In the part of the country where I live, drought country, we are now in full winter rainy day mode. It’s a time when I hanker for the deep dark robust teas of India—rich malty Assams, forgiving Nilgiris, even the CTC teas that vaunted tea connoisseurs might spurn. I want those richly satisfying black teas brewed within an inch of their overbrewed lives—and I am drinking them by the mugful. In times like these, tea seems to bring comfort in an otherwise chaotic upside-down world, clutching the mug for its warmth. Funny how beverages and foods, in general, offer stable pleasures and with tea in particular, lead me to a place of caffeinated comfort. It’s not uncommon to push these tea leaves to a 4 minute steep and finding they’re still enjoyable. Now’s the time to pull out the caramel from the refrigerator to mellow and sweeten the drink.
Here’s how to make it: Cook 2 cups of granulated sugar in a heavy pan, stirring gently to be sure that all is melted, carefully swirling the pan to avoid cooking to bitterness. The browning process is best done over medium heat . Once the sugar has turned to a tea color, add 1 cup of heavy cream—allowing the mixture to bubble up violently—(what a sight!) and then stirring to meld the sugar with the cream. Now add an ever slightest pinch of sea salt to balance the sweetness. Now cool the mixture until it’s safe to taste it, adjusting the salt, if needed. Cool further to room temperature and then store in the refrigerator for those times which call for a softer sweeter experience. (The caramel keeps for at least a week—if it lasts that long and is delicious, when rewarmed over a water bath, on ice cream, custards, cakes, just about anything). Have a plain crisp cookie on hand and your afternoon, or any time of day, and your tea experience is complete.