Specialty drinks that are so common today were virtually unknown back in the 1950’s and 60’s. There were a few coffee houses around that catered to students and restaurants that offered coffee (sometimes decaf) and brewed teas (Lipton and Bigelow dominated the market) but that’s about it. The first diet cola, Tab, was introduced to the public in 1963. The first Starbucks opened in Pike Street Market in Seattle in March, 1971, and didn’t even start selling espresso until the late ’80’s. In those years specialty drinks were unheard of so when this recipe started circulating in the early 60’s everybody went crazy over it.
Russian Tea reminds me of spiced apple cider made with citrus instead of apples and spiced with cinnamon and cloves. Little jars of the mix are perfect gifts for friends, neighbors, teachers, coworkers…everyone you like to remember at the holiday with a little something special. Here is a little Russian Tea trivia in case anybody asks: Tang appeared on grocery store shelve in 1957. There were very few prepared drink mixes back then so it was considered a novelty. Although many people incorrectly believe NASA invented it, the powdered orange drink mix does have a history that goes hand-in-hand with U.S. spaceflight. Its popularity reached new heights when it was chosen to fly with John Glenn on Friendship 7 and on later Gemini program missions. (You have to look at the 1966 commercial below.) Kool-Aid was developed by the son of a General Store owner in his mother’s kitchen in the early 1920’s. By1929 it was distributed nationally and, at 5 cents at package, was considered a luxury item during the Great Depression.
I couldn’t find a reference to who first published this tea recipe, but in my opinion he or she was a genius. I know it isn’t anything newsworthy by today’s standards but years ago this was delicious alternative to a cup of coffee or plain tea and everybody loved it!
The original recipe for Russian Tea called for 1 envelope unsweetened lemon Kool-aid. I couldn’t find it so substituted 4 individual packets of Crystal light lemonade mix. This is a delicious substitute for a cup of coffee on a cold winter day and is a great afternoon pick-me-up during the busy holiday season. Just mix a teaspoonful or two into a cup of hot water and you have a delicious specialty drink of your own.
Be sure to click on the video below to see the 1966 TV commercial for Tang. The depiction of the astronaut program is so primitive and so funny by today’s standards. It shows how much technology has changed in the last 50 years. I wonder what the next 50 hold in store.
This post is linked to FOODIE FRIDAY at Rattlebridge Farm.
- 18 ounces Tang
- 1 cup instant tea
- 3 cups sugar
- 1 3 ounce package lemonade mix
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons ground cloves
- Mix ingredients together. Stir a tablespoon (or to taste) into a cup of hot water. Makes a delicious and tummy warming beverage.