I used to work with the most wonderful woman named Mimi. She was a writer, a teacher, a lover of books, and, back in the ‘70s, she was a single mother who shared with her son a small apartment on Haight Street in San Francisco while she worked, went to school, and took care of her child’s chronic breathing problems that eventually resulted in him being fitted with a tracheostomy tube. Mimi was, and is, an admirable woman.
When we worked together, Mimi would bring by the gallon the most wonderful ginger lemon tea, kept cold in the work refrigerator and available for free to whoever wanted to partake of it. No matter the season, this tea was like a magical tonic that cured all ills, mental and physical. In the summertime, consumed over ice, the tea was the most brisk and refreshing thing you could ever imagine drinking. Though it seems impossible when I really think about it, I swear it actually perked people up enough to actually want to work more (a feat you’d definitely find impossible to believe if you knew where exactly we worked. Ahem). In the wintertime, warmed in a mug in the break room’s microwave, the tea was a soothing, calming respite from the persistent gloom and chill of Pacific Northwest winters and the ever-present insanity of the holiday season. If you were feeling under the weather, a mug of Mimi’s tea made you feel, while not completely healed, at least a bit more cared for and comforted.
After years of telling Mimi how much I loved her tea, and how appreciative I was of her always sharing it with everyone, she surprised me one day by pulling out a pad of Post-It notes and conspiratorially leaning in to me and saying, “You know what? I’m going to give you the recipe.”
One Post-It note, four ingredients, and years of enjoyment later, I can’t help feeling that the time has come to share Mimi’s recipe with the world. In part, I am doing it because I want to share this fantastic and borderline magical recipe with the world, but there is no small part of me that is doing it because I haven’t seen Mimi in over four years and lately I’ve been missing her. An old email address no longer connects me to her, and several stabs at a Google-fest involving her name have led me to only past employers and dead ends. I have only Mimi’s tea left to connect me to her, and, while I enjoy the tea immensely, I have to admit, I still feel as though something is missing. The tea is just not the same without the conversation, care, and compassion that Mimi supplied to go along with it.
Mimi’s Ginger Lemon Tea
This is the recipe exactly as Mimi wrote it down for me many years ago. As you can see, it makes a batch of tea by the gallon-plus. In the interest of moderation, I generally quarter the recipe and make a generous quart of tea.
Though this tea is perfect as-is, there are a number of delicious ways to dress it up. In the wintertime, served hot with a splash of bourbon, it’s the prefect night cap. In the summertime, chilled ice cold and served with a few leaves of fresh basil muddled in the bottom of your glass, it makes for a brisk and refreshing cooler. All in all, however, you’ll never go wrong just drinking it as Mimi wrote it.
1 gallon water
1 cup fresh ginger, peeled and sliced thin
2 cups freshly squeezed lemon juice
16 ounces (2 cups) honey
Combine water and ginger in a large pot and bring to a boil. Simmer for 30 minutes, then remove from heat and strain into a large bowl.
Stir in lemon juice and honey.