Russian Tea

Oh yum. This warm Russian Tea is so, so delightful, and I’m not just saying that because we are going on day five without a centralized heat source.

I made this citrusy beverage for post Halloween trick-or-treating and since then, I’ve kept it nearly constantly in the refrigerator for a quick-heat-to-experience-bliss moment.

The name is a little misleading since it doesn’t include real, live tea. Instead it’s a wonderful blend of orange and lemon and warm notes of vanilla and almond. While I have professed my love for hot chocolate abundantly in the past, I like knowing I have another warm beverage to serve right alongside for those that don’t like hot chocolate (gasp!) or that just want to think outside of the hot drink box for a while.

Say hi to Russian Tea. You should get to know her. She has a sweet personality.

Russian Tea

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Two Years Ago: Chocolate Mousse Cheesecake Pie
Three Years Ago: Black Bean & Pumpkin Chili

Warm Russian Tea

Yield: Make about 16 cups

Warm Russian Tea

Everyone's "sweetness" level is a bit different so I included a range when making the simple syrup of sugar and water. Two cups sugar + two cups water is plenty sweet for me (keep reading for the brand of OJ I use, which may make a difference) but if you tend to like things less tart and more sweet, go for the three cups sugar + three cups water.

I use the Simply OJ brand of orange juice. The fresh flavor really shines through (same with fresh lemon juice vs. bottled, but use what you prefer).


  • 2-3 cups sugar (see note above)
  • 2-3 cups water (see note above)
  • 3 cups orange juice
  • 1 cup fresh lemon juice (5-6 lemons)
  • 3 quarts water (12 cups)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ teaspoons almond extract


  1. In a large saucepan, heat the sugar and water to a simmer until the sugar is dissolved, 3-4 minutes. Off the heat, stir in the remaining ingredients. Heat again until warm; keep warm on the stove or transfer to a slow cooker and heat on low until serving.
  2. This can be made up to a week in advance and refrigerated before heating and serving.

Recipe Source: adapted slightly (reduced sugar) from a recipe my cute sis-in-law, Melissa, sent me after she had it at a church activity and requested the recipe (thanks, Meliss!)

44 Responses to Warm Russian Tea

  1. Oklahoma says:

    Oh my goodness, this is delicious! I could not stop drinking it, and I have oral allergy syndrome to orange juice. I think it would be excellent cold as well. This summer I plan to cut back on the water by a third and pour over ice. Thanks for sharing Mel.

  2. Omi says:


  3. Amanda says:

    This has been a staple in my fridge for a month, now! While I enjoy a good mug of chocolate, I LOVE this stuff. So refreshing and comforting.

  4. Liz says:

    I made it last night and it was so good! What a good way to warm up. I used the minimal sugar/water ratio and it was still pretty sweet. My family was skeptical (“Mom! Don’t waste the good orange juice on that!”) but they all ended up liking it, too.

  5. Sarah D. says:

    Hi Mel,
    This sounds delicious. Do you think there is an easy way to use Simply Lemonade instead of the lemon juice and simple syrup? Trying to look for a quick, easy way to make this. 🙂 Thanks!

    • Mel says:

      Definitely worth a try, Sarah – maybe try mixing the Simply Lemonade with honey or agave nectar for the sweetness.

    • Laurie says:

      The amount of lemon juice + water + sugar in this recipe looks to be roughly a recipe for 1 gallon of lemonade. I’m going to try making 2 quarts of “Cheater Warm Russian Tea” by putting 1-1/2 cups OJ in my 2-qt pitcher, than filling to the top with Simply Lemonade, adding 1/2 Tablespoon vanilla, 3/4 teaspoon almond, maybe a pinch of cinnamon and clove. How could that be bad?! 😉

  6. Angela says:

    My daughter (8 yo) said this tasted like a cookie dipped in orange juice. Thanks for a drink to give us an extra dose of good old vitamin c during cold season.

  7. Nita says:

    I’m making my third batch of this tea this week! It’s very delicious ,all my kids loved it. I used the lesser amount of sugar and it was perfect.

  8. Sarah says:

    Yum! We made this last night and it is delicious. My kids gave it 2 thumbs up. One of them said “mmm, it tastes like warm pineapple juice.” He’s a little odd sometimes. But it was a huge hit!!

  9. Sarah says:

    We loved this! My daughter was so excited to be drinking “tea” because as she said “It doesn’t have stuff in it that’s not okay for kids.”

  10. Teresa says:

    This was an excellent drink! I made it this afternoon and could not resist having my own cup. I loved it. I think the almond extract really makes it. I went lighter on the sugar and halved the recipe, but I did use your brand of OJ. Fantastic. I think I would like it even cold in the hot weather, over ice, but I am loving it warm now. Thank you!

  11. Annalisa says:

    This was delicious!!

  12. Mimi says:

    Sounds so delicious and I can’t wait to make it! Can you recommend a substitute for the almond extract? My son has tree nut allergies.

    • Mel says:

      I’d probably just go ahead and leave it out. Different flavor profile – but you might consider adding a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg to give it more depth than all citrus.

    • Heather says:

      I forgot to grab almond extract at the store so I thought I would be all creative and add coconut extract instead. Big mistake!! I love coconut, but not in this drink. I would just leave it out.

  13. Lindsay Nelson says:

    This looks yummy! I’ve been thinking about you guys and hoping you got heat today!!!

  14. As another reader commented, my aunt made a similar drink when we were kids but using powdered drink mixes. Love this fresh version and I love adding a little almond extract to various recipes so I’m sure it adds a lovely finishing touch to this drink!

  15. Anna says:

    I’m making up some of this today. Brrr! Cold outside.

    Decided to steep some cinnamon sticks, cloves and grains of paradise in the sugar water as well, because I remember the Tang-based version from my childhood. (The grains of paradise have a wonderful flavor. A black peppercorn or two would be similar, I think.)

  16. Sasha says:

    Lovely recipe. Curious why its called Russian? They drink black tea in Russia mostly and the orange juice is imported and quite uncommon. Dosn’t matter, I know!!!

    • Mel says:

      Not sure about the name – that’s what it was called when it was passed to me. I’m assuming that it’s a variation of a recipe that probably did once include tea and has just been adapted.

  17. Valerie says:

    My mom used to make this for us kids when we were sick with a cold 55 years ago. Glad to see people still like it!

  18. Michelle says:

    This looks delish!!! Question – how crucial is it to use fresh lemons? What about plain bottled lemon juice?

    • Mel says:

      Hi Michelle – my sister-in-law, Melissa, who gave me the recipe uses bottled lemon juice and likes it. I don’t ever have it on hand so I haven’t tried it but if the flavor of bottled lemon juice is ok with you, I’d say go ahead and try it!

  19. Amanda says:

    Yes! I am pregnant and off of caffeine and wanted something warm besides hot cocoa and cider. And I have all of these ingredients which is great for a woman trying to stick to a budget!! Thanks!

  20. Amanda says:

    Add me to the list of mommas who can’t have chocolate because baby doesn’t like it. I’ve needed something like this! Can’t wait to try it!!

  21. Jamie says:

    If you don’t have fresh ingredients in the house, this recipe is pretty good! .
    Caffeine-free “Russian Refresher”
    from Jamie Jarvis and the Make-a-Mix Cookery book
    2 cups Tang or other orange drink mix
    3 oz presweetened powdered lemonade mix (Country Time is the best)
    1 1/3 cups sugar (or less) 1 tsp cinnamon 1/2 tsp ground cloves.
    Combine all ingredients. Store in air-tight container in a cool, dry place.
    Add 2-3 tsp mix to 1 cup hot water. Stir to dissolve.

  22. CheryL Michaelson says:

    do you have a dry recipe of the Russian tea. My husband’s grandmother made it, but it was a dry mix?

  23. Lisa says:

    Hi – My family has been making this for years! We have a few slight alterations – we brew decaf black tea and make the simple syrup with the tea instead of plain water. We also stir in a cinnamon stick and about five cloves into the simple syrup to infuse it with a little spice then follow the recipe you have listed here. I always make a big jug for Thanksgiving!

  24. Anna says:

    Caffeine free and warm? Sign me up, for sure!

  25. Angela Baird says:

    My sister made this the other day and gave me a cup “to go.” I was driving down the road and immediately called her and asked her what this amazing drink is!! It was so yummy and a refreshing change to the hot apple cider/hot chocolate/warm drinks we typically enjoy. She did the ratios of 3 c water/3 c sugar. Super sweet, for sure! I will definitely be making this for my family soon!!

  26. Hilary says:

    Just made this….and it is delicious!!!! It makes a ton, but that is a good thing!! Can’t wait for my kids to try this after school- they will LOVE it!! 🙂 THANK YOU!!!!

  27. Laurel says:

    Mel, I could kiss you! My nursing babe won’t let me eat chocolate (and a lot of other things) I thought, how will I survive my horrible mountain snow on just Apple cider. I’m making a huge batch of this to keep! Looks divine!

  28. Caitlin says:

    Oooo! I can’t wait to try this one, we all love hot cider around our house so i can imagine we would all love this fruity hot drink. I bet it’s wonderful when you are under the weather too (a staple when my children are sick is weak tea with lots of honey and lemon, and this sounds along the same lines). I imagine you can cut the recipe down if you don’t want the full four litres?

  29. Lynette says:

    This sounds so good! Can it be made using Stevia or Splenda? I’ve never tried a simple syrup with artificial sweetener. Both my husband and I are diabetic, so this would definitely be better for us. Thanks!

  30. Tea. It has been my life blood for about 10 days now. We are all sick and living on warm honeyed tea. We have gone through three boxes of various teas and a quart of local raw honey.
    I really wouldn’t sound so sweet (even in a post) if I still didn’t have heat. You’re amazing.

  31. Nicole Hunn says:

    Really?? Still no heat, Mel? You poor thing!

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