In college, about 100 years ago, I lived on Russian Tea and popcorn. Although I had a 7 day meal contract in the dorm, weekend meals were served at another dining hall. I didn’t know anybody else who also had a 7 day contract to eat with regularly, so I usually chose weekends to diet (starve myself) or nibble on junk food.
Russian Tea was my mother’s recipe that was simply powdered iced tea, Tang, and Country lemonade powder. She had made me a huge jar of mix with some combination of those three powders. I mixed a couple of spoonfuls with water then added ice and it was the Nectar of the Gods. I loved that stuff to death!
Not my death; I meant it eventually was the death of Russian Tea for me. Like a few of the alcoholic drinks I mixed and drank too much of in college, I never could put them to my lips once college was over. I drank enough of it to sate me for quite a few decades! It’s only recently that I’ve wanted to taste Russian Tea again, and I thought it might be easier to make with some of the sugarless powder mixes available now.
Although I was “dieting” in college, I now know that the Tang and the lemonade mix were super high in sugar and calories. Since I ate little else, even with adding popcorn to the menu I wasn’t eating many calories. Today I cut back on sugar for health reasons so I’m always looking for new beverages with good flavor and little to no sugar. There are a lot of products out there, but the flavors are not very close to what they purport to be. It’s amazing what they label “pear” or “peach” and expect us to swallow that. Literally.
I decided it was time to revisit Russian Tea in a sugarless form. I started by reading labels in the powdered drinks section of the grocery store. A simple jar of iced tea was first to hit my grocery cart. I chose Lipton plain iced tea just for old times’ sake. No calories, no flavoring, it was my base flavor. I went for full caffeine for this round. I made a mental note to maybe try decaf another time.
Next I knew Crystal Light had packets of lemonade that I liked. Usually I buy pink lemonade, but I chose regular lemonade this time. I bought the little canister that had 5 packets that each made 2 quarts. I noticed Crystal Light recently changed their packets from 1 ½ quart sizes to 2 quarts. Smart move, most of us have pitchers that easily hold 2 quarts.
Crystal Light did not have an orange sugarless drink (in the store I was in, at least) so I moved on to look at other brands. For this time, I chose the Our Family (a generic store brand) sugarless orange drink because it was again in a package of 5 packets that each made 2 quarts. Shopping done, I headed home to make my Russian Tea mixture.
I cut open all of the packets of lemonade and orange drink and put them into a square plastic container. I checked Lipton’s chart on the jar and decided to add 1 1/3 cups of powdered iced tea to get roughly the same amount of tea. You could add more tea if you want the tea to be more of a flavor presence. I like less tea, more orange and lemon.
All three powders in the plastic tub, I mixed them and called it done. Actually I called it Russian Tea mix. Ready to test my recipe, I measured 2 cups of cold water into my favorite double walled glass (complete with sippy straw), added 2 tablespoons of Russian Tea mix, stirred well, then added ice. Took a sip and choked. Oh heavens, that was strong! Way, way too much powder!
I’m going to suggest that you might want to do your own experimenting to see how strong you like it. I would say to start with one heaping teaspoon, stir well, and taste. Then go from there. I find I like two teaspoons stirred into my glass, then ice added. I think my glass holds 2 ½ cups plus a lot of ice. It starts out a bit strong but my ice dilutes it as it melts.
That first glass I made with 2 tablespoons ended up making about 2 quarts of Russian Tea. I had dumped it into a pitcher and kept adding water until I liked the strength. Don’t start by using tablespoons! Well unless you want to drink a whole lot of caffeine at once! I think I was awake for a week. Maybe 10 days. I’m seriously thinking of making it a decaf mix next time.
I do still have about a half jar or more of the Lipton iced tea left for future mixes. It will last quite awhile since each recipe only uses 1 2/3 cups. I should have just bought more packages of lemonade and orange packets and tripled or quadrupled the recipe. You could do that, but you’ll have to do some more math. You’re on your own.
Russian Tea (Sugarless)
1 1/3 cup iced tea (I used Lipton plain powder from a jar)
1 package Crystal Lite Lemonade mix (5 packets that make 2 quarts each)
1 package Sugarless Orange Drink mix (5 packets that make 2 quarts each)
Mix together and store in covered container.
Use approximately 2 teaspoons per 2 cups of water plus ice. Adjust measurements to your personal taste.