Winter means tea. Lots and lots of tea. But that doesn't mean it has to be the same old thing. Fire up the kettle and break out of your Earl Grey rut with these cozy brewed beverages.
1. MILK TEA
Look into any Japanese tea vending machine and you’re sure to spot a few bottles of milk tea, also known as royal milk tea. This sweet, mild drink is made with Ceylon, Assam, or Darjeeling tea and is delicious hot or iced. To make your own at home, follow the recipe in the video above, or, if you’re feeling lazy, just plop an Assam/Darjeeling-blend tea bag in hot water and stir in some milk and sugar. It’s not quite the same, but it’ll do for milk tea emergencies.
2. GINGER TEA
Ginger tea is the Swiss army knife of winter drinks. It’s somehow spicy, invigorating, and soothing at the same time. Ginger tea is great after a big meal as a digestive aid, and many people use it as a home remedy for everything from nausea to cold symptoms. To make your own, add a few thin slices of fresh ginger root to a pot of boiling water and let brew for 10 to 15 minutes, then remove from heat and add honey and fresh lime or lemon juice to taste.
3. BARLEY TEA
Image Credit: Badagnani, WikimediaCommons // CC BY 3.0
Barley tea (known as mugicha in Japanese, màichá in Mandarin, and boricha in Korean) is a wonderful, nutty, warming drink with only two ingredients: roasted barley seeds and water. You can make your own (it's pretty easy) or buy barley tea bags in Asian markets. As a bonus for the caffeine-sensitive, barley tea is naturally caffeine free, which makes it a great choice for evenings by the fire.
4. THAI HOT TEA
To paraphrase a health-conscious Cookie Monster, Thai tea is a sometimes food. This bright orange drink does contain tea, usually Ceylon, but it’s all the other ingredients—including sweetened condensed milk, orange blossom water, sugar, and coconut milk—that make it so delicious. Although it’s commonly served over ice, Thai tea is every bit as rich and indulgent when enjoyed hot.
5. YERBA MATE
Image Credit: iStock
The herbal tea called yerba mate (mah-tay) is as much a staple of South American households as coffee is in the States. This slightly bitter drink is made by pouring hot water over dried leaves and twigs from the yerba mate plant. The tea is typically brewed in a gourd or gourd-shaped container and drunk through a metal straw called a bombilla. If you’re invited to drink yerba mate in Argentina or Uruguay, it’s polite to drink it as is, but if you’re brewing your own at home, it’s fine to add a little honey or sugar.
6. TWIG TEA
Image Credit: Rama, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY SA 2.0
Speaking of twigs: kukicha, or “twig tea,” is not to be missed. This nutty, light tea is made from the dried stems and twigs of the tea plant—the parts left out of most teas. It’s popular in Japan for its slightly sweet flavor and low caffeine content. You can find twig tea in tea bag form in grocery stores and Asian markets.
7. MAGHREBI MINT TEA
Image Credit: Olve Utne, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0
Mint tea isn't a true tea, but it is a real delight. Like ginger tea, mint tea is known for its stomach-soothing properties. To brew your own, you’ll need fresh mint leaves, hot water, and a bit of sugar. Traditional Moroccan (or Maghrebi) mint tea is made with the spearmint plant Mentha spicata, but most other mint varieties will do nicely.
The powdered Japanese tea called matcha is traditionally prepared by whipping the tea into a steaming, emerald-green froth. Matcha has a mild, grassy flavor, but packs a lot of caffeine. For that reason, the matcha latte has become a favorite at American coffee bars (see the video above for a recipe).