The mythical origin stories of the discovery of tea as a beverage relate how tea leaves fell into an open pot of boiling water. The resulting brew was deemed both delicious and beneficial to human well-being. In some instances the earliest experiments with tea-beers weren’t much different- throw some tea leaves into the brew and hope the desired characteristics complement each other.
But the increasing popularity of teas in hard kombucha, craft beers, and hard seltzers means that hard tea beverages need to be built for appeal and for scale.
The early days of beer-tea experimentation were built on tea blends intended for drinking as tea, not as adjuncts to brewing. Using existing tea blends for experimentation is quick and easy, but can prove clumsy when transitioning to larger scale and more cost-effective production.
The development of commercially successful tea beers depends on a few important tips:
1. Know what you expect the tea to contribute. The application of ingredients, depending on amounts used, will determine:
c. Character- e.g. astringency, smoothness, tartness, etc.
2. Build through core ingredients. Tea blends often have 3-5 ingredients, not including natural or artificial flavors. Some of these ingredient characteristics get lost or wasted when they fail to come through in the final product. Other experiments can be a waste of time when 1 ingredient throws off the entire beer profile. Stick with the workhorse ingredients of the tea blend and build from there.
3. Use the right ingredients at the right time. Work with an experienced vendor who can relate previous successes of when and how to incorporate tea into the production process.
4. Partner for quality, experience, and consistency. Choose a tea provider who is closer to the source producers of the ingredients. Many smaller tea companies buy ingredients in small batches and may be at the bottom of the totem pole in terms of securing supply. Your tea vendor should also be able to advise you on tea botanicals that are popular with consumers, and ones that have functional benefits that can add further appeal to your hard tea beverages.
Firsd Tea is the North American office of one of the world’s largest tea exporters. We are able to offer teas directly from the farms and packing facilities we own. We service international, national, and local beverage developers in finding the right tea ingredients for their tea-related projects.