2021.09.22 How to take the hiccups out of tea beer development
Developing craft tea beers from testing to initial batch can be a quick and straightforward process. While much has been made of the major industry players bemoaning their loss of market share, the situation points to the range of craft tea beers and hard tea seltzers entering the market with no dominant player steering demand. Doors of opportunity in the segment are wide open.
A few useful points will help you navigate the path to craft tea-beer product development.
1. Preliminary testing can easily be made with Dogfish Head's Randall, Randall Jr., or by combining some base beer with tea leaves in a French press. If using the French press, place it in the fridge and check every few hours to track how the tea is infusing into the beer. You may also note that varying layers of character get unlocked from the tea at different stages of the infusion period.
2. Next, consider how you may want to combine tea with other ingredients, like fruits. It is generally recommended to avoid teas with flavoring added as the flavors may not pass cleanly or sufficiently from leaf to brew. Add fruits or other ingredients directly for a more controlled and consistent result.
3. This type of testing should allow you develop your general guidelines for determining the desired intensity of color, flavor/aromas, and strength/bitterness/astringency you will expect when producing test batches.
4. You may also need to review any regulatory requirements in using your desired ingredients. The TTB.gov website lists tea (camellia sinensis) leaves as a "traditional", or "exempted" ingredient in brewing, while instant teas and extracts ARE NOT considered exempt.
When it comes time to run larger batches, here are a few quick rules of thumb:
1. Use 1-2 lbs of tea leaf per BBL, and steep for 12-36 hours. Monitor and taste regularly.
2. Follow similar sterilization standards as you would with coffee beans, cacao nibs, or vanilla bean.
Just like hops or grapes, tea leaves are a world onto themselves. The diversity created by origin, quality level, and characteristics is far-reaching. If your tea leaves are not producing the results you expect, please reach out to an experienced tea professional.