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I tried thickening mint tea with cornstarch. I was hoping for something with a more thick mouth-feel. I got the consistency I was looking for, but the cornstarch imparted a slightly mineral/dirty flavor. It certainly didn't ruin the tea, but it wasn't what I was hoping for.

My specific steps were:

  • Boil water
  • Add cornstarch slurry
  • Cook 4-5 minutes more
  • Take off heat, add tea bag and sugar (Splenda) then steep.

Will cornstarch always impart this flavor or was it my technique?

Will another common thickener work better (I don't want to have to buy some powder off of Amazon)? Ideally, I would like a thickener that adds no color or flavor, though I'm perfectly happy with one that just adds color.

Thanks.

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4 Answers 4

up vote 9 down vote accepted

You could try using arrowroot. This is a widely available alternative to cornstarch - it is used in cookery because it doesn't turn liquids cloudy like cornstarch does. In your case, it might work better as it also has a more neutral flavour.

Substitute 2 tbsps of arrowroot for 1 tbsp cornstarch, and make a slurry with cool water as you would cornstarch. One issue is that overheating can break down the arrowroot, preventing it from thickening, so you are probably better off adding it to the tea after removing it from the heat.

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Thanks! I'll try arrowroot next time. –  Chad Mar 10 '12 at 8:13
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I'm going to recommend trying something a little bit different - instead of "thickening", I think what you really want is "body", which is similar, but different sensation. To get the mouth-feel I think you are after, you should try a complex sugar, like maltodextrin.

Maltodextrin is a complex carbohydrate, made from starch and composed of many sugar molecules, that is too large to be tasted as sweetness by the tongue, but adds some of the "texture" of sugar. It is used in energy drinks and homebrewed beer to add body and carbs, without adding much sweetness.

Start with 1% by weight added to the tea, and see how it works. Typical amounts for brewing are 0.5% (3.2 ounces/5 gallon batch) to 2% (12 ounces/5 gallon batch), with 1.25% (8 ounces/5 gallon batch) being the most common recommended value for people experimenting.

For you, for a pot of four 6 oz. servings of tea (24 ounces/680mL), about 0.24 oz (6.8g) of maltodextrin would be a good place to start. That would be roughly two teaspoons, depending on the density of your maltodextrin.

You can buy maltodextrin at "fitness nutrition" stores (bodybuilders use it for making special nutrient gels) and home brew stores. Midwest Supplies has maltodextrin for under $2.

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Unflavored gelatin would likely work for you. It's available in most grocery stores. I'm not sure the ratio you'd want, but 1/4 oz. unflavored gelatin into 1/2 gallon (!) tea should have some effect. Also, drug stores now sell stuff that thickens liquids under names like Nectar-Thick. The stuff isn't cheap, but it's not horrifically expensive either. It should be able to thicken tea.

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the cornstarch will always give this taste upon cooking it for a little time (5 min), it requires min around 20 min to be cooked, which will make your tea too thick, it is not recommended.

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There is no need for cooking starch this long. Both my experience and the books I have a) confirm that starch gives a slight taste b) confirm that starch reaches its max thickness after a few minutes of cooking (even less than 5) –  rumtscho Mar 9 '12 at 13:18
    
@rumtscho: true for the thinckness not for the taste. I find that longer cooking strongly diminishes cornstarch taste (same for flour, potato starch etc). –  nico Mar 9 '12 at 17:00
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