It’s Tea Tuesday, a time for us to stop, reflect and enjoy the simple pleasures of life. This is the second installment of our dedication to the time honored English tradition of taking tea. This is a big year for the UK as Queen Elizabeth II celebrates her Diamond Jubliee, and London hosts the Summer Olympics. If you are planning a vacation there this summer, you may find a little education will serve you well.
In our first installment “Tea Tuesdays: the Basics and Rock Cake” we laid the foundation for gaining a greater appreciation for the British tradition with some history, tea time terms and ended with a great little recipe for Rock Cakes. I offer a new recipe each week, so check out and bookmark Online Guide to Afternoon Tea to keep up to date.
- In 1662 Catherine of Braganza of Portugal married Charles II and brought with her the preference for tea over alcohol to Court.
- 1830/40’s. Anne, Duchess of Bedford, one of Queen Victoria’s ladies-in-waiting “invented” the Afternoon Tea, having food brought to her room in the afternoon; some ladies were invited, others set about gathering their own friends together.
- Afternoon Tea is likely what you are going want to book. It is the tea service served with the little sandwiches, scones and tea.
- Cream Tea is a tea service with just scones, cakes, clotted cream and tea. No lovely little crustless sandwiches, I’m afraid.
- Think of High Tea as supper, not time for scones.
- When building your tea tray, the preferred order is scones on top, sweets and fruit in the middle, and the savories–wee tarts and sandwiches–on the bottom layer.
- Your freezer (or your local grocer) is your friend when preparing your tea party. Sandwiches need to be made fresh, but you can freeze much of your baked goods.
- Allow 5 savory items per person, 3 or 4 different types of sweets.
Today’s Lesson 1: How to Make Tea
I have to admire Lady Sybil for her desire to learn more about the world around her, even the strange world of the kitchen. Mrs. Patmore was clever to start her off at the very beginning (video ITV).
Don’t get too stressed about making tea, particularly since much tea is now sold in tea bags. To distinguish yourself as a tea aficionado, however, just follow the time honored tradition of first warming the tea pot. Add a bit of boiling water to the pot, give it a swirl and pour it out before adding your tea. Steep 3 or 4 minutes and don’t let the tea steep too long or it will become bitter.
Watch this clip as the Dowager Countess demonstrates how one makes a proper cup of tea while still catching up on current events (video ITV).
If you go with loose tea, the general guideline is to allow for 1 tsp per person, 1 tsp for the pot, and allow 10 ounces per person. Use a tea strainer and pour into cups. You may wish to fill your tea pot with tap water, pour into a measuring cup to determine how many cups your pot will hold.
Types of Sandwiches Served at Afternoon Tea
While we aren’t going to dig in with recipes to make the lovely little sandwiches today, here are a few variations (all crustless, of course) served with Afternoon Tea to spark your imagination:
Super Quick Guilt Free Scones
Just because you are indulging in tea doesn’t mean you have to sabotage your health and fitness.
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- ¼ tsp. salt
- 2 tbsp. frozen grated butter
- ½ cup cold milk
Makes 8 x 2” scones
Preheat oven to 475° F
- Sift the dry ingredients 3 times into a large bowl. Rub the frozen grated butter into the dry ingredients until it feels like sand. Add enough milk just until you get a sticky dough.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board, lightly flour the top. Knead very gently once, then fold and turn the kneaded dough 3 or 4 times until the dough has formed a smooth texture. Pat the dough into a rectangle about 6” x 12”, then fold into thirds.
- Using a well-floured 2” biscuit cutter, make 6 x 2” rounds. You can get 2 more scones from the scraps but they won’t be as tender. Alternatively, use a well-floured sharp knife to form wedges.
- You can either brush the top of the scones with milk or lightly flour.
- Bake on a baking sheet for 8-10 minutes until the scones are lightly coloured on the tops. Immediately place onto cooling rack to stop the cooking process.
- Traditionally served with clotted cream and preserves, try a healthier option of non fat plain greek yoghurt with your favorite preserves.
Variations: click to learn not to adapt this recipe for sweet, savoury or whole wheat scones.