Tea Soda

The Whole Leaf

The specialty coffee and tea industries are tapping into kegged drinks. (Look for an article on this freewheeling trend in our forthcoming Tea Almanac.) Not only do kegs provide freshness, they offer the freedom to compose uncommon beverages with delightful effervescence and to pour those creations in style.

Brendon Gliddon, head of research and development at two-location Onyx Coffee Lab in Northwest Arkansas, was interested in using ginger in a fall-inspired tea soda. Hoping to follow late summer’s lavender tea soda with something spicy and sweet, he gravitated toward a natural pairing—apple and cinnamon—as a foundation to spice with fresh ginger root. Needing something to temper the sweetness of the drink, Brendon added brewed gunpowder green tea to the mix. (Produced in China’s Zhejiang Province, rolled gunpowder tea pellets take their name from a resemblance to explosive black powder.)

Having a kegerator in house allows the labs to offer unconventional seasonal drinks, like a blackberry kombucha, a cacao-infused cold-brew coffee on nitro, and a tea soda. Bringing tea into the kegged line-up isn’t too tricky, says owner Jon Allen. “It looks and feels complicated but it’s a standard sort of setup that a bar would use to serve beer,” he says. “The soda is refreshing alternative to coffee and is also a nice chaser after having several cups or an espresso in our café.”

Apple Ginger Tea Soda
Five-gallon batch to be force-carbonated in keg

Pour two gallons of quality fresh squeezed apple juice into your keg.

Grate 60 grams of ginger root.

Lightly break up 15 grams of cinnamon sticks.

Steep 100 grams of gunpowder tea, the cinnamon, and ginger in sixteen ounces of water at 205°F for fifteen minutes, stirring occasionally.

Strain out tea, ginger root, and cinnamon and pour into keg.

Fill the rest of your keg with cold filtered water.

Bring to at least 45°F.

Connect to CO2 and force sixty pounds pressure. Shake and release gas.  Repeat (use a carb stone in soda keg for quicker carbonation, otherwise it can take up to two days to carbonate.)

Bump pressure down to forty pounds and serve in stemware garnished with a fresh Mexican Cinnamon Stick.

Regan Crisp is Fresh Cup’s associate editor. Photo courtesy Onyx Coffee Lab.