Celebrating the citrus season right now (and yes, citrus fruits do have a season and it’s called late winter/early spring), I like to flavor my tea with the bracing, acidic, sweet notes of citrus. The next time you peel a mandarin, clementine, or tangerine, or even grapefruit or pomelo (and there are so many varieties of all of these now in my favorite farmers’ markets), don’t throw away the peel.
Instead, using a small spoon, scrape away and discard as much of the bitter white pith as possible, cut what’s left into batons using a chef’s knife and place them on a sheet pan in a warm dry spot in your kitchen for a few days. It should dry and shrivel a bit but still retain a lot of its wonderful aroma. Once it’s fully dry, store it in a glass jar with a tight fitting lid, away from heat and light, just as you would store your spices. When you next taste some other great citrus fruit, perhaps a pomelo this time or a honey tangerine, repeat the process with the skin which would otherwise land in the compost heap or in the garbage. True recycling in the best sense of the word.
Whenever you are ready to enliven your tea drinking experience, needing an extra fillip of zesty flavor that at its best is truly seasonal, drop in a few thin shreds of the dried peel along with the tea leaves, heat the good quality water to the boil, or just under, and allow to steep for a few minutes.
Decant the liquid and then imbibe, inhaling the enhanced aroma of your favorite tea. I find that black teas from good gardens in Ceylon (Kenilworth or St. Clair for example), take to this treatment best. A couple of cinnamon sticks, roughly crushed to release their heady aroma, added to that jar of dried citrus peel would add another dimension, a redolent reminder of the spice trade and also of the origins of fine tea and true cinnamon.