So, we have mentioned „Shumadian Tea“ several times before. This miraculous drink wins the hearts of all the people who taste it. We consider it omnipotent cure for cold and flu; it is very powerful antidepressive and an extraordinary catalyst in making new friendships.
We drink it during the cold months, we drink it in every occasion. I guarantee that there is no more suitable drink when you’re outside on the snow, or if you’re almost completely overwhelmed by the cold. It is a must to serve Shumadian Tea during the winter holidays, such as slava, or Christmas – even on Christmas Eve, as we await Christmas at the church, we like to socialize in courtyard with a cup of our brand.
„So, what is Shumadian Tea!? Speak up, boy!“ – I hear some of you… Well, here it goes: Shumadian Tea, or as we call it – ŠUMADIJSKI ČAJ is made of Serbian brandy – RAKIJA. However, the most suitable rakija for making Šumadijski čaj (you should learn Serbian a little bit) is plum brandy, which we call ŠLJIVOVICA. Šumadijski Čaj is boiled Šljivovica, with sugar or honey added during the processing. The usual strenght of Šumadijski Čaj is about 25% alc. v.v. It is best served hot, but I never heard anyone complaining if Šumadijski Čaj got cold…
Šumadijski Čaj got its name by a Central Serbian region – Šumadija. Abundant of fruits, Šumadija used to be the largest exporter of fruits in Europe. Believe it or not, but until 1990 almost 65% of world plum products came from Šumadija. By this period, Serbia had 80% share in the world plum market. Since it’s obvious that we had more than enough fruits, it’s not strange why this region was (and still is) famous for all sorts of domestic fruit products which make Serbia popular among gastronomers – jams and marmalades, slatko, and rakija – of course.
There are two philosophic schools in Serbia concerning making Šumadijski čaj, which differ in type of rakija to be used for processing. The first, traditional school says that only soft rakija šljivovica (we call it „meka rakija“), containing under 25% alc/vol should be used for Šumadijski Čaj. This way rakija keeps all of its characteristics, and you can enjoy the flavour in its full brilliancy. The other school claims that it’s OK to use any rakija šljivovica (standard strenght varies from 40% alc/vol to 65% alc/vol), as it can be watered down to a best suiting strenght. Main quarel between the apprentices of these two schools is – water; as traditionals claim that „water is not suiting even in shoes, not to mention rakija“.
Most of us who don’t involve in their disputes claim that both schools are good, and the flaws cannot be spotted. If you didn’t have the chance of trying our winter specialty, I’ll give you one of the most common recipes. This way you can try to make Šumadijski Čaj and get the picture, so your next trip to Serbia could be a quest for Šumadijski čaj…
Here’s what you’ll need:
PETER’S RECIPE FOR SHUMADIAN TEA
Estimated for 10 glasses (you decide how many persons)
• 0,6 l of Serbian plum brandy – rakija šljivovica of standard strenght (40%-50% alc/vol)
• 0,4 l of water
• 250 g of sugar
Put the sugar into a metal pot and warm it on a burner. Sugar shoul cover the whole bottom of the pot. If you have a gas burner you should add 1 or 2 spoons of water, so the sugar doesn’t burn. Warm up sugar until its caramelized – it should have that golden color. Pour down about 2 dl of water (always pour down water first), and while stirring gradually add the rest of the water. When the sugar disolves in water, you should get sherbet – and now you can add rakija. The secret of preparing good Shumadian tea is: when it boils for the first time you should momentarily remove the pot from the burner; then put it again until next boil when you repeat the process. Shumadian tea should boil three times.
Serving and consumation
Šumadijski čaj is served on a saucer, in thick 1 dl glasses, wrapped by a napkin. If you wish to make your serving a bit more theatrical – you can cover the glass with a saucer. This way, when you remove the saucer, you will have a steam cloud raising and filling the room with the essence of Šumadijski čaj.
Šumadijski čaj is always served hot, so the best way to drink it is with small sips. Beware not to inhale the vapor, as it is very strong and can besot the inhaler. Šumadijski čaj may cause severe joy and good humour, which can last up to several hours – depending on consumer’s tolerance. It cannot be treated in any other way by joining the joy.
Writen by Petar Živić / Serbia Incoming DMC Project Manager