Saturday, January 28, 2006

Warm Up with a cup of Tea

By L.A. Kohl
January 3, 2006

(published in the Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2006 edition of the "Bullseye")
No, this isn’t a “recipe” column, but with nine people around the house on a daily basis, the culinary arts do consume much of my time. Thus, they occasionally creep into my front porch musings.
I don’t know about everyone else, but my family loves a cup of something hot to sip on a cold wintry day. Coffee and hot chocolate are typical stand-bys, but we also enjoy some different takes on the common cup of tea that you might like to try.

First is my grandma’s spiced tea mix. Every fall, when the first cold weather starts chilling our bones, the kids start asking when I’m going to make them some spiced tea. It’s a fairly common recipe that some of you may know as “Russian Tea." Just mix together 2 cups of orange breakfast drink mix, 1 cup of instant tea, ½ cup of lemonade mix, 2 tsp. ground cinnamon, 1 tsp. each of ground cloves and ginger, and that’s it. You can also add a cup of sugar if you have a sweet tooth, but I’ve always thought the lemonade and orange drink mixes give it just the right amount of sweetness. Heat up a mug of hot water and stir in two or three tablespoons of the mix. Mmmm, the aroma alone will warm your senses!

The next one is a recipe I stumbled across in an old recipe book. It’s called “Near Coggon Spiced Tea," but I have modified it to suit our tastes. Start by bringing 2 quarts of water to boil in a stock pot. When it reaches the boiling point, add 6 sticks of cinnamon (3”-4” long), and the following spices tied up in a coffee filter: 2 tsp. whole cloves, 1 tsp. ground ginger and 1 tsp. ground allspice. Allow this to boil for ten minutes, then stir in twelve tea bags, 2 c. sugar, ½ (12 oz) can of orange juice, 1 (12 oz) can of grape juice, ¼ c. lemon juice, and 4 more quarts of water. Return to a slow boil, and boil gently for at least ten minutes, then remove tea bags and spice bag. This has a wonderful aroma as well, and can serve a large crowd as it makes over two gallons.

I’ve saved our most memorable tea recipe for last – chai. I learned how to make it when our family spent a couple months in India during the winter of 2001. It was a daily experience while we were there, but now it is just an occasional treat. The chai we were taught to make in India has little resemblance to the chai mixes you can now purchase at the grocery store. Maybe it’s kind of like the difference between a cappuccino mix from the store, and a cappuccino you buy in your local coffee shop. Anyway, traditional chai is more or less just hot, sweet tea with lots of milk. Different spices are often added, the most common being black pepper. I know it sounds weird – but give this recipe a try sometime and see what you think.

Boil 5 cups of water, then add 6 tea bags and ¼ to ½ tsp. of ground black pepper (we like the ½ tsp. amount, but you may want to start with the ¼ tsp. amount.) Reduce heat and simmer this mixture for about 5 minutes. Remove tea bags, and stir in ½ c. sugar and 3 cups of whole milk (or 2 cups of cream). Reheat this mixture. At this point, you can strain out the black pepper and serve – or, just dip out your cup of chai and be careful not to take the last swallow! If the black pepper variety of chai is not to your liking, then you can try substituting spices like cinnamon, ginger, or cardamom.

Whether you are a committed tea drinker or not, I would highly recommend any of these to help chase away a bad case of wintry cabin fever.

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