Russian Tea is a cozy citrus-tea mixture, enhanced with warm mulling spices. This dry mix last months on the shelf; when ready to serve, simply add hot water and stir. (Free gift printable included.)
What's the Story Behind this Recipe?
As I get older, I find myself remembering more and more about the women in my mother’s circle who influenced my life. Remember Mrs. Houston? I've written about her a couple of times: she was my mother's super-talented, perpetually cranky friend who taught me to embroider and made my family Nuts-n-Bolts for Christmas every year.
Mrs Houston also introduced me to Russian Tea - a warm, cozy concoction that has ties to both the 1960's penchant for convenience foods and NASA’s space program.
Tang, the primary ingredient in Russian Tea mix, was known in my childhood as the drink “the astronauts took to the moon.” Tang first made its appearance in the late 1950’s, but didn’t sell well until it got a super-powered boost from NASA in the early 60’s when it was included in the food-stores of John Glenn’s Mercury spaceflight, and later on the Gemini missions. Mom was suspicious of anything unfamiliar to her Midwest Depression Era upbringing (i.e., yogurt, pizza, Swiss cheese, etc.); however, if it was good enough for John Glenn, it was good enough for her.
Do Russians really drink Russian Tea?
Doubtful. We have a family full of Eastern European in-laws, and none of them (to my knowledge) have ever even heard of Russian Tea.
Initially, I thought the name might have something to do the US-Russian Space Race and the Tang connection. However, after doing a little investigating, I learned that recipes for Russian Tea predate the dawn of Tang; appearing first in US post-World War II community cookbooks, as a mix of brewed black tea, orange juice, and warm spices.
Later, when Lipton developed the first instant iced tea formula in the late 1950's - just two years after the release of Tang - Russian Tea became increasingly popular, as it could be made ahead of time in bulk, making it appealing for parties, large gatherings, and gift giving.
Whatever its origins, Russian Tea is just about the coziest non-alcoholic beverage I know of. It tastes a lot like mulled cider, with a warm, citrusy kick.
What Goes into this Recipe
Use whatever products/brands are most familiar and accessible to you. We include the brands we use here for reference only.
★ Orange drink mix: Use a dry, sugar-added, orange-flavored drink mix. We use Tang when we can find it. (Costco often has it.)
★ Instant tea: Use a dry ice tea mix, with or without lemon added. We use Lipton Ice Tea Mix. Do not use Sweet Tea mix.
★ Lemonade mix: Use a dry, sugar-added plain lemonade mix, or use a dry-unsweetened mix and add sugar. We most often use Country Time Lemonade Mix, but have used Wyler's in the past.
★ Sugar: Use plain white sugar. Use sugar only if your lemonade mix is unsweetened.
★ Spices: In addition to the cinnamon and cloves, we often add a little fresh nutmeg to the mix.
How to Make this Recipe
Mix orange drink mix, instant tea, sugar, lemonade mix, and spices together. Store in an airtight container.
To make one cup of Russian Tea, add one heaping tablespoon of mix (or to taste) to a cup of hot water and stir.
Give the Gift of Russian Tea
Not only is Russian Tea is easy to put together and delicious to drink, but the dry mix makes a lovely housewarming, hostess, or holiday gift as well. We’ve included free printable gift tags just for this purpose!
Make yourself a cup of Russian Tea today and curl up with a good book. Nah zdarovhyeh!
That's (phonetic) Russian for Cheers!
More Warmly-spiced Recipes
Russian Tea Mix
- Mix all ingredients together. Store in an airtight container.
To make one cup of Russian Tea:
- Add one heaping tablespoon of mix (or to taste) to a cup of hot water and stir.
MOCK Russian Tea:
- If black tea is something you choose to avoid, you can make Mock Russian Tea by simply leaving out the instant tea. It still tastes warm and cozy.
This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. You are solely responsible for ensuring that any nutritional information provided is accurate, complete, and useful.
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Originally published October 8, 2014. Post has been updated with new content, images, and recipe instructions to improve reader experience.
UPDATE: This post was first published on The Good Hearted Woman, November 23, 2015.