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Help me make Starbucks iced green tea.
June 21, 2009 4:47 PM   Subscribe

Help me make iced green tea that tastes like the stuff at Starbucks.

I am in love with Starbucks' iced, unsweetened green tea. Totally refreshing, and not at all bitter. But it's $3 a glass, which makes it too expensive to be a regular thing.

I watched them make it last time, and they use some kind of concentrate - they fill the glass about a fourth of the way up with that, then ice, then water, and shake. And it's perfect.

So, can you help me figure out how to make that concentrate? Would love to have bottles of it around. But my own efforts at brewing iced green tea are invariably bitter and unpleasant.

(Alternately, can you buy that kind of concentrate? If so, is there a brand that tastes as good as the 'bucks one?)
posted by jbickers to Food & Drink (18 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
 
Not a Starbucks expert, but I'm almost certain that the superior flavor has to do with the tea they use and not the fact that they use a concentrate. Go to a tea store (like Tealuxe or Teavana, if you have one nearby) and ask to try a few different green teas, or try ordering a green tea sampler online. Also, be sure that when you're brewing your own iced tea, you're using water at the proper temperature -- different kinds of teas require different temperatures of hot water, and scalding the tea can result in overly bitter flavor.
posted by telegraph at 5:05 PM on June 21, 2009


According to starbucks, the brand is Tazo.
posted by shownomercy at 5:08 PM on June 21, 2009


I make iced black tea about twice as strong as I like it, then I dilute and add lemon. I've found that it's quite bitter if I go stronger than double strength, and I suspect the same could happen with green tea.

Have you tried these options?

1) Make your green tea twice as strong as needed, then let cool on the counter and dilute as needed.

2) Make green sun tea, minus sweetener.

3) Use a mixture of mint and green tea when you brew. If the Starbucks tea is Tazo, it's not straight green tea, but a mixture.
posted by maudlin at 5:11 PM on June 21, 2009


The tea that they use, Tazo Zen, comes in big pitcher-sized iced tea bags. Pretty convenient. I bought some at Starbucks last year, I'm not sure if they still carry them.
posted by chiraena at 5:25 PM on June 21, 2009


So, is the concentrate they use simply this?

I'm hoping a current or former barista can weigh in ... trying to match that Starbucks flavor as closely as possible.
posted by jbickers at 5:26 PM on June 21, 2009


That mixture is for lattes. The brewed green tea they use is, I believe, the Zen tea (green and mint mixed) brewed very strong and then just mixed with ice and water.
posted by mynameisluka at 5:29 PM on June 21, 2009


Former barista here.

Specifically, it's Tazo Zen tea. It's a Japanese sencha tea with lemongrass and spearmint. Starbucks does indeed offer a straight green tea (China Green Tips), but not on ice. The stuff you linked to is intended for green tea lattes and tastes nothing like Zen tea.

Starbucks and probably your grocery store sell Tazo Iced Tea Bags in Black, Green* or Passion. They're a pack of 6 giganto tea bags similar to the ones used at Starbucks to brew a 2-litre pitcher of concentrate that is then watered down and shaken with ice to create your iced tea. When we ran out of the concentrate and needed to make iced tea on the fly for customers, we would steep two regular-sized bags of Zen tea (again, available at your local Starbucks or grocery store and usually easier to find than the iced bags) in 8oz of water, and then use that concentrate accordingly.

These may have been discontinued or repackaged or something in certain markets. If you search around the internet or at gourmet food stores, it might be possible to find a 24-count bag of these tea bags.
posted by thisjax at 5:29 PM on June 21, 2009


Thanks thisjax - can you give me any details on how the 2-litre pitcher of concentrate was brewed? (i.e. how hot the water, how much boiling water, how long steeped, etc.)?
posted by jbickers at 5:35 PM on June 21, 2009


can you give me any details on how the 2-litre pitcher of concentrate was brewed? (i.e. how hot the water, how much boiling water, how long steeped, etc.)?

Boiling water (which I know is strange given that we're talking about green tea, but this is Starbucks), 5 minutes, if my memory serves me correctly. Same goes for the short cup of concentrate.
posted by thisjax at 5:39 PM on June 21, 2009


So (and forgive the stupid questions, but I'm so happy to have access to someone who knows how to do this right!) do you bring the full 2 liters to a boil? Or do you boil a smaller quantity, steep, then fill up to the 2-liter line with cold water?
posted by jbickers at 5:44 PM on June 21, 2009


Sorry about that. I have no idea what the directions on the retail-version iced tea box say, but we usually steeped in 1 litre of boiling* water, and then filled up to the 2-litre line with cold.

*More or less everything that calls for boiling water at Starbucks or most other coffee shops/any other food service scenario will get water from an InstaHot tap, which might only heat water to ~200-202 degrees. Given that you're making a concentrate for iced tea, you're not using full-leaf team, and that you're brewing the tea far longer than one typically should for a sencha blend, I wouldn't worry about using boiling water at home.
posted by thisjax at 5:58 PM on June 21, 2009


thisjax, you're awesome. thank you so much!

(final point of clarification: to make the 2-liter of concentrate, you used all 6 giganto bags, right?)
posted by jbickers at 6:05 PM on June 21, 2009


(I really need to start taking more care in writing MeFi responses.)

Just use one bag per 2 litres of concentrate.
posted by thisjax at 6:06 PM on June 21, 2009


That's surprising!

The best way to ruin a quality green tea is to brew it 1. higher than 170 F (most are 150 - 170) and 2. longer than 2 - 4 minutes. The ranges depend on the variety of tea, but it you want a really tannic green tea, you'll get one from 200+ F.

Granted, who knows who industrial damage they do to their tea. Maybe it can withstand that temperature or is extracted under pressure for a short period of time. Food chemistry these days just blows the mind.

MeMail me if you decide to go it alone and I can give you the specific time/temp for whatever tea you choose. Sencha is a good choice, but avoid the flavored senchas (lily sencha? blech! :D)

I think thisjax mentioned the key to the particular flavor you're after: sencha tea with lemongrass and spearmint.

Mint is magic to green tea (some, not all). I really love it brewed with mint.

I think it's commonly brewed with mint in Turkey and the surrounding Eastern Mediterranean.
posted by foooooogasm at 6:12 PM on June 21, 2009


Granted, who knows who industrial damage they do to their tea. Maybe it can withstand that temperature or is extracted under pressure for a short period of time. Food chemistry these days just blows the mind.

It's not just Tazo green tea, it's the same with many mass-market (so, not in silk pyramid bags) bagged green teas. None of them seem to react the way that proper loose-leaf tea does, and they're typically made from such poor quality tea that brewing "properly" won't result in a decent cup of tea anyway. I don't like telling people to steep green tea — much less sencha — in boiling water, but the Tazo stuff is "tea", rather than tea.
posted by thisjax at 6:25 PM on June 21, 2009


Sorry thisjax, I missed your comment above on that...

thisjax: Boiling water (which I know is strange given that we're talking about green tea, but this is Starbucks), 5 minutes, if my memory serves me correctly.
posted by foooooogasm at 6:28 PM on June 21, 2009


From a current Starbucks barista:

1) Buy yourself a box of Zen Tazo teabags (the regular small ones).

2) Place all the bags of Zen Tazo tea in a 2 liter capacity pitcher and then fill to the 1 liter mark with hot (nearly boiling) water. (The bags that Starbucks uses are jumbo sized and chances are you won't be able to get your hands on those but it is equivalent. It's what Starbucks uses when they run out of the jumbo tea bags.)

3) Let this steep for 5 minutes.

4) Remove tea bags and fill pitcher to 2 liter line on pitcher with cold, preferably filtered water.

5) This is the "concentrate".

6) When you wish to make a glass of iced tea, add one part "concentrate" to one part water and 2 parts ice OR to your personal taste. (Some people like no additional water.) You can also add a simple sugar syrup (you can buy Starbucks' Classic syrup) to taste as well here.

7) Enjoy.
posted by karizma at 9:35 PM on June 21, 2009 [7 favorites]


Karizma has it, although I would steep on a ratio of 6 bags to 2 cups of boiling water. Don't squeeze out the bags. Don't steep longer than 15 minutes (the longer you steep the stronger it gets but after a while you'll start releasing the oils causing bitterness). You can also reduce the bitterness of iced tea by adding a teaspoon of baking soda to the concentrate while steeping (I don't like the way this tastes, but try it), if you like it sweet, add honey or sugar (enough for a 2 quart pitcher even though it's just 2 cups of concentrate) while the water is very hot and it will stay in solution when you add water.

You can also boil the concentrate down in a sugar syrup (1 1/2 to 2 cups sugar, 1 cup water, 2 cups tea concentrate, boil til it reduces to 2 cups) and make a "tea syrup" that you can add to iced water or sparkling water, about 1-2 tablespoons per glassful. This will make very sweet tea, obviously.
posted by nax at 6:49 AM on June 22, 2009


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