How to make Ukrainian-style ginger tea with lemon, mint and cloves
Whether served hot in the winter or cold in summer, this Ukrainian-style ginger tea with lemon, mint and cloves is sure to make you smile. Add a dollop of honey for extra goodness.
It was a cold January day in the Ukraine when my group ventured into a very modern brewery restaurant. But beer was not on my agenda. After having been out in the cold shooting photos for a couple of hours, I wanted to warm the cockles of my heart, so to speak. It wasn’t going to hurt if I could wrap my chilled fingers around a cup filled with warming goodness.
Then I saw a pot of something in front of a colleague who had arrived a bit earlier: “Hey,” I said, from the other end of the table, “what IS that?” The concoction was steaming and through the glass teapot I could see mint and other spices floating in a dense lemony-looking liquid. Ginger tea, I was told. So I ordered it. And let me tell you this was WAY beyond your run-of-the-mill ginger tea.
It had a spicy ginger flavor – but not too sharp – complemented by lemon with a hint of mint and cloves. I added my own dollop of honey. And I drank the whole pot – YUM!
I dreamed of that tea for weeks afterward and finally tried to recreate it. Recreating this yummy ginger tea with lemon, mint and cloves was not an easy task. Partly because the freshness of the ginger and herbs as well as how you grate, chop or muddle them affects the flavor so much. That is perhaps a good thing since you can personalize it to your own tastes: Add more ginger or grate finer for more ginger flavor. Add less lemon or more mint to minimize or bring out that flavor. Even consider cinnamon sticks, allspice, or star of anise for a different touch. Not a honey fan? Sugar will be your addition – IF you want it sweet at all.
My next job is to make a larger pot and then chill it for a great summery drink!
Here is the recipe I came up with. Remember, the freshness of the ingredients will have a lot to do with their strength in your end result. Try this version, and then add or subtract to adapt to your preferences. And don’t be afraid to let it steep for a bit! We found that sometimes the second cup after 15 or 20 minutes was better than the first, having a richer flavor.
Making Ukrainian-style ginger tea with lemon, mint and cloves
Recipe is for one regular sized teapot or about 3 cups of water
Tools you will need:
Teapot with infuser insert, or a regular teapot and a large tea ball
Vegetable peeler or paring knife
Spoon or muddling tool
How to make ginger tea with lemon, mint and cloves
1 – 1½ tablespoons finely grated fresh ginger
1 – 2 tablespoons fresh mint leaves
1/2 – 1 teaspoon fresh whole cloves
½ – 2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
(definitely use the lesser amount if you want to bring out more of the ginger flavor, or add more to make it more lemony)
- Peel the rough exterior from the fresh ginger using a vegetable peeler or a simple paring knife.
- Finely grate the ginger. I used a microplane grater but do watch out for your fingers and knuckles! (You can also cut it into tiny chunks but the version I made with chunks had less of a ginger flavor)
- Remove mint leaves from the branch and smoosh them around a bit with the back of a spoon or muddler until they look a little beat up and creased.
- Squeeze the lemon juice. Add the remaining pulp, too, for a little extra thick yum.
- Put the ginger into the infuser or tea ball and drop it into the pot.
- Add into the pot all of the mint leaves, cloves and lemon juice. I threw them in loose but you could add them into another tea ball if you don’t want the cloves drifting into your cup.
- Top with super hot boiling water.
- Wrap or cover the pot to keep it warm as the Ukrainian-style ginger tea with lemon steeps for at least 5 minutes, if not more.
Pour into a mug, adding honey or sugar, as desired. Garnish with a slice of lemon or mint sprig if you’d like. Wrap your fingers around the mug and enjoy the warm goodness – not to mention the herbal benefits of all these great fresh ingredients.
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