Rootbeer-ish Herbal Tea Concentrate

When I was little, family birthdays meant root beer floats.  I love rootbeer, and never developed a taste for other sodas.  But now it’s too sweet for my taste and my health—with diabetes in the family I’ve got to be careful, but even sugar-free versions are sweeter than I like.  Experiments with making herbal tea blends filled the cupboard with herbs and spices for infusions, and a carbonation kit led to chilled sparkling teas for hot summer days.  After a lot of study of recipes available online, and several failed attempts, I came up with this sugar-free, nonalcoholic rootbeer-ish concentrate.  

I keep it in the refrigerator and scoop out a bit now and then to add to a cold bottle of sparkling water, and enjoy.

It took a few tries to get something I liked.  After picking out what I wanted pretty much by eye, I weighed what I added:

Ingredients by grams

Sarsaparilla root 10.9 grams

Licorice root         2.4 grams

Birch Bark            3.4 grams

Ginger (fresh).   10.2 grams
Vanilla bean         1.4 grams

Cloves                 0.7 grams

Star anise            3.7 grams

Chicory root         3.3 grams

Allspice                1.7 grams

Peppermint leaf   0.9 grams

Gamro (Korean hydrangea) 1 dried leaf

Which looked like this, minus the gamro leaf that I forgot to add until I'd already mixed the other spices up:

Rootbeer ingredients spread out on plate

and I cut the ginger and vanilla and cracked the allspice berries before steeping


Chopped/broken ingredients

Added the gamro leaf and then covered with about 0.5 L/1 pint boiling water and let steep about 8 hours at room temp.

the concentrate after infusion

Then I scooped out just under 1/4 cup—maybe 50 mL of the concentrated tea and added it to 1 pint chilled, carbonated water. Refreshing!

sparkling rootbeer 'tea'

It does have quite a foaming head on it--this was after a lot of spill....

Notes on ingredients

Sarsaparilla root:
This was sourced from Frontier Co-op and is from India, Hemidesmus indicus.  I tried a version that was supposed to be from the Mexican root, Smilax ornate, and that was very disappointing—no real flavor at all.  The Indian version is floral, sweet, and quite lovely in other herbal mixes as well.

Licorice root sweetens, and so does Gamro (Korean hydrangea leaf).  Licorice root adds anise note as well as sweetness, and Gamro is spicy-sweet like cinnamon-sugar—it’s sold from Korean outlets for making a simple lovely  herbal infusion by itself.  This is made from Hydrangea serrata, a species native to Korea and Japan, not the horticultural varieties that add color to home gardens.  It’s quite expensive, but a little goes a LONG way.  I love to drop a leaf or two into any pot of herbal tea.

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