Thursday, January 20, 2011

Stay warm with cinnamon tea

A friend's tales of travel recently reminded me of a tasty cold-weather tea treat: canela tea. On a hiking trip in Ecuador, he paused along a trail and chewed leaves right off a fragrant, red cinnamon tree; higher on the peak, his guide boiled water and served tin mugs of canela (cinnamon) tea. These were the same mountain paths once explored by Columbus and his followers; they were as desperate to find spices like this as they were to find gold.

This is an herbal infusion, of course, though it's not unheard of to include some black tea. Canela tea is about as simple as things get: boil water, throw in cinnamon sticks, simmer till it's good and brown. Sweeten to taste. Easy peasy. (Don't try ground cinnamon, no matter how well you think you can filter the results. Also, if you want to take it up a notch, hit the specialty market for "Mexican cinnamon" or "canela," which will be looser and not as tightly curled as the American spice-rack variety and thus will steep better.)

Here's a better, more considered approach from Sunset magazine: As above, boil water, add cinnamon sticks, simmer. Remove from heat, remove the sticks. Stir in honey and a wee bit of almond extract. Ladle into mugs, garnish with more cinnamon sticks. Highly recommended: amending each mug with tequila. Enjoy around a patio fire pit.

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