What are your favorite (savory-ish) decaf teas and infusions?
February 2, 2021 10:12 AM   Subscribe

As work-from-home continues, I'm looking for additions to my afternoon hot beverage selection. I have decaf coffee, chamomile, and peppermint teas. I'm looking for teas that have a savory or at least not-sweet/citrus/fruity taste. I like black coffee, genmaicha tea, Lapsang souchong, and I'm looking for decaf teas in that flavor family. Tastes like barley, fennel, etc. I'm also looking for these to be hot, and zero or very low calorie without artificial flavors. Specific brands and products would be very useful. Thanks!
posted by mercredi to Food & Drink (34 answers total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
Trader Joe's ginger-turmeric tea is excellent--strong but not fruity or sweet.
posted by miles per flower at 10:17 AM on February 2, 2021 [2 favorites]

Culinary Teas has some great decaf tea selections. I am going through pounds of their loose decaf jasmine green in my WFH. It's great.
posted by GuyZero at 10:18 AM on February 2, 2021

I like homemade toasted barley tea for (no caf) savory afternoon sipping.

Every brand I've tried in bags is fine, but it can be hard to find, and it's much tastier imo to make it yourself. You can just toss whole barely in a coffee grinder and then brew with a tea ball, also works fine in a french press. But it's better with some roasted/malty flavors. For that, I soak whole barley in water for an hour or two, then drain. If desired, wait 24 hours to start the germination process. Then spread in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast at 250-300F, stirring every 10-15 minutes until it reaches desired color. These toasted whole grains keep fine in a jar at room temp for a year in my experience. I know you said hot, but it's also popular as a cold drink in hot weather.
posted by SaltySalticid at 10:22 AM on February 2, 2021 [8 favorites]

I have been drinking Bengal Spice herbal tea from Celestial Seasonings like it is going out of style! It is a spicy flavor, not fruity, but maybe sweet? I don't add anything to it. From the label: "Brimming with cinnamon, ginger, cardamom and cloves, this adventurous blend is our caffeine-free interpretation of chai, the piquant Indian brew traditionally made with black tea."
posted by Glinn at 10:24 AM on February 2, 2021 [8 favorites]

This is my favorite savory decaf tea: Numi Rooibos Chai. I love lots of their other teas as well.
posted by bedhead at 10:25 AM on February 2, 2021 [2 favorites]

I'm not the biggest fan of fruity herbal teas either, and I'm trying to mindfully consume caffeine.

I would recommend boricha . It's a tea made from roasted barley. There is also a related drink made from roasted corn. I buy the pre-roasted bags of roasted barley or corn from the Korean market and put some in a pot of water to boil. I've not used the tea bags, but they could be convenient.

Boricha it's also delicious and refreshing as a cold tea. I usually have a pitcher in the fridge during the summer.
posted by cursed at 10:28 AM on February 2, 2021 [1 favorite]

I drink a lot of rooibos (red bush) tea. One or two companies are doing smoked rooibos for a more lapsang-like flavour, but it's hard to find on a search because all the results are sites telling you not to smoke rooibos leaves like tobacco.

If you like genmaicha, you'll love sobacha (roasted buckwheat grains).

Other than that... you know you can just infuse herbs or spices you like in hot water, right? Rosemary, sage, thyme, lemongrass... the possibilities are endless. Sage and rosemary are both supposed to be good for your mind and memory.
posted by Pallas Athena at 10:28 AM on February 2, 2021 [3 favorites]

Fenugreek seeds are very versatile. They can be eaten as seeds, brewed into a tea, made into flour and baked into bread, or pressed into oil.
Definitely savory, I find it quite pleasant and relaxing; also,
Due to the sweet aromatic sotolon, consuming large doses of fenugreek may give off a sweet scent to the urine
So, conversation starter.
posted by XMLicious at 10:36 AM on February 2, 2021 [4 favorites]

Affirming that roasted buckwheat and barley teas are great- I have the best luck finding them at my local Asian supermarket. I also got a bitter melon tea there, which is maybe an acquired taste but I like it. Corn silk tea is very mild, but another option. Holy Basil is another nice savory decaf tea, and is supposed to help with anxiety (though I can't say it's helped me any). If you eat avocados, you can chop the pit into quarters or so and boil them to make a very nice tea.
posted by coffeecat at 10:37 AM on February 2, 2021 [1 favorite]

MEM Herb Garden, it's savory, aromatic, and I used to drink it all the time.
posted by Hypatia at 10:39 AM on February 2, 2021

You might like MEM Tea's Dark Energy, which is chicory-based.

Pukka's "detox" tea is fennel and aniseed-heavy (sweet in a fennel way, but not in a citrus/fruity way). If that sounds good, you might like Yogi's Egyptian Licorice or Egyptian Licorice Mint.
posted by rebekah at 10:40 AM on February 2, 2021

Seconding Bengal Spice and adding Madagascar Vanilla also from CS. Bengal has a Tiger on the box and there is a lion on the Vanilla one.
posted by soelo at 10:41 AM on February 2, 2021

Roastaroma is bracing, full-bodied, and delicious. Definitely in the same family as the roasted barley and buckwheat teas, but with a bit of subtle spice. I haven't been able to find it in grocery stores, but ordered it online after having a cup at a friend's house, and it has been a source of much joy during my work from home life.
posted by dizziest at 10:44 AM on February 2, 2021 [2 favorites]

I love Bengal Spice, but definitely find it to be sweet.

Roasted Dandelion Root tea and Raspberry Leaf tea are both delicious & non-sweet/non-fruity.
posted by belladonna at 10:51 AM on February 2, 2021 [2 favorites]

Pu-erh tea is its own huge rabbit hole to get into, but if you ever wish your cup of tea was more like a mushroomy brine with hints of seaweed and autumn leaves and crunchy forest floor, it might be your jam.

As a non-expert and non-nuanced non-snob, I like the little compressed cakes (tuo cha) by Rishi that are pretty widely available.

Then again, my partner thinks they stink.
posted by fountainofdoubt at 11:04 AM on February 2, 2021 [2 favorites]

I drank a ton of nettle leaf tea when I was pregnant. Definitely an acquired taste, but it slaked a very particular thirst at that time. There was also a variant I used to make that was nettle, raspberry leaf, oatstraw, and some other green things. Raspberry leaf is very pleasant.

In middle eastern groceries you can find large bags of sage, as sticks of sage with leaf attached, which is great as sage tea. Astringent and herbal.

Bengal Spice and roasted barley teas are also great. I miss drinking cold barley tea at Korean restaurants instead of water. I miss restaurants in general.

Kukicha, twig tea, is delicious but may have a bit of caffeine since the twigs are from the camilla sinensis bush, i.e. they are actually tea, just a branch rather than a leaf. It never gave me much of a buzz. Lately I have trouble finding it, although it's available in Choice brand.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 11:21 AM on February 2, 2021 [1 favorite]

I've been drinking a ton of Korean corn tea lately (in fact I'm about to brew myself a pot right now). Here's the roasted corn you want, and here's a little more background. It's very refreshing, with a light roasty/savory taste.
posted by ourobouros at 11:23 AM on February 2, 2021 [1 favorite]


I can't believe nobody's mentioned tulsi yet! I'm currently enjoying a tulsi/hibiscus blend (from the grocery store) that's really nice.

It's also called "holy basil". There used to be a local grower around Chapel Hill/Carrboro that had excellend tulsi, but I can't find it now.

Also: hibiscus. It can be found in some sweet/fruity teas, but it's also in other teas, and findable alone. It has some vitamin C in it and it's red, but it's not sweet on its own.

It's one of the main ingredients in Lemon Zinger (Celestial Seasonings), which is also not really sweet. Lemon Zinger is often in mainstream grocery stores.
posted by amtho at 11:24 AM on February 2, 2021

Pukka After Dinner tea is a herbal tea with chicory in it to give it some darker, roasty flavours.
posted by Bloxworth Snout at 12:18 PM on February 2, 2021

Coconut Cocoa Cuppa Chocolate Tea. Don't be turned off by the "cocoa/chocolate". The ingredients are listed as: Roasted carob, roasted chicory, dates, coconut flavor, cocoa powder and natural chocolate flavor. I drink this unsweetened and it's great. The roasted carob/chicory with coconut give it a savory full-bodied flavor, with a late kick in of sweetness at the very end (a very subtle sweetness, like rice).
posted by hooray at 12:41 PM on February 2, 2021 [1 favorite]

Steeping dried seaweed in hot water can yield pretty interesting savory infusions. Depending on the particular species, some are surprisingly usalty. My favorite by itself is wakame (alaria). Combining seaweed with other ingredients is even better IMO. I actually came up with a line of seaweed teas that I sell at my shop.

Their ingredients may give you some ideas if you'd like to experiment on your own. For instance, I find that by mixing a green tea like sencha with kelp you cut the caffeine by half while very much retaining the overall green tea flavor. If anything, the overall effect is to make it taste more like gyokuro. Or combine kelp with roasted rice for a totally legit caffeine-free genmaicha. As always, a bonus when adding seaweed: minerals, antioxidants, anti-inflammatory, essential aminos, omega oils...

Like others here, I'm also not a huge fan of floral or lighter herbal teas and prefer rooibos, genmaicha, barley tea and chaga. Great suggestions all!
posted by Text TK at 12:45 PM on February 2, 2021 [2 favorites]

Sometimes I just drink a mug of hot broth, preferably made from Better Than Bouillon. It almost feels like a snack, but it is a very low-cal beverage.
posted by gorillawarfare at 1:55 PM on February 2, 2021 [4 favorites]

Do you like miso? a cup of instant miso soup is a nearly calorie free savory hot beverage. IF/when I'm trying to loose weight I drink tons of it. (it's salty so watch it if you have high blood pressure)
posted by genmonster at 2:22 PM on February 2, 2021 [1 favorite]

They're a bit pricey, but I really like several of the Teeccino blends as coffee substitutes. Tend to have chicory/carob/barley/dandelion bases. For a nutritious winter drink running around 50-60 calories it's hard to beat a tablespoon of blackstrap molasses dissolved in hot water.
posted by Creosote at 4:19 PM on February 2, 2021 [1 favorite]

When I want a break from my more floral herbal teas I usually make hojicha for roasty goodness. It's roasted green tea stems, essentially. If you follow that link it gets into specifics of what green tea is roasted. I guess it has a little bit of caffeine, but it doesn't feel any different from decaf coffee caffeine level.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 6:12 PM on February 2, 2021

Infusing chicory, burdock root, and toasted barley makes a nice coffee substitute. The barley gives it some body, mimicking the oils in brewed coffee. Just the roots will be thin like a tea.

Chyrsanthamum tea might also be of interest, its generally sold in Asian grocery stores.
posted by ananci at 6:48 PM on February 2, 2021

I have many decaf loose leaf teas from The Tea Table. My favorites are the decaf Earl Grey and decaf Chai. They have many different varieties and offer samples.
posted by skunk pig at 12:00 AM on February 3, 2021

I have similar taste in teas and I have just the thing for you: Juniper Ridge Douglas fir tip tea. Refreshing and a bit earthy but not at all sweet, fruity, or pumpkin-spice-blendy.
posted by 4rtemis at 5:46 AM on February 3, 2021 [2 favorites]

Harney has several in their herbal line that may be of interest - a number are not either citrus or fruit/sweet based. Link to their herbal portal, click in further to explore.
posted by gudrun at 7:19 AM on February 3, 2021

Republic of Tea Ginger Peach. This a flavored black tea, not an herbal. Available in reg and decaf.
The non-citrus herbal we sometimes have on the shelf is Celestial Seasonings Black Cherry Berry. I don't care for the hibiscus based herbals.
posted by SemiSalt at 9:16 AM on February 3, 2021

Response by poster: Thank you all for the wonderful suggestions! They're all best answers to me. I'll report back when I've had some!

And because one of the functions of my hot beverage quest is to keep my hands warm, I will link you to my favorite Metafilter warm hands comment of all time: "Warm hands, strong people!"
posted by mercredi at 12:07 PM on February 3, 2021

Seconding amtho's recommendation for hibiscus, either hot or iced. It's wonderfully sour, and even more so with a squeeze of lime. Plus, a bright green slice of lime looks wonderful floating in the deep red drink.

So many good drinks here-- can't wait to try them all!
posted by Pallas Athena at 5:12 PM on February 3, 2021

I like to take a huge mug of boiling water and dump in a heaped teaspoon of minced ginger from the jar in the fridge. I steep it until it's cooled just enough to sip, then when the liquid is all gone I use the spoon to eat the leftover minced ginger at the end. Yum.
posted by flabdablet at 4:09 AM on February 4, 2021

Rishi's tumeric-ginger tea is my jam. Comes in either bags or loose leaf.
posted by Preserver at 4:28 PM on February 4, 2021

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