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AN AFTERNOON’S DELIGHT

A cuppa tea can either be glugged down in no time or made into an entire ceremony. And the English like to do just that, at venues such as Bettys Tea Rooms (since 1919), The Langham Hotel (since 1855) and the wonderful Fortnum & Mason (since 1707). What does tea with milk taste like, and what about the much-loved afternoon tea?

If you say England, then you say high tea. Well to the British, it’s actually ‘afternoon tea’, because that’s what the late afternoon tea with tasty delights is actually called. From the early seventeenth century onwards, Dutch and Portuguese merchants brought tea to Europe from China. From 1650, tea penetrated England. Tea was initially an expensive commodity – even more expensive than gold – and people used it to impress. The expensive merchandise was thus served in pure white porcelain. You needed a tea strainer, because tea was sometimes mixed with sand, dust and tree leaves to reduce costs. Even dried sheep droppings could end up in the brew.  

It was Duchess Anna of Bedford (1783-1857) who introduced the afternoon tea. She found herself feeling hungry around four o’clock in the afternoon, while dinner was only served at eight o’clock. To fill the gap, she had her daily cup of tea in the afternoon served with some food. It started with simple slices of bread and butter, but when the Duchess received friends for the tea, an increasingly extensive collection of cakes and sandwiches were offered. 

An afternoon teaalways includes the cucumber sandwich: buttered slices of white bread without crust, filled with cucumber, a dash of salt and a sprinkle of lemon juice.The sweet tooth can feast on a slice of Victoria Spongeand scones with clotted creamand jam. Victorian recipe books show that two centuries ago, people served much more exciting delicacies. Sweetbread with green asparagus, ox tongue with watercress and chicken liver were all popular sandwich fillings. Exciting, you can go as crazy as you like!

LAVENDER AND EARL GREY BISCUITS

INGREDIENTS:

200g unsalted butter

100g fine granulated sugar

250g flour

40g ground rice

a pinch of salt

1.5 teaspoons dried and ground edible lavender leaves

1 teaspoon ground tea leaves from 2 bags of Earl Grey tea

 

METHOD:

  1. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees.
  2. Whisk the butter until it turns smooth and creamy. Slowly add the sugar until it is well mixed.
  3. In a separate bowl, sift the flower, ground rice (use a coffee grinder) and salt. Stir in the lavender and tea leaves.
  4. Mix the dry components with the butter cream until the dough comes together.
  5. Shape the dough into a ball, wrap it in cling film and put it in the fridge for 15 minutes.
  6. When the dough is chilled, roll it out onto a floured surface to a thickness of approximately 0.75cm.
  7. Place the biscuits onto a baking tray and place in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  8. Bake the biscuits in a preheated oven at 190 degrees or until they are a pale gold colour. Allow to cool on the tray for ten minutes.

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