Well, the news is finally out. Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, and wife of Prince William is pregnant. Her stomach has been the most watched since William’s mother, Diana, married Prince Charles. Her pregnancy is not an easy one, however, with a hospital admission for dehydration from “morning, noon and night sickness”, as William said. And her pregnancy cravings have been revealed. English Breakfast Tea and Lavender Shortbread biscuits, also known as cookies in the States. She also craves scones with strawberry jam and clotted cream.
It has been claimed that the lavender has stress relief and sleep-aid properties. Others worry it will hurt the baby, the third in line to the throne of the British Empire. No studies have proved that it is but some worry it upsets the hormonal balance of a pregnant woman. Catherine has been quite ill so I would assume her nerves and hormones are already upset.
English Breakfast Tea is a combination of several black teas from Assam, Ceylon and Kenya. It is a full-bodies, robust tea that stands up well to milk and sugar. It, too, is supposed to aid in relaxation and reduces stress through the ingredient L-theanine which increases alpha waves in the brain. If I were being watched every minute of the day I think I might need the stress reduction.
As for the scones, pronounced “scon” as in “con” by 99% of the Scots or Scone, as in cone, but those of us in the States, no mention of a flavor was mentioned, so I will assume a traditional cream scone. Recipes abound. You may find a video from Joy of Baking to be most helpful. Clotted cream is difficult to find in the States due to the FDA restrictions on unpasteurized milk. Joy of Baking also has a recipe for a mock Devonshire cream, a type of clotted cream. However, a second source for making your own can be found at Cupcake Project.
Strawberry Jam is easy enough to find. There’s good ol’ Smuckers’ or, if you want to continue the homemade thing, Ina Garten will show you how.
Back to the tea. English Breakfast tea is best made with boiling water and brewed for five minutes (but you knew that, didn’t you?) It may be served with milk (Not cream. That’s too heavy for tea) and sugar. Or sugar and lemon. Remember, milk and lemon do not get along, so do not serve them together or you will have clotted tea instead of clotted cream.
As for the lavender shortbreads, apparently her father-in-law, Prince Charles, and stepmother-in-law, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, keeps her well stocked. In looking at the listed sources from the news, Charles’ own organic food company and a ritzy store, neither have the biscuits on their websites. They must be saving them all for Catherine. Camilla supposedly recommended the biscuits as she used them to help her through her pregnancies. So, here’s a video for you from WRAL. I do remind you to use culinary lavender. These cookies can also be decorated with a bit of the lavender on the top, perhaps with a bit of sugar.
It does sound like a lovely afternoon cream tea, doesn’t it? I may have to try it out.
I love books. I miss my Borders store greatly. So I was thrilled that one of the local churches and the county library had book sales on the same day. Because I love bargains, too. Old cookbooks are a favorite. So, I now have “The Better Homes and Gardens Holiday Cook Book” from 1959. I must have been a popular book because I saw three that day. While there are some recipes that make me cringe. One is for “Hurry-up Hot Tea” which, believe it or not, recommends that you keep a jar of instant tea handy for a bracing cup of hot tea. Measure the tea into each cup according to the label directions; fill with boiling water; stir. Oh, come now. Really? Instant tea must have been new then. However, there was one recipe that I think will come in handy for the holidays. It’s “Tea for a Crowd”. It’s a recipe for tea concentrate. And I quote. “Planning a tea? A tea concentrate make serving large groups easy. At teatime, all you have to do is pour a little concentrate into each cup and fill with ho, hot water. The tea can be strong or weak — its’s the amount of concentrate that makes the difference. Or just before serving you can combine the concentrate with the hot water in a large teapot — 1 cup concentrate to 6 cups boiling water.
“Tea concentrate for 40 to 45 servings: Bring to a high bubbling boil 6 cups freshly drawn cold water. Remove from heat and promptly add 1/4 pound loose tea, stirring in leaves. Cover; steep 5 minutes. Strain into teapot.
“Concentrate cloudy? Add the hot water at teatime will make it sparkle again.”
That’s a pretty good start. I have a couple of suggestions. You can strain or you can put the tea leaves in large tea filters – paper or mesh. Four ounces equals 113.36 grams (for those of you metric folk) or 1/4 pound. For the purposes of this recipe and the time period it is from, I can safely assume this is black tea used int he recipe. As the size of the tea leaf varies with the quality of the tea, weighing is recommended. And as black tea weighs more than others, for green tea you would use about 2/3 the weight and for white only about half. And, I would suggest that while you may chill the concentrate and add to hot water a cooler tea will result. Perhaps a tea too cool. Another idea is to place the concentrate in a thermos or airpot. And finally, I would suggest that instead of a “high bubbling boil” that the water just come to the boil to conserve as much oxygen as possible. By making the tea ahead – I would not suggest it be more than 2 or 3 hours – you do save a bit of last minute grief and it is easier to carry. Enjoy.
It’s hard to believe that 46 years have passed since James T. Kirk and Mr. Spock first started their five-year mission to seek out new life and new civilizations. I was young enough to be a Chekov fan then. Then came Star Trek – Next Generation. Jean-Luc Picard and Will Riker expanded the galaxy even more. Not only that, but Captain Picard reintroduced me to tea, specifically Earl Grey.
Growing up I shared Bigelow Constant Comment and Plantation Mint with my mother. My grandmother drank Lipton. If I was lucky in the summer we found Plantation Mint instant and had iced tea. Once I got to college, however, there were a lot of “all-nighters” studying for nursing exams and writing a 32 page paper for each patient I would be caring for – 4 a week, plus term papers, and the other classes. I needed caffeine. Lots of caffeine. The sorority house where I was a dormie – they didn’t have enough sisters to fill the rooms – always had a coffee pot full. Granted it could be 15 hours old, but it was coffee. And when I began my nursing career, there was coffee in the unit kitchen. And when anesthesia school started and we attended EVERY delivery – that’s when a lot of them occurred in the middle of the night – and took call – well, you grabbed what was there quickly. It was that pot of 15 hour-old coffee. I learned to drink coffee hot or tepid or cold.
But, there was Jean-Luc Picard. Walking up to a wall and saying “Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xHsgt4NN9GA in case you’ve forgotten. And I became intrigued. Just who was Earl Grey and why did he have a tea named after him? And what did it taste like?
The Earl Grey that the tea is named for was the 2nd Earl and he was a British Prime Minister in the 1830’s. He received a gift of black tea flavored with Bergamot oil, which is from an Italian orange. According to one legend, a grateful Chinese mandarin gave it to him after one of the Earl’s men saved his son from drowning. This is highly unlikely as the Chinese did not know about Bergamot oil. Jacksons of Piccadilly claim to have invented the recipe and have had it in constant production since. The Grey family says the tea was specially blended by a Chinese mandarin for Lord Grey, to suit the water of Howick Hall, the ancestral Grey home. The bergamot was to offset the lime in the local water. Lady Grey used the blend to entertain her London guests and it was so popular she asked if it could be sold to others, which is how Twinings came into the picture.
Earl Grey tea is not only good as a drink, but has been used as a flavoring for many types of cakes, chocolate confections and even in savory sauces. Here at the store Inggrie of TehKu Teas has blended Earl Grey and added mallow flowers. Earl Grey de la Crème. My favorite. Of course, now , the doctors say I have to limit caffeine.
So, thank you, Jean-Luc, for reigniting my love of tea and expanding my horizons.
OK. The easiest way is to make reservations and come to Unicorn Wine Guild for tea. The next easiest is to do it yourself.
Make a list of 4 to 6 close friends. You might also want to include a couple of newbies in the group, but be sure that they are included in the conversation and don’t feel left out. It is a great way to introduce the new neighbor, club member, etc.
Make, buy or e-vite the group. Be sure to include a respond by date. You can even ask them to each bring a plate of their favorite dessert. In this case indicate the size of the group. It’s OK to ask.
Send out these invitations at least two weeks in advance. In this modern age, the longer the notice, the better. Saturday or Sunday afternoons are often the best time.
For your tea you will want to have 2 or 3 varieties of tea. Make sure that one is caffeine free such as a fruit or Rooibos.
A couple of days before the party gather your supplies – tablecloth, napkins, plates, cups and saucers, tea pot, silverware. Be whimsical or formal. Paper or china. The choice is yours. This will give you time to shop to complete your needed items. To ease the cost of entertaining, many recommend that if using china to collect plain white china or clear glass. This way the china lasts year round and you can accessorize with patterned linens (or paper). A centerpiece adds sparkle to the table. Choose flowers or a whimsical arrangement. It is nice to give a small gift to each participant. These can even be arranged as the centerpiece.
A few hours before the guests arrive, prepare two types of tea sandwiches, cut into triangles and cover in the fridge until serving time. You might also want to prepare something like a simple fruit dish. Don’t forget the milk, lemon and sugar cubes.
Arrange the food as a buffet. Serve iced tea in pitchers and hot tea in teapots. Let the guests serve themselves. (While one lump or two is wonderful for hot tea, it doesn’t do so well for iced. Having a small pitcher of simple syrup is a great benefit to the guests. It’s easy. Just stir equal amounts of sugar and hot water until they form a solution.)
Above all, have a good time with your friends. Don’t worry that it’s not perfect. The point of the whole thing is to share in friendship.