16 June 2012

Spring 2012 Oolong…Liquor!!!

My last post was 2 months ago, wow, long break.  Work has been intense without much opportunity to concentrate on a nice cup of brew, let alone write about it.

The experience of tea, as we all know, can be calming and induce self-reflection.  Sometimes, though, what I crave is something intense, with a kick.  No, I’m not talking about a high-fire oolong…I mean something with a lot more firepower.

Introducing my latest impulse buy/experiment:

Hour 1

High Mountain Vodka

Purely a spur of the moment creation, I freely admit that I had no clue how to do this “the right way” and that I didn’t care.  I picked up a bag of the freshly-arrived Alishan HM oolong (I know, green oolong?  Me?!?  We have so much to catch up on…), drove by a Safeway (our grocery stores now carry liquor) and felt like getting salad, beef, and a bottle of vodka for my tea.  Trust me, it all makes sense.

I put the 5-times distilled vodka into a bowl with about 2/3 ounce of tea (no idea what I’m doing).  I soaked for about 20 minutes.  The leaves started to open and when I shook the bowl, tea dust settled.  I scooped the leaves into the empty vodka bottle and used my trusty alcohol Brita (that would be the Brita filter that I use on crappy mixer alcohol to “charcoal filter” it. I swear it makes junk taste better but I’m not responsible if it makes you go blind, grow hairy palms, hate tea…) and filtered the alcohol through it 3 times.  The smell was less and less “napalm-y” with each pass through the Brita.

Alcohol went back into the bottle and I shook it around a few times.  After a few hours, the leaves continued to unfurl and the fragrance of HM tea became more pronounced. 

As of right now, about 26 hours later, the bottle looks like this:

Hour 26

2/3 of an ounce of tea leaves are growing.  The leaves have no doubt absorbed a significant amount of alcohol: I didn’t want to contaminate the taste by putting in brewed leaves…yes, I realize how silly that sounds when that statement refers to a $10 bottle of vodka.  The aroma is just like the Alishan – it is quite nice – and the taste has the bite of vodka with the sweet/floral notes of Alishan.  It also has a very apparent HM aftertaste that lingers.  I knew there was a reason that I wanted to use good tea….  6 minutes later and I can still taste the unmistakable flavor notes of HM oolong.

I’m sure this has been done before; I could have read a few articles online before bottling.  It doesn’t matter, this was an impulse experiment and so far, it is turning out nicely.  I see no harm in leaving the leaves in for a while, I think the alcohol content is high enough to kill a wide variety of bacteria and if the lid starts to bulge, I will certainly throw this out before some botulism-like organism gets me.  Or not.


-I chose vodka because it is a neutral, relatively tasteless spirit.  I appreciate that it’s clear so that I can see the degree to which the tea infuses the liquor.  Some people may prefer gin or various other grain spirits.  I hate gin.

-I chose a vodka that is both inexpensive (on sale!) and has been distilled multiple times.  My alcohol Brita’s charcoal filter further removes some of the edge/bite.

-I decided to use a tea that has less body/depth and more aroma.  A roasted oolong would be too heavy and might make the drink even more bitter/astringent and/or produce that irritating “hairy tongue” sensation.  I could have used a cheaper HM tea, but my $10 vodka demanded the best.  I bet a Four Seasons or light Dancong would also work nicely.  I would like to try this again with a Baihao.  Dong Ding?  Are you crazy, that’s for drinking, not for playing with! 

-I expect that at some point, over-steeping the tea will produce bitterness.  Next time, I will pick out the stems and use less leaf.  I think 1/3 – 1/2 an ounce would have sufficed.


  1. Learning lots here! Very clever idea - keep us updated!

  2. Thanks Steph! I should save some for you guys, for when you come up for the tea fest? It could be an after-the-festivities kind of thing!

  3. I find it interesting that you have no problem using 高山茶 for vodka infusions yet think 凍頂 is "not for playing with"..care to explain? :p

  4. Ha! Partly a tongue in cheek statement. I love DD, I wouldn't experiment on a good one by using vodka on it. As delicious, beautiful and pricey as HM tea can be, I don't generally like it or drink much of it, although I crave something light from time to time (hence the recent purchase).

    I am also quite particular about the DD and TGY that I drink and it's not Easy to restock my supply of those teas. I am less discerning about other types of tea, so it's easier for me to find suitable greens and pu'ers to drink and store. I think HM tea's well defined aroma and more subtle flavor notes worked well in my experiment, producing something that I think is more pleasant than if I had used DD.

  5. Dear Rich,

    I often infuse my own vodkas,
    preferring tasteful mixers to flavored sugar;

    I've done this with a couple of teas,
    and have found that the amount of tea you use is much more important than the length of steeping.
    After ~1 month, everything alcohol soluble has already been extracted, save for the breakdown of chlorophyll and fiber which simply colors the alcohol more.

    Next experiment is Sheng!

    All the Best,