The cold and often snowy days of January call for hot drinks to warm up the insides.
And the most popular of these beverages are coffee, tea and hot chocolate, with hot mulled cider close behind, when it is in season.
Tea is a drink that is easily brewed and packed with health benefits, including immunity-boosting powers.
WARM-UP TIME — Cold weather calls for hot drinks after a skiing or sledding session in the snow. There are many choices, but the most popular are coffee with a bit of brandy and whipped cream and cinnamon; tea with honey and lemon; or hot chocolate with tiny marshmallows. -- Esther McCoy
Green tea is winter's hottest beverage.
To brew the best mug, pour hot water - not boiling but steaming hot - over the tea bag or leaves and let it steep for up to 3 minutes. This is according to Mary Lou Heiss, co-author of "The Tea Enthusiast's Handbook."
Different kinds of green tea are:
Sencha: It's one of the most popular types in the United States and Japan. The name refers to tea leaves that have been steamed and then roasted to bring out the grassy tone.
Genmaicha: Mixed with grains of toasted brown rice, it brews up a slightly nutty-tasting cup with a mild flavor. It is great for those new to green tea, it was noted.
Gunpowder: Tight pellets of the leaves unfurl in hot water. It has a robust flavor and a slightly earthy aroma.
Dragonwell: Also known as Longjing tea, it's one of China's most famous green teas. The leaves are pan-fired to create a full, toasted flavor.
Matcha: This is actually ground leaves that are whisked into hot water for a frothy, strongly flavored drink.
Winter Solstice: This is a premium-quality spiced tea, suited for enjoyment during the coldest months of the year. Black teas are combined with spices, vanilla and citrus to yield an aromatically tantalizing treat.
Holiday Breakfast Blend: This is a blend of the finest black teas, created with cold weather enjoyment in mind. It is in its third decade and is a recurring favorite with tea drinkers.
Coffee comes in all manner of flavors, so it needs only the addition of cream and a sweetening ingredient. Some coffees are blended with a glimmer of berry fruit and give the aroma of chocolate, suggesting hints of cocoa and baking spice in the mix.
This information is from Peets Coffee and Tea which blend coffees from the four growing regions of Latin America, Africa, Arabia and Indo-Pacific.
Hot chocolate is a favorite drink of youngsters and is quite popular with adults at football games during cold weather. A prepared hot chocolate powder mix can be used and made from a recipe at home.
Here is a recipe for a Mexican hot chocolate drink from the Kitchen Keepsake Book. It has the additional flavor of cinnamon and a tablespoon of vanilla as well as being thickened a bit with flour.
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups cold water
6 cups milk
1 tablespoon vanilla
Combine sugar, cocoa, flour, cinnamon and salt in a large saucepan. Stir in cold water and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring often. Slowly stir in milk and heat almost to boiling. Remove from heat and add vanilla.
With a rotary beater or mixer, beat the mixture until it is frothy. Serve in mugs or cups, garnishing with a cinnamon stick or a dollop of whipped cream. Serves 10.
A simpler way to make a one-serving cup of hot chocolate follows. It is how my mother made it for the McHugh children in the 1940-1950s.
I don't remember store-bought hot chocolate mix being in our house until the late 1950s.
1 cup milk
1 heaping teaspoon cocoa
2 heaping teaspoons sugar
Dash of vanilla
Combine cocoa and sugar in pan. Pour in 1/4 cup of milk and stir over medium heat.
As it warms, the cocoa will dissolve. Add remainder of milk. Let milk come to a very slow simmer and remove from heat. Never let it boil or a scum will appear that needs to be removed or beaten in well with a rotator mixer or whip. Top with marshmallows or whipped cream.
Here is another way to make hot chocolate. The name sounds German to me but whatever nationality, it is a rich cup of chocolate drink, with the serving suggestion of only allowing 1/2 cup. It makes 15 servings.
Wolfensburger Pass Hot Chocolate
15-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
4 ounces semi-sweet cooking chocolate, 4 squares
1 cup whipping cream, whipped
6 cups milk
In a small saucepan, mix condensed milk and chocolate. It also can be melted in the microwave first. Stir constantly over low heat until chocolate melts and is mixed in well. Cool to room temperature and fold in whipped cream. Mix 1/4 cup of the chocolate mixture with 3/4 cup steaming hot milk and enjoy.
The condensed milk and chocolate mixture can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week in a covered container.
Spiced tea is a tasty drink. The powdered mix can be purchased or it can be made quite inexpensively at home and stored in a jar or tin to make 5 1/2 cups of mix.
This recipe is from the Kitchen Keepsakes Cookbook.
Spiced Tea Mix
1 cup instant tea
2 cups orange drink powder, such as Tang
2 cups sugar
1 envelope lemonade mix
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
Mix ingredients well. Put in a tight container. To make a cup of tea, place a heaping teaspoon of the mix in a mug of boiling water.
This tea has the citrus taste of lemons and oranges, along with almond extract. It makes 10 cups of tea that can be served hot or cold. It is from Kitchen Keeps as well.
8 cups water
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 cups strong tea, using three tea bags
Juice of 3 lemons
Juice of 2 oranges
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons almond extract
Garnishes of thinly sliced oranges or lemons or sprigs of fresh mint, if desired.
Boil water, sugar and sliced lemon for 5 minutes. Add tea, juices, vanilla and almond extract. Heat and serve with the garnishes. It also can be served cold with a sprig of fresh mint.
This is a dry mix to make a spicy coffee drink with just a hint of chocolate. The dry mix can be stored in a tightly covered container for several weeks.
It is from Kitchen Keepsakes Cookbook and makes 10 cups.
Cinnamon Cocoa Mocha Mix
4 cups nonfat dry milk powder
1 cup non-dairy coffee creamer
2 1/2 cups instant presweetened cocoa mix
1/2 cup instant coffee crystals
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 cup cocoa powder
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and combine well. To make a serving, measure 1/3 cup of the dry mix into a mug. Fill with boiling water, stir and top with whipped cream, if desired. Store the remainder of the dry mixture in a covered container.
Now for an easy-to-serve hot apple cider drink that has a spicy, sweet taste.
Hot Apple Cider
64 ounces apple cider
4 cinnamon sticks
1 teaspoon whole allspice
1 teaspoon whole cloves
1/4 cup brown sugar
Orange and lemon slices, if desired
In a slow cooker, combine cider and cinnamon sticks. Gather allspice and cloves together in a piece of cheesecloth or put in a tea ball and add to the cooker. Stir in brown sugar. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and keep the slow cooker on warm to serve. Float the fruit slices on top of the cider for an attractive look.
Note: Two cups of cranberry juice can be added to the mixture if desired.
For an adult beverage, this drink can be made and served on a cold winter evening. The recipe calls for a quart of Burgundy wine and the addition of oranges, lemons and cinnamon sticks.
1 quart Burgundy wine
4 oranges and 4 lemons, sliced
6 cloves, wrapped inside a piece of cheesecloth or put into a tea ball
3 cinnamon sticks, broken into pieces
1 cup sugar
Heat wine to a simmer, adding fruit, spices and sugar. Stir to dissolve sugar. Cook 10 minutes over low heat. Remove fruit pieces and spices. Serve in heavy mugs.
Serves four to six cold people.
(McCoy can be contacted at email@example.com)