Though cold brew coffee has only gained global popularity in the last decade, the Japanese and possibly the Dutch have been cold brewing coffee for centuries. In the 1600's, Kyoto-style coffee manifested into the historical record, as a method to slowly bring out the delicate flavors of coffee without the need for hot water. There is some speculation that Dutch sailors, who needed a way to brew, keep, and carry coffee on long voyages, introduced the technique to the Japanese, but it was the Japanese who have perfected the art.
In the beginning the grounds were submerged for several hours and then strained, but over the centuries the method evolved into using elegant glass towers to allow for one drop of water to pass through the grounds at a time. In present-day Kyoto, it is quite common for a single cup of cold brew to require 5 hours lead time, and like many fine processes, the cost reflects the effort.
In centuries past, the cold brew method was preferred as it did not require the expense or labor needed to maintain a fire, but recent studies of this coffee trend demonstrate that there are more benefits than simply the ease of making it. Coffee brewed hot is more acidic, which can cause uncomfortable reflux reactions in some. As cold brew is less acidic, it has a sweeter taste, which many consumers prefer. Also, cold brew stays fresh longer than hot brew coffee and can be easily stored in swing top bottles, heated, reheated, or chilled to reflect individual preferences.