Originally Posted by Rhu
Anybody used black tea in their cider to get some tannin in there?
Sometimes I do.
From cider.org ...Is tannin in cider important?
That rather depends on where you're coming from. Many traditional ciders such as those from Germany, Switzerland and the East of England have quite low levels of tannin. Most modern 'factory' ciders have rather little. But traditional ciders from NW France and SW England have noticeably higher levels, so the cider is markedly astringent to most people's taste, especially if it's 'dry' (unsweetened). ... But if you want to make a traditional English West Country style of cider, you really have to use some high tannin apples. And, even if you don't, some tannin in a cider is highly desirable or it simply becomes too insipid for anyone's taste.
As that page suggests ... it really is a matter of personal tastes ... and if you read further on that page, for practical purposes it is the “total” tannins and phenolics ... not duplicating the specific ones in specific proportions, that they are mostly interested in.
While the specifics may represent the varietal, the growing conditions, the geographic area and the techniques and care the cidery uses ... for our purposes I’m not sure it really allows us to compare “apples to apples” (sorry). It’s a matter of what tastes good to you.
That having been said ...
First, it is worth noting that tannin content is *markedly* affected by what you do during grinding, during any maceration ... and whether you fine-out any of those compounds when you fine or clear your cider ... so of course too, whether you are trying to make hard cider from store-bought apple juice, or something less refined.
We take it out just to struggle to put it back in.
So when we put it back in, what guideline should be used, and as the OP asked ... is using tea worthwhile?
The predominant tannin in tea is also one of the tannins in grape skins/grape tannin, and also in wood based tannins (powder, cubes, barrels, whathaveyou) ... it is epigallocatechin gallate or EGCG ... though wine has a great many more related compounds which affect wine for bitterness, astringency, flavor and other macerative and anti-oxidant aspects ... that common tannin is in fact one of them ... and is a member of the family of cousins which rule Tea-Land ... the Catechin family.
Oak type tannins from oaking in barrels or adding other forms of wood tannin are significantly created from gallic acid in the wood ... that gallic acid is one of the “parents”, so to speak of the EGCG noted above. That gallic acid is also present in the tea leaves too.
The result of all this chemistry is to eventually produce some of the phenolic compounds that flavor wine or cider.
So yes, in cider, as well as in grape wine, there are flavor qualities which are affected by the chemicals found in tea ... and as noted this is related to the effect of the sort of hydrolysable tannin in wood.
That EGCG is also a potent anti-oxidant ... with all of those attendant effects for aging, avoiding oxidative color change etc (though the dynamics of most of the colorant chemistry involved in red wine would not be pertinent in cider, a whole different ball of wax.).
The most common behind the scenes effects of the tannins ... total tannins ... noticeable in the taste of the cider are arguably bitterness and astringency. The effects of the *tea* do contribute to that interplay of bitterness and astringency ... and with a tendency to become hydrolyzed and “phenolic” over time.
So should you use tea leaves in cider? ... sure.
There are benefits from it ... but as the chemistry varies from cider to cider and tea-bag to tea-bag, the final arbiter of whether it’s worth doing is in the tasting.
I’ve used Constant Comment brand in various batches over the years, a tea which provides other subtle flavoring as well.
If you are really concerned about doing it the “right”way ... get the right apple varietal from your chosen region, from your chosen “vintage” or crop, and use the proper techniques of grinding, enzymes, temperature, maceration etc to obtain the tannic effect you want.
Otherwise ... just add tannin back to taste.
Keep careful notes ... Keep a small part of your batch un-treated so you can have a “baseline” to compare results to, side-by-side at taste-testing time. Train your palate to note the difference between bitter and astringent.
The complexity in tannin chemistry one of the things which force winemaking or cider-making to be very much an “art”, not just a science.