Carbonated Iced Tea
As the weather warms, a tea-drinker's fancy turns not just to flavor but to refreshment. Luckily, unique and enchanting carbonated teas have begun to flow from top taps around the nation. Whether it's tea that's simply fizzed, or tea pre-infused with hops or other botanicals, these drinks are a far cry from bubble tea of the '90s. This is sparkling tea; artisan fizz at its finest.
"Tea is this really lovely base, and is something that I have always been a big fan of, " says 2015 United States Barista Champion Charles Babinski, co-founder of Los Angeles' G&B and Go Get Em Tiger coffee shops. G&B's popular Fizzy Hoppy Tea infuses Citra hops into round, full-flavored Yunnan red tea. Babinski serves it on tap, carbonated and cool.
"It's daytime beer ... " - Charles Babinski, G&B Coffee
The genesis of the idea—which started while Babinski was tinkering with carbonating teas during his tenure at Intelligentsia's Venice, California cafe—actually came from IPAs. Babinski and partner Kyle Glanville were drawn to the clean, refreshing expressions of hops found in beers like Alpine Beer Company's Nelson and Three Floyds' Zombie Dust. "It's not like the super hopocalypse or whatever, " stresses Babinski. "It's like, oh, this is kind of piney, or this is really complex, tropical. So the thought came of, let's try to do something that grasps these things."
"We think about tea in terms of simple flavors, " continues Babinski. "Like a black tea tastes like that sort of oxidized, extracty black tea flavor, green tea tastes grassy. And in reality there are much more interesting qualities out there, whether it's something like a Dan Cong oolong, which is super aromatic with tropical fruits, or a Yunnan black tea, which is going to have this big jammy round peachy sweetness to it. The hoppy tea was born as a way to work with our interest in hop flavor, but also teas. Also, carbonating anything makes it better."
"The teas that I find best tend to be things that are pretty low astringency, with a good amount of amino acids, " says Palas. "The globe-shaped oolongs work really well, white tea works really well, and certain Japanese green teas work quite well, as well as some China black teas."
As Western tea culture continues to remain firmly enmeshed with specialty coffee, it's no surprise that artisanal sparkling tea is being embraced by finer coffee shops from coast to coast, many of which are developing the drink for both tap service and ready-to-drink bottles. Look for a wider release of fizzed teas, both hopped and un-hopped, to come from cafes and coffee roasters above and below the Canadian border by summertime.