Dec. 25th, 2015

melo_annechen: (ooh)

To be honest, I have no clue why it is called Russian tea. This was a big foodie idea before the foodies were an idea. Back then, the gourmet enthusiasts would have cringed at the the thought of instant anything having any value. But now, it's in with the rest of the retro bits of gasgtro-nostalgia.

Tang appeared on grocery store shelves in the late 1950’s, and Kool-Aid in the 1920’s, so the pieces were in place for the early 1960’s debut. I haven't found documentation for the origin for the recipie or the name. It is possible that the spice blend evoked certain pastries, or it was supposed to evoke a pre-communist era, but for ages, that’s what my family called it.

[edit: Stalking Heron added "
"Russian" tea was called "Russian Caravan" when I was younger, and was supposedly a rather traditional blend of things that came from the far East along the Russian trade routes; cake compressed tea, spices."]

I have conversed with those who are of Russian or Eastern European extraction who have reacted with confusion to this concoction. One asked if this is from Tiblisi, Georgia or Atlanta, Georgia, and who knows, it might actually have originated from Huntsville.

Anyway, here’s the one I found on a newspaper clipping taped inside MawMaw’s kitchen cabinet. I am sorry I don't have the notation of which paper, magazine or whatever it came from - at the time we were clearing out her house for sale, I hadn't developed the archiver's inclination to document the source.

Spiced Tea Mix

1 1 lb 2 oz package orange breakfast drink mix

1 cup instant tea

1 20 oz package lemonade mix

1 tablespoon ground clove

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

Mix together, sealing in an airtight container for storage.

For drinking, use one or two teaspoons of the mix in a mug of hot water

There were other notations around the edges, but the ink had faded. There were words that might have been the names of additional spices, and I definitely remember more than cinnamon and cloves being involved. Mixing this batch up, I was not sure this was what I remembered. I began searching for others on the Internet. Many of them have the same bones, but some add even more sugar on top of the Tang and lemonade mixes. That makes a soupçon of sense, if one is using one of the unsweetened lemonade packets. You know how that tiny 0.23 ounce packet says to add a cup of sugar for two quarts of drink? We didn't always use a full cup, when I was growing up, so tart became a default for this.

So, very close, and many of these recipeis include more spices, but I ran into a supply problem. It seems the grocery stores in my area no longer carry plain, unsweetened iced tea mix. Normally, I would not mind, as I tend to brew iced tea (Therefore, in a roundabout way, it might be my fault. Well, mine and everyone else who brews their own). This meant I had to adjust for the sugar and lemon flavors already in the tea.

Thus began my experiment. I also added more spices, because that’s the way we like it - nearly enough chemical complexity to be dangerous.

Russian Spiced Tea Mix

1 cup instant tea powder (lemon-flavored, sugar-sweetened)

2 cups orange-flavored drink mix (e.g. Tang)

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon ground cloves

½ teaspoon ground ginger

Mix together, sealing in an airtight container for storage.

For drinking, use one or two teaspoons of the mix in a mug of hot water.

It looked right, and smelled right when I got everything together. I was tempted, after the first taste, to add that spare packet of unsweetened lemonade powder. After all, I was the kid who ate the lemon wedges intended for iced tea in the Fellowship dinners. However, I also had Himself taste-test this batch. He approved the mix, noting that the hot water is what makes the spice tastes come out.

I could be pretentious and add that it’s best enjoyed in the presence of an analogue recording of the Vince Guaraldi Trio, but that would be too much.


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