Lemon Honey Tea Base (柠檬蜜 Ning Meng Mi)
January 7, 2023  Print
I think this winter has been especially brutal for families with small children in the US. Both of my boys, 3 and 6, have been catching colds left and right. Thankfully they have avoided Covid so far. Sometimes the cough after a cold can linger for weeks. Over the past three months, it almost felt like someone was always sick in our household.
As a result, I’ve tried several home remedies to help my kids with their congestion and immune system. These two types of lemon honey tea base, one made with lemon and real honey and the other made with lemon and sugar syrup, became their favorite. I would mix a spoonful of the lemon honey tea base along with one or two lemon slices with hot or warm water and have my kids drink the resulting tea. They always happily oblige and would ask for more when they are done.
The key to making this lemon honey tea base is the Meyer lemon, which is sweeter, less sour and less tart than regular lemons. I find that lemon honey tea made with Meyer lemons and sugar has a similar taste to Korean citron marmalade (yuja cheong 柚子蜜) even though it does not use the actual Korean citron fruit yuja.
I found out that Meyer lemons are actually native to China. It’s a hybrid between lemon and mandarin. Right now it’s a great time to make this lemon honey tea because Meyer lemons are in season in the winter. At least in the US, you can find Meyer lemons in most grocery stores and supermarkets.
I have tried growing a Meyer lemon tree in a pot. It hasn’t produced much so far but that’s probably because I have yet to move it onto the ground. Thanks to the mild weather in Texas, the tree flowers frequently throughout the year. The flowers produce such a fragrant and sweet scent that they often attract many butterflies and bees.
You can use this lemon honey tea base for a variety of purposes. First is lemon honey tea. Winter is especially a great time to enjoy the warmth of lemon honey tea. When the weather is warm, however, I will mix the lemon honey tea base with sparkling water and ice and make it into a cold drink. I also use it as a jam of sorts and add it to my charcuterie boards. It pairs well with cured meat and cheese.
Sugar and honey are both natural preservatives. Meyer lemons also have a low PH value which makes them a high acid food. The combination of these factors helps this lemon honey tea base store well. You can expect the tea base to store for at least one month in a refrigerator, although in our home we usually finish them in a week.
Don’t expect this lemon honey tea base to have a gel-like texture like jams or marmalade. As I understand it, the gel-like consistency requires a chemical called pectin, which naturally occurs in many fruits and is added to make most fruit jams and preserves. The pectin in fruits becomes gel-like when heated to high temperature in acid and sugar. This is a crucial step in making jams and jelly.
Meyer lemons have quite a high level of pectin, with most of it in the white pith of the lemon skin. Since this lemon honey recipe does not require heating, the pectin in the lemon is only slowly released after storing in the jars. You can expect a thicker liquid over time, but definitely not to the level of any jam or marmalade.
Tools: glass or mason jars
Gluten Free, Vegan
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Servings: two 6 oz jars or one 12 oz jar for each type
Lemon Honey 1 (using Meyer lemon and simple syrup)
- 2 large or 4 small Meyer lemons 1
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup purified water
Lemon Honey 2 (using Meyer lemon and honey)
- 2 large or 4 small Meyer lemons 1
- ~1/2 cup honey
- Wash the Meyer lemons thoroughly. Ideally, wash with a fruit vegetable wash to remove any waxes and pesticides. Pat dry with a paper towel. Remove both ends and cut each lemon into thin round slices. Remove the seeds.
- Lemon Honey 1 (using Meyer lemon and simple syrup): Dissolve 1/2 cup of sugar in 1/2 cup of purified water to make the simple syrup. In a clean or sterilized mason jar, pour a bit of the simple syrup to cover the very bottom, then add one slice of lemon. Pour a bit of of the syrup on top of the lemon slice, then add another slice of lemon. Repeat until all the lemon slices and syrup is used up. Use a spoon to gently push the lemon slices to remove any air bubbles. Drink right away and store the rest in a refrigerator for about a month.
- Lemon Honey 2 (using Meyer lemon and honey): In a clean or sterilized mason jar, add a bit of the honey to cover the very bottom, then add one slice of lemon. Add a bit of the honey on top of the lemon slices and add another slice of lemon. Repeat until all the lemon slices and honey isused up. Use a spoon to gently push the lemon slices to remove any air bubbles. Drink right away and store the rest in a refrigerator for about a month.
- Lemon honey tea: mix one or two spoonfuls of the lemon honey tea base and one or two slices of lemon with hot, cold, or sparkling water. Adjust the sweetness according your own preference. Enjoy!
- You can get Meyer lemons from pretty much any western grocery store especially when Meyer lemons are in season (winter). I do not recommend using other types of lemon for this recipe. Regular lemon is more sour and less sweet, so you will need more sugar or honey if you don’t want your tea to be too sour.
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