Find out why your tea gets cloudy and what you can do to avoid it in the future. Read on for a full explanation and learn more about 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. That had never happened to me before. It confused and concerned me as I simply did not know what had happened to my tasty drink.
Out of caution, I ended up throwing it out and brewing a whole new pitcher. Eventually, I figured out what caused this, and I was able to brew iced tea without it going cloudy. Now that I understand what happens when iced tea turns cloudy, I can take steps to prevent it.
Read on so you can learn from my mistakes and avoid clouds in your tea.
Is Cloudy Tea Safe To Drink?
That first pitcher was a learning curve for me, but it probably would have been fine if I had consumed it – most of the time, cloudy iced tea isn’t unsafe. 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 fine to consume.
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. The last thing you want is iced tea containing stale ingredients that are left over from previous brews.
While cloudy hot tea isn’t as common as iced, it can still happen. The most likely culprit is hard water in this case. If the cloudy nature of the tea bothers you, then brew the tea from distilled water and see if that clears it up.
If there are still issues, it could be a problem with your kettle.
Why Your Tea Gets Cloudy? Three Reasons
Don’t confuse red tea with cloudy tea. There are several possible reasons why iced tea gets cloudy. Thankfully, each one of them can be easily fixed. However, it is once again worth noting that cloudy tea is usually safe to drink.
1. Hard Water
This turned out to be what was wrong with the tea in my new place, so I have first-hand experience with this one. 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. Tap water often has these issues.
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. Hence why it’s more likely that it will be your iced tea that is cloudy.
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. Of course, this could be a very expensive option, but it does add an extra element of convenience when compared to our second option.
- Use distilled water for brewing your tea. You can buy it by the gallon at your local grocery store. It will be more expensive than using water straight from the tap.
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, but they can 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. This is actually far more dangerous than the other two issues, so if you suspect your tea has been contaminated, you should bin it right away 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.
This can cause what appears to be clouds in your iced tea. A simple solution is to 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
Recipe For Cloud-Proof Tea
There are times when you’re trying to make a nice glass of iced tea, but the clouds just keep on reappearing. For those instances, here is a recipe for making cloud-proof iced tea that you can’t go wrong with.
- Boil one quart of distilled water in a very clean pot (the importance of properly cleaning your tools cannot be overemphasized). If you want sweet tea, add 1 cup of sugar and boil until dissolved.
- Turn off the heat. Place 1/2 cup of loose tea leaves or 8 tea bags into the water and cover.
- Let it steep for 8 to 10 minutes.
- Remove the bags or leaves and recover the pot. Let it sit for a couple of hours until it comes to room temperature. By doing this, you are avoiding your tea going cloudy from heat shock.
- Pour into glasses filled with ice and serve immediately. You should have yourself a delicious serving of cloud-free iced tea.
This recipe can be made with both black and green teas and will turn out perfectly clear iced tea every single time. With it, you will never be stuck serving cloudy tea to your guests!