You might not think that growing up as I did in a tiny, rural south Georgia town in the 50’s and 60’s would provide a person with many social opportunities. That assumption would be so wrong! I believe we probably had more social events back then than people have these days. And the most important social occasions in my small hometown were showers. Wedding showers and baby showers. Showers were big events back then. Huge events, really. It was not unusual for several hundred people to be invited to a wedding shower. Putting on a shower of that size required some detailed planning. Invitations were printed, hand addressed and mailed sufficiently ahead so that everyone could place the event on her calendar. Hostesses were assigned specific responsibilities and the gift shops in town prepared for the multitude of purchases which were delivered and set up on display tables before the honoree arrived. Many gifts were accompanied by the engraved calling card of the giver.
On the day of the big event, everyone dressed in their Sunday best – heels, hose…the works – and arrived at the celebration. Showers were as much a time to honor a bride or expectant mother as they were an opportunity to catch up on the local news and gossip. The location was always beautifully decorated with flowers and tables laden with white linen cloths, silver serving pieces and, always, a silver or crystal punch bowl. I remember those crystal punch bowls with the little cups that hung on tiny crystal hooks all around their edges. And more often than not, the punch bowl held the recipe that I’m sharing with you today. It’s a warm, citrusy spiced tea. Back then we called it “Russian Tea.” I don’t know why and we had no idea whether it was actually Russian or not. We probably thought it sounded exotic. Whether it is Russian in origin (which I doubt), it was so good and still is today. Sipping this sweet spiced tea takes me right back to those simpler, slower times. Days when we planned events months in advance, hand addressed correspondence and put on our Sunday best to show how much we cared for those we shared our lives with.
I haven’t made this recipe in quite a few years so when I went to the grocery store for some loose black tea I was shocked that I couldn’t find it. I mean none…anywhere! I’ve always used Lipton’s loose black tea for this, so I settled on trying these black pearl tea bags. It was just as good, but does anyone know why you can’t find loose tea in the regular grocery store anymore?
Place the tea bags or loose tea in a heat proof measuring cup or other container. Pour the 4 cups of boiling water over the tea bags and let steep while preparing the rest of the recipe.
In a medium saucepan, prepare in infusion by bringing 1/2 cup water, sugar, cloves and cinnamon stick to a boil. Boil for one minute. Remove cloves and cinnamon and pour into a large mixing bowl. Add the orange juice and lemon juice into the spiced infusion. Stir well to combine. Remove the tea bags (or strain the loose tea) and combine with the spiced infusion and juice.
Serve warm in punch cups or tea cups.