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

Sometimes one does not want something sweet with a cup of tea but something savoury but the question is what? I came up with a little ‘biscuit’ type thing after seeing a recipe for a cocktail nibble which was not quite what I was looking for. Now I know some of you are very fond of chocolate and all things nice but there may be some people out there who are looking for a nice savoury snack to have with a cuppa so here goes, my tomato and cheese whirls.

Oven 200 C 400 F or gas mark 6

8 oz rough puff pastry
approx 10 cherry tomatoes or 4 thinly sliced bigger tomatoes
approx 4 oz Cheddar cheese sliced.
a beaten egg.

Either make a quantity of rough puff pastry or use some frozen but thawed puff pastry. (We used rough puff pastry for the mince pies if you remember) If you are making your own then sift 8 oz plain flour with a pinch of salt into a bowl and add 5 oz butter cut into very small pieces and stir and chop. Mix to a stiff dough with approx 4 fluid oz of very cold water and turn out onto a floured worktop. Roll into a rectangle then fold down the top and fold up the bottom, turn a quarter turn and roll out again. Do this three more times then leave to rest for 15 mins.

Roll out your pastry quite thinly into an oblong about 18 inches by 14 inches. With the short sides to top and bottom,  spread the pastry with softened butter. Put slices of fresh tomatoes or halves of cherry tomatoes on top of the butter, I used ten cherry tomatoes cut in half. Thinly slice some strong Cheddar cheese and lay on top of the tomatoes.  Leave a one inch gap in the middle of your pastry and brush this with beaten egg, then roll down from the top to the gap and up from the bottom to the gap until they almost meet. Wrap in cling film and pop into the freezer for about half an hour. After 30 mins remove from freezer and place the roll onto a floured worktop. Cut through the centre strip to separate and slice the roll into approx half an inch slices and put onto a lined baking sheet and brush with beaten egg. Cook for about 10-15 mins until golden brown. Sprinkle with more grated cheese when they are cooked and leave to cool. They are good served immediately warm from the oven or cold the next day. If you want you can freeze one half and cook it another day.  Depending on the thickness you can make about 20 – 30 whirls with these quantities.

This is a very versatile recipe and you can use lots of different things if you want to; for instance, parsley or other herbs, black pepper or bacon cut into very small pieces. You can also drizzle olive oil on top before baking instead of the beaten egg. It is a good recipe to experiment with!  Enjoy!

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(c) Janelle Vesely for use by The English Tea Store. All rights reserved.

Bridges of Hope held their first annual Afternoon Tea for Hope on Sunday, May 3rd in Nisswa, MN. The event was attended by more than 115 guests and more than 25 volunteers, including Nisswa fire fighters.

Bridges of Hope is a 501c3 nonprofit serving the Brainerd Lakes Area whose mission is to build bridges of support, anchored in love, between families in the Lakes Area and the community assets that can help them thrive and gain hope. Bridges accomplishes this mission through a variety of preventative programming. To learn more, visit their website.

The Nisswa firemen served guests tea while they enjoyed savory snacks and desserts. Music was shared by students from the Theresa Kingsley School of Music. Each guest received a gift from local businesses, participated in a silent auction, took a chance at the Tea Tree game, & snapped photos of their Tea attire in the photo booth.

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(c) Janelle Vesely for use by The English Tea Store. All rights reserved.

The décor at the event was breathtaking thanks to the English Tea Store and many others.

The event raised just over $10,000, which was the goal for the day. These funds will be matched dollar-for-dollar by the Mardag Foundation and will benefit Bridges of Hope’s Side by Side Mentoring Program for women.

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(c) Janelle Vesely for use by The English Tea Store. All rights reserved.

Jana Shogren, Bridges of Hope Executive Director, stated, “We are thrilled with the outpouring of support for this first-time event. It went even better than expected and a great time was had by everyone in attendance.”

The first discounted tea this month is our Keemun Panda, in bags or loose leaf. Keeman is written in traditional Chinese like this: 祁門紅茶, and pronounced chee-MEN. It brews into a vibrant red with smoky and chocolately hints.fdd332ef6296e4d34ac74234d63ebb71

Of all the China black teas available, Keemun Panda is probably one of the best known. Keemun is one of the congou-type teas meaning it requires a great deal of gongfu (disciplined skill) to make into fine taut strips without breaking the leaves. Interestingly, the characters in the written Chinese script for time and labor are the same as those used for ‘gongfu.’ It is often said that a properly produced Keemun, such as Panda, is one of the finest teas in the world with a complex aromatic and penetrating character often compared to burgundy wines. Traditionally, Keemuns were used in English Breakfast tea. Keemun is one the best-keeping black teas. Fine specimens will keep for years if stored properly, and take on a mellow winey character.

The name Keemun comes from Qimen county in southern Anhui province where almost all the mountains are covered with tea bushes. Qimen county produced only green tea until the mid 1870’s. Around that time a young man in the civil service lost his job. Despite being totally heartbroken and completely embarrassed by his shame, he remembered what his father told him: “A skill is a better guarantor of a living than precarious officialdom.” In America we would say, “Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach him to fish and he eats for a lifetime.” Following this advice, the young man packed up his courage and his bags to travel to Fujian Province to learn the secrets of black tea manufacturing. Upon his return to Qimen in 1875, he set up three factories to produce black tea. The black tea method was perfectly suited to the tea leaves produced in this warm, moist climate with well drained sandy soil. Before long, the superb flavor of Keemuns became very popular around the world.

If you haven’t tried our exquisite Keemun Panda tea, now is the perfect time, with 15% off through the month of May only.

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

Fruit pies are one of my favourite desserts and go very nicely with a cup of tea. I made an apple pie yesterday but you can use any fruit you like, be it tinned or fresh. If you are using fresh fruit then you may need to sweeten and cook the fruit first. If using tinned, the fruit is very often not only sweetened for you but also partly cooked. You can use shortcrust or rough puff pastry for fruit pies and you can make it yourself or buy it already made. If you are using frozen ready-made pastry remember to take it out of the freezer well before you start, or if using chilled then take it out about 30 mins before. So cut the pastry in half, roll out one half, lay that on a pie plate, add the tinned or fresh fruit, roll out the other half and use to cover the fruit, having wet the edges of the pastry before squeezing them together. Brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with caster sugar and bake for 20 mins in a hot oven until golden brown and serve with fresh cream or custard.

If, on the other hand, you want to do everything yourself from scratch with rough puff pastry and fresh apples, then you will need:

8 oz plain flour
pinch of salt
5 oz butter
approx 4 fluid ounces of very cold water to mix.

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

Sift the flour into a bowl with the salt, cut the butter into small pieces and add to the bowl, using a knife only stir together (do not rub in) and then mix to a stiff dough with the water. Roll the pastry out on a floured board to a rectangle then fold into three and turn a quarter turn so an open end is facing you. Roll out again to a rectangle. Do this folding and rolling and turning a nother three times making sure you roll away from you each time. This puts plenty of air into your pastry. Wrap the pastry in cling film and refrigerate for 20 mins. Meanwhile prepare your fruit by peeling and coring the apples, slice or dice and cook for 2 mins in the microwave or on the hob. Add sugar to taste. Choose a suitable pie plate and roll out half of your rough puff pastry to fit, sprinkle the base with a little flour and then put your apples in. Roll out the remaining pastry to fit over the apples and dampen the edges of the base with some water, lay on the top crust and mould to fit around your fruit.  Using a knife knock up the two edges of your pastry and then make little cuts from the edges towards the middle of the pie on this crust. Cut some air vents in the top or use a fork to prick the whole top of the pie, brush with beaten egg or milk  and then sprinkle with caster sugar. Bake in a very hot oven, 230C, 450F or gas mark 8 for 10-15 mins and then reduce the temperature to 190C, 375F or gas mark 5 for another 10 mins until golden brown. Serve either hot from the oven or leave to cool with cream or hot custard.

There you have it, either the easy way or the hard way I am sure your pie will taste delicious!

~JB

Editor’s note: to counterbalance the sweet in this treat, we recommend a plain, hearty black tea to partner.

Is it grey, or is it green? Our second Tea of the Month for May is both! Enjoy 15% off the forever favoriteTOLSLL_GRNEGR-16oz_-00_Earl-Grey-Green-Tea-Loose-Leaf-16oz made fresh with bergamot and green tea. Bergamot is a small citrus orange that blossoms in winter.

Tea was originally flavoured with bergamot to imitate the more expensive types of Chinese tea. This practice dates back to the 1820’s in the UK. In 1837 there is a record of a lawsuit against a tea maker who was found to have supplied tea “artificially scented, and, drugged with bergamot in this country.”

The Earl Grey blend, or “Earl Grey’s Mixture,” is assumed to be named after The 2nd Earl Grey, British Prime Minister in the 1830s and author of the Reform Bill of 1832. Lord Grey reputedly received a gift, probably a diplomatic perquisite, of tea flavoured with bergamot oil. The English Tea Store is one of few who takes this original Earl Grey blend and surprises you with a base of green tea.

Editor’s note – I love the word perquisite – so much nicer than today’s “perk.”

We’re finally in the month of May, and we’re in the middle of Spring. This means more outings, more time outside, and more time spent with family, especially mothers. Mother’s Day is celebrated in May in the United States.

Mothers-Day-11For the US, mothers have been celebrated and thanked for about a hundred years. All mothers, young and old, are celebrated by their children everywhere. They are often taken on special breakfasts, meals (as long as they do not have to cook on their special holiday), given bouquets of flowers, cakes, cards, or their favorite personal gift. This was all made possible thanks to Anna Jarvis, who wanted to honor not just her own mother, but all mothers. In 1907 she began campaigning for a National Mother’s Day in the United States; she struggled for many years until 1914. It was that year when President Woodrow Wilson designated Mother’s Day as the second Sunday in May by signing a Joint Resolution.

Although Miss Jarvis is known as the Mother of all Mother’s Day, the idea of Mother’s Day was first noted by a poet by the name of Julia Ward Howe in 1872. She is also known for famously penning the Civil War song “Battle Hymn of the Republic” in 1870.

While Mother’s Day is considered a major holiday for many, for the British, Mother’s Day came and went much earlier. It is actually celebrated on the fourth Sunday during Lent. Since the days of Lent are different each year, this would make Mother’s Day in the UK fall on different dates, as well.

British Mother’s Day was originally known as Mothering Sunday as early as the 1600s. It was a time when people returned to the original church they went to or where they were baptized when they were younger. Young people who were working as servants were given the holiday off on Mothering Sunday, so they took the day to visit their mums and brought gifts to her. Girls baked Simnel Cakes, a light fruit cake covered in marzipan and another layer of marzipan baked into the cake along with 11 or 12 balls of marzipan on top. The balls of marzipan represent the disciples of Jesus Christ and sometimes Jesus Christ himself.  Today it is celebrated in the similar fashion of the United States in which children celebrate and give gifts to their mothers (or mums) with the addition of their mums being taken to high tea.

There are various ways of celebrating Mother’s Day with your mother. If your mother is a tea lover, tea always makes a perfect gift for her! A fruity tea like Lady Londonderry is wonderful iced. Flavorful hints of strawberry and lemon make it perfect for a good afternoon drink! Or is your mom a morning person? Maybe a good Irish Breakfast would suit her just well!

And to nibble on? Perhaps some basic Digestives plain or the added bonus of chocolate? Then there’s Tunnock’s Caramel biscuits in which you can’t go wrong. Only problem is that there’s only four in the pack! They are that tasty!

However you choose to celebrate, your mother is the most important person in your life. Give her the best or give her a call!

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

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

Once you learn how to make a simple cake you can change the cake by changing the flavourings. This recipe is just the basic creaming method cake with added coffee flavouring and coffee flavoured icing. You can make it look really special with some icing. Remember the ratio is one egg to 2 oz butter, 2 oz sugar and 2 oz flour. For this recipe I am using four eggs so 8 oz of butter and sugar but because I am going to use liquid coffee, I am going to increase the flour. So the recipe is:

Oven 180 C, 350 F Gas Mark 4

Grease and line two 8″ cake tins.

8 oz butter
8 oz caster sugar
4 eggs
9 oz Self Raising Flour
one teaspoon of coffee dissolved in a tablespoon of hot water.

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs separately with a little flour to stop the mixture curdling. Add the coffee and then stir in the flour in a figure of eight movement. Put into the prepared tins and bake for 30 – 35 mins until firm to the touch and golden brown.

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

For the buttercream you will need:

4 oz butter
8 oz icing sugar
one teaspoon coffee dissolved in hot water.

Cream the butter and add the icing sugar slowly, then add the coffee. Use this to sandwich your cake together and cover the outside too. If you would rather use normal icing on the top then just use icing sugar and coffee. I also added some chocolate chips for decoration on top and pressed grated chocolate round the outside of the cake (I would have used a Cadbury’s Flake round the outside but someone must have eaten it because I could not find it! Editor’s note: Julia, was that “someone” you?).

This can be made into a very special celebration cake if required or just for afternoon tea.

~JB

Charlotte

(c) BBC, all rights reserved.

It’s a girl! The second Royal Baby is here and she’s a princess! Her Royal Highness Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana of Cambridge! Royal fans all across the globe who were waiting for this little bundle of joy to arrive are rejoicing! On the night of her birth, Britain’s most famous landmarks, Trafalgar Square, Tower Bridge, and Jubilee Bridge all glowed pink for the new princess. Even the Queen herself was all decked out in pink and in all smiles for her new great-granddaughter!

Princess Charlotte’s birth marks the first Princess to be born in direct line to the throne since her great aunt Princess Anne (styled as Anne, Princess Royal) in 1950. The new princess is the first British princess to be born under the Succession to the Crown Act of 2013. According to the law, succession no longer depends on gender, so if Kate were to have another son after Princess Charlotte, her little brother would be fifth in line to the throne after her. Thus, the Princess is fourth in line to succeed her great grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II after her older brother Prince George.

Now how shall one celebrate this joyous occasion? Why, toasting a good cuppa, of course! What better way to toast the new princess than the English Tea Store’s Buckingham Palace Garden Party? Every May, the Queen holds a garden party at Buckingham Palace which inspired this blend of Earl Grey, Jasmine, and English Afternoon Tea. Pairs perfectly with some delicious tea sandwiches (my personal favorite tea sandwich to make is cream cheese, turkey, and fresh basil). Like bolder tea? Why not try English Breakfast Blend No. 2! This tea is full bodied and just perfect with milk (and sweetener if you please). Goes quite well with a slice of soft, delicious cake from O’Haras Farmhouse Fruit Cake!

Don’t forget about Mother’s Day. While Mother’s Day in Britain is celebrated in March, it is not celebrated in the United States until May. Toast your mom (or share a cuppa with her) as well!

SAMSUNG DIGIMAX A403

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

Ivy is a very good plant for growing over things that you want to hide. Unfortunately it can get very out of hand as I found out last year. We have a brick wall in our garden that acts as a boundary with the field next door and last year I looked at it and thought “Where is it?” The whole wall was covered in so much ivy all I could see was green! The garden is quite large so I have a friend who comes along once a week to help out and she and I started to tear it down. We gave the eviction notice to all the spiders and insects that live in the ivy and prepared to do battle. Oh my goodness, it took us two days, we used a saw! We were covered in bits and itched all over! We both spent time under the shower those two days (separately I might add!). However, the wall came out of it ok and the ivy was burnt to a cinder! Before and after photos here.

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

The ivy is down but oh it is not dead I assure you. It has started to grow back already but we are keeping it in check and also we have planted roses and honeysuckle along the edge of the wall so that they can grow up and produce some colour with their flowers. This Summer is going to be colourful I am sure and you will be amazed by the photos, I hope!

Don’t you just love the Spring time with all the buds and the bulbs sprouting? We have a lot of colour in the garden just now but unfortunately Spring bulbs do not last all year so the garden is an ongoing project that needs re-planting all the time. To this end we have sown seeds of annuals to give us some colour all Summer long. These seeds are now coming along nicely and this week I will be busy pricking out the seedlings into trays and pots and then the perennial problem of where to keep them until they are big enough and the weather is good enough to plant them out. Every spare place in the greenhouse and conservatory is put into use for bringing on seedlings and hopefully we will succeed in keeping everything healthy before planting time is here! Planting time here in the UK  will be the end of May, when all fear of frost is gone. Watch this space!

Editor’s Note: while Julia works on her garden, enjoy one of our Organic Tea Samplers in honour of last month’s Earth Day! We have an Organic Loose Leaf Sampler and Organic Favorites Loose Leaf Sampler – Cheers!

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Daily Mail UK has a delicious-looking recipe here!

What do you think of when someone says “pudding?” If you’re like me who was born and raised in the United States, you would think of the creamy sweet stuff that comes from a box that you can make at home or comes in cup form in the refrigerated section of the supermarket. If you are British, however, it’s an entirely different story! The British pudding is a part of everyday life in Great Britain. It can be sweet or savory and can be used for just plain dinner or even to celebrate a holiday. Otherwise, it’s another term for dessert. They can be steamed, baked, or boiled.

Sweet puddings are popular, served with sauces like custard, lemon, and chocolate. There is the spotted dick, bursting with currants and raisins, usually served with a delicious custard. Next we have sticky toffee, which may look a bit ordinary from the outside but inside has dates and nuts! Of course, never forget the delicious sticky toffee! And my personal favorite, chocolate. You can either have it plain or with a nice hot chocolate sauce.

Savory puddings include Yorkshire puddings, which are made along with the Sunday roast, usually drizzled in gravy. Pease puddings are made with split peas and steams very nicely. There are even puddings with bacon – Mrs. Banyard’s Bacon pudding is a totally savory pudding. There are a surprising amount of puddings you can make.

TEAHHIT1000017504_-04_Group_Mason-Cash-Pudding-BasinIf you ever want to make these scrummy little treasures, one would need something called a pudding basin. These bowls are very deep, are made with earthenware, and come in various sizes. When you use these, it’s best to cover your pudding bowl with greaseproof paper.

However, if you do not have time to be making puddings from scratch, you can always buy premade. They come in cans or even in little pots that are microwaveable. These can be enjoyed with homemade custard, from a mix, or one from a can as well. And always enjoy these with a nice cup of tea! Perhaps Nonsuch Estate or a good organic Darjeeling?

~CD

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