russian tea
22 March, 2021 | Ernest Atta Adjei Updated 2021

The Fascinating Story Of Russian Tea And How To Make One

Sometimes, it is funny how some drinks and food get their place names. French toast is not a French invention (it is probably from ancient Rome). Brussels sprouts come from Belgium, and Danishes core origin is Austria. But Russian tea may be one of the most appealing place names. 

The Russian beverage is not the usual drink you will find on restaurant menus or artfully steeped by a teapot in a coffee shop. As you may have already caught on, Russian tea has almost nothing to do with Russia and more to do with Southern creativity. 

The tea's name comes from black tea with lemon, including sugar. It was the preferred drink for the higher-class Russians in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. That was before they became the Southern staple. And for years, the beverage was passed down in church cookbooks. 

The Earliest References Of Russian Tea 

According to Yesterdish, one of the earliest references for the Russian drink was in December 1882 in The New York Times. There was an article in the New York Times about advice a doctor gave to a patient. The doctor recommended the patient stay hydrated when riding a tricycle recreationally.

The original recipes were a simple iced tea steeped with lemon and sometimes sugar. However, there was a 1907 edition of the San Antonio Gazelle article about the same Russian drink recipe. But the recipe was quite different. It included a blend of orange, lemon, tea, and sugar, and it is now the trademark being used today.

Sweet tea has built a massive reputation in the Southern. It is a classic drink people enjoy most of the year. Because of that, Russian tea has become synonymous with a hot beverage fragranced with lemons or oranges and spiced with cinnamon, rum, vanilla, and sometimes preserved cherries. 

Russian Tea Moves Away From The Upper-Class 

During the mid-1960s, Russian drink was not only made by upper-class Russians. Instead, it becomes available to mid-century kitchens and conveniences in the mid-century. 

A Statesville Record and Landmark 1966 edition included a recipe that changed loose black tea for an instant tea. Aside from that, it also changed the oranges for powdered orange drinks. 

Tang, together with spice and sugar. Eventually, Tang came out with its recipe for the beverage called "Hot Spiced Tea From Tang," which is a bit mouthful. 

Today, Russian drink is still a massive favorite drink in the south. It is served at book clubs, church potlucks, and on Christmas time, they share the Mason jars of the dry mix. In 2007, Reese Witherspoon shared a recipe from her grandmother on Good Housekeeping. It looked familiar to the people who grew up blending quantities of the dry mix as gifts. 

Other recipes include just a pinch of clove, changing sugar to lemonade mix, or emptying the powder into jars to create astonishing layers. However, everyone agrees that the Russian drink blend is the best when you top the jars with scraps of fabric, tied with a piece of ribbon, and shared with your friends. 

Making Russian Tea From Scratch 

how to make russian tea

For Russian drink recipes, most of them are made with Tang, allowing you to make an "instant" tea. Making instant breakfast tea can be very helpful in the mornings, especially if you have a short time. However, we will take the recipe from scratch, which uses juice and highly steeped tea. 

The flavors simmer in a Dutch oven or slow cooker for as long as you want. You need to plan a few hours for you to make an excellent Russian drink. But believe us when we say that it is worth it! 

What Ingredients Are In The Russian Tea? 

The Russian drink is made from an intensely steep tea (think of five tea bags to two cups of hot water). Other ingredients include pineapple juice, lemon juice, and orange juice. You can use whole cloves and cinnamon plants to add flavor. It is preferable to buy these ingredients before you prepare to serve warm tea. 

Does Russian Tea Contain Caffeine? 

Some people prefer to use black tea to make the Russian drink which does contain caffeine. Others also use tea bags that are free from caffeine. So it is up to you to decide if you want caffeinated Russian beverages or not. Either way, you can have the best of both. 

How Do You Make Russian Drink?

Some people prefer to use the slow cooker to prepare their Russian beverage. But you can choose to make the tea in a dutch oven on the stovetop. All you need to do is add the juices and sugar to the pot and stir well until it is adequately mixed. 

Add the tea bags to hot water and let them steep, along with the whole cloves and cinnamon. Afterward, drain the tea off into the juice mixture. Throw away cinnamon sticks and cloves. Finally, add two fresh cinnamon sticks to the tea mix. 

Cover the drink and let it simmer. And that is it. It will take a few hours for the heat to get entirely through, depending on the method you use. But as soon as the drink is heated through, it is ready for consumption. If you plan to serve specific people, use the instructions below. It is ideal for eight servings. 


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


1. Put the tea bag in a heat-proof container. 

2. Pour the 4 cups of boiling water into the heat-proof container and let it steep while you focus on the rest of the recipe. 

3. Use a medium saucepan to prepare an infusion by using the ¾ cup of sugar, ½ cup of 6 whole cloves, and one cinnamon stick to boiling. Boil for one minute before you remove. 

4. Remove the cinnamon stick and whole cloves and pour into a mixing bowl. 

5. Add the lemon and orange juice into the spiced infusion and stir well for them to blend well. 

6. Strain the loose tea or remove the tea bags and mix the juice and spiced infusion. 

7. Serve warm in teacups. 

How To Serve Russian Drink

russian tea

Let's say you plan to have a dinner party with more buffet-style to it. It is advisable to leave the drink in the slow cooker and let your friends serve themselves. If you decide to use this option, you can include orange slices and cinnamon sticks at the beverage's top. It gives it a pretty appearance. 

If you plan to serve individually, you can slice oranges and cut them into quarters. Use the whole clove to spear into the orange slice and serve on top of each glass. It looks so lovely and adds a bit of a hint of more flavor. 


There is a funny fact that Russians drink their Russian tea with a spoon still in it. And that is after they have stirred the sugar (or even when there is no sugar at all!) They then drink the beverage with their eyes closed so that the protruding teaspoon does not poke their eyes. 

Of course, it is a joke, but it is still a mystery why Russians do this. But a tea, Russian tea or not, cools faster with a teaspoon in it, and it apparently tastes better. So the next time you take your Russian drink, let us know what you think. Did the Russian beverage taste better with the spoon inside?