Holiday Punches for Teatime Entertaining

By Dolores Snyder

For the holidays, entertaining with a tea-based punch is a welcome alternative to the standard cocktail offering. Offer a hot or cold one, whichever pairs with your buffet of festive treats. With all the favorable press on the health aspects of tea, your libation will be appreciated.

If you are serving a cold punch, fill a mold one-third full with cold water and freeze. Once frozen, arrange citrus slices or dried fruit on the ice, and freeze to set the garnish in place. Carefully fill with cold water and freeze overnight. Slip into the punch bowl just before serving.

The three recipes that follow have proven to be favorites of my students who come to learn how to entertain with tea.

Cranberry Iced Tea Punch

3 ounces dried cranberries
3 tablespoons Ceylon loose tea
6 cups boiling water
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 cups cranberry juice cocktail, chilled
1 (6-ounce) can frozen orange juice concentrate
1 (28-ounce) bottle ginger ale or cranberry-flavored water

Make an ice block with dried cranberries the day before. Brew the tea 5 minutes in a teapot, strain into a non-reactive container, cover, and refrigerate to chill. In punch bowl, combine tea with sugar, cranberry juice, and orange juice concentrate, adding the ginger ale last. Serve in punch cups.

Yields: 25 servings, 4 ounces each

Hot Rum Tea Punch

3 tablespoons Darjeeling or Yunnan loose tea
6 cups boiling water
2 sticks cinnamon, broken in pieces
Rind of 1 orange and 1 lemon, studded with 6 whole cloves
Juices of 1 orange and 1 lemon
1 cup dark rum
Honey to taste

Infuse the tea with the cinnamon and citrus rinds. Strain into a copper pot that may be used for serving, and keep it warm over a burner. Add the citrus juices and rum, and sweeten with the honey. Serve with a cinnamon stick in each mug.

Yields: 12 servings, 4 ounces each

Spiced Tea Punch for Boxing Day (the day after Christmas)

2 quarts water
1/2 cup Darjeeling loose tea
2 teaspoons whole cloves
2 teaspoons whole allspice
2 cinnamon sticks, broken up
Rinds from 1 lemon and 1 orange
6 slices fresh gingerroot
1 cup sugar syrup (see recipe below)

In a non-reactive saucepan, bring water to a boil. Add the tea, cloves, allspice, cinnamon sticks, citrus rinds, and gingerroot. Cover and simmer 5 minutes. Strain into large punch bowl and sweeten with sugar syrup. Serve warm with slices of lemon and orange in punch cups.

Yields: 15 servings, 4 ounces each

Sugar Syrup
2 cups cold water
2 cups granulated sugar

Combine water and sugar in a saucepan and boil until clear. This may also be accomplished in the microwave. Once the syrup has cooled, store it in the refrigerator, covered, for two weeks.

Note: For an added kick, add 1 cup fruit-flavored brandy. The sugar syrup may be made in advance, but wait until the day of the event to make the punch, and keep it warm for serving. A large copper pot makes a nice container, especially if you use a copper ladle for serving.

Brewing Tea for a Crowd

1 cup loose black tea or 12 regular-size tea bags
1 gallon water

Place tea in a non-reactive container. Bring 1 quart of water to a full boil at 212 degrees F. Pour over tea, cover, and steep 7 minutes. Strain tea and add 3 quarts of water brought to 190 degrees F.

Yields: 25 cups, 4 ounces each

Note: You can make your own tea bag using cheesecloth or a coffee filter. Tie the top with a string, allowing room for the tea to expand. You can retrieve your tea bag if you use a long string and attach it to the side of your brewing container. Or you can use a t-sac to contain the loose tea while brewing, which are now available in 1-gallon sizes.

Find more recipes for tea punches as well as delicious accompaniments for teatime in Dolores Snyder's book, Tea Time Entertaining, available through her Web site:

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