According to British history writers, afternoon tea was introduced in 1840 by Anna the seventh Duchess of Bedford. She became very hungry around four o’clock in the afternoon but dinner was not served until 8 in the evening – to her, a big gap between lunch and dinner. She asked for tea to be delivered to her room along with some bread and butter, the sandwich having been introduced in the 1760’s when the Earl of Sandwich asked for his meat to be put between two slices of bread so as not to interrupt his gambling game!

The Duchess decided to invite her friends along to join her in this little ritual and the afternoon tea increased to not only small sandwiches (cucumber sandwiches were popular then) but scones with clotted cream and jam and cakes too were added to this ‘small’ meal.

afternoon-teaThe tea was usually made in a silver teapot and the cup would normally have been bone china. Ceylon or Indian tea was popular then and was, of course, kept in a tea caddy.

Tea in Great Britain was very heavily taxed in the 18th Century and was therefore kept under lock and key! Silver tea caddies fell out of favour in the 19th Century and zinc lined wooden boxes were popular, still locked, usually with a matching spoon. Caddy spoons are very collectible in their own right as well as the tea caddies themselves.

Queen Anne, who reigned from 1702-1714, was a kind-hearted Queen, sister of Mary II, who really enjoyed drinking tea with her friends, Sarah Churchill in particular. Sarah Churchill’s husband of more than 40 years became the first Duke of Marlborough. So maybe afternoon tea was invented earlier than 1840 after all but just not called afternoon tea.

Arthurs_seat_edinburghNowadays afternoon tea at home is usually just a cup of tea from a tea bag and a biscuit, but one can still enjoy a real Afternoon Tea in some hotels and I for one am really looking forward to meeting our editor when we have Afternoon Tea in Edinburgh, the Capital of Scotland.

~JB

Editor’s note: I am also very much looking forward to meeting our UK recipe/blogging correspondent when I travel abroad!!

blueberry-sweet-fruitOur other Tea of the Month is Bingo Blueberry, a full flavored tea with a strong blueberry character. Enjoy 15% off this tea for the rest of the month. This particular tea was specially formulated to acknowledge the great taste and known health benefits of blueberries. In addition to the antioxidants in the blueberries, hibiscus brings the added benefits of Vitamin A and C to the blend. Bingo Blueberry will accommodate the tastes of people who want to experience a refreshing healthy new style drink without caffeine. It is excellent as a hot drink and simply dynamite as a cold drink. You will want to add a pinch of natural cane sugar as this accentuates the natural flavorings and brings out the subtle tastes of the dried berries.bingo

Ingredients in this tea are fruit pieces and flower petals. What better way to welcome spring?

Simnel cake is a traditional Easter treat but some time ago it was made for Mothering Sunday so you can make it then if you like.  It has almond paste baked into the middle of it and also almond paste made into balls and placed on top of the cake for decoration. You can make your own almond paste or use bought.

For the almond paste you will need:

9 oz Caster sugar
9 oz ground almonds
2 eggs beaten
1 tsp almond essence

Place the sugar and ground almonds into a bowl and add the beaten eggs to a soft consistency, add almond essence and knead well.  Roll out a third of the paste into a 7 ” circle. Put the rest on one side.

For the cake you will need:

6 oz butter
6 oz soft brown sugar
3 eggs
6 oz plain flour
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp ground mixed spice (optional)
12 oz mixed dried fruits
2 oz chopped mixed peel
1/2 lemon, grated zest only.

1 egg beaten for glazing plus 1 or 2 tablespoons apricot jam.

Grease and line a 7″ cake tin and set the oven to 140 C, 275 F or gas mark 1

Cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Gradually add the beaten eggs and beat well. Fold in the flour, salt, mixed spices if using and finally add the mixed dried fruit, candied peel and lemon zest. Put half the mixture into the tin and smooth the top. Cover with the circle of almond paste and add the remaining cake mixture, smooth the top but add a slight dip in the centre to allow the cake to rise. Bake for 1 3/4 hours or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool.

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(c) Julia Briggs for The English Tea Store, all rights reserved.

Brush the top of the cake with the warmed apricot jam, divide the remaining almond paste into two and roll a circle for the top of the cake. Place this circle on the top of the cake.  Make 11 small balls with the remaining paste and place in a circle on top of the cake. Put the whole cake back into a hot oven for 10 mins or under the grill for 1 or 2 mins to brown the almond paste balls.

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(c) Crystal Derma for use by The English Tea Store, all rights reserved.

TTH_COBL_-00_lid-on_Copco-Travel-Tea-Infuser-Mug-BlueEveryone is always on the run, myself included. If you’re like me, you may have a good collection of not just mugs, but also travel mugs. Not only can  you bring your drink of choice with you whether it’s a hot cup of coffee or a nice cup of tea, but you can also do your part in going green. Millions of people use paper cups each year while drinking their coffee or tea and only so little of these cups are cycled. The rest end up in landfills. The good news is that we can do something to reduce the amount of waste.

TEADMUG1000018965_-00_red-white-blue-stars-insulated-cupA growing trend in reusable cups is that they have a section to put fruit in so you infuse your water (or iced tea!). I have been eyeing one of these for quite awhile and I am looking forward to finally purchasing one. There is also the option of infusing your tea while you’re on the go! This little cup has a strainer for tea! You can bring your loose tea of choice and steep on the go! No need to waste a paper cup or even a teabag!

A great thing about travel mugs is that you can pick any size, color, and shape. You can purchase these just about anywhere and for a very good price. They don’t just come in a standard hot cup, either. They also come in cold cup styles, many of them with a straw, so you can save cold paper cups as well!

I like to carry a reusable cup whenever I am out and about. Not only does it help me go green, but I am also able to save money. I have reusable water bottles that I am able to fill with water at a drinking fountain, saving me up to a dollar each time (be sure to use the bottles made for this purpose, not refill a regular bottle of water, due to chemical leaching). There are also hands-free water bottle refill stations popping up at places like gyms and airports. Many coffee shops also offer discounts for bringing in your own reusable mug.

Stunt Double: The Brown Betty is devoted to steeping tea and yet is content to remain in the background. (Photo source: The English Tea Store)

Stunt Double: The Brown Betty is devoted to steeping tea and yet is content to remain in the background. (Photo source: The English Tea Store)

Part of the Brown Betty’s charm and claim to fame is that it is made from red clay, or terra cotta, making it a ceramic tea pot. What the heck is terra cotta, though? It translates from the Italian to “baked earth.” It is a porous clay that is mostly used for sculptures and flower pots after being fired to almost 2,000 degrees F. Without the Rockingham glaze (or the newer cobalt) to seal it, it would be useless for the Brown Betty. Rumor has it that glazed terra cotta will ring if lightly struck.

This wraps up our series on the Brown Betty teapot, but before we go, I of course wanted to point you in the direction of something good to eat. Brown Betty is also a delicious fruit compote, usually apple. There are myriad recipes out there, and as this is a decidedly American dessert, I won’t ask Julia to jump through our hoops to try to “British it up.” But I am including her recipe for apple crumble.

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(c) Julia Briggs for The English Tea Store, all rights reserved.

Julia’s Apple Crumble

About 12 ozs fruit (baking apples or something else)
2 oz butter
4 oz self raising flour
2 oz sugar.

Oven 190 C,  375 F  or gas mark 5.

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(c) Julia Briggs for The English Tea Store, all rights reserved.

I like to cook the apples and add sugar before I start but if you are using fruit from a tin it may not need cooking or sweetening.  Put the fruit in a greased oven-proof dish. Rub the butter into the flour until it resembles fine breadcrumbs and then add the sugar.  If liked, sprinkle some cinnamon over the apples and then spread the crumble evenly over the top.  Bake for about 30 minutes until golden on top.

Editor’s Note: We carry a crumble mix that makes this easy-peasy recipe even easier-pesier!

~JB

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(C) Julia Briggs for use by The English Tea Store. All rights reserved.

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(C) Julia Briggs for use by The English Tea Store. All rights reserved.

Tomorrow we will publish Julia’s bonus recipe for an apple compote but she also wanted to share this variation, called Eve’s Pudding. She says, “This is delicious with either custard or cream.  It also works with rhubarb which is just coming into season! Here is one I made with apricots.”

About 12 ozs fruit (baking apples or something else)
4 oz butter
4 oz caster sugar
2 eggs
4 oz self raising flour

Oven 190 C,  375 F  or gas mark 5.

I like to cook the apples and add sugar before I start but if you are using fruit from a tin it may not need cooking or sweetening. Put the prepared fruit in a greased oven-proof dish.

Cream the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs and stir in the flour gently.  Spoon this mixture over the top of your apples and bake for 40 minutes.

~JB

peachBoth of our teas this month are fruity, just right for the fresh blossoms of spring here in the states. Peach apricot is our first choice for the month, being a Ceylon black flavored with real papaya, apricot, and peach fruit. I love peaches. Chambersburg is a drive to the east from where we live in PA, and the peaches you get there are unrivaled: big enough to be a full meal for two, sweet, and so juicy you need a knife and fork to eat them. Families make a day of going for Chambersburg peaches just like they do Bedford apples in the fall.

According to the peach apricotAlmanac, peaches ripen faster in a closed paper bag at room temperature. If you are a gardener like me, you are familiar with this principal. I remember weekend fall days in the garden, picking all the green tomatoes that were healthy, hoping to get them in before the cold snap ruined them. We’d wrap the tomatoes in newspaper and pack them in paper bags to store in the basement until we were ready for them. They ripened this way and we were able to extend our growing season. When you live in the Laurel Highlands of PA, the growing season is short and anything to extend it is appreciated!

Until the Chambersburg peaches are ready, this tea is the next best thing, with a very heady aroma. This tea is steeped 3-5 minutes for best body and just a smidge of sugar really makes it come alive. At 15% all month, it’s all the sweeter.

~Your Editor

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(C) Julia Briggs for use by The English Tea Store, all rights reserved.

Easter is just around the corner and the Lent period will be over, however, although chocolate and all things nice are not really supposed to be eaten until Easter Sunday. On Good Friday though it is traditional to eat Hot Cross Buns.  They are not difficult to make but as with any ‘bread’ based product they need time to rise, fortunately only once with this recipe.

Oven 425 F.  220 C,  Gas mark 7

1 lb 4 oz Strong White or brown bread flour
2 heaped tsp mixed spice (optional)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 oz butter
8 oz mixed dried fruits
2 oz caster sugar
One 7 g sachet of dried easy blend yeast
6 1/2 fluid ounces milk
2 eggs

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(C) Julia Briggs for use by The English Tea Store, all rights reserved.

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(C) Julia Briggs for use by The English Tea Store, all rights reserved.

Place the flour, salt, mixed spice (if using) and sugar into a bowl. Rub in the butter and then stir in the dried fruits. I used cherries, raisins, sultanas and candied peel.  Sprinkle the yeast over and stir in. Gently warm the milk until it is tepid and beat the eggs into this. Make a small well in the flour and pour in the milk/egg mixture and mix to a soft dough. Leave this for five mins. Meanwhile prepare your baking sheets by lining with baking parchment. Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and divide into 8, or if you want smaller buns, 16. knead slightly and make into a bun shape and put onto your baking sheets with plenty of room for expansion.  Cover loosely with oiled cling film and leave somewhere warm for about 45 mins to 1 hour. They should have increased in size. Either make a cross with a sharp knife on top or make a flour and water paste and pipe a cross on top or if you are really ambitious use some pastry to make the cross but only if you have some handy! Bake for 12-15 mins until well risen and golden. Leave to cool and then warm a little honey or golden syrup and brush the the tops. They will keep fresh for a day but they are best eaten quickly or toasted.  Enjoy with butter, jam, honey or cheese and a nice cup of tea.

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(C) Julia Briggs for the English Tea Store. All rights reserved.

With the end of Lent we have Easter eggs and other such niceties and one of our favourites at this time of the year is Easter nests.  They are so easy to make you can even get the children involved, although watch out for things being popped into mouths!  My daughter loves to help with these but she like licking the bowls out best of all!

You will need:

8 oz Cadbury’s milk or plain chocolate bar
2 tablespoons golden syrup
2 oz butter
3 ozs cornflakes or rice crispies
36 mini chocolate eggs (plus extra for eating whilst making!)
12 paper cases.

No baking is required; they are just chilled in the ‘fridge when done.

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(C) Julia Briggs for the English Tea Store. All rights reserved.

Break the chocolate into pieces and melt together with the golden syrup and butter, either in the microwave or over a pan of hot water.  Stir until smooth, be careful not to get the chocolate too hot!  Stir the cornflakes in until they are all coated in chocolate and divide the mixture between the 12 paper cases.  Put the paper cases into bun tins otherwise they spread too much.  Press three chocolate eggs into the centre of each nest (always assuming there are 36 eggs left!)  They should resemble bird’s nests with eggs in.  Chill in the ‘fridge for about an hour or until set.  They keep well in an airtight tin but only if you hide the tin away from prying eyes and fingers – otherwise they will all be eaten on the same day that you make them!

~JB

How to make tea latte

(c) Crystal Derma for use by The English Tea Store, all rights reserved.

I recently made a visit to the Washington DC area to visit my fiance. Now, I am engaged to a wonderful man. He makes me coffee and cups of tea whether I want it or not and I always want to return the favor. So when I was out there, I offered to make him a cup of tea. However, he was surprised when I brought him his cup of Lover’s Leap with just milk and sweetener in it. “I thought you were going to steam the milk,” He said. “Like make it a latte.” It made me raise an eyebrow. The people in Britain do not take their tea in latte form. I take my tea with a simple milk and sweetener. I’m still trying to pick up the habit of drinking it more than once a day.

What exactly is a tea latte? It’s just like a latte made with coffee or espresso. It has steamed milk but instead of the eye-opening java, it’s tea! My fiance works for a certain coffee shop that makes a very popular kind of tea latte. Actually, two types. Green tea and chai tea are very popular among the masses but it can also be made with other kinds of tea like black.

In order to make a tea latte, one would need a steaming wand to froth the milk. I know that not everyone possesses that type of equipment. However, my fiance told me that I could make it at home by using a whisk while heating up some milk. So I brewed some Yorkshire Tea just like I normally would and added my homemade whisked milk. The addition of sweetener made things even better. The result? Very creamy and delicious! The latte stays hot with the addition of hot milk rather than cold milk when making a British style cup of tea.

The most popular types of tea lattes are chai and green tea. The one I made was pretty much considered a “London Fog” with the latte being made with black tea. I enjoyed the one I made so I can’t wait to make one for my loving fiance next time I see him. I can show him my latte making skills!

Simple Tea Latte

Teabag
8oz water
8oz milk (either dairy or non)
Whisk or fork

Boil the water and steep your teabag like you normally would, discard teabag. Then, using a saucepan over low heat, heat the milk and whisk/stir with fork until the milk becomes hot and/or frothy. Pour into tea, and sweetener or syrup. Enjoy!

~CD

Editor’s note: I used to be a barista, and am a bit of a snob. I have the Brevelle machine in my kitchen to prove it. :) I highly recommend using a steaming wand. A note on steamed milk, regardless, is that when it reaches the proper temperature (130-160 degrees F) the natural sugars are brought out and it is the sweetest – too hot you scald; not hot enough you do not draw out the natural sugar. The steaming also stretches the milk – expands it – and you want about 30% stretching or you end up with a cappuccino consistency. One final note – you do not want to add too much air when you whisk, or you can destroy the smooth consistency of the milk.

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