Add Zest and Zing to Mulled Cider With Tea Blends
And just like that — snap! — the weather once again quickly pivoted from mid-August to October, with temperatures plummeting about 40 degrees from Tuesday’s high to today’s low. It’s cloudy, spitting rain, tempestuous and tempting us all with dreams of sweaters, butternut squash soup, an afternoon in a pumpkin patch and a classic autumn and winter beverage: mulled cider.
With National Mulled Cider Day a little more than a week away, on September 30, we are beginning to think about tea blends that will complement mugs of warm cider with spice, fruit, herbal and other notes.
Turn to local cider for the win
We of course have entered the heart of apple season, too, with favorite orchardists across the Western Slope now offering bounties of heirloom apples at farmers markets in Boulder.
At the Boulder County Farmers Market in downtown Boulder on Saturdays, we love visiting the stand for Ela Family Farms, out in Hotchkiss, CO. This certified organic, zero food waste farm, which operates on 80% renewable energy, presents a parade of apples across the season. In late August, the Sanzas arrive, and then follow a procession of beautiful varieties: Galas and Fujis, Esopus Spitzenberg and Pitsmaston Pineapple, Golden Delicious and Granny Smith.
They all offer unique flavors: hints of banana in Gala, or licorice in Freyburg, for example. Biting into a perfect Golden Delicious — never mind the dull specimens you pick up at supermarkets — ranks as a singular autumnal pleasure.
Ela and other Colorado fruit farms normally bring more than just fruit to markets; they also showcase their ciders. And that’s where we like to score our cider.
That said, good local grocery stores work to source Colorado cider, rather than just plastic gallons of juice made in Washington State. Look for it! Superb local cider will make all of the difference between wan and winning mulled cider.
Quality tea makes a big mulling difference
But the rest of the ingredients make a big difference, too. Traditional packets of ground spices designed for mulled cider normally are heavy on sweetener, and flooded with cinnamon, along with other baking spices. We could do without the sugar — the cider should be sweet enough on its own, and if not, we’d rather control the sweetener. But we endorse the emphasis on baking spices for nailing mulled cider.
We think it’s time to experiment, however. Mulled cider has mostly meant one thing, for a long time. The standard spice blends do the job, but why not try different iterations of mulled cider?
Tea blends can serve as outstanding partners to saucepans full of hot cider. Filling a tea ball with desired blends and then dunking it in hot cider for 10 minutes or so is an easy route toward mulled cider excellence. You also can just add whole-leaf direct to the saucepan of cider, but you will want to pour it through a strainer after 10 minutes, to avoid the tea ingredients overpowering the cider, or becoming bitter.
In addition to flavor, teas can deliver wellness benefits to any beverage, turning that steaming mug of apple juice into a delicious vessel of taste and health.
Are you ready for mulled cider season? We’re already savoring it. We offer a trio of possible mulled cider partners below, but encourage you to either visit one of our stores or read the online descriptions of tea, and select your own partners, too.
Teas for Mulled Cider: Cape Town Medley
Rooibos, a powerful South African shrub, anchors our Cape Town Medley tea. Its earthiness adds depth to mulled cider, and rooibos also delivers wallops of electrolytes once brewed — and free radical-fighting electrolytes help mitigate inflammation and help with other health issues. Electrolytes, too, quench thirst with force.
While rooibos is the tea’s base, fruits as well as a vegetable and flower give it extra flavor oomph. Pomelo and orange add citrus touches to mulled cider, which are welcome — orange is a common cider accompaniment, and with its hints of grapefruit pomelo adds citrus complexity to the final brew. On the fruit front, this tea also includes pomegranate, which invests mulled cider with another classic autumn flavor.
Rounding out Cape Town Medley is carrot, which brings an interesting sweetness to the blend, and safflower blossom, which perfumes the blend with floral subtlety.
Teas for Mulled Cider: Holiday Apple Frost
In our online description of Holiday Apple Frost, we trumpet it as having “delicate flavors reminiscent of the fullness of mulled apple cider,” which is an apt description. With orange peel and baking spices, it leans into mulled cider flavors.
But it goes further. For one, Japanese sencha tea serves as the blend’s foundation. Sencha carries grassy, herbal aromas and flavors, and adds a pleasing bit of zing to mulled cider — along with a little caffeine. This blend also contains almonds, which always pair beautifully with apples, as well as rose.
The whole package suggests mulled cider, even without the cider! Add this to a pot of hot cider, and it’ll transform it into mulled cider + extras.
Teas for Mulled Cider: Balance Tea
Any exploration of teas for mulled cider must include one containing cinnamon, right? While we champion trying all manner of teas to complement hot cider, we think cinnamon remains a true and time-tested companion, one that always sidles up to apples and embraces them. And then the pair hold hands for the rest of the culinary experience.
We developed this caffeine-free herbal blend to reflect Ayurvedic principles of balance, aiming to promote harmony within mind and body. All of this will rock within a mug of mulled cider — sip your cider, and align with tranquility! But the blend happens to also stand as a superb mulled cider accompaniment.
With this one, it’s all about the spices: cinnamon, cardamom, licorice root, coriander, fennel and ginger root. Rose, too. While the cinnamon and ginger are classic for mulled cider, the other spices don’t always figure into blends. Cardamom, one of our favorites, always adds measures of exoticism to anything, in our opinion. Meanwhile, licorice root, coriander and fennel bring hints of savory to the brew.
The leaves already are gaining gold in the High Country. Soon, the colors of autumn — crimson and pumpkin, brass and yellow and copper — will dazzle us down here in Boulder.
It’s soon time for a fire in the fireplace (maybe tonight?), a favorite show (nudge, nudge, The Great British Bake Off is now airing its 13th season) and mugs of hot cider spiked with tea!