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[Photographs: Carrie Vasios]

In a season full of rich drinks like eggnog, cider, and cocoa, it can be nice to pause with a simple cup of tea. That doesn't mean that you have to forego the holiday spirit—many tea companies make special winter brews in flavors ranging from pumpkin pie to sugar plum. Which are worth picking up? Here are a few of our favorites.

Drinkers of black tea definitely have the greatest selection of holiday tea, in part because the flavor of chai lends itself so well to the season. Stash's Holiday Chai is a great example. A blend of black tea, cinnamon, allspice, clove, ginger, gingerbread flavor, Jamaican rum flavor, nutmeg, and nutmeg oil, this tea tastes like "holiday spice" in a cup. Some ingredients, like the cloves, are identifiable, while others, like the Jamaican rum flavor, are less so. Either way, the resulting brew is very balanced and smooth, and people normally turned off by the tannins in black tea but in need of some caffeine should try this blend. Adding a little milk and some sugar will turn this into a slightly richer drink—and more traditional chai— but it will still be a nice break from eggnog.

If you normally drink Constant Comment or Earl Grey tea, you might try The Republic of Tea's Comfort and Joy blend. It's made with black tea, cinnamon, natural flavors, cloves, licorice root, and apple bits, though the overall flavor is distinctly orangey (it's not clear why—perhaps a combination of the natural flavor and the apple bits?). The notes of cinnamon make it holiday appropriate, but its bright citrus flavor would make it great as an afternoon pick-me-up.

Harney and Sons Hot Cinnamon Spice tea is a bolder drink—you can see the powdered cinnamon in the silk sachets as well as covering the walls of the tin the tea comes in. Made with a blend of black teas, three types of cinnamon, orange peel, sweet cloves, and natural and artificial flavors, this brew is spicy and sweet. The intense cinnamon flavor makes it feel like a treat, and it's a good trick for when you want serious holiday flavor but you're trying to keep your hands out of the cookie jar.

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Many tea makers seem to take their mint green tea and slap a holiday name on the box. If you like mint green tea that's not a problem, flavor-wise, but if you want something that's pushing a little farther into "holiday" fare, try Candy Cane Lane from Celestial Seasonings. This decaffeinated green tea starts with notes of menthol and ends with the taste of vanilla. It's a little sweeter than most green teas, but the peppermint keeps it light.

Don't drink caffeine? Try Stash's Cranberry Pomegranate tea. Unlike many holiday herbal teas which are way too sweet (or try, unsuccessfully, to taste like chocolate), this brew is refreshingly sweet-tart. There is "pomegranate flavor" listed in the ingredients, but it's undoubtedly also the rooibus tea which imparts some of the blend's red-fruit flavor. I'd happily drink this alongside my holiday sweets, when I don't want to double up on the flavors of cinnamon or vanilla.

About the author: Carrie Vasios is the editor of Serious Eats: Sweets. She likes to peruse her large collection of cookbooks while eating jam from the jar. You can follow her on Twitter @carrievasios

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