Post-Holiday Thoughts on Spiced Red Tea

Over the blasted holidays at some time or other, I was trying out red tea (aka rooibos) holiday blends. By which I mean… you know… spiced, almost gingerbready, with almonds and cinnamon and cloves. Caffeine plays badly with the PTSD, so I played around with creating my own blend.

I started off with a basic spiced tea recipe from Morton & Bassett—those spice guys—and adapting it somewhat for red tea. Since rooibos and honeybush typically need to steep twice as long as black tea, as well as being almost impossible to oversteep (whereas black tea can go bitter in as little as three minutes, depending on the quality of the leaf), I figured it wasn’t as important to pre-boil the water with spices.

I just about halved the recipe to make a nice 12oz to 16oz cuppa, and it was nice enough… but it was missing some kind of holiday touch. And it was a little too spicy for a holiday tea, thanks to the cardamom.

So I looked around at other tea blends (not that tea companies exactly provide recipes, but do list ingredients, except when they don’t), and came up with the following table of ingredients:

                 | ML | H&S | Up | RoT | M&B |
 =============================================
 Almond          | x  | x   | x  |     |     |
 ----------------+----+-----+----+-----+-----+
 Allspice        |    |     |    |     | 2   |
 ----------------+----+-----+----+-----+-----+
 Apple           | x  |     |    | x   |     |
 ----------------+----+-----+----+-----+-----+
 Cardamom        |    |     | x  |     | 2   |
 ----------------+----+-----+----+-----+-----+
 Cinnamon        | x  | x   | x  | x   | 1/2 |
 ----------------+----+-----+----+-----+-----+
 Cloves          |    | x   | x  | x   | 3   |
 ----------------+----+-----+----+-----+-----+
 Cornflower      | x  |     |    |     |     |
 ----------------+----+-----+----+-----+-----+
 Cranberry       | x  |     |    |     |     |
 ----------------+----+-----+----+-----+-----+
 Licorice root   |    |     |    | x   |     |
 ----------------+----+-----+----+-----+-----+
 Orange peel     | x  | x   | x  |     |     |
 ----------------+----+-----+----+-----+-----+
 Papaya          | x  |     |    |     |     |
 ----------------+----+-----+----+-----+-----+
 Peach           | x  |     |    |     |     |
 ----------------+----+-----+----+-----+-----+
 Rose petals     | x  |     | x  |     |     |
 ----------------+----+-----+----+-----+-----+
 Rosehips        | x  |     |    |     |     |
 ----------------+----+-----+----+-----+-----+
 Vanilla         |    |     | x  |     |     |
 ----------------+----+-----+----+-----+-----+

Some data observations:

  • Everybody’s got cinnamon.
  • Just about everyone’s got cloves.
  • Only M&B contained allspice, which contributed to over-spiciness.
  • Only M&B and Up contained cardamom, which can also be very spicy, or at least overwhelming.
  • Orange peel is included in the blends that also include almonds.

So I tried a few recipes based on them. Consider the somewhat halved M&B to be try #1.

Try #2
– 2 teaspoons red tea
– 1/2 tablespoon slivered blanched almonds
– 2 allspice berries
– 1 pinch of dried diced apples
– 1 cardamom pod, slightly crushed
– 1/2 cinnamon stick (about 1.5 inches)
– 3 cloves
– 1 dried cranberry
– 10 tiny pieces of dried orange peel
– 1/2 teaspoon pink peppercorns ((Not red pepper. A more subtle kick; it works surprisingly well in Queen Mary’s Strawberry Pepper.))
– 12oz boiling water poured immediately upon everything

Notes: Steeped for less than 10 minutes, which likely didn’t help with the fact that it tasted washed out. I’m not a super-taster, so I suck at making out so many ingredients, but that’s probably why more complex Mighty Leaf teas don’t do so well with me (their simpler ones, now, those make me happy).

Try #3, less complicated
– 1.5 teaspoons red tea
– 1 teaspoon slivered blanched almonds
– 1/2 cinnamon stick
– 3 cloves
– 1/4 teaspoon tiny dried orange peel pieces
– 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract!
– 12oz boiling water etc etc

Notes: Steeped for more than 10 minutes, which probably helped out greatly. The vanilla really was quite good, although I probably should have gone for mixing in Queen Mary’s Vanilla Cream Rooibos, or even their Vanilla Honeybush, instead of dumping in vanilla extract, but oh well.

I’d go back to the experiment if it weren’t for the fact that the holidays trigger me, so best leave it behind for now and just drink/play around with the Rooibos London Fog. Or maybe make a strawberry cream rooibos blend, since I managed to get some dried strawberries. Or do a pina-colada-ish blend.

Red tea: not that much like black tea, but isn’t as fussy as green tea, or even black tea.

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2 thoughts on “Post-Holiday Thoughts on Spiced Red Tea

  1. Have you noticed how many tea blends are including cornflowers these days? I’m beginning to wonder what/ how much they really add, besides looking pretty. Any ideas? Also, not sure about peach & papaya in a holiday blend, but they sound tasty. & maybe that’s the problem I have w/ rooibus in general: I’m definitely not steeping it long enough. I’m a black tea girl myself.

    Hullo from a tea-loving Sherlockian. a friend pointed me to your blog as I’m doing Urban Fantasy research & he noted we had a few things in common. Nice to make your acquaintance! -Karen, aka themadblonde

  2. Hello Karen/TheMadBlonde!

    Re: cornflowers – I find that cornflowers mellow out the taste of a tea blend.

    Re: peach & papaya – Teas involving tropical fruit is one of Mighty Leaf’s strong points (the other being chocolate teas). Their Holiday 2010 is thus entirely fitting. :) And at least it’s different from the rest.

    Re: red tea – Red teas really need a full brewing to turn out well, at least seven to eight minutes. Of course, this brew time also affects how one blends the tea, usually favorably so, allowing whole spices to really work their magic.

    And yay! Another Sherlock Holmes fan!

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