Let's talk tea and cocktails with Robert Schinkel

"Take some more tea," the March Hare said to Alice, very earnestly.
"I've had nothing yet," Alice replied in an offended tone, "so I can't take more."
"You mean you can't take less," said the Hatter: "it's very easy to take more than nothing."
"Nobody asked your opinion," said Alice.” 

― Lewis CarrollAlice in Wonderland


Maybe it’s because we are ‘know it alls’ as well, or maybe it is because we really like tea but we just like this quote. Tea is a century old drink. Around 2737 BC, Chinese emperor Shennong, ordered that all his subjects had to boil water before drinking it. And the legend goes that in a tea leaf dropped in his glass of hot water carried and tea was born. Probably he would not have guessed that a near 5000 years later, bartenders would make cocktails with his ‘invention’.

Bols Bartending Academy Masterclass
For our first Bols Bartending Academy Masterclass in 2018 we had the privilege and luck to have tea mixologist Robert Schinkel to talk about tea and cocktails. Robert is a world known tea ambassador for Dilmah tea and also the founder of one of the few tea liqueurs, Pekoe.

Tea Talk
Now, let’s talk tea. 98% of all tea comes from Asia.  All real tea comes from one type of plant called Camellia Sinensis (Sinensis derived from Chinensis, Latin for from China. World’s first “Made in China” maybe?) Rooibos & Mint tea are actually not teas. They are called infusions. This is what Robert taught us.

The Camellia Sinensis has countless variations and subfamilies. Two of the most common ones are Camellia Sinensis var. Sinensis and Camellia Sinensis var. Assamica. From these two variations: Sinensis and Assamica you can make many types of tea as an end product. And every type will give you different flavours. A major part of the flavour has to do with the oxidation intensity of the plucked tea leaves. Important to know is that the tea plant will grow into a full blown plant easily surpassing 2-3 meters if the leaves are not plucked and the plant trimmed every other two weeks.

In 1824 British citizen James Taylor brought the Camellia Sinensis plant to what was known back then as British Ceylon and planted it in the royal botanical gardens of the Kandy region, Sri Lanka (Before 1972 known as the country of Ceylon). It was the start of the Sri Lankan tea industry as we know it today.

Tea in Cocktails
Tea has been an important ingredient used in the early 17th century in punches. As the world’s second most consumed liquid it would be logic for it to find a place in the cocktail world. For using tea in your cocktails, let’s start by saying that you have to over brew your tea. This means that instead of the recommended 2-4 minutes brewing time depending on your tea, you’d have to brew it for over 5 minutes. Why you might ask, well; You’re probably going to use ice at some point in your cocktails and will bring extra dilution to your drink, resulting in a overdiluted tea if it was brewed for only 2-4 minutes. You want the flavour of the tea to be present in your drinks, so don’t boohoo, over brew!!

Now there are many uses for tea in cocktails

  • Tea infused spirits: Infuse spirits of choice with tea of choice. Steep tea leaves in hot water for a minute before transferring the leaves into the spirit. Recommended amount is 8 grams of tea to 1 litre of Spirit.
  • Tea as a syrup: Take 400ml of over brewed tea of choice and dissolve 600 grams of sugar into it. Temperature of  your tea must not exceed 60 degrees Celsius while dissolving the sugar, this could turn your tea bitter or caramelize and burn the sugar.
  • Strain cocktail over tea: Make your cocktail and strain it through tea leaves in a fine-strainer. This will result in a subtle hint of tea flavours in your cocktail.
  • Tea as weak ingredient: As with punches, tea can also be used as the weak ingredient in a cocktail. Simply brew your tea medium to strong, depending on the flavour intensity and tea type you’ve selected. Cool it down and mix it with your preferred spirits and ingredients.

Many wars have been fought and strategies selected over a cup of tea, many countries and allegiances have formed over a cup of tea. You could say that tea is one of the most iconic beverages ever known to man. It was here before our time and will definitely still be there even after we’ve passed. So why not take advantage of its many flavours, purposes and whip up a delicious Bols cocktail with tea.

Dutch Tea

45 ml Bols Genever Original

30 ml Lime Juice

10 ml Cardamom Syrup

50 ml Carbonised Milky Oolong tea (charge with co2 in siphon)


Do you want to learn more about tea? Click here to read our blog on the production of Ceylon tea.

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