Almond tea is becoming harder find, and that is not surprising. Most almonds in the United States are grown in California, which is suffering from a record drought. Like any orchard crop that requires water, when it doesn’t get enough it will not produce enough high quality final product. This sends the cost sky rocketing, making it harder for for industries that use almonds as an ingredient to keep their costs in line with what consumers expect. Adding higher cost to an ingredient that dramatically cuts the shelf life of your end tea product already, and eliminating almond tea makes good economic sense for most high quality tea producers. However, that doesn’t mean an end consumer cannot make their own almond tea in smaller batches to enjoy at home.
Before we get to the recipe,there are a few things you need to know about almonds.
Shelf Life of Almond Tea
Nuts and tea have very different self lives making it very tricky for a tea blender to come up with a high quality product, in a quantity that is cost effective, that features a nut as the main flavor component of the tea. Most nuts, once cut or crushed start to release their oils and in return take in air, moisture, and bacteria, which starts the spoiling process. Almonds are usually only good for two months, under the best storage conditions, once they have been cut. If you are blending that with a tea that is good for 24 to 36 months you have effectively killed the shelf life of your tea. So to ensure a good quality flavor and try to keep your tea from going rancid because of the nuts, extracts are used to apply the majority of the flavor. In fact, if you look at most teas with a nut like flavor, you will not find nuts in them, but extracts and flavors, which bring out the nut taste. Citric acid and other preservatives can be applied to the nuts to slow the degradation, but that is very tricky in tea as the boiling water will release the preservatives, usually causing a bitter flavor. Now, at home, the use of preservatives is not necessary as you will be making smaller batches that are not traveling to various stores and sitting in storage for who knows how long before being consumed. So we will use a combination of extract and almond pieces to make our tea recipe.
Almond Flavor and Size
Almonds have a very subtle flavor, which usually comes out bolder when toasted or cooked. So you would think boiling an almond would help bring out more flavor, but it doesn’t. To really get an almond flavor after applying boiling water, you need extract. Just putting in almond pieces will not get you the flavor you are after. When blending tea, we are constantly worried about the size and shapes of ingredients so that they all balance together to distribute evenly in the bag that is going to be shipped and stored in fashions out of our control. So we have the ingredients cut to the right size to complement the size of the tea leaves being used. At home, this may not be much of a concern to you but if you care about the almonds being distributed in your tea evenly you will want to follow our instructions on creating the almond meal instead of just using the sliced almonds. If even distribution does not bother you, then free to use larger almond pieces.
Almond Tea Recipe
This recipe is geared to get you 15 cups of tea. If you do not think that is enough, you can double this recipe, but don’t go too large as the almonds will only keep for maybe 1 to 2 months (Do you really know how old that almond is you just bought off the shelf?). 2 oz of tea is about 30 cups or 1 months worth if you drink a cup every day.
1 oz of your favorite straight black unflavored tea (English Breakfast is my favorite for this. If you use Irish Breakfast, add an 1/8 teaspoon more extract)
3/4 teaspoon of almond extract
1 1/2 tablespoons of almond pieces or slices (skip the roasted or salted ones – look in the bulk food aisle of your grocery store)
For easier grinding, lightly heat the almond pieces in a dry cast iron pan. You can leave them in their long enough to toast them, but really you are just warming them up. Be careful not to burn them as it will ruin the tea.
For even distribution of the almonds, buy slivered almonds and put the warmed almonds and extract into a mortar and pestle and grind down until it looks like corn meal. Scrape into a glass jar (quart size or larger) or ziplock bag and then add the tea. Shake until everything looks evenly distributed. Pour the tea out onto wax paper and allow to dry at least 12 hours. At first this is going to have a very heavy alcohol smell from the extract. Don’t worry, as it dries that will disappear. You will notice after a few hours the smell gets smoother and more almond like. You can then put the tea back into the sealed bag, glass jar or air tight container, remember to keep it in the dark. If you need to speed up the drying process, you can use a dehydrator at its lowest setting for about 1 hour, check every 20 minutes as you run the risk of burning the tea.
You will brew this like any other tea. 1 teaspoon or 3 grams per 8 ounces of water, steep in boiling water for up to 5 minutes. Don’t be surprised if it is a little cloudy, that is the oil for the ground almonds.
Now that you have a base recipe for almond tea, you can get creative and try it with other subtle flavored teas like New World Vanilla. Enjoy your new tea and don’t forget to drink it more frequently so it is gone before the almonds go bad!