Toast at teatime is a long-time tradition, starting in the early 1840s with Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford, and her gathering of the ladies of the court around the teapot in the afternoon. Small wonder. There’s something very homey about the smell of toast. And bread baking. Which we experienced big time while in the grocery checkout line the other day (we resisted, just barely, the temptation to run over to the bakery counter and order a dozen of whatever they had just pulled out of the oven), but that’s another story.
Toast at tea time was in a key scene in the movie The Importance of Being Earnest (from a play by the same name written by Oscar Wilde). Two genteel ladies who thought they were in love with the same man soon succumbed to cattiness, including one lady asking for toast with her tea and being given cake out of spite. Who knew tea time treats could be so contentious?
Over the ages, implements for preparing toast have developed greatly, with multi-slice toasters (4 or more) and toaster ovens now being commonplace in kitchens, so the ease of preparing this simple treat for tea time is another factor in its popularity. Bread contains carbohydrates, giving you a quick energy boost without too much of a rush (ask any runner you know about carb loading before a run, especially if long-distance). A little butter or margarine supplies some fat content that, in moderation, is good for you and helps you feel satisfied. Some jams, preserves, marmalades, etc., on that toast add a sweet and fruity touch to your tea time.
You can also get creative with your toast by using different types of breads. Rye, whole wheat, pumpernickel, sourdough, and any other kind that can be sliced and toasted will be great alternatives to plain white bread. (Corn bread is an exception since it would create a real mess in most toasters.) If you’re having guests, have some of each type of bread on hand. Diverse tastes abound. You can even try one of those really long loaves of French bread, sliced thin enough to fit the toaster slot. It should yield enough slices for a slew of tea imbibers to munch on with their cuppa.
Speaking of tea, there are some teas that are said to have a flavor reminiscent of toast. A few options:
- Sowmee White Tea — One of the lower grades of white tea with a stronger taste than most white teas and a toasty, oolong-like character. Harvested during late April, May, and June, the hand-selected leaves are processed very little, as is the case with most white teas, yet steep up a liquid with more substance than is typical of white teas.
- Gen Mai Cha — A Japanese green tea (different vendors start with different tea grades) with toasted rice added (some kernels are “popped,” giving this tea the nickname “popcorn tea” even though there is no corn in it). The rice tempers the vegetative character of the green tea with a toasty character without overwhelming the sweetness of the liquid.
- Oolong Orange Blossom Estate Tea — A semi-fermented tea with a toasty, round, fruity, exotic taste.
- 1000 Day Flowering Green Tea— Green tea leaves and amaranth blossoms combine to produce a subtle floral character, lightly toasty grassiness, and a hint of caramel. The tea ball is supposed to be shaped like a peach, a symbol of longevity and a special treat of the Empress of Heaven who imprisoned the Monkey King for eating some of her finest fruits. He created the tea ball to appease her, according to legend.
There you go — toast all hot and fresh, butter and jam, and a nice pot of newly steeped tea. Come and get it!
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