Introduction: Basic Ginger Tea
(First of all, I know it's technically a tisane/infusion, not tea. Moving on...)
In this instructable, I'm going to show you how to make a quick, simple ginger tea, which is delicious, warming, and great for dealing with sore throats, sniffles, colds, and the like. Ginger root (Zingiber officinale) contains an impressive selection of antimicrobial and antifungal compounds to help clear up whatever ails you, with the added bonus of stimulating VR1 (capsaicin) receptors to make you feel warm (fantastic when coming inside from the rain or snow). There's also quite a bit of evidence (plus plenty of anecdote) to suggest that it helps with nausea as well (citation), so this is great to brew up once the winter vomiting bug rolls around. (A few more citations here, here, and here for the skeptical among you. This is a fairly random selection from a few quick PubMed searches; there's plenty more out there.)
This is a very quick, very simple recipe, and one of my favourites. I always try to keep some fresh ginger around the kitchen during cold and flu season, and even more so in the beginning of the academic year, when the dreaded "freshers' flu" makes its way around town courtesy of the students coming to university. (On that note, this is a great recipe for students to have, as there's little worse than feeling sick and stuffy with an essay deadline creeping up.)
That said, this is also great to have even if you're feeling absolutely fine. It's really quite tasty, full of antioxidants, and I can't find any reports of it being harmful in any reasonable quantity. (I'm using "reasonable quantity" with my tea-drinking habits in mind, so in other words quite a bit.) Do be careful though if you're on any other medications or supplements, as it can interact with some.
Step 1: Ingredients and Equipment
As far as ingredients go, basically all you need is ginger root and boiling water, but there are plenty of ways to put your own twist on the recipe. Feel free to add honey or sugar to sweeten, lemon to give it a nice fresh taste, cinnamon stick or nutmeg for a bit of spice, etc. You can even toss in a teabag if you just want to add some kick (and extra cold-fighting properties!) to your usual cuppa.
Something to boil water with - kettle, saucepan, microwave, etc. I'll trust you to work those out. (Hint: Don't put the saucepan in the microwave.)
Vegetable peeler - optional, but nice to have
Knife - technically optional if you're creative enough with the peeler
Step 2: Boil Water.
Fairly simple. Not much to explain here. You do want the water at a rolling boil, not just hot, for the ginger to steep properly.
Step 3: Prepare the Ginger.
First, you want to get yourself a chunk of fresh ginger. I generally aim for something very roughly like a cube with inch-and-a-half sides, but this is largely dependent on how I'm feeling/what the lump of ginger in front of me looks like. Play around with it; you'll eventually find the right amount for how spicy you like your tea.
Once you've got this chunk, the first thing you want to do is peel it. This isn't really necessary, but if you leave the skin on you may get little papery bits floating around while you're trying to drink your tea.
Next chop up your bit of ginger. It doesn't have to be precise, but you want plenty of surface area to steep and as much of the nice juices released as possble. I find that cutting roughly perpendicular to the 'grain' (stringy bits) in the root works best. If you want, you can use the peeler to cut the ginger into very thin slices (plus save yourself having to wash the knife!), which works very well, but be careful with your fingers!
Step 4: Dump Everything in the Mug.
Again, pretty simple. Drop your chunks of ginger in the mug, and pour the boiling/recently boiled water on top. The hotter the water is, the more nice gingery-ness you will have in your tea. If you're adding cinnamon stick, spices, actual tea, etc., add them to the mug when you put in the ginger.
Some of you may note that I'm adding the water to the ginger after it's boiled, rather than boiling the water with the ginger in it as some other recipes call for. This is really just my preference; it saves a few minutes, since you can chop the ginger while the water is boiling, and it keeps the tea from getting excessively spicy/bitter. (It also means you can use an electric kettle without having to clean it afterwards.) While it's true that you don't extract quite as many of the active chemicals from the ginger this way, I find that you still get more than enough to soothe a sore throat or fend off a cold.
Step 5: Let Steep, and Enjoy!
Once you've added the water, let it sit for a few minutes, and you should get a lovely pale gold coloured, slightly cloudy tea. At this point, you can strain out the bits of ginger if you like, but I generally prefer to leave them in. (As long as you've peeled the ginger, everything should sit on the bottom of the mug, so you can drink it without too much trouble.) Be aware though that it will continue to get stronger for quite a while as it sits with the bits of ginger, so if you take your time drinking, it will get very spicy!
If you're adding extras like sweeteners, lemon juice, etc., this is the time to add those. If you find ginger to be particularly spicy as some people seem to, adding a bit of honey or sugar might be a good way to cut that without brewing a weaker tea and missing out on some of the nice, cold-fighting chemicals that some with the spice.
That's it; enjoy!