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Cold Weather Blues: 5 Tea Concentrates to Make at Home this Autumn

The clocks have turned back and every new autumn morning is now as bright as its spring counterpoint-- but waking up to beautiful sun-streaks and eager houseplants isn't enough to mask the chill that is NYC these months, and it's only going to get colder *welp* -- I've been hearing Muddy Waters' "Cold Weather Blues" in the back of my head as a constant reminder-- If you're a singer like me, you have been doing everything you can to arm yourself against sore-throat weather. My favorite remedy from now on through these winter blues is LOTS and LOTS of tea. (To be honest, "LOTS and LOTS of tea" is a year-round thing for me, but for those who usually live on a coffee I.V. this is for you too!) I don't always have time to wait for tea to steep in the morning and I often get sick of having my same favorite teas over and over so I've started to make my own tea concentrates. Tea concentrates are often used to make lattes and other tea-flavored concoctions, which I will include some recipes for. The reason I've fallen in love with them is for the ability to just heat-and-go on my way out to work, but their versatility lends to spicing up the ways you drink tea for both those who already love it and those who may not be so keen on the plain, bitter mugs that are typical of single lonely tea bags and water. Here I have included 5 tea blends to try out and a few recipes to use them in.

Jasmine Green

Jasmine is my all-time fave scent and flavor... I probably have AT LEAST one cup of plain jasmine green tea everyday. It has a delicate flavor which on its own rarely overpowers whatever else you mix with it, making it a hard flavor to transfer into other recipes or even lattes. This concentrate is one of the easiest to make because all you need is store bought jasmine green tea bags, water, and a sweetener of your choice, and will make a more potent jasmine green that can be used in other recipes.

What you need:
  • 6 Jasmine Green Tea bags (some of my favorite are Mighty Leaf, Stash, and Numi, but any jasmine green or "jasmine pearls" are fine)
  • 2 cups of water
  • sweetener of your choice (I love agave for this recipe)
  • mason jar or other heat-proof container with lid
  • (optional: metal spoon or other metal utensil, rubber band)  
Just like making any cup of tea, boil water (2 cups). Meanwhile, get the 6 tea bags ready. I like to put them in the mason jar with the strings/tags on the outside, and I use a rubber band around the outside of the mason jar to keep them put. Mason jars are generally made to withstand heat (they are meant for the canning/jarring process!) but I usually put a metal spoon in with the tea bags just in case, the metal will take in some of the heat and keep the glass from cracking. Once the water has boiled pour into the mason jar leaving about a 1/2 in to the top. After 5 min. I add two big squeezes of agave-- but I recommend adjusting this to your own taste. When the tea start to cool I usually remove the spoon, cover the top with a cloth or paper towel and go off to take care of other things while it steeps, I leave it for an hour. Lastly, remove the tea bags and cover with lid. Keep refrigerated for up to 7 days.

Earl Grey


I had never been a die-hard earl grey fan until this past summer when the Nespresso machine at work would run out of green tea cartridges and earl grey was the next best caffeinated beverage. It, like jasmine green, has a bit of a floral flavor, but is very strong. It is also a black tea rather than a green tea. The key difference between earl grey and other black teas is the presence of a citrus flavor, bergamot. This can be added by using peels of the bergamot orange, but I like to use bergamot oil. Bergamot oil can be found in most healthfood stores or online, make sure you buy "Citrus bergamia" NOT "Monarda", an herb of the same name.

What you need:
  • 6 black tea bags
  • Bergamot (Citrus bergamia) oil
  • 2 cups of water
  • sweetener of choice (I love agave for this recipe)
  • Mason jar or other heat-proof container with lid
  • (optional: metal spoon or other metal utensil, rubber band)
Boil 2 cups of water. As the water boils, prepare mason jar. I like to place the 6 tea bags inside with the strings/tags on the outside, then I use a rubber band around the outside of the jar to keep them put. Mason jars are generally made to withstand heat (they are meant for the canning/jarring process!) but I usually put a metal spoon in with the tea bags just in case, the metal will take in some of the heat and keep the glass from cracking. Once the water has boiled pour into the mason jar leaving about a 1/2 in to the top. After 5 min. I add two big squeezes of agave-- but I recommend adjusting this to your own taste. When the tea start to cool I usually remove the spoon, cover the top with a cloth or paper towel and go off to take care of other things while it steeps, I leave it for a 1/2 hr. Lastly, remove the tea bags and cover with lid. Keep refrigerated for up to 7 days.

Chai

Chai tea is a spiced black tea from India. On its own it is a dark, aromatic, spicy tea that is great for warming up your throat and sinuses on chilly days. This concentrate can be made similarly to the last two, by steeping store bought chai tea bags, however here I'm going to show you how to spice the black tea yourself. I recommend using a stove and pot to boil the water rather than a kettle or microwave. This is one of my favorite tea concentrates because it can be used to make chai lattes without any of the added gunk and that might be in the chai lattes you get out, and it's also great to have around to put on desserts and my favorite: chai chia pudding.

What you need:
  • 3 black tea bags
  •  3 cinnamon sticks
  •  2 star anise
  •  3 allspice
  •  1 teaspoon cardamom seeds
  •  1/2 teaspoon of peppercorns
  •  5 whole cloves
  • 1 1/2 in. of fresh ginger, sliced thin
  • 1 vanilla bean or 1 generous teaspoon vanilla extract
  • (optional: 1 teaspoon rose water)
  • sweetener of choice (I love agave for this recipe)
  • mason jar or other heat-proof container with lid
  • strainer
  • (optional: metal spoon or other metal utensil, rubber band)
Boil two cups of water. I'd recommend doing this in a pot, as you will need to simmer the spices in it. Depending on the size of pot available, you may want to boil the water in greater quantity either in a larger pot or in a kettle and then transfer it to a smaller pot so that the water does not evaporate too much and is not too shallow. Once at a boil, lower the temperature to a simmer and add spices (incl. vanilla). Let simmer for 15 min. with lid on, stirring occasionally. Add in sweetener to taste after 10 min. Meanwhile, prepare mason jar with 3 tea bags. I like to put the bags in with the strings/tags on the outside, then I use a rubber band around the outside of the jar to keep them in place. I also put a metal spoon in to absorb some of the heat from the water, just in case this jar isn't made well (this is a very good thing to do whenever you use hot water in a glass container).  After the spices have simmered for 15 min. add the rose water if you'd like, otherwise pour through strainer into mason jar leaving 1/2 in. from the top. I like to let this steep for 45 min., but as soon as it starts to cool off I cover it loosely with a cloth or paper towel. After 45 min. remove the tea bags cover with lid. Keep refrigerated for up to 7 days.
 

Immunity

There are a few preventative care methods I have to keep from getting sick during these cold months. This one is my go-to because it's a lot easier and enjoyable to work a drink like this one into your day than it is to stand around gargling apple cider vinegar. This herbal mix is my own blend of immunity-boosting all-stars which you can self-bag and use like store bought tea bags. Beyond the cold months I also drink this whenever I feel stressed or tired or have any inkling that my immune system could use a helping hand. 

What you need: 
  • 4 teaspoon red hibiscus flowers (look for tea grade, or plain organic hibiscus petals)
  • 4 teaspoon dried rose hips (look for tea grade, or plain organic dried rose hips)
  • 2 teaspoon orange rind (you can leave an orange peel to dry by a radiator or in the oven at a low temperature, then just crumble up the dry rinds)
  • 1 teaspoon dried lemongrass
  • 1 teaspoon dried peppermint
  • (optional: sweetener of choice)
  • 2 cups of water
  • mason jar or other heat-proof container with lid
  • 4 Tea bags (Empty, their are many different kinds of disposable empty tea bags, any kind are fine. You can find them online or at most tea/coffee sections of your supermarket)
  • (optional: metal spoon or other metal utensil)
Boil 2 cups of water. As the water boils, prepare tea bags: divide the herbs between 4 empty tea bags. Make sure the tea bags are closed tight so that the herbs don't come out. Put the 4 tea bags into the mason jar with metal spoon. Mason jars are made to withstand high temperatures, but I like to use a metal spoon to absorb some of the heat whenever I use glass and hot water to keep the container from cracking. I do not sweeten this tea, but if you'd like to, add a sweetener of choice after the tea has steeped for 5 min. Pour the water into the mason jar, leaving 1/2 in from the top. When the tea starts to cool, remove the spoon, loosely cover the jar, and let it continue to steep for 30-40min. After it has steeped, remove tea bags and cover with lid. Keep refrigerated for up to 7 days.

Kold Killer 

I HATE BEING SICK. I rarely get sick... I don't have a lot of practice at it. When I get a common cold I feel like I'm going to DIE. It is also the case that when I DO get sick it is usually some form of sore throat-- A SINGER'S NIGHTMARE. This herbal blend is what I use to battle any colds, sinus problems, and sore throats I have.

What you need:
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice (fresh is ALWAYS better)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Honey (I prefer raw, unfiltered honey, especially for this recipe because it has the highest anti-bacterial properties of any kind of honey)
  • Mason jar or other heat-proof container with lid
  • (Optional: metal spoon)
Boil 2 cups of water. While the water is boiling, add the lemon juice, cayenne pepper, honey, and metal spoon to the mason jar. I use A LOT of honey, like 4 very generous tablespoons or more, but add to taste-- and the spoon is just their to absorb extra heat in case the mason jar isn't made well. Once the water boils, fill the mason jar leaving 1/2 in. from the top. Let steep until cool. I think the Kold Killer is most effective when warm, so this is a concentrate that you definitely want to warm back up when you drink it. Remove spoon and cover with lid.  Keep refrigerated for up to 7 days.


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