Simply put, cold brew is tea brewed with cold water and iced tea is tea brewed with hot water and poured over ice. Let’s break down the differences.
The processes are similar but with two major differences: time and temperature.
Cold brew tea is made using cold or room temperature water and steeping it in the fridge for several hours.
Iced tea is made using hot brewed tea and then cooling it in the fridge or with ice.
Due to the different processing (cold vs. hot) the two will not taste the same.
A cold brew will offer a subtle, smooth, and naturally sweet flavor because it’s never been introduced to heat. It’s an easy process that allows the tea to slowly release its flavors and nutrients.
An iced tea will offer a bolder taste but with some astringency and bitterness because it releases more tannins in the heating process. Take care with timing and temperature and it’s possible to make a tasty iced tea.
The cold vs. hot brew process also changes the teas chemically.
Cold brew will have less caffeine and more antioxidants due to its super long steep time in which it slowly infuses its flavors and nutrients.
Iced tea is initially brewed hot so it will release more tannins, giving it a higher caffeine level than cold brew. While iced tea still offers nutrients and antioxidants, it will have less than cold brew due to the nature of its processing.