I wasn’t exactly in a cozy room when I tried the Brazilian Quentão Recipe, a spiced tea made with chachaça, but I quickly immersed myself in the excitement of this rich drink while sitting in a snack bar in Teresópolis, a mountain town about one-hour away from Rio de Janeiro.
Teresópolis allows us, Cariocas (people born in Rio), a fake-winter excuse to wear warm sweatshirts and boots, while sitting by the fireplace with a coffee cup, as the local weather is at least some 20 degrees Fahrenheit cooler than Rio itself.
In Portuguese the word quente means hot and the superlative quentão means super-hot. By tradition, the tea is prepared with flavorful spices such as cinnamon stick, lemongrass, ginger, cloves, star anis, and some sugar, and finished with cachaça.
Quentão is known to Cariocas as the typical drink from Minas Gerais. I was happy to try it from the hands of an expert, Mr. Ernani Antonio de Oliveira, who learned to make quentão in Minas and has been offering it for years at his restaurant Caldo da Piranha in Teresópolis.
“Quentão combina com o clima de Teresópolis”(Quentão goes with the climate of Teresópolis), said Mr. Oliveria.
The appeal for Quentão in cold weather may just be simple thermodynamics: weather a bubbling stew or a hot tea, it generates heat, never a bad thing in winter. Or perhaps, its power lies in its own recipe. If Quentão promotes cozy feelings in the mild winters of Teresopolis, imagine what fantasies it would promote during a snowstorm in the American north-east? Its warmth, balanced by a lingering peppery sweetness surely promises happy endings – or at least, to ease the winter blues. This recipe is inspired by Mr. Ernani Antonio de Oliveira.
Brazilian Quentão Recipe
1 L (4 cups) water
1 large piece of fresh ginger (about ¼ lb), peeled and roughly chopped
2 limes cut into 4 pieces
3 to 4 cinnamon sticks
1 lemongrass, roughly chopped
1 cup sugar
I bottle (750 ml, or about 3 cups) cachaça
Place all the ingredients except the cachaça in a large sauce-pan and bring to a boil over high heat. Once it reaches a boil turn off the heat and cover the pan with a tight lid. Let it steep for 20 minutes. Add the cachaça, mix well, and strain the liquid. Serve hot. Keep the left over in a plastic container in the fridge and re-heat before serving.
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