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I like teas and I like how some people describe the different beer flavors, and I think it's very interesting, but unfortunately I'm not into alcohol or the beer brewing so far. I've heard the hobbyist brewers describe the grains as something that is basically readily edible and a great material to make tea out of by just steeping some in hot water, but I was never able to get enough information about that from the streams or texts, as it's not their main focus. So I decided to ask here.

There are exotic teas which are not teas at all, but collections of herbs or just a single herb or grain. Buckwheat tea is nice and I like the product called "barley tea". I don't know for sure whether it's actually what it says on the label, or if there are parts of grains which are usable as tea ingredients and parts which aren't, so I'd like to know everything about turning some tasty grains into non-alcoholic tea by just steeping them in hot water for some minutes.

For the sake of clarity, my questions are:

  • Are there any beer brewing ingredients usable in making an "herbal tea"?
  • Do the flavors which are normally expected to be found in beer after it's ready for pouring into glasses after a long time of sitting in kegs, translate into the tea which steeps for just minutes?
  • If there's a gradation, which ingredients are the most appropriate for turning into tea?
  • And lastly, if you have any recommendations, please throw them in at the end of your answer.
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Whew! There are a lot of good questions in your question! To get the credentials out of the way, I'm a tea writer that owns a tea tavern and has done quite a bit of homebrewing (I've also made some tea beer, which may interest you).

First, the only "official" ingredients of beer (if you follow the Reinheitsgebot, or Bavarian Purity Law) are barley, water, hops, and yeast. Similarly, "real" tea is made only from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, but "herbal" tea consists of pretty much any leaf, stem, root, seed, or flower you want to steep in water.

With that covered, we can move on to common terminology, where beer can contain a variety of different grains, like malted and unmalted barley, wheat, oats, rye, and corn. I've even used more exotic grains like triticale in a homebrew. A lot of adjuncts are often added, too, ranging from honey to berries, juniper buds, and every imaginable spice.

So, as to question 1: Yes, you can use beer brewing ingredients for making herbal teas. You'll want to blend them, though. Steeping straight hops doesn't make for a great drink. If you steep the hops for 3-5 minutes in boiling water, most of the aromatic oils will evaporate and most of the bittering agents won't have a chance to take effect. It's pretty meh. Blend hops with tea leaves or other herbs, though, and you can make an interesting drink.

Question 2: Very little of the flavor of a typical beer develops in the keg. It develops during the boil and the primary/secondary fermentation steps. Once it hits the bottle (or keg), beer is ready to drink. You can certainly toss barley in boiling water and let it steep a while to make a drink, but without the fermentation process, it won't taste a whole lot like beer. That doesn't mean it won't be good — especially when blended with herbs — but it won't be beer.

Question 3: Since you're using water to make both tea and beer, and yeast has no place in tea, you're really asking whether barley or hops makes a better tea. It depends on your personal taste. I'd probably say hops.

And Question 4: I'll give you the same recommendation I'd give any homebrewer or tea lover: experiment. Hops are pretty cheap. Buy some (the flowers, not the pellets), get some teas with flavor bases you like, and play around. Malted barley is cheap enough that you can probably talk a homebrewer into giving you a couple of pounds, especially if you trade for a six-pack.

Good luck, and let us know how your experiments turn out!

  • Yes. There is Camellia Sinensis and then there is 'tea' defined as a hot steeped drink. In theory, anything can be a tea by the second definition, but whether it's palatable or has any pleasing affects is another thing altogether. I'd guess hops might offer some sedative qualities, but the fact that it isn't a commonly used 'tea' suggests to me that it's probably better left to beer. – Canadian Coder Jul 1 '18 at 0:55
  • I've heard from some brewing enthusiasts that boiling water is not suitable for making a "tea" from grains, but 60-65°C water is just right. I haven't had a chance to experiment with it myself yet, but I will try soon. I just wonder why high temperature is bad, and why such a low temperature was recommended (65°C is also very appropriate for the smoothest green teas). – user1306322 Jul 1 '18 at 2:05
  • Without knowing specific chemistry I'd assume elements of different teas/coffee/whatever break-down at different temperatures. Which means that grains likely have a maximal temperature to become 'activated' but not break down completely. – Canadian Coder Jul 1 '18 at 19:44

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