True luxury can be hidden in the little moments of your everyday life when you do something special for yourself. Imagine you had a long, tiring day at work. You come home, and a part of you wants to ‘grab a beer’ and relax; the other half wants to brew a cup of premium Japanese green tea and feel refreshed. While you contemplate on which one to go for, someone (Kei from Japanese green tea) whispers to you, “Why not both? Have you heard of Tea Beer? I can show you how to make one at home...” Less than an hour later, you are sitting at your favorite comfy spot in your home, sipping on a delicious homemade tea beer, feeling relaxed (by the beer) and rejuvenated (by the green tea) at the same time!
Although it's not often that you come across a 'tea beer,' they have been around for a good number of years. Many brewing companies have experimented with making their beers with different types of teas, creating iconic craft beers. Recently, I watched an episode in Matsuko No Shiranai Sekai, “The World Unknown to Matsuko” (a very popular Japanese television talk show hosted by celebrity TV personality Matsuko Deluxe), where they discussed the rising popularity of Tea Beer in Japan and introduced some new tea beers crafted by Japanese brewing companies.
Today I am going to share with you everything you need to know about Japanese tea beer, introduce you to some must-try Japanese tea beers, and, in the end, share with you an easy recipe for making your very own tea beer at home, so let's jump right in!
What is tea beer?
Tea beer is a fizzy alcoholic beverage made by mixing tea and beer. There are many different forms of tea beer; for example, the tea might be infused into the beer while it is being brewed, or cold brewed tea mixed into a finished beer, beer, matcha powder mixed together, and so on.
Tea beer can also come in different forms, such as on the tap, in cans, or in glass bottles. Often, tea beer is marketed as a type of craft beer. It is also common for tea beers to be a collaboration project between tea and beer brands, and it is pretty exciting to know how a specific tea beer was created.
Is tea beer healthy? (or healthier than beer, at least?)
The simple answer to this question is that there is no clear and scientifically proven answer for this, and the obvious reason is that tea beers usually tend to be craft beers. Their nutritional content can differ depending on many factors, such as the brewing process and the starting ingredients. The calorie content, level of caffeine, how much of the beneficial components of the tea is extracted into the final can or bottle of beer, etc., are all different from one tea beer to the other.
However, it is worth noting that tea beer is undoubtedly less healthy than Japanese tea as it contains alcohol. However, when compared to beer, chances might be high that tea beer is slightly healthier because the alcohol content is cut down. Hopefully, the beneficial components of the tea are present in the tea beer. You might already know this, but tea has many beneficial effects on health, and as long as enough tea components are present in the final tea beer, the body will still get some of those benefits.
I will share my tips on how you can assess if a tea beer is right for you in terms of effects on your health by being aware of some factors before you drink your tea beer:
- Alcohol content
- Calorie content
- Caffeine content
- Where the tea beer mentions the presence of any beneficial components of tea, such as antioxidants
- Whether the perceived ‘healthiness’ of tea beer is making you drink more beer than usual. (For example, you might be careful of your beer consumption because you know for sure that it is unhealthy; however, when it comes to tea beer, you might think it is okay to drink more because 'tea is healthy')
What kind of Japanese tea is used to make tea beer?
In theory, at least, you could combine any beer with any type of tea to create a unique tea beer. However, some of the most popular Japanese tea types to be combined with different types of beers (e.g., ale, stout, amber-ale, dark beer, etc.) are as below:
Must-Try Japanese Tea Beers
1. Kyoto Beer Lab’s Chabeer series (Kyoto)
Kyoto Beer Lab is a prominent craft beer brewery in Kyoto with a taproom where guests can enjoy freshly brewed craft beer. They have recently developed a series of original Japanese tea beers named the Chabeer series (In Japanese, Ocha means tea, so Ocha + beer = Chabeer or Tea Beer). Each drink in this series has been a joint collaboration between beer-brewing artisans and tea artisans from the area. The beer experts from the Kyoto Beer Lab are constantly pushing the boundaries trying to create something edgy and new, while the tea leaf artisans of Kyoto bring the century-old traditions of Kyoto's tea industry. Therefore, it is an exciting collaboration that merges the past and the future together.
The tea leaves used to make the three tea beers are from Wazuka town, located in the southern part of Kyoto, boasting top-quality Uji tea. Let's take a look at the three tea beers from Kyoto Beer Lab:
Fukamushi-cha means "Deep-steamed," and it is a type of green tea that has been steamed for a longer time than regular Japanese green tea. Deep steaming suppresses the astringency and results in a richer and more well-rounded cup of tea. If you would like to know more about this type of tea, make sure to check out this article about the Japanese green tea steaming process.
IPA is the short form for India Pale Ale, and it is one of the most popular beer types out there. Especially when it comes to craft beer, IPA is said to be the best starter drink for beginner craft beer drinkers. Kyoto Beer Lab's Fukamushi-cha IPA combines the rich aroma of Fukamushi-cha and the citrusy, fruity, and spicy hops aroma of the IPA beer. This IPA is truly a unique beer that expresses the pleasant bitterness of IPA through the richness of Japanese Fukamushi-cha.
Houjicha is a type of Japanese tea made by slowly roasting Japanese tea leaves. The slow roasting of the leaves gives the tea a beautiful reddish brown color, removes bitterness, and adds earthy flavor and taste. If you want to know more about Japanese Houjicha, read this article.
On the other hand, “Stout” is a rich, dark, roasty beer with creamy foam. Kyoto Beer Lab's Stout is made from a generous amount of roasted malt, and I think it is a brilliant idea to combine the rich taste of malt and the roasty flavor of Houjicha together.
Kabuse-cha is a class of Japanese tea leaves. Kabuse-cha means 'covered tea,' and the name comes from the fact that the tea leaves are covered at a stage to provide shading. Kabuse-cha is one of the most expensive Japanese teas you can buy, and if you are curious, make sure to check this out, where I go into the details of the covering process of Japanese tea. Kabuse-cha is high in Theanine (the sweet, Umami, and pleasant aroma component of tea) and is of superior quality compared to the others.
White Ale is known for its refreshing taste of wheat malt, citrusy notes, and minimal bitterness. Combining the sweet and pleasant taste of Kabuse-cha and the refreshing flavor of white ale, this tea beer is perfect for someone who prefers lighter beer instead of dark stout.
Here is an original video from Kyoto Beer Lab where the owner walks us through the journey of how they came up with the idea of the “Chabeer” series.
2. HANOCHA Tea beers (Kanagawa Prefecture)
Hanocha tea beers were made by the KOKOHADA LAB, a beer community from Hadano Town, Kanagawa prefecture. Hadano is not a big city, but the community spirit and the community members' passion for highlighting the regional ingredients can be felt strongly through this craft beer.
The KOKOHADA LAB had the motto, "If the grown-ups of a town are interesting, it makes the town interesting ."They came up with the idea of making craft beers using tea leaves grown in Hadano as a way to create hype in the town, bring people together, and revitalize the community spirit in Hadano. And it did work pretty well! They started with tea beer in 2022, and it became so successful that they are now experimenting with making beers using other local produce from Hadano. It shows how beer and tea can be a community tool to unite people and form a structure of support and encouragement.
Two note-worthy Tea beers from the HANOCHA brand:
Hanocha's Sencha Golden Ale was the Hanocha brand's first product released in 2022. It uses premium quality Sencha tea grown in Hadano town and golden ale, a beer with a gentle mouthfeel and subtle sweetness. The bitterness is minimal, and the aftertaste is refreshing, making it an ideal beer even for people who don't like the strong taste of beer. It is worth mentioning that before this product was marketed, it went through two types of test brewing and a thorough tasting session conducted by the Hadano Lab community members (around 50 people).
Hanocha’s Hojicha amber ale has a gorgeous amber color and a rich aroma from malt and roasty flavors from Hojicha.
3. Oriental Brewing Kaga Boucha Stout (Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture)
If you have a chance to visit Kanazawa (a place in Ishikawa prefecture abundant in nature, hot springs, history, and mouth-watering local gourmet), I would highly recommend visiting this craft brewery called Oriental Brewing. They have taprooms in three locations of Kanazawa, where you can enjoy their original craft beers on tap. Staying true to their motto - "Unique and local beers, from Kanazawa," they create craft beers highlighting local ingredients. Their brewery is located in the Yuwaku Hot Spring area of Kanazawa, which provides ideal conditions for brewing good beer, such as delicious natural water and air.
One such craft beer from Oriental Brewing is Kaga Boucha Stout, and they even make a special Valentine's version called Kaga Boucha Chocolate Stout during Valentine's season.
Photo for Valentine's special Kaga-boucha stout:
Kaga Boucha (Boucha from Kaga) is a special type of Hojicha from Kanazawa. Kaga bouche is actually quite popular in Japan as a must-buy souvenir (Omiyage) from a trip to Kanazawa. Kaga Boucha is made from only the stems or twigs of the tea plant (not the leaf) and is known for its deep Umami and fragrant aroma. The Kaga-Boucha for making this stout is procured from another local artisan that specializes in tea – Yonezawa Chaten (Kanazawa). The rich taste of malt in the stout and the Umami of Kaga-bouche come together harmoniously in this craft beer.
4. Nuttari Beer’s Sado Bancha Ale (Niigata)
Nuttari Beer, located in Nuttari town of Niigata prefecture, is a microbrewery that was born with the dream to revive Nuttari town as the “Hakko No Machi (The town of Fermentation). More than 100 years ago, Nuttari used to be a busy hub for all things fermentation – Miso, Sake, and Soy sauce production. There are many generational artisan businesses related to these three fermentation-based products. Although it is not as busy as in the old times, there are passionate people like Nuttari beer breweries who are trying to bring life back to the town.
Being a microbrewery, Nuttari Beer is born from a lot of passion, dedication, and hard work. Nuttari beer's policy is true to the town's spirit: creating rich craft beer with live yeast culture in it and promoting regional ingredients.
One of their most popular craft beers is a tea beer called Sado Bancha Ale. The idea of Sado Bancha Ale was born during the Niigata tea festival, and the ingredients are regional ingredients from Niigata. The Bancha (Coarse tea, a type of Japanese green tea harvested between summer and autumn) used to make this craft ale is a product from the Tateno area of Sado island (Niigata prefecture).
Most Sado-island tea farmers are also rice farmers. Since the Spring time is too busy with rice plantations, tea is left to be picked until later in the season. During tea-picking, both the stalks and the leaves are picked together and made into Bancha. When they are turned into Hojicha by roasting, both the stems and leaves are roasted together, resulting in stronger sweetness and aroma compared to leaf-only Hojicha. This Sado Bancha is combined with sweet, full-bodied ale brewed at Nuttari microbrewery, and a tea beer steeped in centuries of fermentation and tea production craftsmanship is born.
Matcha Beer Garden – A place where you can enjoy different kinds of tea beer on the tap
In the section before, I have introduced the top Japanese tea beers that are sold in cans or bottles. However, beer just tastes different when it comes out of a tap, creating that rich, irresistibly delicious thick foam on the glass. If you are wondering if there is a place on planet Earth where you can enjoy a cold glass of tea beer that just flowed out of a draft server, then I know the perfect spot for you in Tokyo.
The name of the place is 1899 Restaurant Ochanomizu, located in Chiyoda-ku of Tokyo. The concept of this restaurant is Japanese-tea-focused fine dining. I would love to talk a lot more about this interesting restaurant as they offer a complete food-and-drink experience where Japanese tea is the star of the show, but maybe not today. We will leave the rest for another article, but today let’s talk about their beer garden where you can enjoy different types of tea beers.
You can enjoy 1899 Restaurant Ochanomizu’s original Matcha Beer and its non-alcoholic version throughout the year, but they also have a special ‘beer garden’ that is open throughout the summer season every year. The beer garden offers the following drinks on tap:
- 1899 Matcha Beer
- 1899 Matcha Dark Beer
- 1899 Hojicha Dark Beer
It is also very nice that they offer the non-alcoholic version of their iconic 1899 Matcha Beer on tap. They also provide different Japanese tea-based original cocktails.
How to make Tea Beer at home
All the talk about tea beer must have left you craving a glass of chilled and foamy tea beer. Well, the good news is, as long as you have the right ingredients and tools, you can start whipping up your very own tea beer right now. So that it is easy and safe to make for anyone, I will share only the recipe that mixes tea and beer to create a tea-beer instead of the complicated method of brewing beer by infusing tea leaves or liquid tea (which requires expert tools and proper education and training to be performed safely).
Homemade Matcha Beer
What you will need:
- Matcha powder (1-3.5g)
- Electric Matcha whisk or Bamboo Matcha whisk (If you’re not sure which one to use, you might find this guide useful)
- A tall beer glass (should be able to hold more than 300ml)
- Your preferred beer
- 15 – 30 ml hot water (for making the Matcha)
- Make your matcha tea (you can find an easy step-by-step guide with tips on how to make your matcha tea at home here)
- If the matcha tea is still warm, allow a few minutes for it to cool down
- Pour the matcha tea into the glass
- Pour the beer on top of the Matcha slowly, letting the beer foam sit on top of the glass.
- Make sure the matcha tea does not have clumps of matcha powder (if it does, follow this guide on how to remove clumps from homemade match tea)
- Try to use good quality matcha powder; it does not have to be ceremonial, but at least go for a premium quality one, like this one. If you can manage to use a ceremonial-grade matcha powder, that’s even better!
- You can try to cold brew your Matcha as the base instead of making it with hot water. Here’s how you can cold brew matcha at home.
So that was the recipe for a classic Matcha beer; however, there is no end to how far you can go with experimenting with making your version of tea beer. Did you know that Heineken with Japanese green tea is a popular drink in the Taiwanese night market?
Instead of Matcha, you can try to make your tea beer using different types of tea, combining them with a beer type that compliments the tea's unique flavor and taste. Drawing inspiration from the different tea beers made by Japanese breweries, I will share some tea and beer combinations that might go well together.
Japanese tea type
|Beer type that might complement it||Description|
|Fukamushi cha (Deep steamed tea)||IPA (India Pale Ale)||Rich taste, easy to drink|
|Houjicha||Stout / Dark beer||Sweet and rich malt taste combined with the roasty, earthy flavor of Hojicha|
|Kabuse cha (Covered tea)||White Ale||The rich and sweet taste of Kabuse cha combined with refreshing citrusy notes of White Ale|
|Sencha||Golden Ale||Subtle sweetness, easy to drink|
|Kaga-boucha||Stout||Deep Umami, refreshing fragrance, and rich roasted malt taste|
|Bancha||Ale||The sweet and fruity taste of ale combined with the mellow, earthy grassiness of bancha|
Above are some inspirations for your at-home Japanese tea beer-making session, but I hope you can also get adventurous and even try combinations that might seem like a good match; who knows, you might just discover your favorite tea and beer combination! And if you do come across one, don't forget to leave a comment below; I am super curious to know your take on Japanese tea beer!