A Polish cup of tea
In addition to being a refreshing hot beverage, tea is a great warmer-upper highly recommended for outdoor activities during the colder months. It also settles an upset stomach -- something that cannot be said about coffee. Choose the black tea that suits you best and one of the following brewing/serving methods:
Classic Polish tea-essence method
Depending on the strength desired, add several teaspoons of loose tea to pre-scalded teapot and top up with boiling water. Snugly set the china teapot into the opening of your stove-top hot-water kettle. Let the water in the kettle boil gently to warm the bottom of the teapot with steam so the tea can steep slowly to achieve peak strength.
To serve, simply pour a little essence (the strong tea concentrate from the teapot) into a cup or glass and top up with boiling water. This makes it far easier to vary the desired strength than the now widespread cup-brewed teabag method.
Tea is a great warmer-upper which can treat an upset stomach or sooth the symptoms of flu.
Pot-brewing with teabags
Those who prefer teabags to loose tea can proceed exactly the same way as in the preceding method. Simply place several teabags in a pre-scalded teapot and top up with boiling water. Allow to steep at least 15 min (over a steaming hot-water kettle or simply on a counter top). Pour the desired doses of essence into cups and top up with boiling water.
The samovar (literally: self-brewer), a Russian invention that became a naturalized fixture on the Polish scene in the 19th century, is little more than an elegant version of the above tea-essence method. The samovar is a hot-water urn kept hot by either a charcoal fire or more recently an electric coil.
The tea-essence pot is positioned at the top of the samovar and its bottom is warmed as it steeps just as in the preceding method. Individual portions of essence are poured from the tea-essence pot and the hot water for topping up comes from the samovar’s spigot.
Tea poured from a samovar is traditionally served in glasses fitted with special (often quite decorative and artistic) tea-glass holders which enable the hot glass to be held. Even if it isn’t being actually used, a shiny, classic samovar will add a touch of period elegance to your sideboard or buffet, just as candles are used at dinner-parties for atmosphere, not lighting.
Cup-brewing with teabags
This method is not recommended when entertaining, since disposing of the drippy teabag is often a problem. Leaving it on the saucer wets the bottom of the cup and may cause the drinker to stain his or her clothes when he lifts the cup. Some provide a special plate for diners to deposit their teabags, but on their way over they may drip and stain the table-cloth. Also, a plateful of used teabags is not an especially pleasant sight on the dinner table.
Poles consume a lot of tea. Shelves at Polish delis and grocery stores are lined with dozens of herbal, fruit or exotic teas. But rather than buying a variety of different teas, try making these varieties at home using simple, non-flavored tea.
Lemon tea (herbata z cytryną)
Prepare tea according to any of the ways above and provide lemon slices on a separate plate with a small decorative two-pronged fork. The lemons may first be peeled and then sliced, with the rind (now often saturated with chemical preservatives) discarded. If the rind is left on, the lemon should be scalded, scrubbed and re-scalded before slicing.
Raspberry flavored tea (herbata z sokiem malinowym)
Instead of the imitation-raspberry teas on the market these days, simply add 1-2 tablespoon pure (preferably Polish imported) raspberry syrup to each glass or cup or hot tea. For an added kick, add 1/2 - 1 jigger vodka to each serving. Other fruit syrups (cherry, blueberry, currant, strawberry, etc.) may be used but lack the medicinal properties of raspberry syrup which helps relieve colds.
Rum flavored tea (herbata z rumem)
To each glass or cup of hot tea, sweetened to taste, add a little freshly-squeezed lemon juice and 1/2 - 1 jigger rum. This may be prepared by the pitcher using about 3 jiggers of rum per quart of hot tea. Vodka plus several drops of rum extract may be used if real rum is not available.
These hot beverages are good to fend off the chill when the north wind is howling outside the window. They are the ideal warmer-upper to take in a thermos flask to a sleigh ride, skating party, ice fishing or a cold-weather hike through the woods.
Author/Source: Robert Strybel