannin and caffeine.
“We have grown up drinking strong masala chai, so our taste buds will find it hard to appreciate the delicate flavours of a cold brew tea. Someone who does not like the bitterness or high tannin consistency of a well-flushed tea, will relish these teas,” says Sharma, known for his Coconut White Tea – silver needle white tea brewed in cold coconut water.
In all the batting for cold brews as the new age tea, some loyalists, meanwhile, do not subscribe to the concept. Celebrity chef Ranveer Brar, a self-confessed tea lover, does not see himself as a fan of cold brewing.
“I like the water in my green tea ideally set at a high temperature. The idea of brewing tea leaves for 24 hours in a bit of water is also something I don’t get,” he says, while the cups blow hot, blow cold depending on the mood!