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MissAnthrope's avatar

Why does this tea turn cloudy when refrigerated?

Asked by MissAnthrope (21458points) July 16th, 2011

I’m a barista and one of my duties is to make sure we have iced tea ready. We use loose leaf black assam tea brewed in a tea pot.

What happens is the tea is clear while hot and then we put it in the refrigerator after it’s cooled off some. The tea stays clear in the fridge usually for the rest of the day, but then at some point by the next day, the tea is opaque and cloudy. It tastes perfectly fine, just looks a bit weird.

We’ve noticed that it does this about 99% of the time, but that there are some times when the tea stays clear. We also do a loose-leaf mint iced tea that always stays clear, no matter what.

Anyone able to solve the mystery of the cloudy tea?

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5 Answers

thorninmud's avatar

This is caused by precipitation of the tannins in the tea. They are in solution at the higher temperatures, but as the tea cools they are forced out of solution. All of those little solid bits make the tea look cloudy.

The richer the tea is in tannins, the more likely it is to do this (e.g. high-quality black teas brewed for a long time). The peppermint tea doesn’t cloud because it lacks tannins.

Hard water exacerbates the problem, because it has a harder time holding tannins in solution. Rapid cooling is also more likely to provoke the precipitation.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

Just to echo @thorninmud and include a link to Goodhousekeeping for ice tea. They include clearing the cloud the next day with adding boiling water.
My aunt use to make the ice tea the day before in the refrigerator, cold water and tea bags in a large glass pitcher.

marinelife's avatar

Add a pinch of baking soda to the tea when it is first brewed. That will clear up the problem.

MissAnthrope's avatar

Interesting! Thanks so much for the answer… We will now be able to play around and see if we can keep it clear.

perspicacious's avatar

All black tea turns cloudy when put in the refrigerator. One of the national brands used to advertise that it never turned cloudy. It changes the taste to me. I will not drink it after it goes into the refrigerator. So, my suggestion is to try not to brew more than you need in a day and never put it in the refrigerator.

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