Bitter Tea
December 11, 2018 6:52 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking to replace my post-dinner drink with something non-alcoholic and without caffeine. Are there any varieties of tea that I can brew that are bitter or extra herbaceous? Something that forces you to sip rather than just drink. Does fernet branca come in tea form?
posted by Think_Long to Food & Drink (33 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
I would try adding cocktail bitters to water (flat or bubbly) with a touch of simple syrup or sugar to balance. There are loads of different types of cocktail bitters with different flavors to play with.
posted by exogenous at 7:02 AM on December 11, 2018 [8 favorites]

You might try an olive-leaf infusion: it makes for a somewhat bitter drink, although not really anything like Fernet Branca.
posted by misteraitch at 7:05 AM on December 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

Orzo - an Italian preparation of barley tea - is caffeine free and coffee-like in its intensity. It’s much stronger and darker than Korean-style barley teas.
posted by asphericalcow at 7:10 AM on December 11, 2018 [6 favorites]

Lapsang souchong tea is often compared to scotch, as it has a very smoky, peaty taste. It's definitely a sipping tea that hits the same spot, for me, as an after-dinner whisky.
posted by iminurmefi at 7:11 AM on December 11, 2018 [3 favorites]

Although I'm just realizing it has caffeine, nuts. I'm guessing you may be able to find a decaf version but it probably won't taste the same.
posted by iminurmefi at 7:12 AM on December 11, 2018

Dandelion tea is very bitter.
posted by hwyengr at 7:13 AM on December 11, 2018 [4 favorites]

Lapsang souchang, while delicious, is one of the more highly-caffeinated teas.

Are there any varieties of tea that I can brew that are bitter or extra herbaceous?

Ku ding (bitter nail) tea is extremely bitter. I like it as an after-dinner tea. The bitterness seems to have a digestive effect. Apparently there is a caffeinated variety (according to Wikipedia) and an uncaffeinated variety, depending on which particular plant it comes from, which is news to me. I am fairly certain that the kind I have always bought (from Asian specialty supermarkets in the US) has no caffeine.
posted by enn at 7:26 AM on December 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

Does it have to be hot? If not, look at Seedslip (Garden)- it's a very herbal, bitter, non-alcoholic alternative to gin.
posted by Dwardles at 7:31 AM on December 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

How about Kuding tea?
posted by anoirmarie at 7:38 AM on December 11, 2018

I've just strolled through a couple of crunchy-granola herbal-remedy type sites, and they all have the same list of "bitter herbs for digestion" like what's on here. Two that they mention, peppermint and chamomile, are found in the "Sleepytime" tea from Celestial Seasonings; if you're looking to up the bitterness, I would suggest simply leaving it to steep longer than usual or using two bags instead of one, and then leaving out any sweetener.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:45 AM on December 11, 2018

Roasted chicory root is my bitter, non-caffeinated, non-alcoholic, after-dinner drink of choice. The size & roast varies, so you'll find some more bitter than others. I typically steep a teaspoon of it in just boiled water, just like black tea. If you've chanced on a milder roasted chicory, a longer steep may help with that. A crushed cardamom pod throw in with it is also lovely.
posted by carrioncomfort at 7:45 AM on December 11, 2018 [5 favorites]

This Nighty Night tea isn't bitter but is very herbaceous.... it smells very distinct. I almost wonder if there is cat-nip in it because my two cats go BALLISTIC for it. Which is adorable.

Anyway, it has no caffeine and the added bonus of helping a person sleep which might be good for an after dinner drink?
posted by JenThePro at 7:52 AM on December 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

(Ha, JenThePro, I know that one -- and it DOES have catnip in it.)
posted by knownassociate at 8:04 AM on December 11, 2018 [5 favorites]

I was hesitant at first about Nettle Tea, but now I love it. Let's just say it's got a very "earthy" bitter flavor but after the first "yowza that's earthy" sip I came to love it. It also doesn't have a bad aftertaste. That's important to me because I drink it at night and I don't want the nettle-ness to linger in my tastebuds while I'm trying to sleep.
posted by Elly Vortex at 8:32 AM on December 11, 2018 [4 favorites]

Googling "non-alcoholic aperitif" turns up some interesting options. (I haven't tried any of these things, but if you are looking for non-boozy fernet, they should be in the right direction.)

Seedslip has also just announced their non-alcoholic aperitif range, which sounds like exactly what you are looking for.

The makers of Campari advertise Crodino as the non-alcoholic aperitif by definition in Italy.

And then there are a lot of bitters as per exogenous' excellent suggestion.
posted by He Is Only The Imposter at 8:34 AM on December 11, 2018

In particular, dandelion root tea is quite bitter, but has generally been roasted so overall has a complexity that regular dandelion tea often doesn't.

And seconding Kuding Cha, although honestly that shit's a little too bitter for me, and I'm a big fan of the whole Bäsk family.
posted by aspersioncast at 8:38 AM on December 11, 2018

Oh yeah, and Chinotto - the San Pellegrino one has wide distribution.
posted by aspersioncast at 8:41 AM on December 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

I would try adding cocktail bitters to water (flat or bubbly)

FYI, bitters are about 80 proof (with a fair bit of variation, but all in that range). Sure you won't add very much of them, but they are definitely not "non-alcoholic".
posted by brainmouse at 8:45 AM on December 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

Rooibos and honeybush are both popular as non-caffeinated tea alternatives. Most places that sell camellia teas will also have rooibos available.
posted by tobascodagama at 9:06 AM on December 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

Bitters and soda is one of my favorite beverages. I like regular old Angostura bitters for this although some of the more exotic ones like grapefruit can be good too. Just several shakes of bitters in a glass of soda water and ice.
posted by HotToddy at 9:22 AM on December 11, 2018

Have you tried Good Earth's sweet and spicy tea? There are caffeine-free varieties.
posted by rogerrogerwhatsyourrvectorvicto at 9:48 AM on December 11, 2018

Burdock, valerian, rose hip, hibiscus, and orange peel are worth a try. (The later two are a bit sour as well as bitter.)
posted by eotvos at 11:02 AM on December 11, 2018 [2 favorites]

Try dried orange, mandarin or clementine peel. I’ve been adding it to my herbal tea mix and it is often slightly bitter if left to infuse on the longer side (5-10min). I dried my own from peeled organic citrus and it works great!
posted by newsomz at 11:10 AM on December 11, 2018

I agree that if you are ok with very small amounts of alcohol, bitters in soda water are excellent - I drank a lot of that when I was pregnant! As noted above, they can actually be quite high in alcohol percentage wise, but since you need less than a 1/4 tsp per glass, the amount was fine for me. If you need to avoid alcohol entirely, non-alcoholic bitters do exist, though I find that generally I prefer the kind that have alcohol.
posted by insectosaurus at 11:16 AM on December 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

I had a French roommate who would steep bizarre quantities of herbs to make "tisanes" every night after dinner. Common pairing were giant bunches of rosemary, thyme and bay leaves, but she would also use lavender, mint, and verbena on occasion in the summer. The tisanes were so powerfully flavored that for several months, I struggled to tolerate them, let alone enjoy them. But they eventually grew on me, and I learned to appreciate many more flavor facets of the herbs than I had ever noticed before.

She used herbs that were both dried (on the stem from a garden) and fresh if available.
posted by defreckled at 11:20 AM on December 11, 2018 [2 favorites]

Numi makes one called "Dry Desert Lime" that is a little bitter, quite sour, and (IMO) delicious!
posted by SinAesthetic at 11:38 AM on December 11, 2018 [2 favorites]

I make a very tart herbal tea with hibiscus, chicory, and rose hips. It has the color and some of the tannic, fruity notes of red wine. It's good either hot or chilled.

I also like to make shrubs (vinegar-based cocktails, I make mine without alcohol). Good quality vinegars are nice to sip on.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 11:42 AM on December 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

Not at all a tea, but Pok Pok's Drinking Vinegars may be relevant to your interests, for a sippable post-prandial.
posted by salt grass at 11:51 AM on December 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

I am fond of Kukicha, twig tea.

You could also try chrysanthemum tea, which is just the flower heads.

While I never loved it, while I was pregnant there was something about nettle tea that I wanted. I also went to the herbalist and bought raspberry leaf and oatstraw and hm, a bunch of other stuff I can't remember now, and made my own pregnancy tea. It was nice to have something to drink in addition to water. So maybe go to the herbalist, if you have one! They can talk you through flavors.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 12:48 PM on December 11, 2018

You might like aged puerh (which supposedly has less caffeine than younger tea), especially from lao man e (known for its bitterness) or bulang (ditto).
posted by 168 at 6:00 PM on December 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

Dried white sage leaves make an extremely potent brew.
posted by aws17576 at 6:16 PM on December 11, 2018

In a similar situation, I switched to mineral water like Gerolsteiner (in many grocery stores near the natural foods section). I can't drink it quickly because it is too bubbly. But it feels fancy and refreshing and I enjoy sipping it.
posted by jillithd at 9:40 AM on December 12, 2018

A strongly brewed cup of decaf dark roast coffee could fit the bill.
posted by paper chromatographologist at 10:04 AM on December 12, 2018

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