I gave up coffee last November (sniff...), but had allowed myself "special occasion" coffee which I loosely defined as:
a) after an expensive meal in a restaurant
b) on major holidays
c) costing more than $4 in a shop.
However, in the past few months I'd started slipping down that slippery coffee slope and having a half cup most mornings. I have nothing against coffee except I didn't like that I'd become somewhat addicted. I didn't need it to get going in the morning the way my groggy husband does, but I enjoyed the morning ritual of making it and, of course, loved the taste and aroma. But I found that if I skipped it I would get a terrible headache around 3-4 pm. This bothered me. So I figured I could either make sure I NEVER missed my morning cuppa or I could give it up altogether. Since I plan on getting pregnant one of these days I figured I may as well just forgo it in anticipation of wanting to ease up on caffeine during my "baby years."
As far as I know, Grandma "Nana" Besig wasn't Russian, but she made Russian tea every winter for my mom and my mom, in turn, made it for my sisters and I. I have found that it perfectly satisfies my usual craving for coffee. I did some Google searches for other recipes, but they all seemed to involve instant tea mixed with Tang and/or lemonade crystals. That sounds pretty good too, but I think it's worth sharing the real version. At least dearly departed Nana Besig's version.
Nana Besig's Russian Tea
Make 1/2 gallon of very strong black tea (8 cups water w/4 tea bags steeped at least 5 min.)
Boil the following for 10 minutes:
2 cups sugar (or less)
2 cups water
1/2 tablespoon whole cloves
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
grated rind of 2 oranges & 2 lemons
After about 10 minutes, remove the cloves and add the above to your tea along with the juice from your oranges & lemons as well as a 6 oz. can of frozen orange juice. Heat until tea is warm - about 5 minutes, longer if you like yours very hot. Will keep in the fridge for about 2 weeks.
The above is the traditional recipe, but I do make a few of my own tweaks which you may or may not wish to follow.
- I use less sugar, closer to 1.5 cups. You could even try a cup to start and then add a little more to taste.
- Instead of ground cinnamon I use one cinnamon stick which I remove with the cloves.
- I use less zest - from 1 orange and 1 lemon. It sinks to the bottom and you end up with a big mouthful of zest at the end which I'm not a fan of. You could also use all the zest while cooking and then strain it out for drinking.