Russian Tea Recipe and Remembering Charlotte

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Russian-tea-4

Oh, the weather outside is frightful!  And, a fire would be so delightful – if there was one.   Since my fireplace remains in the same pristine state it was in when we built it fifteen years ago, (Don’t ask!), I’ve been looking for other ways to stay warm and toasty during this cold, damp and blustery wave of winter weather.   Of course, hot chocolate and coffee are obvious choices.  But, when I am chilled right down to my very bones, there is only one drink that truly warms me from the inside out, and that is Russian tea.

The first time I ever tasted Russian tea was shortly after I’d  pledged a sorority during my freshman year in college.  The president of our chapter was a senior named Charlotte, and I adored her.  She embodied the essence of everything that a well-bred young lady from the South should be.   Charlotte was cultured, understated, well-mannered and always impeccably groomed.  Even though she was only three years older than I was,  she exuded grace and maturity.   Charlotte was also a direct descendent of one of the actual founders of our sorority more than one hundred and twenty years ago.  And, she wore pearls… with jeans.  You just can’t get any cooler than that!

As a brand new college coed who had never been away from home before, I was always coming up against situations that I didn’t know how to deal with.  Whether my crisis of the day was about boys, a prickly professor or ruining my favorite sweater in the wash, Charlotte’s door was always open to me.  And as we sorted things out, we’d sip from steaming hot mugs filled with Charlotte’s fruity, spicy and infinitely comforting Russian tea.

Russian-tea-3

This Russian tea that I’m talking about isn’t anything fancy or imported from anywhere exotic.  I don’t even think that it has any connection to Russia at all.  All of the ingredients are either already in your pantry or can be easily located in your local supermarket.

The first thing you’ll need is a container of Tang orange flavored drink mix.  Yes, that Tang.  If it’s good enough for the astronauts, it’s good enough for me.

Tang

The next thing you’ll need is lemon-flavored, instant iced tea mix.

nestea-2

Does anyone actually use this stuff to make tea anymore?

And finally, you’ll need some ground cloves, cinnamon and lots of good, old-fashioned granulated sugar.

Russian-tea-mix

Just mix everything together in a jar with a tight fitting lid and you’re good to go.  Or, you could shake the jar as you dance wildly around your kitchen.  That works too.

So, do you think I’m crazy yet?  I thought so.  But, trust me.  This magical combination of these slightly questionable ingredients makes the most indescribably delicious hot drink that will make you feel cozy right down to your toes.

russian-tea-collage

Russian tea is also a great drink to serve during the Holiday season.  There’s something about a hot, citrusy brew laced with sugar and spice that just screams Christmas to me.  Don’t spread this around, but I’ve also been known to turn a mug of the stuff into a hot toddy by adding some dark rum or brandy to it.  Wassail, anyone?

I’ve seen a few different recipes for Russian tea floating around the web, but this one is the recipe that Charlotte’s grandmother gave to her and that she, in turn, gave to me.   I wouldn’t dream of making it any other way.

Russian-tea-2

I’ve often wondered whatever happened to Charlotte.  We’d lost touch by the time I graduated from college.  I hope she is well and that life has treated her kindly.  And, I hope that she thinks of me fondly every once in a while, as I do her.  The gifts of friendship and sisterhood that she gave me all those years ago were much more than this recipe for Russian tea.

42 responses to Russian Tea Recipe and Remembering Charlotte

  1. On December 14, 2010 at 2:18pm, Rosa said...

    Mmmhhh, that festive drink must be delicious!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

    • On April 12, 2011 at 12:35pm, Sue said...

      Tea was the answer to a Snapple Quiz question re: the favorite beverage of Russia.
      That elicited the memory of the Russian Tea I made when Charlotte was a Sorority Chick. Our kids were youngsters, then, and they loved it.

  2. On December 14, 2010 at 3:30pm, Tenacwalker said...

    I am drinking some of this right now!! Growing up in the South, this was a staple in the winter. I am so glad there is someone else I can share this nostalgic drink with!

    • On December 16, 2010 at 9:16am, Susan said...

      Agreed! I’m making up jars of it to go in my Xmas goodie bags this year. :)

    • On December 04, 2011 at 5:28pm, Haley Jo said...

      i love this drink my Grandma Judy made this for me when i was growing up in the cold Minnesota winters. Grandma’s passed on now but here memories live on in here cook books!

  3. On December 14, 2010 at 4:35pm, Caitlin said...

    I love that every Tridelta chapter president I’ve met has been unbelievably classy – such a great sign that we made a good choice in college ;) Although ours were more likely to help you get through Calculus than anything else :P

    • On December 16, 2010 at 9:27am, Susan said...

      We Deltas are just an all around classy bunch, Caitlin! Δ ❤

  4. On December 14, 2010 at 4:45pm, Sarah said...

    This must have been a staple in the Midwest too because I grew up drinking it in the winter as well.
    thanks for the reminder, I need to make some, it’s been years.

    • On December 16, 2010 at 9:28am, Susan said...

      I guess good taste knows no geographical boundaries! :D

  5. On December 14, 2010 at 6:14pm, LizAndrsn said...

    Yup — my first taste was in my Russian Language class my Freshman year of High School. Mr. Bartow brought in the very same in a Samovar and “converted” us. Is it any wonder I stayed a second year?

    Oh my, but I don’t remember that much sugar being involved, but it probably was.

    • On December 16, 2010 at 9:28am, Susan said...

      Very cool! :)

  6. On December 14, 2010 at 10:36pm, ingrid said...

    Lovely post, Susan.
    ~ingrid

  7. On December 15, 2010 at 4:02am, laura said...

    well this takes me right back to girlscouts-I wasn’t allowed to have tang which makes me want to go right out and buy some now :)

    • On December 16, 2010 at 9:30am, Susan said...

      Aww! I was never a Girl Scout, but at least my mother let us have Tang. ;) It was very popular when I was a kid during the “Space Race”.

  8. On December 15, 2010 at 6:01am, Joanne at Frutto della Passione said...

    Sounds so tempting, especially the “grown up” version! I am going to take this, and modify it accordingly because there is no Tang in Italy! But I will introduce this to my Italian friends and neighbours at my Christmas open house this year!!

    • On December 16, 2010 at 9:37am, Susan said...

      Joanne, try a blend of orange, iced tea and lemonade drink mixes, if you can find those. Another commenter below also mentioned frozen orange concentrate. Never tried that, but it sounds good.

  9. On December 15, 2010 at 8:29am, Tiffany @ Conor & Bella said...

    Ah, I don’t think I can bring myself to buy Tang…haha

    But this does sound comforting. And I love your gingerbread mug and plate!

    • On December 16, 2010 at 9:37am, Susan said...

      Thanks! :)

  10. On December 15, 2010 at 3:06pm, Rachel (S[d]OC) said...

    I’m trying to figure out just how cold it is for you in Florida right now. You can’t possibly be having the 25-degree days we’re experiencing in NY. Now go use that fireplace!

    That is an interesting drink to be sure. I was wondering as I started reading the ingredient list and how it probably has little to do wtih Russia if it was going to contain vodka. :-)

    • On December 16, 2010 at 9:38am, Susan said...

      Rachel, it’s been in the low 30s here for the past three days. Brrrr! :o

  11. On December 15, 2010 at 6:04pm, Kate said...

    My nana use to make russian tea and serve it with pimento cheese on crackers or celery (yes, that pimento cheese out of a jar). Whenever I walk by it in the grocery story I smile in sadness and joy remembering her cure-all for the world’s ailments. Thank you for stirring up (pun semi-intended) such a wonderful memory. I may just go make some myself!

    • On December 16, 2010 at 9:41am, Susan said...

      Aww! I’m glad my post brought back a nice memory for you. Here’s to your nana! :)

  12. On December 15, 2010 at 9:29pm, Peggy said...

    I’ve noticed this Russian Tea floating around the internet lately and have definitely been intrigued. I mean, seriously, anything with Tang HAS to be delicious, right?

    • On December 16, 2010 at 9:41am, Susan said...

      Absolutely! ;)

  13. On December 16, 2010 at 2:55am, Teigan said...

    Hey, stumbled here through foodgawker and I decided to see how you make your Russian Tea, and it’s so different! I had no idea you could make a mix of it. My family typically brews a stock pot half full of water, black tea, 3 cinnamon sticks and 4 cloves until it’s so black a spoon could stand in it. Then you add 2 frozen orange concentrates and 1 frozen lemon concentrate, and sugar to taste (basically until it makes your teeth ache). i really love our version of Russian Tea, and I’m very tempted to try out your instant version so I can have it anytime. Thanks!

    • On December 16, 2010 at 9:42am, Susan said...

      Wow! Very different. I love your version, though. Will have to try it. Thanks for sharing. :)

  14. On December 16, 2010 at 9:28am, SMITH BITES said...

    i remember drinking this tea many years ago and had forgotten all about it – brings back soooo many memories! and what a nice tribute to Charlotte, i mean how cool are you to wear pearls w/jeans before it became so fashionable?!

    • On December 16, 2010 at 9:44am, Susan said...

      Thanks, Debra! I’m gonna dig out my pearls to wear today, make some tea and bask in the memories! ;).

  15. On December 19, 2010 at 8:55pm, ciaochowlinda said...

    I’m intrigued. I haven’t had tang or that iced tea mix in decades, but the combo with the spices sounds interesting.

  16. On December 23, 2010 at 12:30am, Bren said...

    I’ve never had Russian tea but the looks of it are entirely too appealing! Happy Holidays to you dear lady!

  17. On December 23, 2010 at 12:33pm, emiglia said...

    Wow… when you said Russian Tea, I definitely wasn’t expecting this! I can only imagine with the combination of spices and cirus that it’s delightful!

    I loved taking your walk down memory lane with you… it’s strange and lovely to think about people who have changed us, especially those we don’t see anymore.

  18. On December 28, 2010 at 6:04pm, claire said...

    This is the ONLY kind of tea I like! I suppose that is because it doesn’t really taste like tea at all. :-)

  19. On January 29, 2011 at 10:48am, Teresa said...

    I remember having this with my best friend when I was about 8- her Grandma had made it and I thought it sounded so exotic! I think it might be time to makethis with my daughter. Where did you get the cute mugs? They are adorable!

  20. On February 11, 2011 at 4:06am, Olga said...

    Why oh why do you guys call THIS “Russian Tea”? Tea is very popular in Russia and there is a distinctive way of making and serving it there. This, however, has nothing to do with it. No Russian in his\her right mind would ever mix tea with either cinnamon or orange (or any other for that matter) drink mix. I first tried this drink when I came to the States and was shocked to find out that it was for some unknown reason called “Russian”. The same can be said about “Russian tea cakes” and “Russian Dressing”. None of these three (Russian tea, Russian tea cakes and Russian dressing) has been even heard of in Russia.

    • On February 11, 2011 at 8:19am, Susan said...

      Thanks for your input, Olga. I can understand your frustration. Honestly, I don’t know why this drink is called Russian Tea. It is the name of the recipe as it was given to me. I have also found many other similar recipes for this drink online – also called Russian Tea- so it appears to the popular name for it. I am aware of the traditional Russian tea culture, and yes, this drink certainly doesn’t resemble it. However, it is very tasty, whatever you call it.

  21. On June 29, 2011 at 10:53pm, Chanda Stehlik said...

    We used to call it Friendship Tea. You’d put it in a little jar with a bow and give it to your friends. What a lovely story. Maybe she’ll happen upon this someday and see how much she touched your life.

  22. On October 10, 2011 at 6:33pm, Ellen said...

    I first had Russian Tea when I was teacher’s assistant in High School. The teacher kept a big jar in a closet and kindly introduced me. That was in the 70′s. It isn’t a southern recipe, I live in Seattle. I’ve heard that the makers of Tang had the recipe printed on their jars and Russian tea is what they came up with for a name. I make it and send it off to my kids in college.

  23. On December 13, 2011 at 11:30am, Natalie said...

    Thanks for the recipe! I remember my mom making something very similar to this for me when I was a very little girl, infatuated with tea and tea parties.

    You might try contacting your sorority’s national office to see if they might have contact information for Charlotte (after all, most of the sororities keep up with their alumna, right?)…I bet it would tickle her pink to hear from you now and to know that your memories of that time spent together are as sweet as ever.

  24. On February 20, 2012 at 3:05pm, Brian said...

    Sorry to crash your all girl stroll down memory lane, but I had to chime in. When I was a young man, my grandmother used to make this same drink, but she called it Friendship Tea. I now make it for my family, and until only recently, didn’t know it had an alter-ego. Whether you call it Russian or Friendship, That steamy smell will forever take me back to cold winter days at my grandmother’s house. Thanks for sharing.

  25. On December 09, 2012 at 2:17pm, Sheri Dustin said...

    I was so excited to find this recipe. My mother used to make this for me when I was growing up. She passed away at the age of 48 years old. And I haven’t drank this since she left me. Thanks for the recipe.

  26. On December 16, 2012 at 8:35pm, Joanne Boykin said...

    I really would like to make a pot of this tea for my Christmas Brunch but I am not sure about the measurement of the ingredients for a “pot” of tea.

  27. On February 20, 2013 at 1:33pm, angela said...

    I started drinking Russian tea as a teenager. Isn’t it a quinkydink that I was also turned onto it by a TRIDELTA?????? I found it humorous. I attended Brenau Academy in the 80′s, Gainsville, GA. Probably the VERY BEST cold weather drink EVER!!!!!:):):):):):):):)

please post a comment...

kiss the cook!

Hello and welcome to SGCC! I’m Susan, a professional writer, food columnist, recipe developer, wife, mother, daughter and sister, who used to be a lawyer in a previous life. My love of food comes from a long line of wonderful and creative Italian home cooks who didn’t always have a lot, but knew how to make a lot out of what they had. I hope that you enjoy yourself while you’re here, and visit often! read more >>

Just Browsing?
55 Knives
follow me!

    Follow Me on Pinterest



    Friday Food Lust



    Fine Cooking