The smell of cinnamon brings out the New Englander in me. One whiff and I would start pining for apple orchards, hayrides, and a big piles of raked leaves ready to be jumped in, even though I actually grew up in a city and rarely did all that bucolic fall stuff. But ’tis the time of year.
Or is it? Here in Beijing, the days have confused me slightly; hot and muggy one day, cool and crisp the next. I spent my last fall in Colorado and California, but I still remember all those years of living in the Northeast when summers dragged late into September, well after the kiddies have gone back to school and clothing stores have purged themselves of anything short-sleeved.
This cinnamon and ginger tea, served cold, is possibly the perfect transition drink for September. The heady aroma of cinnamon goes well with the shortening of days and yellowing of leaves, but the crisp icy taste is still refreshing when the temperatures climb back up.
Last month in Korea I had this drink at an Insadong teahouse, a cute little place with creaky wooden stairs, charmingly mismatched furniture, and birds that flew around uncaged. My cinnamon and ginger tea came in an enameled bowl, at a temperature to match the blasting AC next to our table. It was just sweet enough, with little pine nuts were sprinkled on top, adding a nice finishing touch and crunchiess at the end. The only drawback was that the tea cost the equivalent of 6 or 7 USD, expensive even by New York standards.
My re-creation at home costs nowhere near that amount, though yes, I’m sure shop rent in Insadong may be a bit more than what I’m paying in my Beijing ‘hood. Taking a page from Chinese tangshui, I sweetened the tea with rock sugar instead of granulated sugar for a smoother taste. After a few hours of chilling in the fridge, you too can have a drink to sip while you ponder where did the summer go.
Korean Cinnamon Tea
Makes about 4 to 6 servings
- 8 cups water
- 1 teaspoon grated ginger
- 3 sticks cinnamon
- 1/2 cup rock sugar
- Pine nuts for garnish
- In a medium-sized pot, bring the water to a boil. Add the ginger and cinnamon and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the rock sugar; stir until fully dissolved. Let cool, and then transfer to the refrigerator to chill for at least 2 hours.
- When ready to serve, divide into individual cups and garnish with pine nuts.