Time for tea: refreshing alternatives to alcohol


JING Jasmine Pearls Sparkling Tea (£17.95, jingtea.com) The British have been reducing their daily intake of tea for decades – a long, steady decline that has coincided with the seemingly inexorable rise of coffee. But for all the inroads made by Starbucks and Costa, pods and AeroPresses into our daily lives, tea retains its place in our collective routines and imaginations: according to research carried out for National Tea Day a couple of years back, daily tea consumption still outstrips coffee by 165 million to 95 million cups. These days, tea’s competitors might be beer or wine as well as espresso or cappuccino – thanks to the arrival of high-quality products specifically aimed at adults looking for a low or no-alcohol alternative on evenings out and on special occasions. The latter would certainly not be disgraced by this typically stylish new product from organic, single-garden tea specialists, JING: a sparkling tea with a heavenly jasmine scent, it’s properly dry without being tannic, and has the texture and mouthfeel of a natural sparkling wine such as pet nat.

Copenhagen Organic Sparkling Tea Green (£17.95, greatwine.co.uk) The bottle and style of its sparkling tea isn’t JING’s only reference to wine: there’s plenty of wine’s obsession with terroir in the idea of the single-garden, and the cult of the winemaker is very much mirrored in the “master tea maker”. In fact, tea lovers could well argue that their own obsession with the connection between place and flavour has at least as long a history as that of wine appreciation – and a properly brewed cup of loose-leaf tea such as the company’s recent release, Organic Yunnan Breakfast from tea maker Yang Jian’s Da Hei Garden in Yunnan, China, yields a drink every bit as evocative as any Burgundy cru. JING’s extensive range of teas strikes me as being a perfect entry point into the enchanting world of fine tea, a journey which might well lead you to the ineffable small-farm teas imported by postcardteas.com. And if you want to explore more sparkling teas, some with a few degrees of alcohol, look for the various personality-filled cuvees from the Copenhagen range.

Real Kombucha Royal Flush (£8, Waitrose) If sparkling tea – and classic Asian tea culture – has an obvious appeal to the wine drinker, then kombucha, in both its taste and the noughties hipster way it is usually sold, is perhaps closer to the world of craft beer. Fermented from sweetened tea to which a culture of bacteria and yeast is added, the kombucha process produces a non-alcoholic drink that takes some getting used to. But just like other sour fermented foods such as kimchi or sourdough bread, once the taste for the characteristic acetic tang is acquired, it can be difficult to do without. Kombucha culture has really broken into the mainstream in the past couple of years, in part thanks to various claims about its health benefits. I’m not qualified to say how effective it is in delivering probiotics and anti-oxidants. But I will say that the best examples, such as Jarr Original Kombucha (£2.45, thewhiskyexchange.com), provide a seriously complex, and very food-friendly alternative to beer or, in the case of the exquisite, multilayered Royal Flush, sparkling wine.