Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Time for Tea

Tea has been my beverage of choice for many years. It's a pot of freshly brewed strong black tea that coaxes me out of bed in the morning. I turn to a cup of fresh, flavorful Chinese green tea for my late-morning pick-me-up. And in the late afternoon, a small pot of subtle, grassy Japanese sencha creates a wonderful sense of well-being and focus.As the summer solstice approaches, I start filling my fridge with gallons of iced tea in anticipation of long evenings lingering on the deck, hot days working in and harvesting the garden, and Sunday afternoon picnics at a lake or park. Both black and green teas make great iced drinks. I like to keep a jug of each on hand. I've found a wonderful green tea blend from Harney & Sons called Bangkok, subtly flavored with lemongrass, coconut, and ginger, that's fabulous when lightly sweetened with honey and iced.

For a more full-bodied iced tea -- as satisfying as ice cream to my palate! — I turn to chai, the Indian spiced tea. In our book Chai: The Spice Tea of India, Diana Rosen offers more than 20 recipes for variations on the spice combinations. If you've had the premade, overly sweetened version of chai in a coffee shop, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised by how much more complex the spice flavors can be when you make it yourself — and don't overpower the spices with too much sweetener. It's also much less expensive, especially if you go to a natural foods grocery or herb shop where you can buy the spices in bulk.

Here's Diana's Favorite Chai recipe. I recommend multiplying it and brewing up a half-gallon without the milk. Keep it in the fridge, and it's ready whenever you are — just pour over ice and add milk to taste.

Makes 2 servings
1 1/2 cups water
8 green cardamom pods
6 whole black peppercorns
2 slices fresh ginger, peeled and diced
1 stick cinnamon, 2 inches long
2 whole cloves
2/3 cup whole milk
4 teaspoons sugar
3 teaspoons loose black Assam tea

1. Put the water and spices in a saucepan and bring to a boil.
2. Reduce the heat to low and let simmer for about 6 minutes.
3. Add the milk and sugar and heat to almost boiling. (NOTE: For iced tea to store, don't add the milk.)
4. Add the tea and turn off the heat. Allow the brew to infuse the tea for 3 minutes.
5. Strain the chai brew and serve.

For more ideas on creative ways to enjoy tea, see Taking Time for Tea by Diana Rosen, Tea with Friends by Elizabeth Knight, and Country Tea Parties by Maggie Stuckey.

Happy Summer!

Deborah Balmuth, Editorial Director

1 comment:

Melanie Jolicoeur said...

All this rain and the cool temps are making me crave hot tea — looking forward to making my own now instead of buying a mix.