How To Make Citrus Tea aka “White Coffee”
I have a love affair with citrus fruits– the way they look, the way they smell, the fact that their scent relieves stress and their juice boosts metabolism– all of it. And in recent years, I’ve specifically come to revere Meyer lemons, SoCal oranges, and Mexican limes– the kind of stuff that is best consumed in the winter and spring months on the coast of Southern California.
A few months ago when I was back in L.A., I was making some citrus tea with the rinds of a variety of citrus fruits I picked up at the Santa Monica Farmers Market, and GC CEO Daisy Helman asked me to share the recipe, since not everyone knows about the traditional referred to as “white coffee”– a citrus brew I originally encountered over macarons at Ladurée.
“White coffee” is the folk name for a non-caffeinated citrus “tea” made from boiling the rinds of citrus fruit– usually a medley of lemon, orange, and limes. The heat pulls volatile oils from the rind (the rind is what is used to make essential oils), which in turn flavor the tea.
Making citrus tea is a fun project for kids or people with a low tolerance for caffeine, and I personally like it because it’s a form of recycling and reuse– plus, the resultant flavors are gentle and refreshing.
I make this tea every time I’m in California during the winter months, when the especially nuanced flavors of the region take center stage– huge Oro Blanco grapefruit, super-sweet cocktail grapefruit, Texas Ruby star, Sweet Kumquats, Satsuma Mandarin, Meyer lemons, Kishu Mini Mandarin, and my favorite: Persian Lemon, which is something of a crown jewel that usually only grows in California during the wintertime. (Persian lemons are circular and sweet as sugar; I often refer to them as “lemonade in fruit form”.)
Making citrus tea is also as simple as it sounds: simply slice up a selection of rinds from your favorite citrus fruits and infuse them with boiling water (you can parcel them into tea bags if you don’t have an infuser, or boil them in a pot and remove the rinds before pouring).
Above, I cut up a selection of rinds from Meyer lemons, satsumas, ruby grapefruit, limes, and regular lemons, aka Eureka lemons. (Eureka lemons are the “common” lemon that can be found in the grocery store year-round. Meyer lemons, a native of California, are much sweeter and highly recommended for this brew– but play to your taste.)
The scent of citrus is said to calm nerves, so the experience of making citrus tea is as relaxing as it is delicious and visually stimulating. Like a Japanese tea ceremony, these are ingredients to revere. Worship is in the eye of the beholder, but this is a tea worth believing in.