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Breakfast, Dinner, and Tea: Viewed Classically, Poetically, and Practically

If you’ve ever noted some of the weighty titles and subtitles of books that are published nowadays, rest assured that this is hardly a recent trend. Older books equaled or surpassed anything that modern-day publishers and authors can come up with. If you want proof of this then look to the subject of this article, Breakfast, Dinner, and Tea: Viewed Classically, Poetically, and Practically: Containing Numerous Curious Dishes and Feasts of All Times and All Countries, by Julia C. Andrews.

The book was published in 1860 and as the title suggests it’s a somewhat unusual take on the cookbook. Obviously tea is not the focus of the book and the “tea” in the title refers to tea in the sense of a meal rather than a beverage. But the tea section is an interesting one nonetheless and is further divided into five chapters.

Black tea boiled for 15-20 minutes? Yikes! (ETS Image)
Black tea boiled for 15-20 minutes? Yikes! (ETS Image)

Three of these look at the Tea-Biscuits and Cakes, preserves and other things that might be served at a tea, including such items as rye drop cake and Mrs. Grundy’s Cake. There are a few short chapters on tea the beverage as well, which are certainly worth a look. Tea as a Beverage considers the origins of the drink, pinpointing it no further than some unknown date in “the Chinese Empire.”

What follows is a brief sketch of the history of tea after it was first introduced into England, a time when it might sell for nearly fifty dollars a pound. The author claims that tea first came into use in New England in about 1720 and goes on to briefly cover tea during the time of the Revolutionary War and some of the tea substitutes used then.

The author claims that the variety of black teas at the time were Bohea, Congou, Campoi, Souchong, Caper, and Pekoe, while the green teas were Imperial, Hyson, Twankay and Hyson. She also remarks on the cheering effects of tea, which are “unanimous” in every country where it is used. And I’m certainly not going to argue that point.

From there it’s on to preparation. Andrews gets it half-right here, remarking that green tea should not be boiled, which is great advice. However, I’d shudder to think what her black tea must have tasted like after it had been boiled for the fifteen to twenty minutes she recommends.

But as long as you’re not adhering too closely to the author’s advice on tea prep this one’s worth a look for yet another glimpse at how tea was perceived in an earlier time. Take a look at it here.

See more of William I. Lengeman’s articles here.

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