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Cold Steeping Green Tea

Surprising new data on what may be the healthiest way to prepare tea.

October 29, 2010 |
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Supplementary Info

Sources Cited


Image thanks to Brandon Heyer.


What’s the healthiest way to prepare green tea? Recently in Taiwan, a new trend has arisen of cold steeping tea. Not like ice tea where you make it hot then cool it down, but you start with cold water throw the tea in, put it in the fridge for two hours, or just leave it at room temp. Supposed to have less caffeine, reduced bitterness—and I’m sure it does, but cold water probably also doesn’t draw out many of the antioxidants either. I mean that’s the whole point of brewing tea with hot water, right? To extract all the nutrition. We shouldn’t just presume, though, and so scientists in Italy took it upon themselves to compare the antioxidant activity of hot versus cold steeped tea.
Here’s the data for hot-brewed tea. This is measuring the lag time before cholesterol oxidizes. You mix LDL—bad cholesterol, with an oxidizing agent, like copper in this case, and it takes about 28 minutes to oxidize, but you add tea and the antioxidants slow down the oxidation and increase the lag time—that’s a good thing, and as you can see oolong tea is better than black, green is better than oolong, and white is the best overall.
But this is the antioxidant activity for hot brewed tea. In a surprise upset, Cold steeped tea was even better. Significantly better. So much so that cold steeped black may even be healthier than hot brewed white.
Why? Well, the only thing they could think of is that hot water is so hot that it destroys some of the cat-a-kins, the antioxidants in tea. So I no longer brew my tea—I just throw it in cold water. Saves time, saves energy, and we now know it’s even healthier!

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by veganmontreal.

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Dr. Michael Greger

Doctor's Note

Please feel free to post any ask-the-doctor type questions here in the comments section and I’d be happy to try to answer them. And check out the other videos on green tea. Also, there are 1,686 other subjects covered in the rest of my videos--please feel free to explore them as well!

For more context, check out my associated blog posts: Is Caffeinated Tea Really Dehydrating?Hibiscus tea: flower the first month, and Why Less Breast Cancer in Asia?

If you haven't yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

  • Benjamin Stone

    A great way to enjoy green tea on a hot summer day – glad to know the health benefits are enhanced cold steeped! Does this also apply to matcha green tea powder in cold water mixed vs steeped in hot water?

    • Michael Greger M.D.

      With matcha we presumably don’t care about how much of the nutrition dissolves into the water, because we drink it all up, so I’d suggest mixing it up any way you like! (I put mine in smoothies :)

    • C.Jones

      matcha is healthy and good any way. but unless you mix properly, it can get clumpy. personally though, I think the simplicity of throwing it in with some ice and cold water is much simpler than mixing with hot then adding to ice.

  • Toxins

    So you have to leave it for 2 hours for it to have more anti oxidant content then hot tea? Ive been drinking your “healthiest drink”…chai tea with raw cacao powder. Is this best served cold?

  • minetti

    Do you feel there is a concern with radioactive tea coming from Japan? France just refused to accept a shipment of Japanese tea, due to high radioactive cesium levels. I recently purchased some from Costco, that I am not going to drink. I have instead, ordered some from India. What are your thoughts?

  • ks391262

    Anyone know where I could buy some matcha tea? What stores sell it?

  • Carojo95

    I wonder if you gently warm it after cold brewing will you destroy the cold-brew effects. I just like warm tea!

  • KJR

    I recently heard an interview with Dr. Klaper in which he states that tea contains antimicrobial properties that destroy the gut flora, so tea should not be consumed. Always believing that green tea was good for us, I’m confused and would love some clarification. Thank you.

    • C.Jones

      after doing some research ive found the very opposite is true…yes there are some antimicrobial effects, but in a good way, meanwhile green tea, like matcha, which has natural antibiotics can actually improve gut flora

  • Jacci

    Although the graphs show the other teas significantly higher when steeped cold, green tea appears on the graph at the same level whether hot or cold. Is this an error?

    • Harriet Sugar Miller

      Could somebody respond to this? Green tea appears to be the same on the graph whether it’s brewed hot or cold. Are we missing something?

      • Chuck V

        I agree – even with the error bars, the result appears rather odd. But no comments as to cause

        • Tommasina

          Good question! I’m intrigued as well.

  • Padraig

    I always use the coffee maker to get water for my green teabags. This is both easier and prevents water that’s too hot from scalding the tea. 

    But wake up! The human body is 37 degrees celsius. If you put it in lower than that it will just heat up in your body anyway. 

    • brjarrard

      Unfortunately, most coffee makers have plastics in contact with water in both the reservoir and brewing/heating process. Unless you are using a stainless “percolator” style pot you are ingesting toxins leached from the heated plastics.
      “But wake up…” does not warrant attempt at rebuttal :)

  • se34

    Dr. Greger,

    What’s the latest on epicatechin and/or raw cocoa? I noticed that the researcher, Norm (Norman) Hollenberg (sp?) is quoted as saying something to the effect that epicatechin should be “reclassified as a vitamin” – and that many diseases may one day be seen as related to “epicatechin deficiency.” Would be very intrigued to know your take on this. (Thus far, I’ve reluctantly begun a rigorous twice daily dose of a heaping Tablespoon of Raw Cocoa Powder added to various things; tough work, but someone has to do it. :)


  • se34

    Relating to this video (and epicatechin): I also sometimes enjoy a nice cold cup of cat’s claw infusion (sweetened with healthful, natural things). I’ve heard that cat’s claw and cocoa – both raw (as the heat zaps it) – are some of the best sources of epicatechin?

  • Alexandre Amirizian

    I use my yuzamashi (water cooler) before I brew it! Japanese tea is traditionally steeped with water ranging from 60-80 deg Celsius! Gyokuro being the finest tea and usually made with water after it just has stopped steaming!

  • Deb California

    Hi! I drink decaffeinated green tea daily (water-processed). Have the catechins already been destroyed in the decaffeinating process?

  • Ilana

    Does this also apply to hibiscus? Is it better to cold brew hibiscus too?

  • Bee Healthy

    I like my tea hot most mornings, but not scalding hot. I have to wait 5 to 10 minutes after brewing for tea to cool to a drinkable temperature. If we were to brew tea just slightly hotter than we like to drink it, how long would we have to brew it for? Maybe I can just tell from the taste? As it becomes bitter when over-steeped.

  • painterguy

    I cold steep Zinger Wildberry (hibiscus) tea. There is some in the frig at all times. I still like my green tea very warm–like my coffee. The warmth is soothing on my throat and senses. My coffee comes from a coffee pot, which doesn’t get very hot. I put my green tea bag in a jelly jar full of water and put it in the micro for two minutes. I could cut that to one minute and still have soothing, warm tea.

  • Diana

    I’ve been drinking my green tea steeped in room temperature water or cold water for over 5 years now!! I wasn’t thinking about the health benefits… It was just easy to drink this way as I dont enjoy hot drinks! When people asked me why I do what I do!! I jokingly made up something saying “Hot water kills antioxidants, so I drink my tea this way because its more healthier!” Lol!! I never thought my joke would be an actual fact!

    • Sebastian Tristan

      Can you next joke by saying that eating medjool dates all day long is the healthiest thing ever? =D

    • Arjan den Hollander.

      Don’t forget the lemon.

  • Denis Spasyuk

    all energy companies hate this website :)

  • preethi

    My skin has become dark after consuming green tea for a long period of time. I want to know when I can drink water so that I get the benefits of green tea and at the same time do not become dark

  • Sebastian Tristan

    Very interesting. But what about decaffeination? I often decaffeinate tea by throwing out the first infusion. Does the first cold-steep decaffeinate tea?

  • DL Stephens

    Hey there, Doc! Radishes did great in my garden (Jan, Feb, Mar), this year; been eating their “greens” day-in-day-out, raw & cooked, in my march towards a complete plant based diet. Curious, tho, how do they rate, say compared to kale? Hope to donate soon…I’m unemployed… Thanks, Sir!

    • Thea

      DL Stephens: I don’t have an answer to your question, but I wanted to congratulate you on your, “march towards a complete plant based diet.” It sounds like you are doing great. I wish you luck on both your diet and getting a job!

  • Deane Alban

    I’ve been cold brewing green tea for years. I had heard somewhere along the line that cold brewing left more beneficial compounds because heat destroyed some of them. I was happy to find this video to clarify this. Here’s how I make it – it always comes out perfectly. Never bitter.