A Cup of Spicy Christmas Tea

I can’t imagine a cold, wet, interminably grey Northwest winter without the comfort of hot tea with mulling spices. And when it snows, this daily ritual takes on an almost magical significance.

I love the smell of aromatic spices in the house. I love inhaling warm wafts of spicy goodness while cradling a cup of hot tea in both hands. Comfort is the word that comes to mind, but an elemental comfort that is hard to describe. At these moments, I know in the deepest way that no matter what is appearing in my life, all is somehow, inexplicably, as it should be and thus perfect. This feeling sometimes runs counter to all logic, and yet there it is as I sip my spicy mulled tea.

The tradition of infusing tea, cider, wine, and brandy with highly aromatic spices, such as cinnamon, cloves, star anise, allspice, and nutmeg, along with citrus peel, is centuries old and closely associated with the festivities of the Christmas season.

When creating mulling spices for tea, it’s important to crush or even powder the spices to insure that their full flavor infuses into the boiling water in just 2-4 minutes, or the time it takes to brew the tea. Any longer and you will bring out the tannins in the tea, which result in that astringent, puckery feel in the mouth.

On the other hand, mulling spices can be left in larger pieces if they are intended for a drink that can be simmered considerably longer, such as mulled cider, wine or brandy.

Christmas Tea Mulling Spice

If you plan to invite a few friends over for tea and nibbles this holiday season, do infuse your favorite tea with this heady blend of spices. While you’re at it, have someone read aloud the heartwarming little story, A Cup of Christmas Tea. I guarantee you will all feel blessed by the Spirit of Christmas.

A ribbon-tied jar of mulling spices makes a lovely small gift or stocking stuffer.

2 ounces candied ginger, chopped (about ½ cup)
1 ounce Ceylon cinnamon stick, broken into ¼-inch pieces (one 4½-inch piece)
½ ounce whole allspice, crushed (about 2 tablespoons)
½ ounce cardamom pods, crushed lightly, outer shell discarded (about 2 tablespoons seeds)
¼ ounce star anise (about 2 tablespoons)
1/8 ounce cloves, slightly crushed (about 1 tablespoon)
finely grated zest of 2 large oranges
¼ teaspoon orange oil

  1. If presenting as a gift in a 1½-cup, glass jar, layer all ingredients in the airtight jar, and seal. Instruct the recipient to mix the spices well before using for the first time.
  2. Otherwise, mix the ingredients, put into an airtight container, and seal.
  3. Store in a cool, dry, dark location. Keeps for many months.

Makes 4½ ounces (about 1¼ cups).

Spicy Christmas Tea

2 tablespoons Christmas Tea Mulling Spice 
2 teaspoons favorite black tea
sweetener of your choice, optional
thin slices lemon, optional

  1. Bring a kettle of fresh, cold water just to a simmer. (Do not boil.)
  2. In the meanwhile, put Christmas Tea Mulling Spice and tea into a teapot strainer basket or large tea strainer.
  3. Pour4 cups of  just simmering water over the spices and tea into a teapot or other container with pouring spout.
  4. Let steep 2-4 minutes, then remove the spices and tea, and pour spiced tea into tea cups to serve. If desired, sweeten and serve with lemon.

Serves 2-4.

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  1. Penny Wolf says

    YummmY! I’m having mine with a Mexican wedding cookie made with black walnuts.
    I’m not a historian but still can’t help thinking of the spice trade and all that goes with it.
    Spices are a true gift. Thank you.

  2. says

    Popped over for a visit and found this lovely tea recipe. I just posted a post on teas, so I was delighted to find this! I’m drinking tea as we speak. It is such a nurturing and fulfilling ritual isn’t it? Happy winter my dear, here’s to us!

    • sms bradley says

      Ahhh… Dana, so nice to be sharing a lovely cup of tea with you on this rainy, windy, cold Portland night. Without hot tea, winter would not be nearly so nice. Looking forward to catching up on your latest posts! Best…Susan

  3. says

    What a great & heart warming tea gift!! Haleluja!
    .-= Sophie´s last blog ..Chicken with a cranberry, port & orange sauce, served with sugared braised Belgian endives =-.

  4. says

    Hi, I was searching a recipe for candied orange and lemon peel and came across your blog. Thank you for sharing your recipe. I mentioned your blog and linked your blog to my blog post so people can visit your blog for your recipes. I hope it is OK. Thanks again.

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