On a trip to London, cookbook author Betty Rosbottom sampled a delicious tea at a restaurant called The Last Days of the Raj. It was a chilly evening, and nothing could have been more satisfying. After her second cup, she asked the waiter how it was made and jotted down his directions. When Betty got home she did some experimenting and came up with this very close facsimile. After trying several varieties of tea, she decided none worked as well as orange pekoe, specifically Twinings. The recipe is from Betty Rosbottom's Cooking School Cookbook. It is luscious and well balanced. —JohnL
orange pekoe tea bags, Twinings preferred
whole green cardamom pods, crushed gently until just cracked
stick cinnamon, 3 to 4 inches long, cut or broken in half lengthwise
Place the tea bags, bay leaves, crushed cardamom pods, and cinnamon stick in a teapot. Pour in the boiling water, and let the mixture steep for about 2 minutes. Remove the tea bags but let the spices steep 5 minutes more. Strain and serve hot.
Betty says an additional 1 1/2 cups boiling water can be added to the spice mixture in the teapot as it is drunk, but to me it's missing something (tea). But I will offer that on occasion, I have forgotten to discard the "spent" spices, and brewed another batch of plain tea in the morning, and was pleasantly surprised at how delicious it was with what I assumed were spent spices. And if you ever have any of this elixir left over, try adding it in small proportion to a fresh batch of your own plain iced tea. Its up to you what ratio, but 1:4 will perfume your iced tea in a most delightful way.
John's note: I like the a subtle cinnamon flavor in this tea, and I have found that there is no need to split the cinnamon stick, as it provides plenty of flavor as is. And it's easier to just leave it whole.