Ginger tea is a staple in Brazil and enjoyed both hot and cold. During the colder months, you’ll likely see ginger tea combined with a generous serving of the national alcohol, cachaça (kah-SHAH-sah), a rum-like spirit made from fermented sugar cane. This alcoholic drink is called quentão or “big heat” – as you can imagine the spice from ginger mixed with the spirit really packs a punch (in a good way). Whether served cold, hot, alcohol-free, or with the extra kick, Brazilians drink ginger tea for the serious health benefits and its refreshing taste.
My mother-in-law is from a rural mountain region in Minas Gerais, Brazil, the state credited for first creating Brazilian ginger tea. Since her family didn’t have spare money to take her (or her six siblings) to regular doctor visits, her family relied heavily on natural medicine to keep everyone healthy. Ginger root was easy to grow in that region and ginger tea became their go-to remedy for most common health problems: cold, flu, allergies, cough, sore throat, twisted or sprained ankles/wrists, headaches, body aches, and digestive problems.
While my mother-in-law’s family didn’t have internet access or case studies to prove ginger’s amazing healing properties then, turns out they were right to use it at the first sign of, well, practically anything. Multiple studies show ginger boosts the immune system, decreases inflammation and body aches, aids in digestion, opens up the sinus passages, decreases nausea, helps relieve gas and constipation, improves circulation, helps burn belly fat, increases insulin sensitivity, and destroys cancer cells. Wow, that’s a lot of health benefits! It’s no surprise Ayurveda medicine considers ginger “the universal medicine”.
After hearing all ginger’s benefits, you have to try my mother-in-law’s ginger tea. It’s super easy to make, delicious, oh so addictive (watch out though if you add the alcohol), and of course – great for your health! Check out the recipe below and please let me know if you have any questions.
Brazilian Ginger Tea Recipe (Makes approximately 2 cups)
- Roughly ½ cup of fresh ginger root, skin peeled and roughly chopped, OR 1 Teaspoon of powdered ginger (Wakaya Perfection Ginger is a great option, and it’s super strong so you won’t need to use too much of it)
- 1 1/2 Teaspoons of (preferably brown, but white would work too) organic sugar
(Ginger tea is traditionally made with fresh sugar cane juice (so yummy), but I make it with organic sugar, which is naturally a slight brown color here in Brazil)
- Two drops of filtered water (approx ¼ teaspoon, careful not to use too much water here)
- 2 cups filtered water
- Cinnamon stick (or cinnamon powder to taste)
- Clove sticks (or clove powder to taste)
- Freshly squeezed lime or lemon juice
- Cachaça (if you want to make quentão)
1. Put the 1/4 teaspoon of water and sugar in a small saucepan. Stir over low to low/medium heat (careful not to have it too hot), until the mixture gets a bubbly, about a minute or so.
2. Add the ginger pieces and stir the mixture for 3-5 minutes cooking the ginger on low/low medium heat (this is an important step – you want the heat high enough that the ginger starts cooking and fermenting in the sugar mixture – this is what gives the tea its spice – but be careful not to burn the pan). This is when the spicy aroma of ginger starts to fill your kitchen! When the ginger pieces have soaked up the sugar mixture and are soft, you’re ready for step 3.
3. Add the 2 cups of water (and any additional spices you want), and bring the mixture to a rolling boil.
4. When it comes to a boil, turn off the heat and cover with a lid for at least 10 minutes (longer if you have time and want the flavors to marinate more).
5. Strain out the ginger chunks and serve hot or cold.
- When buying fresh ginger, look for shiny and smooth pieces.
- You can easily double/triple/or make a stockpot of this recipe when you are having a get together or to just keep in the fridge (although it’s best to drink within a few days).
- Play around with this recipe: add more ginger or sugar depending on your tastes (many Brazilians actually prefer more sugar than I use in this recipe), brew with ginger powder, too, for an extra kick!
After you make it a few times, you’ll start to know how you prefer it and tweak things around a little – plus, each batch is never exactly the same! Let me know how it turns out. Enjoy!
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