Drinks & Eats

Making Mulled Spice Blends For Tea

Nothing says fall like simmering spices.
Nothing says fall like simmering spices.
Enjoy the season with your own blend!
Enjoy the season with your own blend!
When I imagine cozy autumnal afternoons, I can almost smell the fragrance of cinnamon, nutmeg and spices wafting through my kitchen, as if some freshly baked warm gingerbread was left cooling on the counter. Of course, before I sink my fork into a piece of gingerbread, I want a hot cup of tea to go with it. Since I'm a tea lover, I'd rather have a chai latte than coffee to pair with my gingerbread cake.

Mulling spices with loose leaf black tea makes a wonderful tea latte to snuggle up with when fall arrives. Pumpkin spice lattes, move on over.

Ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, vanilla, nutmeg, pink peppercorns and orange zest pair well with black teas of all kinds. You can create you own blends and mix and match with your favorite teas.

Mulled spices are infusions that can be used in baking, poaching fruit, and mulling with wine also work perfectly when paired with tea. Not to mention, it makes the whole house smell heavenly.

Infusing a melange of spices can also be good for your health. Drinking mulled spice tea can be a natural way to soothe digestion, lower inflammation, and improve mood. The combination of ginger and cinnamon together help balance blood sugar. Ginger can help relieve nausea, indigestion and morning sickness. Ginger contains compounds called gingerols, which reduces swelling. Cinnamon contains cinnamaldehyde, a compound known for its effects on blood, improving circulation throughout the body. Fresh vanilla bean pods have antioxidants and nerve soothing B vitamins. This can provide relief from stress and restlessness. Besides, whole vanilla pods smell wonderful when mulled and enhance the other spices and tea.

If you are thinking about mulling spices this fall season, consider making a batch of homemade spiced tea. Mulling is essentially steeping, and the best way to mull spices with tea is by using whole leaves, pods, stems, roots and sticks. Choose cinnamon sticks, and freshly cut and peeled ginger root. You can use cheesecloth to make a sachet to contain the loose spices and tea. Add to a pot of hot water and allow it to steep for at least a half an hour. You may add a natural sweetener such as raw honey (rich in vitamins and minerals) or agave, even a dollop of real maple syrup. Frothed milk (or for a non-dairy latte use almond milk) makes a delicious and healthy latte. Top with freshly grated cinnamon and nutmeg to create your own tea latte.

Spices and loose leaf tea blends make great holiday gifts for your tea loving friends as well. Create pretty sachet bundles and place them in a decorative tin or jar to share your love of spices and tea.

One of my favorite blends is based on the traditional Indian chai tea. To make an authentic blend — there are as many versions of homemade Indian chai as there are people in India, as everyone has their own way of making chai tea — just put together a few of these basic ingredients, adding or subtracting more or less of what you desire:

* loose black tea (Assam or Ceylon)
* ginger (dry stores longer, but fresh is a touch more pungent!)
* cinnamon
* fennel seed or aniseed
* green cardamom
* black peppercorns

Vanilla and cloves can enhance your chai tea creation nicely. If you don't like a certain spice, just leave it out of your mulling sachet, and you've created your own signature spiced tea blend.

Making Custom-Blended Chai Tea

The measurements for spices are approximations, as you may choose more or less of what you'd like in your spiced tea blend. Consider adding your spices in before the tea to mull the spices longer, resulting in a stronger spice-to-tea ratio. This recipe makes 1 cup of chai tea, add more spices per person accordingly.

(makes 1 cup)

* 3/4 cup water plus 1/4 cup milk (whole/almond/coconut)
* 2 teaspoons per cup loose black tea leaves (Assam or Ceylon tea)
* 2 green cardamom pods
* 2-3 whole black peppercorns
* 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
* 1-2 cinnamon sticks
* Fresh ginger (2 slices)
* Honey, to taste (optional)

Heat water and milk. Add fresh ginger (with skin, sliced into thin rounds) and green cardamom pods, cinnamon stick, fennel seeds, peppercorns and cinnamon. When the milk and water mixture comes to boil, turn down the flame and add some loose black tea. Turn off the heat and let steep for 6-10 minutes. You may steep your spices longer without adding the black tea if you want a spicier cup. Sieve to strain out tea leaves and spices. Serve hot.