You have been planning all week. It has been gorgeous outside all summer so you decided to have some friends over for a barbecue. The day before you prep the potato salad, pre-form the hamburger patties and chill a big jug of crystal clear iced tea. The day of the barbecue you have everything together. You set up tables outside, ice some beers, put out some wine and take the iced to out of the refrigerator to place in a nice glass pitcher. However, when you look at the iced tea it looks nothing like what you made the night before. It used to be clear and now it looks like a giant cloud of amber liquid. So what the heck happened? Your iced tea cooled too fast
The reason why your iced tea became so cloudy is because you cooled it too fast. The scientific explanation for this is convection.Convection keeps hot tea clear
Think of convection as mini tornadoes in your tea. When tea is hot, these tornadoes spin the microscopic particles and the spinning helps to bind the particles together. As the tea cools, these tornadoes start to spin slower. If the temperature gets cold enough they eventually stop spinning altogether, releasing all of the tannins and other tiny particles in your tea. It is the particles that make your tea cloudy?
Once the particles separate, they have nowhere to go so they just kind of hang out in the tea. Since they are no longer bonded through the mini tornadoes, they cloud up. How do I prevent tea from clouding?
The only way to keep your tea clear is to keep it at room temperature. At room temperature the mini tornadoes never stop spinning enough to release the particles of tea that cause the cloudiness. Just be sure to drink it all that day because it isn’t safe to keep room temperature iced tea around for long. The proof is in restaurants
When restaurants make iced tea they use those big machines that pour the tea into those big silver tins. If you notice, those tins are never refrigerated. They are always left at room temperature then served over ice.
Cloudy iced tea tastes just fine
If you can deal with the appearance of it, cloudy iced tea tastes just as good as the non-cloudy version. Since it is so much easier to put your iced tea in the refrigerator, you may want to just accept the fact it is cloudy and enjoy the tea for its taste. If you are worried about your guests at the barbecue, they will probably be enjoying the wine and beer too much to notice.