In keeping with my theme this week of “things you’ll never see on my blog”, I thought it was only fitting to include a post about tea.
Tea, to me, is something you drink when you’re sick. I put no thought into the brand or the process, but simply into getting some hot liquid into my ailing body, stat. Yes, I’m firmly and unapologetically “team coffee“. Which is why I was so grateful that Justine stepped up to share this tea tutorial with me – and now, all of you.
Justine writes the blog The Lone Home Ranger, where I’ve had the pleasure of guest posting myself. Justine returns the favor here, so why don’t you brew yourself a nice cup of tea and pay a visit to her blog?
Take it away Justine!
Hi! I’m Justine – an urban homesteader, a minimalist mom, a writer, and a doula-in-training living with my husband and two young girls in Massachusetts. I’m passionate about sustainable living, health, frugality, and my quest for real food and family heirloom recipes.
“I am in no way interested in immortality, but only in the taste of tea.” -Lu T’ung
I love all kinds of tea: hot, cold, herbal, chai, black, white, lemon, milk, cream, sugar, honey. Naturally, the weather plays some role in my selection, but I often find the tea of the day has more to do with my state of mind than state of climate. The tea I choose to drink can tell volumes about my mood that day. Is it a cup of jasmine and a cozy book-reading kind of day, or is it a gallon of sweet caffeinated ice tea and a Vanity Fair magazine-flipping day? While I truthfully don’t drink it because of its health benefits, it can’t hurt that in addition to being delicious tea also comes packed with antioxidants. Even if I do nothing else apart from lazily sipping my tea, I can calmly sit back knowing I am fighting cancer. Winning!
When I lived in England, there was nothing I loved more about their culture than the appreciation for and camaraderie around the sipping of tea. Two strangers can form a lighthearted rapport and spirit of familiarity when a pot of tea is shared between them; they need not even speak the same language to understand each other. The Olympic Games present a similar opportunity on a grander scale for the bonding over and sharing of traditions. London seems the perfect venue to host the Olympics, what with all the tea drinking and bonding that must be happening there now.
In honor of the worldly event currently taking place, I am sharing a few of my favorite kinds of tea, a sort of “around the globe” of homemade brew selections. You can drink these teas from the comfort of your couch or on your way to work. I am as perplexed by the jars of tea I see for sale as I am the bottles of water; I suppose a jar is one way to get a healthier beverage on the go, but with a little planning I think you might be surprised to discover that what you currently buy can be made at home without much time or skill involved.
Before I get to the recipes, a quick mention about where I buy my tea. If you shop at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, you can be happy that many if not most of their offerings are fair trade and organic. I was surprised to find there are many other places where you can find fair trade tea. You can learn more about the Fair Trade movement here.
My first recipe is for sweet iced tea; in truth, the recipe itself is for simple syrup, and then you can brew whatever tea you like to accompany it. What I love about this recipe is that although all tea in my neck of the woods is not local, I can add local ingredients that impart a great seasonal flavor to the drink.
Sweet Iced Tea
2 qts. water
6 tea bags (or 2 extra large bags)
1/4 c. simple syrup (recipe below)
My favorite way to brew tea is by making “sun tea,” in which you leave a glass pitcher on the porch for a few hours, along with the water and tea bags. Otherwise, you can also cheat and buy Lipton cold brew large tea bags, which I’m known to do on occasion.
2 c. sugar
2 c. water
any seasonal flavoring agent (my favorites are 1/3 c. mint, or a pint of mashed raspberries, or 1 cucumber, peeled and chopped)
Bring sugar and water to a boil. Add flavor agent, simmer gently for five minutes, and let stand off heat for 10 minutes. Strain through a sieve and store in a mason jar in the refrigerator.
photo credit: Justine Uhlenbrock
When I want a more substantial beverage, I turn to chai. Cold or hot, summer or winter, chai has the kick and velvety texture I crave. Before I give you the recipe, let’s be honest for a minute about chai; whether you make it from scratch at home, buy a powder at Trader Joe’s, or order it at Starbucks, what you’re getting isn’t just pure spices and tea. You’re bound to find something you can barely pronounce like maltodextrin. Chai is one of the guilty pleasures I allow myself that I know is not healthy for me.
You can make the recipe below a touch healthier if you mix just the tea, sugar, and spices together and add fresh cream and vanilla extract with every cup. But if you want to keep it ready to go like I do, you’ll want to use the milk powder and (eek) non-dairy creamer. The smell of milk powder will forever remind me of sitting in my grandmother’s kitchen as she poured a freshly mixed batch into my cereal, attempting unsuccessfully to convince me it tasted the same as fresh milk. Don’t ask me for details, but somehow it works in chai.
So why make your own powder instead of just buying the premixed stuff? For me, it’s about controlling the amount of sugar. Like I do most times, I reduced it for this recipe. Even though the initial cost is more expensive up front, it is also more frugal in the long run.
photo credit: Justine Uhlenbrock
Powdered Chai Mix
1/2 c. nonfat dry milk powder
1/2 c. powdered non-dairy standard creamer
1/2 c. powdered non-dairy French vanilla creamer
1/2 to 1 c. sugar (depending on your taste; superfine or regular)
3/4 c. unsweetened instant tea
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
Blend ingredients together in a blender or food processor. This recipe makes 3 cups (about 10 oz.) and can be doubled or tripled depending on your storage capacity. Store in air-tight containers in the pantry for up to a year (Note: it fits perfectly in the empty Trader Joe’s chai container). To brew, stir 2 T. chai mix in a mug of hot water.