COFFEE AND TEA COCKTAILS
Tea and Coffee have been the foundation of centuries of civilisation, playing central roles in social and ceremonial aspects of human civilisation, helping to create a hospitality culture when there was none, and are now more often seen in the cocktail world. Is it just a trend or here to stay?
Ancient history tells the story of Shen Nung discovering tea after poisoning himself 72 times during his experimentation with wild plants. Whilst this story could be a myth, it dates the earliest use of tea somewhere around 2732 BC. Over centuries the brew has been coveted and so valued by the British Empire and China that it lead to the first Opium War. The war resulted in the port of Hong Kong being ceded to Britain through the Treaty of Nanjing.
One of the most far-reaching consequences of the Treaty was the introduction of tea to
India by the Scottish botanist, Robert Fortune. Fortune was commissioned to smuggle tea and experienced tea workers to India. These series of events are, in essence, what has given us such a broad variety of teas to use in our cocktails.
The earliest English language reference of tea making its debut in cocktails is in the first book ever dedicated to mixed drinks called, “Oxford Night Caps Being A Collection Of Recipes For Making Various Beverages” 1827. In it, tea is described as the “backbone of British resolve”, therefore it is of little surprise that a Tea Punch recipe makes its appearance within the first 12 pages.
A blend of...
Lemon and Seville orange Oleo Saccrum The juice of 10 lemons and four
Two quarts of Green Tea (Boiling Hot)
Sweeten with a bottle of Capillaire* Half a pint of White Wine,
A pint of french brandy,
A pint of jamaican rum,
A bottle of orange shrub
The extensive consumption of tea is most likely attributed to the popularity of Tea Houses and Cafés, which were a precursor to Public Houses (Pubs) and cocktail bars. As the cocktail culture is undergoing a renaissance, much more thought is going into the ingredients and why they are used. For instance, the punch which gave rise to tea as an ingredient, has been dramatically altered from its original form. This is because modern alcohol production methods allow for carefully selected flavour profiles that would be lost if diluted so heavily.
There has been resurgence of the tea leaf as a modern day ingredient not only in Asia, but across the globe. This ancient botanical beverage is quickly finding a place in every bar; from loose leaf blends to concentrated syrups, the uses for tea in a cocktail are ever expanding.
If there is a tea revolution taking place, it’s important to ask the question why and how this beautiful leaf is being used.
My latest experience with tea in cocktails was at Teens Of Thailand, where according to Niks Anuman-Rajadhon, co-owner of Teens on using tea in cocktails:
“When constructing tea in drinks, I prefer it in drinks that have botanical/grassy notes and a base flavour that is still fresh. Gin and tea have been a perfect combination for years. You can put tea in your whisky intense drinks or sweet vermouths as well, but don’t get me wrong, it kind of polishes the whole flavour profile and doesn’t stand out.”
I agree that lighter and greener base spirits allow the tea to stand out much more; however, there are now so many styles and variations of tea that you can find something for any spirit category. I always try and pick up something new when I travel, especially something that could be paired well with Monkey Shoulder. My latest trip back to my home town in Norfolk, England (where we drink LOTS of tea) saw me walking away with two very distinct styles. The first, Caramel Cream, is a deliciously sweet and dry Black
Tea with flavours of Butterscotch and Vanilla, is perfect for pairing with whisky. The second, and the one I am using in my cocktail below, is called Russian Caravan. It is a huge smoke bomb with flavours of gunpowder and sulphur, and a fantastic replacement for smoky whisky. When turned into a syrup, you can control the smoke/sweet element in the cocktail.