Bartender’s Guide to Tea
Contributors: Joshua Kaiser, Mike Aschenbrener, Stephen Thomas, Seth Frantz, Matt Baudo, and Amy Finn.
Teas and botanicals have been use with all sorts of food and beverage for millennia. Many experienced mixologists rely on infusions to create unique and spectacular drinks that demand attention and delight the taste buds. The Bartender Guide to Tea is meant to be a resource for those looking to incorporate premium botanicals and teas into fresh and exciting mixology applications.
Tea and botanical ingredients are foundational components of mixology and the making of spirits themselves. Amari, digestifs and spirits largely originated from herbalists’ development of healthful tonics and tinctures across the globe. Tea has similarly deep roots in the human pursuit of wellness and using foods and beverages as medicine.
Tea and Cocktails
Macerations, syrups, concentrates, cold brews and bitters are a few ways you can expand your cocktails to use tea & botanicals. These can also be used in smoothies, zero-proof mixology and countless other applications.
Harmony of Ingredients
With any new cocktail or mixology beverage, your primary consideration should be how to bring harmony to the group of ingredients. When you begin to infuse a spirit with a tea or botanical, be mindful of the ingredients the spirit is comprised of. For example, digestifs or amaro can potentially be used as a base for an infusion, however, the botanical or tea must have enough weight to stand up to the bold, bitter flavors.
It is important to consider what the tea adds to the spirit when creating an infusion. For example, gin is typically a juniper-forward liquor and would be a great base for teas or botanicals that complement juniper such as schisandra berry or Japanese sencha.
Timing Your Infusion
Depending on the type of tea and the spirit you choose to use the time needed to properly impart the desired flavors can vary. With less oxidized teas (green tea or white tea), you may need to observe carefully and taste regularly to ensure not too many fresh tea polyphenols are brought into the spirit. Fresh polyhenols potentially attribute to an astringent mouthfeel. With more oxidized teas (black tea, Pu’er Tea or oolong tea) be sure to observe and taste so you achieve the appropriate amount of catechin or tannin in the brew.
Most infusions will need between 45 minutes to 24 hours, when using dried ingredients. Timeframes will change when using fresh botanicals, as the water content of undried plants is higher. When working with a new tea or botanical, it is important to understand its innate flavors and characteristics. Brewing a test infusion with water and tasting can be instrumental in ensuring the desirable flavors are represented in the infused spirit.
A maceration typically involves the softening of fruits or vegetables, using a liquid or sugar to encourage the release of water and flavor from the plants. An example of a maceration using a botanical is blackberry, Rishi Tea & Botanicals Hibiscus, and sugar. The ingredients are gently combined, mashing the berries slightly, and left to sit overnight. The blackberries release their juices and pectin, and after the overnight rest, the ingredients are heated up on the stove with water and strained. The result is a hyperpigmented, tart syrup-like ingredient, perfect for imparting flavor to spritzes or other zero proof cocktails.
Teas can be cold brewed in water to make an excellent base for zero proof beverages. Cold brewing botanicals is not always recommended, as hot water is necessary to extract flavors from dried spices, herbs, and fruits. However, there are exceptions to this rule. You can also create tea concentrates, such as chai, using tea botanicals, sugar, and water. If you need a quick and simple, pre-made concentrate, we offer 3 different concentrates including Masala Chai, Turmeric Ginger Chai, and Chaga Chai. We also have many recipes in our journal to support your exploration of these concentrates.
Tea and botanicals infusions are also not limited to alcohol for a cocktails. They can also be employed to create house-made bitters. Bitters are a type of tincture, which typically use a neutral spirit for the menstruum and botanicals for the plant material. When creating bitters, you will want to carefully measure your weight-to-volume ratio. Usually, the ratios will be between 1:2 to a 1:10. Typically, you will make tinctures that are 1:3, 1:4, or 1:5. The concept of saturation comes into play making it almost impossible to really extract past a 1:2 ratio. Bitters will need to rest longer than infused spirits, sometimes taking up to 2 weeks.
Syrups are a classic way of incorporating botanicals into beverages from cocktails to sodas. Fruits and roots make excellent bases for an extra burst of flavor in a recipe. We recommend using a double-strength method for hearty, dense ingredients such as ginger. A great recipe to begin with is a Double-strength Ginger Syrup.
To begin: Infuse 5 grams Rishi Tea & Botanicals Ginger tea in 10 ounces 200°F water for 5 to 6 minutes; strain/decant fully into a small saucepan set on medium-low heat.
Just before liquid returns to simmer, turn off heat and add remaining 5 grams tea. Cover and infuse for 5 to 6 minutes.
Strain/decant fully into a blender; add sugar and blend on low until sugar dissolves completely. Strain.
Cold Brew Tea
Building a Restaurant or Bar Menu
In a restaurant or bar setting cost is alway a key factor. Clever use of botanicals and teas can bring ingredient and labor costs down. At Rishi Tea & Botanicals our Regional Sales Team has a menu of beverages with overall cost percentages already calculated to make it easy for you to build a unique and cost effective menu.
The world of mixology is limitless when you choose to explore the vast world of teas and botanicals to elevate your cocktails. You can create beverages unlike any others in the world once you understand the nuance of the teas and botanicals.