Ginger Herbal Tea
Origin: Southern China
Growing Conditions: Humid Tropical
Flavor Profile: Spicy with warm sweet notes
Use: Flavor, Medicinal
Best Combination: spicy herbs, flowery herbs
Preparation: rhizome and ground
The timeless spicy flavor of ginger is so easy to enjoy. You've probably seen ginger herbal tea sold just about everywhere and its no wonder when you realize theres so many trouble-free methods for making ginger tea (Zingiber officinale).
A native to humid tropical climates, the ginger plant grows as a rhizome with fern-like leaves shooting out above it. Zingiber officinale doesn't produce true blooms of bright pink like the ones in Indonesia and the rest of southern China and India do. Well, unfortunately this plant won't grow in my temperate area so I'll have to continue buying it from the healthfood store.
If I'm going to use ginger for brewing tea then how should I go about preparing it first...
The methods for steeping ginger tea:
Its best to use the whole rhizome because its spicy flavor is more mellow than ground ginger. The whole ginger retains an interesting floral note, which helps to balance out the spiciness. No, the floral note is not the same as an actual flowery herb due to the subtle woodsy warmth of the spice. The hard, wiry rhizome of the ginger plant can be easily peeled and sliced with a standard kitchen knife, simply cut off the outer skin and into pieces as thin as a coin or into half-inch pieces (either works). The method of steeping cut pieces of ginger in boiling temperature water for 20 to 30 minutes concentrates the spicy flavor.
You can use ground ginger for making ginger herbal tea though. Its spiciness will be more intense than the whole rhizome and its use can quicken the brewing process greatly.
The reason ground ginger is used in teabags is due to its convenience in brewing and blending with other herbs (especially medicinal teas). You can have a ginger tea made in less time than you would otherwise. After brewing the ground ginger for 15 minutes you can reuse the ginger two more times for the making of another tea drink (only less spicy with each reuse).
You can also make iced herbal ginger tea by following the same method involved with hot tea. Simply steep the ginger whole or ground in 8 ounces of boiling water then allow it to cool down for 10 minutes before placing into the refrigerator.
When ginger is finished brewing the water should be a light yellow to orange color signifying that the aromatic properties have been released. Not all of them, of course. But you can be assured the tea is ready for serving.
Why use honey and apple cider vinegar in ginger herbal tea?
The honey added to ginger tea gives a sweeter flavor while the apple cider vinegar gives a spark of vinegar taste. I actually love the taste of some apple cider vinegar. You might worry that the vinegar will impart too bitter of a flavor, but only a tablespoon in 8 ounces of water won't overdue anything.
The vinegar acts to help pull the essential oil out of the ginger (thats why its best to use the fresh rhizome). The essential oil contains many compounds, which impart flavor and benefits into the tea. I've read that ginger contains hundreds of compounds with the main ones being gingerol and shogaol. These compounds when released in the making of herbal ginger tea give an aromatic scent and flavor.
Why is ginger blended with other spices and flowery herbs?
First, ginger is a great stand-alone herbal tea. Its flavor profile and easy use in teas makes it a top choice herb.
But it lends well to blending with other spices like cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, and turmeric. Many of these compliment each other with their own floral notes that range from sweet to woodsy.
If you want to amplify the spicy flavor of ginger then why not add the flowers of hibiscus and roobios? The sweetness of roobios goes well with ginger. You have to try it!
Perhaps it was in ancient China that ginger was first added to green tea to improve the flavor of the green tea. Even now you can find many green teas with the spice added to it for an aromatic and healthy drink.
I hope to see ginger growing in real life someday. Until then I can enjoy my ginger herbal tea.