OK, here we go. While "cold brew" may be one of the buzziest phrases in Western culture over the last decade, the beverage itself is nothing new. In fact, it's centuries-old (like kombucha — just remember that every hipster trend most likely has a rich international history that often gets unfairly lost in its popularization). Cold brew made its way to Japan in the 17th century, reportedly by way of Dutch traders traveling from Indonesia who may have created it in an effort to produce and transport large quantities of caffeine that would resist spoilage. It's been popular in the East Asian country ever since, which is why the Japanese Kyoto-drip method is one the most influential brewing techniques to this day.
First the basics: Cold brew coffee isn't called that because of its serving temperature — the "cold" refers to the brewing process, which involves steeping the grounds in cool water for 12 to 24 hours and then straining them out, leaving behind a sweeter, far less acidic beverage that's then chilled and served. The longer the grounds sit in the water, the more flavorful the result, and because heat isn't applied to extract the beans' potential, cold brew is typically far less bitter. The preparation obviously takes a lot more time and effort, which is why most places price cold brew higher than other iced beverages, but connoisseurs say the taste is far superior to the regular stuff. The Kyoto-drip method takes this process up a notch with the use of an aesthetically pleasing tower that sends individual water droplets over the grounds.