Tea & Mead … What a Delicious Blend

Who would have thought that two high school friends’ worlds would have crossed paths again in such a unique way? With the growing popularity of social media over the past five or so years, many of us have been reconnecting with those in our past circles. It’s certainly been overwhelming to learn where people have ended up, what wonderful things many have gone on to do. I have many friends with whom I lost touch over the years. Having grown up in Yonkers, New York, I didn’t relocate too far; and it seems even less so with Facebook, Twitter, SnapChat, and Instagram. Sometimes I feel like I’m catching up on 25 years of lost time … oh, wait. I am.

I have discovered many interesting things about those childhood friends with whom I have reconnected. However, one of the most unique reconnections I have made is with my friend Bob Slanzi (aka, “Bobby Honeybee.”) Bob is a beekeeper, and is busy making a name for himself in the world of mead. To be frank, I knew little about mead, and have realized that it’s absolutely amazing. Bob and I caught up back in 2011 and discussed honey, bees, and mead. Once I opened A New Leaf in 2012, I was excited to become a part of his mead-making world.

1009463_4813010697850_182679767_o“The tannins, the acid, the sweetness- they all have to be in balance. And that’s what makes a good mead.”

 Bob Slanzi on Fuhmentaboudit!

Mead is an alcoholic beverage created by the fermentation of water and honey. The alcohol content in mead can range wildly from 8% ABV to more than 20%. The majority of the beverage’s fermentable sugar is derived from honey.

Mead is quite possibly the oldest alcoholic drink in history and may have been discovered accidentally when old tree stumps filled with honey bees were flooded during heavy periods of rain. The fermentation process started to occur naturally, only to be found and consumed by travelers. Mead went on to become the preferred drink in the Mediterranean during the so-called “Age of Gold” in Greece, and was known for its mystical properties. Referenced by the great philosopher Aristotle, mead was often produced by monks in Northern Europe, where grapes were scarce.

Back to Bob. Bob was recently recognized by Men’s Journal for brewing the best craft mead: ghost pepper mead. This ghost chili mead took Best of Show in 2013’s Homebrew Alley VII competition of the New York City Homebrewers Guild, beating out 762 beers, meads, and ciders. Bob makes bottle upon bottle of craft meads, experimenting with many different blends: blueberry mead, strawberry mead, honey mead, chocolate chili mead, and his latest concoction: using A New Leaf Russian Caravan black tea.

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Bob Slanzi’s mead made with Russian Caravan black tea from A New Leaf

“This mead was made from a Russian caravan tea and caramelized honey. It was fermented with a white wine yeast using staggered nutrient addition method. This method allows a full fermentation from start to finish in less than two months.

This mead has a color of deep red rust with a brilliant clarity. By smelling this mead you would get a burnt honey aroma with a bit of caramel maybe some toffee notes, roasty smoke would also be present. Tasting this mead would lead you to realize that a lot is going on here. The first thing you will get is the scorched honey followed by toffee flavors at mid-palate. You may notice the alcohol contained is pushing 14%. On the back end you will taste the smoke from the Russian caravan tea followed by a lingering taste to caramelized honey.” Bob Slanzi, 1.12.14

I’m very honored to hear that this mead will be entered into the New York City homebrewers guild contest, Homebrew Alley as well as the American Homebrewer’s Association National Competition. I am also looking  forward to making a trip up to Yonkers soon to barter some even smokier Lapsang Souchong for some of this Russian Caravan mead, and to congratulate my friend on his growing popularity on the word of mead.