Who first made Sparkling Tea?

sparkling tea

Who First Made Sparkling Tea? The Art of Tea Fermentation: Tracing Its Rich History and the Emergence of Sparkling Tea

Fermentation, a timeless process celebrated for centuries, has led to the creation of various exquisite beverages, including the intriguing question: who first made sparkling tea? This art of fermentation has been practiced for eons and continues to captivate enthusiasts. With billions of wild microorganisms, each possessing unique attributes, the spectrum of possibilities is vast and endlessly fascinating.

Among these creations are our REAL Sparkling Teas, naturally fermented as a perfect alcohol-free alternative to Sparkling Wine. Here, we delve into the captivating history of fermenting tea and explore its origins, tracing the roots of this ancient practice to the birthplaces of fermentation.

REAL | Naturally Fermented Sparkling Tea

Our first batches of Sparkling Tea were created back in 2017 when the team began to experiment with different loose-leaf teas to see whether they could deliver on a flavour usually associated with alcohol using only tea and microorganisms. 

Founder of The REAL Drinks Co. David found the complexity of loose-leaf teas so extraordinary and knew he had to pursue the delicious flavours they could deliver. Having given up alcohol, he tried a home-brew made by a friend using a really dark, smokey oolong tea and had an inkling that this was going to be the start of something new. A new way of drinking.

After trialling over 150 different loose-leaf teas from around the world and tinkering with traditional fermentation methods, we settled on three delicious teas to create our flagship Sparklings with.

The Origins of Fermented Tea:

The recorded history of Sparkling Tea is a cloudy one… It is suggested that fermented tea was first popular in Northeast China in around 220 BC, when it was supposedly referred to as ‘the elixir of life’. It’s likely that some form of fermented tea has existed across every continent for many centuries as fermentation in its basic form occurs naturally all the time and eventually, anything with sugar in it and microorganisms from the air will begin to ferment! 

The origins of fermented tea can be traced back thousands of years, primarily to two regions: China and India. Both countries hold rich cultural traditions centred around tea consumption and the art of fermentation.

China: The Birthplace of Fermented Tea

China, often hailed as the birthplace of tea, holds a prominent position in the history of fermentation. The process of fermenting tea leaves originated during the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220 AD), with the discovery that tea leaves left to naturally ferment would develop unique flavours and aromas. This led to the creation of teas like Pu-erh, a fermented tea known for its earthy and robust characteristics.

Over time, Chinese tea masters refined the art of fermentation, experimenting with different techniques and introducing microbial cultures to accelerate the process. These early innovations laid the foundation for the diverse range of fermented teas that we enjoy today.

India: The Cradle of Ayurvedic Fermentation

In India, the practice of fermenting tea is deeply rooted in the country's Ayurvedic traditions. The ancient science of Ayurveda recognized the transformative power of fermentation, using it as a means to enhance the health benefits of various botanicals, including tea.

One of the most famous fermented tea beverages in India is Kombucha. Believed to have originated in ancient India, Kombucha is made by fermenting sweetened tea with a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY). This living culture converts the sugars in the tea into beneficial acids, resulting in a tangy and effervescent drink.

How do you make Sparkling Tea? 

Building upon the rich history of fermented tea, we have crafted our Sparkling Teas as a contemporary take on this ancient practice. By combining the art of fermentation with modern techniques, The REAL Drinks Co. has brought forth a unique and delightful beverage that captures the essence of sparkling wine without the alcohol.

When we began fermenting six years ago we started using fermentation methods traditionally associated with brewing kombucha. This involved a SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast). In simple terms, this means a scoby is a mixture of bacteria and yeast that are happy to live and coexist with one another.

Back in those days we would brew our tea and add sugar to fuel the fermentation. The microorganisms in the SCOBY would then consume the sugar, releasing a small amount of alcohol, and then consume that and deliver the delicious tasting notes that you’re used to from our Sparkling Teas. 

Nowadays, and after a lot of research and development, we’ve deciphered our own unique way of delivering flavour and consistency from a fermentation process that is not too dissimilar to where we started, just more refined. Now, instead of a SCOBY with millions of different yeast and bacteria, we nurture just a handful of carefully curated microorganisms.

Since 2017, we have put thousands of microorganisms to the test, selecting only the few that will combine in perfect harmony to drive maximum flavour, and deliver it consistently. And we’re testing new ones every single day. 

Using these microorganisms and our top quality loose-leaf teas we ferment our liquids in giant, 5000 litre fermentation tanks (like the ones you get in a winery). We taste our ferments every day to check their progress, and once they’re at the level of flavour that we’re looking for, we cool the tanks down to stop the fermentation process, ready for bottling. 

Much of the effervescence in our teas occurs naturally during the fermentation process, however we do top it up a little to ensure that all bottles have the same level and deliver that characteristic ‘pop’ when you open the cork! We bottle them and pack them into our boxes, ready to be sent out to restaurants, bars, hotels, delis, farm shops, the local supermarket or even straight to your front door! 

The future of fermentation


The art of fermenting tea has a storied history that spans across centuries and continents. From China's ancient tea traditions to India's Ayurvedic practices, fermentation has been harnessed to create a wide array of flavorful and health-enhancing beverages.

Our range of Sparkling Tea pays homage to this rich heritage while offering a contemporary twist. As an alcohol-free alternative to Sparkling Wine, Sparkling Tea captures the essence of celebration and sophistication while catering to the growing demand for healthier, alcohol-free options.

Now that we've unveiled the answer to "who first made sparkling tea?," as you indulge in a glass of REAL Sparkling Tea, reflect upon the centuries of expertise and artistry that have culminated in this exceptional drink.

Toast to the venerable tradition of tea fermentation and the modern wonders it births! If your curiosity is piqued, contact REAL Drinks or buy online to continue the journey of taste and discovery.