BY KIRSTIN ADACHI
One of my earliest blog posts was about brewing tea in the refrigerator and last year Life Hacker picked up on it and used my post as the source for their article. What is a fairly common practice here in Japan is fairly unknown in the English speaking world.
When I was small we would make sunshine tea in large gallon jars. Sunshine tea is tea brewed using the sun instead of heating the water on the stove. It takes a few hours for a gallon jar of tea to steep which brings up worries of bacteria growth. A one litre bottle of tea, on the other hand, takes only an hour and is much safer. I generally keep a larger jug of barley tea (mugicha/麦茶/むぎちゃ) and a one litre bottle of iced black tea in the refrigerator at all times. When one runs out I give the jug a wash and re-brew–no need to buy bottles of tea.
I’ve tried several different teas with different results. The easiest tea for the refrigerator is tea in the bags made for that purpose. At regular supermarkets you can follow a general assumption that if a type of Japanese tea is sold in bag form, it is for refrigerator brewing. Check the back of the package where there are always pictures.
Teas that work:
- Black tea – the sun works best
- Mugi tea (these are made for refrigerator brewing)
- Green tea made for refrigerator brewing (not regular)
- Peppermint tea – in the sun
- Chamomile tea – in the sun
Teas that don’t work well:
- regular green tea
- Genmai tea
- Oolong tea
- most herbal teas (in the fridge); some may work in the sun
Making tea in the sun
Add water and a tea bag or two (depending on how strong you like it) to a glass container of your choice and place in direct sunlight for about an hour. Don’t leave it longer than two hours–you can finish brewing in the fridge. Remove the tea bag when the desired strength is reached and place in the fridge.
Making tea in the fridge
Add water and a tea bag or two (depending on how strong you like it) to a container of your choice and place the container in the refrigerator. Brewing will take several hours so it is best to put it in the fridge before you go to bed so you can wake up to some delicious iced tea. Remove the bag when the desired strength is reached.
Where to find containers
I find that supermarkets have a pretty good selection of both the glass and plastic containers. Any store with a kitchen section should have them–although they may only be in stock late spring to the start of fall. The glass container above cost about ¥300 a few years ago at my local supermarket. The refrigerator tea container I bought at Muji for ¥1,200 but have just replaced with a ¥700 container from my local supermarket. I recommend getting containers that have a mesh section for tea bags as they will enable you to use loose tea as well as bagged tea. I love the plastic container above because you can store it upright or on its side in the fridge. This is really helpful as I have a small fridge and need flexibility.