I’m a tea person who has recently started getting into naturally fermented foods for its probiotic benefits. I really enjoy lacto-fermented vegetables in particular but recently have attempted to combine this with my tea hobby, hence the tea brine solution.
I have tried Googling for some information in the hope of finding like minded people who have much more experience than I do. Either I am conducting really bad searches or Google is also in the dark. I thought I leave a post here to see if anyone has conducted or come across a similar fermentation using a tea brine solution with vegetables or fruits. I would love to hear your thoughts and share in the experience as I am relatively new to fermentation.
I've heard of something very simular to preserve eggs, but I haven't seen tea used to preserve fruit and veg before (except as kombucha vinegar, but that has no salt). I suspect the tannins in the tea will modify what invisible beasties live in your ferment - for the better or worse, I can't say.
My suspicions are, that since other tea ferments like kombucha rely heavily on air loving invisible besties to modify the air hating invisible beasties (aerobic, anaerobic - air loving air hating / 'invisible beasties' include bacteria, yeast and other microscopic organisms that make your ferment work/not work.), that one would have more success with a open vat system instead of an airlock style vegi ferment. Open vat being a towel keeping the flys out, airlock system would be like the latch jars. For more on the difference, and a bit of a rant on why airlocks aren't always necessary, check out my blog post.
The other thing I've noticed is that different kinds of tea (tea tea or herbal tea, or earl grey) and many modern teas (with additives like lecithin) will effect a ferment differently. Quite often, modern additives (like flavour oils used in earl grey tea, or preservatives, or lecithin, or...) will kill or alter the beneficial invisible beasties in a drink ferment like kombucha. So, if it was me trying this experiment, then I would probably start with some loose leaf tea that had nothing in it but tea leaves.
Have a look at the Art of Fermentation by Sandor Katz. This is a great source of information and inspiration. He probably mentions something like what you are looking for, as he mentions a little bit of just about every variation of fermentation that have been tried. If not, I know he talks about how high tannin foods effect ferments.
Sally Fallon's Nourishing Traditions may also have something like this. My memory doesn't tell me if she does or not, but it's a lot like the kind of things she writes about.
Your local library should have both books, and if they don't they SHOULD have both books and you can tell them I said so.
Basically, it could work. I don't personally know any historic president (ie, in a traditional, pre industrialized food system) for this style of fermenting fruits and veg. But, that doesn't mean it won't work. It could simply mean that my knowledge is incomplete.
Because we live in a litigious age, I want to be careful what I say next. So, from my point of view, if I felt enthusiastic about this, I would go for it (I'm just that kind of gal). Starting small, and relying heavily on my senses, I would start with traditional methods of using tea with fermentation to get use to how it acts. Kombucha and Tea Eggs, would be my starting point, as well as traditional ferments that don't involve tea but do involve other ingredients I'm interested in - like sauerkraut.
Once I know how these individual items interact in a traditional (again, traditional as in pre-industrial food system - note, airlocks are a post industrial invention, but it's up to you if you want to use one or not) setting, I would possibly start combining them. Maybe add some kombucha liquid to a sauerkraut ferment to see how it goes. Or some other combination that interested me at the time.
The most important thing I would do, would be to pay attention to my senses. If the food is wrong for me to eat, my body will react - either by noticing bad colour or smell, or sometimes a gag reflex once the 'food' enters my mouth. Paying attention to the body's reaction, is vital. If there is no bad reaction, then I will eat one little bite, wait 24 hours to see how I feel, then try a few more bites, wait, increase amount, and so on.
When experimenting with known methods of fermentation, I feel pretty comfortable just chowing down, but for new methods, I feel caution is useful.
I'm suggesting stronger caution than I would probably use in real life - not because you necessarily need a reminder, but because someone new to fermenting may come here and read this post and think that everything is safe to eat. Please use your own common sense when experimenting with new ferments.
Please let us know how you get on with your experiment. It's sounds exciting. I also love tea and fermenting.
Thanks for the long and informative reply. It’s lacto fermentation but with a tea influence. I will definitely post a follow up blog entry sometime next month once the activity of the fermentation settles down.