Cherry Varenya ~ Russian Tea Sweetener

The Russian immigrants I grew up around would make and enjoy this Cherry Syrup made with whole pie cherries in their hot tea. They used this syrup in place of sugar to sweeten their tea. I called my mother this week to get the following recipe from her to share for The-Sweet-and-Savory-of-Yummy.

This is a very simple recipe for Cherry Varenya. This is a syrup made with Cherries to sweeten hot tea with.

Cherry Varenya

1/2 Cup Water
1 Cup Sugar
1 Cup Whole Sour Cherries (Pie Cherries)
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice

You would increase the proportions of this recipe according to how many cherries you have on hand that you want to make into Varenya.

Boil the water and sugar to make a clear simple syrup. When the liquid is clear add your cherries and let it boil for 10 to 20 minutes (depending on how hard the cherries were to begin with) At the end of the boiling add 1 Tablespoon of fresh lemon juice to help preserve the brightness of the syrup.

You may want to can it at this point. (I don’t know how to can anything so you are on your own here!) 🙂

You can do this process with sliced lemons, too, to make a Lemon Varenya.

Lemon Varenya

When I was young our family would go to a Cherry Orchard somewhere near Lancaster, California in July when the pie cherries were ready to harvest. It might have been in the Leona Valley. We would pick cherries all day and take home upwards of 40 pounds of cherries. That’s a lot of Varenya. When we picked this much my parents would give about half of the cherries away to other relatives and friends who couldn’t make the trek out to the Cherry Farm. Then it was a full day of preparing the cherries for Varenya. Washing, cooking and canning.

About Ellenhttp://I am a wife, mother, baba (grandmother) and a loyal friend. Jesus is my King and my hope is in my future with Him.

36 thoughts on “Cherry Varenya ~ Russian Tea Sweetener

  1. This sounds quite delicious….I never would have thought about putting in in tea, however. I imagine it must taste rather good, and you can eat the cherries after you have drunk the tea! I would be tempted to eat the varenya right out of the jar with a spoon. Or heat it up and put it over vanilla ice cream. Mmmmmm!

  2. I have never heard of this recipe before, but it looks great.
    When I saw the heading, I thought you were going to post a recipe for cherry vereneki, which would certainly be something quite different!(and probably not spelled that way!)

  3. I love this recipe! Sometimes I make “jam tea” but this is even better! I think the sweetened pie cherries have just enough tart in them to make tea perfectly delicious! Thank you so much for teaching us how to make this!!!


  4. Oh this looks sooo goooooddd! I have a Chinese friend who brought me dried plums to put in my green tea once and it was delicious. Your cherries sound a little similar. What type of tea do you usualy use?

    Cori, Growing up we pretty much just used good ole Lipton tea and tea bags. I have to always have Lipton on hand for my brother…

  5. The cherry flavor sounds delicious in the tea. What would you eat with the cherry flavored tea?

    Willow, Anything made with a lot of butter 🙂

  6. Thank you for sharing. I a recipe that is very similar (I use lime not lemon) and we eat ours on corrage cheese. Yum Yum!!

  7. Mmmm…my husband would LOVE this condiment. It’ll have to be for something other than tea, though; the only kind of tea he drinks is iced.


    Blue Jeans Hostess

  8. I have never heard of this before but it sounds delicious! I love cherries and when they are in season i gobble up as many as I can even if I do have to spend a fortune on them! I’d like to try this, I don’t can either, but I have a friend who does, maybe I can enlist her help. Thank you for sharing your wonderful family tradition.

  9. Every evening, when I was a child, my mother and I would sit at the kitchen table and share a cup of tea sweetened with her homemade varenya. I would drink the tea, then fish out the warmed cherries at the bottom to enjoy as “dessert”. Mother-daughter bonding at its best. Thank you for the sweet memory!

  10. I love this recipe! Thank you so much for putting it here. I’ve googled every where for something like this and you are the only one out there I can find. I’ve tried it using sugar for a batch, and honey for another batch. They both work out great! It’s hard to get small sour cherry outside a can where I live. Do you recommend any other substitute?


  11. Thank you so much for putting up this recipe in the internet! I was watching Sex In The City where Carrie Bradshaw was introduced to this particular sweetener by Aleksandr Petrovsky … and I was immediately intrigued! I am reminded of jams when I saw the Black Cherries.. wondering if other jams will make a good sweetening alternative to sugar for tea! Thanks a bunch!

  12. I have been looking for this recipe since I had the tea last weekend for cherries to sweeten my tea. However, the waitress at the Russian Tea Room told us the cherries were infused with honey. Any one have a recipe for that? The cherries were FABULOUS in the tea. Really became a tea fan that day.

  13. I was just at the Russian Tea Room In New York City, and our tea came with these yummy sweetened cherries and our server was telling us how they are a Russian Tradition. I love it so much, that I went on-line to find out how to make it so I could relive my experience at the Russian Tea Room. Thank you so much for putting this recipe up. Dumb question, do I use the canned pie cherries or where do I get the sour cherries at?

    • Sharon, My family always picked their own sour cherries and used the fresh ones to make this syrup. There are u-pick sour cherry orchards in Southern California. I haven’t tried this with canned pie cherries but if that’s your only option go for it…

  14. oh my gosh, my Grandma was a German from Russia and I grew up drinking tea with this. I have to make it! It is SOOOO good. Constant Comment regular black tea made strong. Perfect! I loved seeing the photos….Thank you!


  16. Thank you, thank you, thank you . . . I will never be able to thank you enouhg! I’ve been looking everywhere for the recipe for what we call “tea cherries”.

  17. Never have used for tea since our toddler devours these with yogurt and oatmeal! So, so good. I am always waiting to gobble up any rare leftovers. Yes, it is that good!

  18. I am going to have to find some Black Cherry Syrup to add to my tea. I hate milk in tea and currently add a splash of Ribena (a UK Black Current cordial)

  19. Thanks for posting this! I recently did my first banya, and when we got tea between sessions in the sauna, they served it with cherries and honey on the side. The honey made sense to my non-Russian self, but the cherries confused me so much. Now I know what they were for (and I can make my own!)

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