My half-British friend Sandra enjoys afternoon tea with her grandson every day at 4pm. As in England, Sandra tells me, her tea ritual includes a savory and a sweet.
With temps surpassing 100* every afternoon, there is no other place I'd rather be than indoors enjoying a "cuppa" tea and watching reruns of Downtown Abbey, counting down the days to the new season premiers. And please, call me Lady Susan.
What would Downton Abbey be without tea?
History of the Tea Ritual
While perusing the internet recently I found the most intriguing blog Downton Abbey Cooks. And what would Downton Abbey be without tea. According to this resource, the history of the tea ritual stems back to 1662 when Catherine of Braganza of Portugal married Charles II and brought with her the preference for tea, which had already become common in Europe. As tea was her temperance drink of choice, it gained social acceptance among the aristocracy as she replaced wine, ale and spirits with tea as the court drink.
What do you know? Tea is my temperance beverage of choice, too, second only to Coca-Cola. One is the tablewine of the South, the other Champagne!
The history continues....
The actual taking of tea in the afternoon developed into a new social event some time in the late 1830’s and early 1840’s. It was Anne, Duchess of Bedford, one of Queen Victoria’s ladies-in-waiting, who “invented” the Afternoon Tea. The gap between lunch and supper was widening, so Anne started asking for tea and small cakes to be brought to her private quarters. I am sure she quickly realized that a lot of gossip could be shared if she invited other ladies to her quarters to share her cakes. Queen Victoria herself was encouraged to start hosting her own parties as a way of re-entering society after the passing of her beloved husband Albert.
When serving tea...
When serving tea it is traditional to serve warm scones. I don't remember the first time I enjoyed a scone, but I do remember the first time I enjoyed one with clotted cream. It was on a flight from Glasgow, Scotland, to Toronto, Canada. Yes, airplane food, and it was heaven on a tiny, plastic tray.
Although the words "clotted cream" sound dreadful to us "Yanks" (yes, to the British all Americans are Yankees. Heaven forbid!) it is to die for!! Think Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk on warm, homemade bread. Hungry now?
I don't know how to make clotted cream. Guess I just need to find out where to purchase it. But I do know how to make scones. The easiest way is with a scone mix which is no longer uncommon in most grocery markets. However, being a fan of Alton Brown and his recipes, I'll share his below.
May just have to plan a Downton Abbey viewing party and try out some of my new "Tea Recipes." There is plenty of time to practice. The TV drama doesn't begin in the US until after Christmas.
- 2 cups flour
- 4 teaspoons baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons shortening
- 3/4 cup cream
- 1 egg
- Handful dried fruit such as dried currants or dried cranberries
Heat oven to 375 degrees.
In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Mix well. Cut in butter and shortening. In a separate bowl, combine cream with beaten egg then add to dry ingredients. Stir in fruit. Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Roll dough out and cut into biscuit size rounds. Bake for 15 minutes or until brown.