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TIP OF THE DAY: Make Spiced Tea

Spiced Tea Spices

Constant Comment Spiced Tea

Spiced Rooibos Tea

[1] It’s easy to make spice tea without special tea. Just blend your own (photo courtesy Republic Of Tea). [3] Constant Comment, America’s favorite specialty tea (photo courtesy Yankee Magazine).

  Many tea lovers buy spiced tea as a fall and holiday favorite; gift tins are popular holiday gifts.

For home, perhaps the most popular spiced tea is the first major commercial brand, Constant Comment. A longtime favorite of ours (and the most popular specialty tea in the U.S.), the original black spiced tea bags are now available in decaffeinated black tea and green tea. It’s also available as loose tea.

But if you’re home and hankering for a cup of spiced tea, with none in the house, the solution is simple:

Just make your own with the tea and spices you already have in the kitchen.

In addition to black tea, you can make green spice tea or white spice tea, or rooibos (caffeine-free red tea) spice tea, exactly as Ruth Bigelow did when she created Constant Comment Tea in 1946.
 
SPICE TEA VS. SPICED TEA (IT’S SPICED!)

A bit of a grammatical note on spice vs. spiced:

  • Spice tea would be an infusion of spices in boiling water, with no tea leaves. It’s analogous to herbal tea, where herbs are steeped in boiling water with no actual tea (Camellia sinensis). We know of no spice teas, however. While herb leaves steep into a liquid like tea leaves, spices do not.
  • Spiced tea is tea with added spices; the tea is spiced—the correct adjective.
  •  
    EASY SPICED TEA RECIPE

    Ingredients For 2 Cups

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg or 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 3 tea bags or 3 teaspoons loose tea
  • Optional: 3/4 cup sugar
  • Garnish: lemon wedge
  •  
    Variations

    You can keep playing with the spice mix until you have your perfect recipe (see more ingredients in the section below).

    You can fill jars with your signature tea blend and give them as gifts to tea-loving friends. For friends who don’t use loose tea, add these unfilled drawstring tea bags.

    Preparation

    1. COMBINE water, cinnamon and cloves in a medium pan. Bring to a boil; reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

    2. ADD tea bags; steep for 5 minutes. Remove tea bags and spices.

    3. SERVE the tea hot or iced with a lemon wedge and choice of sweeteners, although the spice flavors are so exciting that no sweetener is necessary.
     
    TEA INFUSIONS

    You can also infuse the tea with:

  • Fruits: apple, citrus peel/zest, lemon, orange, pear or other fruit, fresh or dried
  • Herbs: basil, fennel (licorice flavor), mint, sage, rosemary*
  • Spices: allspice, anise/star anise, black peppercorns, cacao nibs, cardamom, chopped dried chiles, cinnamon, fennel seeds, ginger (fresh, ground, crystallized), nutmeg, vanilla bean, turmeric
  • Sweeteners:Agave, honey, flavored syrup
  •  
    Just look around your kitchen for things to infuse.
    ________________
    *Here are 10 herb choices from Garden.org.
     
    WAYS TO INFUSE TEA

    1. With a spice ball. We prefer the new twist-and-lock spice ball style. The closure is less likely to loose with continued use.

    2. Loose. If you don’t have a spice ball, just infuse all of the ingredients in pitcher or a large measuring cup, ideally one with a pouring spout. Then pour the tea through a strainer, into the cup.

    There are many devices for steeping loose tea, from simple infusers to more complex devices; for example, travel mugs and electric tea pots with built-in infusers.

    IngenuiTEA is our favorite device. Tea steeps in the unit, then easily dispenses into the cup.

     

    RECIPE: MASALA CHAI

    Masala chai is Hindi for spiced milk tea (masala = spice, chai = tea). It’s a strong black Indian tea infused with spices—commonly cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, peppercorn, clove and nutmeg (chocolate or licorice are sometimes included)—with milk and sugar.

    Traditionally, the milk and tea water are boiled together, then infused. This ensures that both liquids are hot. In the era of the microwave, you can infuse the tea in boiled water and then add heated milk.

    While masala chai is traditionally made from black tea, green tea chai and rooibos chai have become popular in the West, where it is often simply called “chai.”

    There is no one “best” chai recipe. As with any other recipe, the best version has the seasonings you prefer, in the proportions that you want.

    Here’s a basic masala chai recipe that makes eight cups of tea. Take it as a starting point and adjust the ingredients and the proportions next time.

    If eight cups is too much for you, cut back the recipe. Or, refrigerate the remainder, store it in the fridge and and heat it as needed. You can also drink it iced.

    TIP: Some recipes (and store-bought blends) are pre-sweetened. If you may be serving the chai to people who prefer unsweetened tea, or use a noncaloric sweetener, omit the sweetener (the last ingredient) and provide sweeteners at the table.
     
    Masala Chai Ingredients

  • 4 cups water
  • 4 cups whole milk (or substitute a lower fat or nondairy version)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cardamom seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed cinnamon stick
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 whole nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, peeled and minced
  • 1 vanilla bean, chopped fine
  • 4 teaspoons black tea leaves: Assam or other strong tea
  • 8 ounces honey or 4 ounces agave
  •   Masala Chai

    Masala Chai Blend
    [1] Masala chai means milk tea. In its country of origin, India, it’s black tea steeped with spices, with added milk (photo courtesy Charles Chocolates). [2] You can mix your chai spices ad hoc, or keep your favorite blend in an airtight jar (photo courtesy Foodie Underground).

     
    Preparation

    1. HEAT the water and milk to a boil in a sauce pan. Add the remaining ingredients except honey and simmer, covered, for 10 to 15 minutes.

    2. REMOVE from the heat and strain into another pot or bowl. Add sweetener and blend thoroughly.

    3. SERVE from a conventional teapot or a pitcher; or bring pre-filled cups the table.
     
    THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF TEA

    Check out our tea Glossary: the different types of tea, with beautiful photography.
      




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