Maybe it’s the cooler weather or maybe it’s just in vogue this week, but we have been getting tons of questions about making mead with tea recently.
Like, four people have asked us.
That doesn’t seem like a ton now that it’s written down, but it’s an awful lot for a single weekend, and we’re not going to exaggerate since we believe that hyperbole is the absolute worst thing that has ever existed anywhere on the planet since time began.
Anywho, before we get into the technical details of brewing – or double-brewing – with tea, let’s get this out of the way: There is no agreed upon name for a mead made with tea. It’s a mead, subclass metheglin, but beyond that there’s no consensus.
Camelliamel has a certain euphonious charm and tea mead is definitely straightforward. Teaglyn should be abandoned immediately since we don’t like to mix roots and there’s probably a first grader somewhere in the Hartford School District with that name already. For this article, we will just refer to it as Brewing Mead with Tea, since we’re discussing the process more than the final product. Please feel free to bicker about the name in the comments and on Facebook.
For the purposes of this article, we will also use the term “tea” to refer to anything commonly consumed like camellia sinensis (aka true tea). This would include yerba mate, rooibos, and chamomile to name but a few. We are not talking about other spices which are sometimes referred to as a “spice tea” in brewing, since we’ve talked about that before.
Now, the million dollar question: How do you make a batch of mead with tea?
(We’re totally ignoring the why.)
There are several ways to add tea to a batch of mead: Dry, Steeped, or a Combination. And there are several times to add tea to a batch of mead: Before, During, or After Fermentation, or adding it throughout the fermentation process.
How to add it:
As a rule, we don’t recommend putting dry tea into your mead at any stage of the fermentation. The reason for this is more pragmatic than aesthetic: Tea is covered in microbes, some of which are pathogenic. This is one reason to always steep your tea at 160˚F or above.
Although no known pathogen that can harm a human can survive a mead fermentation, chances are pretty good that you’ll be introducing a souring bacteria if you just dump the tea leaves right in. The aesthetic reason is that alcohol extraction of tea doesn’t usually yield an agreeable product.
Our tried-and-true is to brew up a pot of strong tea. The Rule of Thumb is roughly 1 oz. of leaves per quart of water, triple the steeping time, but follow the standard water temperature. Now pull out the tea leaves, and dump in the liquid (which is confusingly also referred to as “tea”).
When to add it:
Here there is substantially more flexibility. With more delicate flavors like tea, we tend to err on the side of later. This gives the yeast less opportunity to scrub out the flavor compounds you’re looking for.
Then again, there’s an old adage that says that you “taste it when you add it.” This means that if you put it in at the beginning of the fermentation, you’ll taste it as soon as it hits your mouth, but it will fade quickly. If you add it at the end, you’ll get it at “the back” of your palate. Whether this is true or not, many people believe it and follow the practice religiously. This would imply that tea should be added at multiple stages of fermentation for the full flavor experience.
Caffeine in mead:
If it’s True Tea or Mate, then yes, but not very much. Assuming you add a whole pot of strong tea to a 5 gallon batch, you could anticipate about 8 mg of caffeine in your glass of mead. That’s 1/12th the amount of caffeine in a similarly-sized cup of coffee, or the same as a cup of decaf coffee.
This is entirely up to you. It’s your mead. In fact, why don’t you experiment and let us know! There are lots of ways you could do it, and you can read more about experimental batches here.
That’s it! Go out and brew, and… well, brew some more. Shoot us an e-mail with your results or leave a message in the comments.
 This is not offensive. Google it.
 Yes, there is caffeine in mate. No, it is not a similar compound called “mateine.” Yes, I know your local tea shop told you this. No, they are not scientists. Google it. Also, you can’t “wash the caffeine off tea” with a quick dunk.
In the last few weeks, the staff of Groennfell Meadery has been interviewed about six times. And, on each and every one of those occasions, the person interviewing us has made a startling discovery:
We don't hate Multi-National Breweries.
Frankly, this is an extension of our company ethos: Everyone is our friend. But more than that, what's to hate? (Other than duplicitous marketing: We're looking at you "Blue Moon Brewing Company" aka MillerCoors.) These breweries have, for the most part, gotten big because they make a product people want to drink at a price people are willing to pay. We survive and thrive under the exact same set of rules, we're just newer to the game.
Without big breweries, there are no craft breweries. Without craft breweries, there are no craft beer drinkers. Without craft beer drinkers, there is no Groennfell Meadery. We rely on a very complex business ecosystem. While we could expound on it for hours, why don't you just watch this beautiful little YouTube video we came across that explains it all!
In which Ricky the Meadmaker answers questions about his favorite thing to drink, the craziest law governing mead, and whether increases in honey prices will increase the price of our mead (spoiler: it won't!). Plus, he introduces a new mead-based autumn cocktail.
Fall is here. Like… really here. This weekend marked the first Killin’ Frost through most of the state of Vermont, and minds turn at long last from Barbecues, Formal Garden Parties, and frosty mugs of Mannaz to layered flannel and Autumn Cocktails.
As most of you know, Groennfell Meadery has a mixing with mead blog in addition to our normal blog. In the coming weeks we’ll be featuring a number of great fall cocktails, but before we fill your head with specifics, we wanted to teach you how to design your own tasty concoctions.
There are three ways we go about building a drink.
We’re going to assume that you have access to our full line-up of meads and a full bar, so let’s just focus on number one: It’s Fall and you need to drink.
Now, it’s time to Choose Your Own Adventure©:
 Ricky put this in. The rest of us at Groennfell Meadery are quite aware that nobody throws Formal Garden Parties anymore, but we can’t bring ourselves to break it to the Meadmaker.
Ricky the Meadmaker was recently interviewed by middbeat, the student-run paper at Middlebury College. They asked a lot of great questions, and, not surprisingly, Ricky provided them with abundantly loquacious answers.
Ricky and Kelly Klein ’07, ’09 are living the life. No, they don’t have a Manhattan penthouse, they don’t go sailing around the Carribean for vacation, and they haven’t made their fortunes (yet). Rather than leading a life of glamor and riches, these Middlebury graduates manage their own meadery, Groennfell, in nearby Colchester, VT.
In which Ricky the Meadmaker answers questions about filtering mead, his near-pathological love of mopping, food pairing, whether houseplants like mead, and catches up with the winner of our first Cooking with Mead recipe contest.
Groennfell Meadery is Vermont’s premier craft meadery. Inspired by Old Norse legends, brewed with extraordinary ingredients, Groennfell’s meads are unlike anything you’ve had before. Crisp, clean, and astoundingly drinkable, the only way to explain any one of Groennfell’s meads is to try one yourself.