Why Your Tea Gets Cloudy: 3 Possible causes

Do you wonder why your tea gets cloudy or whether it is safe to drink? Read on for some possible explanations and tips for ensuring clear iced tea.

Why Does Your Tea Gets Cloudy
Learn the steps to prevent a cloudy tea

I once brewed a pitcher of sweet tea right after I moved across the country to a new place. It was summertime and I needed something cool and incredibly sweet to drink while unpacking in the heat.

I took it out of the fridge the next morning to pour a glass and was shocked to see the entire pitcher was filled with this odd-looking cloudy iced tea. I'd never had that happen before!

It confused and concerned me. I ended up throwing it out and brewing a whole new pitcher because I wasn't sure if it was safe to drink.

Eventually, I figured out what caused this and I was able to brew ice tea without it going cloudy. Now that I understand what happens when ice tea turns cloudy, I can take steps to prevent it.

Here are the most common culprits for tea cloudiness.

Possible Causes Of Clouding

There are several possible reasons why iced tea gets cloudy, and each one can be easily fixed.

1. Hard Water

This turned out to be what was wrong with the tea in my new place: My tap water came from a well instead of a public water system. 

Straight from the tap, the cold water tasted great but was full of minerals like magnesium and calcium. 

This type of water is also known as hard water and the minerals that make water hard may dissolve when hot but reform when it's cooled down, showing up the next morning in your pitcher.

Solution: If you have hard water and suspect the minerals are what's clouding up your tea, you have two options.

  • Install a water filtration system in your home. You'll want to call a plumber for this, but it can be worth it to have good quality water available from every tap in your house.
  • Use distilled water for brewing your tea. You can buy it by the gallon at your local grocery store.

2. Unclean Equipment

Another thing that can cause cloudiness in your tea is residue from a previous brewing left on your kitchen tools.

  • Limescale in your kettle can build up and then flake off into your water as it boils.
  • Particles from loose-leaf tea can remain inside an unrinsed teapot.
  • Oils from certain types of tea or coffee can remain on unwashed utensils.

These residues can not only cloud up your brew–they also alter the taste, diminishing flavor and leaving an unpleasant aftertaste.

Solution: If your tea is not only cloudy but the flavor seems off, check the cleanliness of your kitchen equipment. You may find that your electric kettle has developed limescale deposits that are breaking off into your hot water, or that your dishwasher is not cleaning thoroughly.

Always be sure to clean your tea equipment with hot soapy water. You don't want to be drinking from dirty dishes and you definitely don't want to be brewing contaminated tea!

3. Heat Shock

Some of the compounds in tea, especially polyphenols like tannins and theaflavins, oxidize when exposed to an extreme temperature shock such as refrigeration.

Once oxidized, they bond with the caffeine in tea to form particles. While the tea is hot, they are dissolved into the liquid, making them invisible.

The white particles floating in the tea appear once it has cooled down.

A close up of a drink
Let the tea cool to room temperature naturally before adding ice

Solution: If your tea brews nice and clear at first, but when chilled it clouds up, then heat shock is likely to be the culprit. Once you've finished steeping, let the tea cool to room temperature naturally before adding ice.

To clear up a pitcher of tea that has become cloudy after chilling: 

  • Remove your container from the refrigerator and add one cup of boiling water per quart of tea. Stir with a long spoon. This will cause the particles to dissolve again, suspending them in the liquid and clearing your tea right up. Pour the tea over ice cubes and serve immediately.
  • Another method to keep heat shock from clouding iced tea is to cold-brew it. Place room temperature water and black tea bags into a glass container for 8 to 10 hours for cold brewing. It can either sit on a sunny porch, making sun tea, or it can be placed in the refrigerator overnight.

The Final Word on Why Your Tea Gets Cloudy

If you're still not sure what is causing your tea to cloud up, here is a recipe for making cloud-proof iced tea that you can't go wrong with.

  1. Boil one quart of distilled water in a very clean pot. If you want sweet tea, add 1 cup of sugar and boil until dissolved.
  2. Turn off the heat. Place 1/2 cup of loose tea leaves or 8 tea bags into the water and cover.
  3. Let it steep for 8 to 10 minutes.
  4. Remove the bags or leaves and recover the pot. Let it sit for a couple of hours until it comes to room temperature.
  5. Pour into glasses filled with ice and serve immediately.

This recipe can be made with both black and green teas and will turn out perfectly clear iced tea every single time. You should never be stuck serving cloudy tea to your guests!

FAQs on Why Your Tea Gets Cloudy

Why is my hot tea cloudy?

While cloudy hot tea isn't as common as iced, it can still happen. The most likely culprit is hard water. Try brewed tea made from distilled water and see if that clears it up.

Is cloudy tea safe to drink?

Yes. If your cloudiness has been caused by hard water or heat shock, it may look unattractive but it will taste just the same and it will be perfectly safe. However, if you notice that the flavor is off as well, this may be caused by equipment that's been improperly cleaned, and you should toss the tea out before cleaning your equipment and brewing a fresh batch.

Author

  • A E Inman is a direct response copywriter and humor blogger. When she's not poking fun at her attempts to start a writing business, she can be found in the tea aisle of her local import store, arguing with strangers over the merits of rare tea varietals. She enjoys writing copy while consuming copious amounts of coffee and gunpowder tea.