Russian Tea is a Taste of the Past


Russian Tea


“Winter must be cold for those with no warm memories.” ~From the movie An Affair to Remember


I was sitting in Our Little House this weekend enjoying the warmth of the wood stove and looking out onto the 10.5 inches of snow when a craving from a long time past hit me.

Russian Tea. There was nothing that would make me happier than a nice, hot cup of Russian Tea.

I don’t remember if my mother received a jar as a gift or if she got the recipe, as she did so many ideas then from Country Living Magazine, but I do remember it was Christmas 1979 when I believe she first started making it.

We had moved that summer from Our Little Bungalow into my mom’s dream home, a turn of the century brick Tudor with a ceramic tile roof.

It wasn’t a mansion, by any measure, but it was one of the largest homes in our railroad community, built by the man who founded both the bank and the general store.

It sat on a half-acre corner lot and with its original leaded glass windows and built in bookcases, china cabinets and chandeliers, it was a gorgeous home.

Restoring the old home to its former glory allowed my mother’s creative ability to really shine, in her decorating and in the kitchen.

1979-80 was a cold, snow filled winter. I remember my dad walking the few blocks to his railroad job several times because the roads were snow packed.

It was a perfect winter to enjoy the lemony orange goodness of Russian Tea, which became a staple in my mother’s kitchen.  It could always be found in one of her antique tins on her counter.

If you’ve never had Russian Tea, it is a sugary mixture of orange Tang, pre-sweetened Country Time Lemonade, instant tea, cinnamon and cloves.

It’s a rusty orange color when mixed with hot water (Dale always said the color reminded him of old car radiator water), but is oh, so good on a cold day, especially when one is fighting off a cold or flu.

The winter our German daughter, Steffi, lived with us, was also a cold one. I introduced her to the tea and we would enjoy it while munching on German cookies her family sent us from Munich.

I’m a coffee gal now. I don’t remember when or why I stopped drinking Russian Tea. It was probably a mixture of my resolve to eat/drink healthier and my loss of taste for most things sweet (except chocolate). But, as my holistic doctor has said to me, “Sometimes you just have to go for the comfort foods. Go with it!”

It’s not something I would drink everyday, but a cup now and then this cold winter will not hurt.

So, this weekend, I will buy the ingredients and also get a few little mason jars and give some Russian Tea as gifts this holiday season, as it does make a really nice little family present, or small gift for a friend, teacher, neighbor, etc.

Don’t forget to tie a pretty ribbon around the top and include the recipe!

Russian (also called Friendship) Tea

½ cup instant tea powder

1 cup pre-sweetened Country Time Lemonade mix

1 cup orange flavored Tang

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

½ tsp. ground cloves

Mix together in a large mixing bowl. Place in an airtight container. Make by the cup by putting 2-3 tsp. of mix into a cup of boiling water. Will keep without clumping for 2-3 months. 

Have you ever had this tea? 

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14 Responses

  1. AnneinColo says:

    I first met this tea backpacking on Pike’s Peak. The camp keeper at Barr Camp would make cups for folks coming in from the cold.

    And I think that’s the key — when the weather’s cold you can use some extra calories to stay warm.

    A couple of substitutions if you’re trying to stay away from processed foods. First both lemonade and orangeade are equal parts juice and granulated sweetener (I’m using Xylitol) mixed into water. Then the Russian guy I know makes his with brewed tea and a spoonful of jelly or a piece of hard candy dropped in.

  2. Barbara says:

    Wow, I was just thinking about this tea the other day! My mom used to make it as well, though she didn’t add the lemonade mix. We would also make up batches in mason jars to give as gifts at Christmastime.

    Thank you for the recipe! It’s nice to have it available again.

  3. Gerri says:

    How about this recipe, so much healthier 🙂 Love some Russian Tea, thanks for the post. Brings back memories

  4. It’s amazing how certain foods and drinks do more than satisfy our taste buds, but also bring back memories and thoughts of people we once shared them with. Very touching to hear about how this simple drink links you to your past with your mother and daughters. Sounds delicious! I’m going to mix up a batch for these long winter days when I crave comfort in a cup!

  5. Sheryl says:

    I’ve never had this. Although it’s not that healthy, at least it does have some health benefits of tea. It does sound like a nice, once-in-a-while treat, though!

  6. Kim S. says:

    Oh, yes! We make a batch as the leaves turn every year. This year’s batch is gone, so it’s time for a second, I think. The Tang does give you a wallop of Vitamin C, and the cinnamon and cloves are wonderful herbs for fighting illness, so I justify all that sugar. We make ours without the lemonade mix, though.

    I found this year that our Wal-Mart no longer carries Tang… had to hunt it down at a family-owned grocery store. (Which I should’ve been shopping at anyway! Serves me right!)

    • Kerri says:

      What!? Walmart no longer carries Tang? That’s un-American!:) Yeah, I’m pretending the Vitamin C and cinnamon offset the sugar, too. I’m getting everything for a batch this weekend.

  7. Freth says:

    Make the mix with everything except the tea powder … boil up a nice pot of Rooibos or some other herbal tea … pour a cup of tea and then add the 2-3 tsp. of mix. Sounds good to me!! 🙂

    • Kerri says:

      Good idea, Freth. I was trying to figure out how to make this healthier. Conventionally grown tea has a high rate of pesticides.