A few weeks back I visited Samovar Tea Lounge in San Francisco. Wow, what a treat.
Samovar Tea Lounge is named after the Russian tea instrument called a samovar, which is used to not only to boil water for tea but also to keep it warm for serving.
At Samovar, I ordered Tolstoy’s Sip, a Russian-inspired blend of smokey Lapsang Souchong, Lychee Black, and English Breakfast Teas. Upon serving me the steamy dark blend, the waitress mentioned that they sometimes scoop a big spoonful of fruit jam into the teapot while the tea is steeping, which had me totally intrigued. I’m not sure why not, but that day they didn’t.
After my experience at Samovar, I realized that I prefer using Lapsang Souchong in savory cooking and not so much for sipping. Thinking of another tea to try with jam, I ordered the Prince Vladimir blend from the French company, Kusmi (through Amazon). And since I was developing this recipe to celebrate the upcoming Sochi Olympics, the name of the tea seemed just about right!
With a citrus and vanilla base, it’s as if Prince Vladimir and my Blackberry Mandarin Orange Tea Jam are made for each other. If you aren’t able to get your hands on some of Kusmi’s Prince Vladimir, any black, robust tea with character will work in this tea-jam steep.
Jarred jams with added corn syrup, random fruit juices, and fake colorings aren’t worth using here. Using the freshest organic fruits I could find at the market (blackberries and mandarin oranges), I decided to make my own thick and luscious tea jam.
I prefer to use mandarins and not regular oranges in my jam because the zest tends to be less bitter, which results in a milder tea steep that is citrusy without being harsh. I like to add some zest at the beginning of cooking and the other half of the zest at the end of the cooking after the jam has cooled so that there is both depth and brightness in the jam.
Depending on the taste of your tea, go ahead and play around with this recipe! Your tea may pair better with some other type of berry and some other type of citrus. Blueberry with lime, strawberry with grapefruit, or raspberry with key lime would all work beautifully.
Here’s how to brew up some Russian jam-infused tea:
#1. Boil water to 212 degrees F. Pour a small amount of hot water into the teapot to heat it, then discard the water. Place tea leaves into the your teapot (1 heaping tsp of tea per cup of water) then pour in the hot water. Scoop a few heaping tablespoons of the fresh fruit jam into the same pot so that both the tea and fruit can brew at the same time.
#2. Steep the tea for about 5 minutes, which is standard for black teas. This allows for the flavors of the tea and jam to fully mingle.
#3. After 5 minutes, place a tea strainer in your tea cup or vessel, and pour the tea into the cup. Set the strainer aside.
#4. The resulting liquor will be slightly cloudy and fragrantly sweet. The tea will also have more body because of the pectin, sugar, and softened fruit flesh in the preserves. For serving, you can also place a large bowl of the same fruit jam (and stirring spoons) alongside the poured, strained tea if you and your guests are desiring a more robust fruit flavor in the tea. If you do add more jam to your drink, you’ll notice that your first sip of the fruited tea will taste lighter and thinner than the very last sip, which will come with tender globs of macerated fruit that have settled at the bottom of your teacup.
This Thursday the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics begin. Celebrate a very special part of Russian culture with some hot and soothing Russian jam-infused tea (served in some Russian tea cups if you can find them!). Although we may cheer for opposing teams, we’ll be joined by our love of some exceptionally delicious tea!
Blackberry Mandarin Orange Tea Jam
Makes 1- 1 1/4 cups of jam.
1 lb. organic blackberries (or other type of berry)
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp pectin
2 Mandarin oranges, zested then juiced (or other type of citrus: 2 tsp of zest with 1/4 cup of juice or less depending on how strong/sour the citrus is)
something to juice the oranges with (i.e. fork, squeezer, juicer)
1.) Place blackberries, sugar, and juice of 2 Mandarin oranges in the pot and cook on low-medium heat, stirring occasionally until juices release. When juices start to release, add the zest of 1 orange and mix in.
2.) Once more of the juices have released, increase the heat to med-high until the mixture starts to come to a boil. As the jam starts to come to an “angry” boil, start stirring at a fast pace for 5 minutes.
3.) After 5 minutes, turn the heat off and let the mixture cool to room temperature. Add the zest from the 2nd orange and mix in, then place in an airtight container in the fridge until serving time.