Monday, March 8, 2010

Ginger Tea

Ginger Tea

Join me as I make some fresh ginger tea!

First, I'll gather my utensils and raw ingredients.

My ginger is peeled and still frozen. I like to peel it as soon as I get it. Then, I'll quickly rinse it in cold water, put it in a plastic container, and place it in the freezer. Even frozen, fresh ginger is easy to slice and grate, and it will stay fresh for weeks.

My little two-cup glass teapot and infuser are clean and ready for action.

I use a small plastic container equipped with a grater. If I grate more than I need, I can leave it in the container, stick it in the freezer, and use it another day.

I'll set my teapot full of water over medium heat for about 15 minutes while I let the ginger slightly thaw. (I've always got something useful to do that will take 15 minutes or so.)

Today, I'll grate just a couple of tablespoonfuls of ginger.

I don't measure the ginger...quantity doesn't seem to be critical. 15 minutes thaw time is quite adequate. I can actually grate the frozen ginger immediately out of the freezer, but five or ten minutes of sitting out on the counter does make it easier.

After grating, the left-over ginger root can be refrozen...seems to be just fine over the course of several weeks. I haven't a clue how long you can keep frozen ginger...I'll use up a half-pound of root within three weeks, drinking a cup or two, three or four times a week.

Fresh ginger, however, does not seem to last long. I peeled, rinsed, and grated a root, placed it in the refrigerator and then did not use it. After a week it was flavorless and rank.

Even worse was the time I let ginger tea sit in my teapot for a couple of days. It smelt terrible! I can't even begin to describe it, perhaps a very strong rotten fish smell? Anyway, use it or freeze it!

Here's a close up of the grated ginger.

When I take a spoonful, I'm careful not to pack it densely or mash it. I simply spoon it out, fluffy consistency that it has. My rule of thumb is a spoonful of ginger per cup (drinking cup, not measuring cup). This ratio seems to work for coffee as well, whether ground or whole bean. When I make coffee in my four-cup drip coffee maker, I grind four tablespoons of whole beans (I actually measure this with a genyoowine tablespoon...I'm a picky coffee-drinker). The four tablespoons of beans grinds out to be about four tablespoons of ground coffee (Fancy that! I'll bet there's a physics theorem at the foot of that discovery!) Four cups (drinking cups-worth) of water will drip through four tablespoons (real tablespoons-worth) of ground coffee and make four cups (small drinking cups-worth) of good coffee, which I pour into my favorite mug (which holds it all).

Anyway, that's another post.

Back to ginger tea.

Put two spoonfuls of grated fresh ginger into the infuser of your teapot.

I've frequently read of herbal tea enthusiasts who denigrate the use of an infuser, or they use it as a strainer AFTER they let the tea steep loosely in the teapot. They argue that herbal tea requires a lot of contact with the hot water, and an infuser will tend to keep the herbs packed too tightly together to allow good water circulation.

I do agree with this idea, and I've used it lately, especially with fresh herbs. It takes a relatively big boat-load of leaves to make a decent tasting herbal tea. Dried herbs might be a different matter...the dried herbs are smaller and more concentrated.

However, for today's tea, the two spoonfuls of fresh ginger seem mighty small as it hunkers in the depths of my two-cup teapot. Putting the ginger in the infuser first will make straining it out later extremely easy.

I've filled my teapot to the brim of the infuser with near-boiling water. (Why NEAR-BOILING? I'm not sure...perhaps there's a radical jump in temperature or stability when water boils? Perhaps it begins to lessen the oxygen content? Is there a chance it will go into an uncontrollable fusion reaction? America really needs to know these things!)

Put the lid on, set it on a hotpad, and let it steep for about 10 minutes.

After 10 minutes, remove the lid and infuser, straining out the ginger, and now we have a freshly brewed potful of fresh ginger tea!

For hot tea, I like to add a spoonful of sweetening. For stronger tea, let the ginger steep longer. Strong ginger tea is more medicinal in taste and effect. For relaxing, a ten-minute steeping time is just right for me.

As a cold drink, fresh ginger tea is almost unbeatable! Add sweetening and ice or let it cool in the refrigerator. A terrific combination is ginger tea with flavored green tea. My favorite maker of instant flavored green tea is Arizona Beverage Company. They make some killer Pomegranate Green Tea iced tea stix, sugar free, sweetened with Splenda. (Great website, too! Nice, non-pop rock and jazz streaming in the background, with a mini-player showing playlist info, previous song and advance.)

Add one 3-gram packet of powdered green tea mix to a glassful (17 ounces) of cold, fresh ginger tea.

Today, I'm in the process of making a big batch of ginger tea that we'll keep refrigerated for the next week or so. When I want a refreshingly tangy drink, I can tap the cold ginger tea and add some powdered green tea. Instant re-fresh!

Reference Links

If you buy a dedicated teapot, it will probably come with an infuser. This is a small basket-shaped filter with an edge that rests on top of the teapot while the basket hangs down into the teapot. Keep this. You'll need it, but not for it's intended use.

If used as intended, you would place your tea in the infuser, place the infuser in the teapot, then add the water. When the steeping time was up, you would simply pull out the infuser, leaving leaf-free tea behind. But it doesn't work well. Why? Because:

There's not enough room in the infuser for the tea to properly steep. Tea is like pasta. It needs room to spread out. The water needs to circulate around and between the leaves. An infuser doesn't let this occur. Even if it looks large enough, given your quantity of tea, keep in mind that, as the tea absorbs water, it'll increase in size. Trust me. The infuser isn't big enough.

The infuser hangs from the top. If you're making less than a full pot of tea, the infuser won't be completely submerged. Which will leave even less room for proper steeping.

So, why keep it? Because it makes an excellent strainer for straining out the leaves after the steeping is all done.

Source: How To Make Tea