Flavored citrus slice
Tea is great: take tea bags out of the package, pour boiling water over them and enjoy. Simple and good. Why not apply the same principle to cold drinks?
Sure there are juices, syrups and of course iced tea etc. but the bag principle has something. The product, like tea, should be all-natural and create a special cold drink in a few minutes, as a kick in the office or on the go. We find the basic ingredients for our tea bag at a weekly market in Hamburg. Because our lab is now in Hamburg and the city is therefore the gateway to the food world for us.
Which citrus fruit harmonizes with which spices and flavors? After a brief brainstorming session, we decided on the following pairings:
- Lemon -> cardamom -> mint -> white sugar
- Lime -> Ginger -> Brown sugar
- Grapefruit -> juniper -> rosemary -> thyme -> coconut blossom sugar
Dry + Error
We cut the fruit into slices about 5 to 10 mm thick and press a varietal juice from more fruit each. The juices make the base for the spice marinade. To the juice we add the spices and sugar, then we heat each decoction separately and let it cool down again. We pack the fruit slices by type in vacuum bags and leave them vacuumed for 2 hours at room temperature. We then place the bags in a dehydrating oven. There the fruits marinate for 9 hours at 33°C.
The next morning we rinse the discs and place them on the mats for the first drying process. This takes about 9 hours, after which the slices are vacuumed again with the previously reduced brew. Thus, we concentrate and intensify the flavor in the citrus slices “tea bag”. After another 8 hours, the slices are put back into the drying oven. To get a tart and fresh experience, we also added citric acid to the citrus slices. We dissolve the citric acid in freshly squeezed lime juice. Then we spray each slice with this citrus solution. In this way, we can selectively increase the concentration in the hope of obtaining an intense taste experience.
After the complete drying phase, the citrus slices are dry but somewhat sticky. Unfortunately, the treatment with our citrus solution has increased this effect. However, our finished product should be easy to pack and store, so there is room for improvement here already. The actual taste test took place with the team in Frankfurt.
Anyone who has ever cooked for friends or, even better, daily for the family knows this: After you have thought long and hard about it and invested a lot of work to offer your loved ones a varied and nutritious meal, instead of long hymns of thanks and praise come short, clear criticisms. That’s just the way it is with our loved ones. And it’s a bit like that with us in the team. And even though it is sometimes hard to hear the truth, at the same time it is very important feedback that helps us move forward.
In our case it sounds like this: too lame, doesn’t look nice, stale, sticky
Taken in isolation, this sounds like a clear failure, but that’s only half the truth. Our concept of a tea bag for a cold drink was very well received but as always could be improved. That’s right, because we develop our projects quite quickly in one go, which means we define a path in advance and follow it. It often becomes clear during the process that other approaches could also deliver good results, but our capacities rarely allow us to pursue diverse approaches or to start from scratch. Afterwards, however, we have a pretty good idea of what and how we need to improve our prototypes.
But we also learn that consumers have very different wishes, some of which are contradictory and cannot be fulfilled at the same time. Therefore, we keep it like cooks and orient ourselves first on our preferences, in the hope that we can also convince the guests.
Now, in order to improve our tea slice following the critique and adapt it to our own requirements, it would either have to “steep” long enough (a good 15 min) or we would have to ensure faster dissolution of the sugar and flavors in order to obtain a more intense taste experience. Sticking could be prevented by a better drying process or other types of sugar, as well as air-tight packaging.
The tasting was a lot of fun and also insightful. We will therefore test our experiments more often as a team.