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Southern Spiced Tea (Russian Tea)

Old Fashioned Southern Spiced (Russian) Tea is a mixture of warm black tea with orange and lemon juices infused with cloves and cinnamon. It’s a soul-warming winter tea that’s all about comfort.

This hot spiced Russian tea recipe is a classic southern recipe that’s perfect for almost any social occasion. It’s the perfect drink to serve for holiday parties, family get-togethers, or social occasions like christenings, weddings, and baby showers.

A cup of spiced tea with a lemon slice and a cinnamon stick in the cup.

You’ll find this recipe in most old Southern cookbooks. It’s made with fresh orange juice, lemon juice, black tea, cloves, and cinnamon. One taste, and you’ll wonder where this drink has been all your life.

I’m going to show you how to make Russian tea from scratch in this recipe. If you’ve been searching for spiced tea recipes, I’m sure you’ve come across many that use Tang breakfast drink as a base. Bleh. If you want to experience the true flavor of spiced Russian tea, this recipe is 100% authentic and beats the socks off those Tang-y versions.

You might not think that growing up as I did in a tiny, rural south Georgia town in the ’50s and ’60s 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.

Two cups of spiced tea with a plate of cookies in the background.

✍🏻 We Were Really Social Folks

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. Most gifts were accompanied by the engraved calling card of the giver.

👗 Preparing for Social Events in the ’60s

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.

☕ Featuring Russian Tea

This is 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.

According to Southern Living magazine, Russian tea did start out as a hot beverage enjoyed by upper-class Russians in the late 19th century. Though their version was made with black tea, lemon, and sugar only, Southerners quickly picked up the idea and made it their own by adding cloves, cinnamon, and orange juice.

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.

Spiced tea being poured from a pitcher into a cup.

❤️ What You’ll Love About This Recipe

  • This Russian Tea recipe is a Southern classic that has been enjoyed for generations.
  • It’s the perfect beverage for social occasions and celebrations.
  • It has a really lovely balance of sweet and tangy flavors infused with warming spices.

🛒 Essential Ingredients

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  • Black Tea (If you can find loose tea, I recommend it; otherwise, use small black tea bags.)
  • Orange Juice and Lemon Juice (Freshly squeezed is recommended.)
  • Whole Cloves and Cinnamon Stick (You’ll need the whole spices, not ground.)

The complete ingredient list with detailed measurements is included in the printable recipe card at the bottom of this post.

🥄 How to Make Spiced Tea (Russian Tea)

Prepare and Steep the Tea

  1. Place the tea bags or loose tea in a heatproof measuring cup or other container.
  2. Pour the 4 cups of boiling water over the tea bags and let the tea steep while preparing the rest of the recipe.

👉 PRO TIP: 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 some 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?

Prepare the Infusion

  1. In a medium saucepan, prepare an infusion by bringing 1/2 cup water, sugar, cloves, and the cinnamon stick to a boil.
  2. Boil for one minute.
  3. Remove the cloves and cinnamon.
  1. Add the orange juice and lemon juice into the spiced infusion. Stir well to combine.
  2. Remove the tea bags (or strain the loose tea) and combine with the spiced infusion and juice.
  3. Serve warm in punch cups or teacups.
A cup of spiced tea with a lemon slice and a cinnamon stick in the cup.

❓ Questions About Spiced Tea

What is an “infusion”?

In cooking, to make an infusion simply means to steep one or more ingredients in liquid (usually warm) until the flavor from the ingredient(s) becomes infused into the liquid. In this recipe, we’re extracting the flavor from the spices into the sugar and water mixture.

Can I make this in a slow cooker?

If you want to make a big batch for a party and keep it warm, you can do so in a slow cooker. Follow the recipe and simply pour the finished tea in a slow cooker set to its lowest temperature.

Can I use another kind of tea?

I’ve only made this recipe with black tea for the last 40 or so years so I can’t advise you on how to substitute other kinds of tea.

Can I use ground cloves and cinnamon?

You can, but you’ll have to strain the tea through cheesecloth to remove the spices before serving. It’s worth it to purchase a small jar of each of the whole spices for making the recipe.

Lana Stuart.

Questions? I’m happy to help!

If you have more questions about the recipe, or if you’ve made it and would like to leave a comment, scroll down to leave your thoughts, questions, and/or rating!

Thanks so much for stopping by!

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A cup of spiced tea with a lemon slice and a cinnamon stick in the cup.

Spiced Tea (Russian Tea)

Old Fashioned Southern Spiced (Russian) Tea is a mixture of warm black tea, orange and lemon juice, infused with cloves and cinnamon.
4.97 from 27 votes
Print It Rate It
Course: Beverages
Cuisine: Southern, Vintage
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 8 servings
Calories: 81kcal
Author: Lana Stuart


  • 8 small tea bags black tea (or 8 teaspoons loose black tea)
  • 4 cups boiling water
  • ½ cup water
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • ¼ cup fresh orange juice strained
  • ½ cup fresh lemon juice strained


  • 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 an infusion by bringing 1/2 cup water, sugar, cloves and cinnamon stick to a boil.
  • Boil for one minute.
  • Remove cloves and cinnamon.
  • 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 teacups.


  • If you can find loose black tea, I recommend it; otherwise, use small black tea bags.
  • Freshly squeezed orange and lemon juice are best.
  • You’ll need whole cloves and cinnamon sticks, not ground.

Nutrition Information

Serving 1 | Calories 81kcal | Carbohydrates 21g | Protein 1g | Fat 1g | Saturated Fat 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat 1g | Monounsaturated Fat 1g | Sodium 2mg | Potassium 35mg | Fiber 1g | Sugar 20g | Vitamin A 18IU | Vitamin C 10mg | Calcium 8mg | Iron 1mg

Nutrition information is calculated by software based on the ingredients in each recipe. It is an estimate only and is provided for informational purposes. You should consult your healthcare provider or a registered dietitian if precise nutrition calculations are needed for health reasons.

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— This post was originally published on March 8, 2010. It has been updated with new photos and additional information.

A cup of hot spiced tea with a plate of cookies in the background.

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    This is the REAL DEAL ! None of that Tang crap. I like to use the small can of frozen O.J. Concentrate and just pout it all in without adding water to it. I like the pulpy bits mixed in. I used Family Size Tea bags….think I used 4 and 8 cups of water. Great recipe, great winter drink.

  2. I’ll bet your grocery store phased the loose leaf tea out because it wasn’t selling well. That’s what my local one did last year. I now buy my loose leaf tea from Stash Teas in Oregon. They have several varieties to choose from.

    My Grandma Croft (my father’s grandmother/adopted mother, long story) made a fruit spiced tea a lot like this one, though she used whatever fruit juice she had on hand–apple, pineapple and cranberry were a few family favorites. However, the orange juice version is the only hot tea my father AND my son will drink.

    1. Yes, you’re probably right about them discontinuing the loose leaf in stores. Not many people buy it now. However, I did find that I could purchase it online easily!

  3. Misty Posey says:

    5 stars
    This was amazing! Very easy and fast to fix and my family loved it! I did add a bit more ground cloves and cinnamon because I love the spice. Over all this is a great addition with my sugar cookies :)

  4. 5 stars
    I’ve always had this with pineapple juice. My Mama and her sisters all make it with pineapple juice. Is that just a weird family thing?

    1. I’ve never had it with pineapple juice but I’m sure it’s delicious.

  5. Mary Mazur says:

    Hi Lana, you’re right about the availability of loose tea in regular grocery stores. I buy mine at our local Desi (Indian) grocery. It steeps much more quickly and less packaging appeals to me. You can also get good quality tea strainers there.

  6. Very very good! I grew up drinking the powdered version of Russian Tea. This is far better. :) I did pull a switcheroo with the oj and lemon juice (1/2c oj and 1/4 lemon) because we like orange flavor so much. I steep the tea extra long because we like our tea with a little shtank to it! I also cut a clementine in half to boil with the infusion, just because. All very very good. Thank you! P.S. Has anybody made this with honey instead of sugar?

  7. Can you drink this iced? Or does it have to be served warm?

    1. Lana Stuart says:

      It’s meant to be served warm. You could always try it iced and see if you like it.

  8. Mimi Zoll says:

    My parents were from Alabama. Dad used to make this recipe in late October (I think it was this one?) but he’d put it in a big Mason jar and store it until the Christmas holidays. It had just a little kick to it, but I guess that went away in the reheating.

    Oh, and he had to remove the little bit of mold floating on the top.

    I’ve tried to find the recipe which would mention setting it aside to ferment, but all the results turn up with kombucha. Wonder if that’s what we were drinking? This was easily 50 years ago.

    Thanks for the recipe and for the memories!

    1. Lana Stuart says:

      Very interesting. That’s the first I’ve ever heard of letting it ferment! We always make it and serve immediately.

  9. We have no problem buying loose tea in the supermarkets here (Ireland) so I am going to try making your Russian tea. Sounds nice and would make a change from always drinking black tea. Thank you for recipie.

    1. Lana Stuart says:

      I do hope you enjoy it, Deirdre. By the way, this tea can be stored in the refrigerator and reheated by the cup. It keeps very well for several days.

  10. This is the same recipe my late mother always made. It is the one I make. Easy, but I do use an electric juicer when making it for a crowd. Anyone who drinks this will not go to the “instant” version. It keeps well in the refrigerator and reheated. Yum.

    1. Lana Stuart says:

      I just love it, Joan. I’d *much* rather have this than the instant version.

      1. We never strained our juices. If you are going to put it in a server with a spout, it would make sense. I order my loose teas from Harney & Sons. For the past 2 years I have entertained my DAR Chapter with a High Tea in December. I try to have at least 6 teas for members and guests to try. Making scones, finger sandwiches and other savories and sweets is a lot of fun. I have tables in 2 rooms, but put my mother’s electric serving tray on the breakfast table to keep the pots of tea warm. Guests just have to go get their own tea–no one complains.

        1. Lana Stuart says:

          Sounds lovely, Joan!

  11. I drink tons of flavored tea, but somehow I never thought about making my own. So gonna try this :)

  12. Wow…that a lot of people invited! Must be so much fod and fun. Love the tea, especially with orange and lemon juice added. Would love to try.

  13. kathy gori says:

    I remember teas, and a very starched white pique dress (easter dress) that I wore to one. I still have the picture somewhere. This brings back many memories, even though I grew up nowhere near the south.

  14. My kids grew up in Virginia and eastern Kentucky… it was the same there. I really miss all of that. The simplest things were so special.

    As far as loose leaf teas goes, for years I have bought mine from specialteas. They are not as pricey as some of the other sites or as commercial as Teavanna (the Starbucks of Tea). Their service is very personal and their teas are excellent.

    My book-club friends and I have “Teas” regularly. Partly because we love to make all the little goodies, partly because we love all the tea paraphernalia and ritual, but mostly because we love to have an excuse to meet and dish!

    1. Linda – Thanks for the information on the loose tea. I just knew it had to be out there somewhere!

  15. Amy from She Wears Many Hat says:

    It all sounds quite lovely except the hose. If I never wear a pair of hose again I’ll be just fine.

    Yummy tea. Haven’t had it in a while – thanks for the reminder.

  16. Nutmeg Nanny says:

    This tea looks great! I have never heard of hundreds of people invited to a shower, but I can imagine it would be fun to plan.

  17. Yes, I remember the showers and socials. (I grew up in Alabama.) Did ya’ll have little pimiento cheese finger sandwiches? Silver bowls of mixed nuts? Homemade butter mints? How about petit fours? A gracious time — thanks for the reminder.

    1. Oh, yes! Pimiento cheese, chicken salad, and cucumber finger sandwiches were requirements! Petit fours, too. I’ve made enough finger sandwiches to feed an army in my lifetime :-)

  18. Oh yes, it was always quite an affair to remember. If it was a bridal shower, the “miscellaneous shower” was the large, blow it all out, event. I have some pictures of us from my miscellaneous shower. We were so young. Ahhhhhh…….

    The tea was often served from a silver tea service, complete with footed tray, tea pot or samovar, sugar bowl, creamer, waste container, etc, etc, etc. The punch was generally a slushy concoction, with a frozen fruit ring in the center. I always liked that floating fruit ring the best. Go figure.

    To be asked by the honoree to serve was a sign of esteem.

    Remember, everybody had to stay in good graces with one another so that each could “borrow” back and forth the silver serving trays, finest linen tablecloths and other items.

    The older I get, the more I appreciate ceremony and tradition. It would be refreshing to revive some of these traditions.

    Thanks for reminding me.

    Miss P

  19. jenn (Bread + Butter) says:

    I love a good cup of tea in the afternoon. Sounds lovely.

    1. Feed the Mind Transform the Body says:

      This recipe is the real deal with all fresh ingredients. Served it on Christmas Day and everyone loved it. Fresh is always best — free of dyes, preservatives, etc.