Exploring alternative tea drinks to toast Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s royal wedding

The Gardener tea drink, sold at Commune + Co. at Armature Works in Tampa. Photo courtesy the Urban Canning Company.
The Gardener tea drink, sold at Commune + Co. at Armature Works in Tampa. Photo courtesy the Urban Canning Company.
Published May 15 2018

The year was 2011. It was the night before Prince Williamís wedding to Kate Middleton, and I stood in my kitchen making chocolate chip scones. I set my alarm for 3:30 a.m., with plans to sit in the spare bedroom of the townhome and watch Britainís royal event via livestream while huddled over my desktop computer. It was a simpler time.

I donít concern myself with royal matters much, but I am a pop culture junkie, and this felt like something I needed to do, like watching the Oscars live every year. And the same will be true this Saturday, when Williamís brother Harry marries Meghan Markle, an American (!) actor (!) notable for starring on the USA drama Suits.

The royal hurrah begins at noon Saturday London time at St. Georgeís Chapel at Windsor Castle. And my viewing will likely again involve my computer and some scones.

But I also got to thinking about Britainís famous tea habit. Iíve long preferred the excitement of a frothy espresso-based latte to hot water and a tea bag, so this week in my kitchen I wanted to explore tea drinks that are a bit more exciting.

They are starting to become a thing around Tampa Bay, too. I talked to Illene Sofranko, the owner of St. Petersburgís Urban Canning Company, about a tea drink she collaborated on with Joel Davis, owner of Commune and Co., which is now serving it out of its Union coffee bar in Tampaís Armature Works food hall.

Sofranko helped develop the recipe, something she was inspired to do after giving up coffee ó and the caffeine that caused her anxiety. She tried tea, and soon began wishing there were more ways to enjoy it, like there are for coffee.

So she started to conceptualize what would become the Gardener, which she said is her version of spring in a cup. The base is black tea and a syrup that Sofranko crafted: cardamom, which represents soil with its earthy flavor; orange essence, which reminds her of the sun; ginger, which is a root; and beet powder, which is used to turn the syrup a wonderfully Instagrammable shade of pink and offer yet another flavor profile.

The drink is then mixed with either hot or cold milk, a nod to a classic latte that Sofranko wanted to try because "no one is really doing tea lattes". And itís topped with dried hibiscus flowers ("Theyíre in bloom all over Florida this time of year") and bee pollen.

The result is a beautiful drink, light pink and delicately accessorized with little pearls of pollen and dainty dried flowers. It tastes like black tea ó which Sofranko said she and Davis landed on after taste-tasting a bunch of different options; black was strong enough so you could taste it without it being overpowering, and it has some caffeine for those who want that ó but a more gentle, and fun, version. Sofranko prefers it cold; Iíve had it both ways and can firmly say itís very sippable no matter the temperature. You can get the drink ($5) at Union through July 1.

I tried making a less intricate tea latte at home, a version of golden milk, which is a trendy drink thatís basically a fancy way of saying turmeric mixed with milk. This drink also uses black tea, plus some robust spices to liven up your cup. Iíll be making it this weekend, and raising my mug to the new royal couple.

Golden Turmeric Tea

ľ cup water

Ĺ teaspoon dried turmeric (or a Ĺ-inch piece fresh turmeric, peeled and grated)

1 Ĺ-inch piece ginger, peeled and grated

1 cardamom pod

1 cinnamon stick

3 black peppercorns

Ĺ tablespoon honey

1 cup almond milk (or milk of your choice)

1 black tea bag

In a small pan over low heat, add the water, turmeric, ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, peppercorns and honey.

Bring to a simmer, then pour in milk, and add the tea bag.

When milk is steaming, use a spoon to taste, and add more honey if you like. Pour through a fine-mesh strainer right into a cup, and drink while hot.

Source: New York Times