Thursday, July 26, 2012

British Tea.

I keep finding interesting bits and pieces in the various volumes of The Food Journal: a review of social and sanitary economy, and monthly record of food and public health. Volume 4 was the source of yesterday’s story. Today I want to share with you a short piece from Volume 3, published in 1873, which concerns an early experiment in growing tea in Britain.

The produce of the tea plant is a matter of so much national importance now, that we may be excused if we refer to a letter which appeared many years ago in the British Journal on tea cultivation. In it Mr. Routsey says:- "Having found the Chinese green tea plant (Camelia viridis) to be more hardy than some other shrubs which endure the open air in this neighbourhood, I have tried it upon the Welsh mountains, and found it succeed. I planted it in a part of Breconshire, not far from the source of the Usk, about 1,000 ft. above the level of the sea, and higher than the limits of the native woods - consisting of elder and birch. It endured the last winter, and was not affected by the frost of May. It has now made several vigorous shoots, and I have no doubt of its thriving very well." Perhaps some of our readers could inform us what was the result of this open-air experiment, and whether it ever happened to be tried elsewhere with success within the British Island?

I too, would like to know the result of this experiment. Was any tea actually produced? Is there anything left of this little experimental plantation? I am totally ignorant about the lifespan of Camelia viridis, but I do hope that somewhere above the treeline on a hillside in Wales, near the source of the Usk, there are a few straggly, neglected tea bushes.

It is interesting that tea is in fact being grown in Britain today. There are small commercial plantations in Cornwall and in Wales (in Pembrokeshire), in areas where apparently the microclimate is similar to that of Darjeeling.

It is said that global warming has enabled this new horticultural success, as it is supposedly assisting the renaissance in English wine-production, but it cannot explain the apparent early success of the 1870’s experiment, can it?

While we try to solve the mystery of the Welsh tea experiment, I give you some recipes from On Uncle Sam’s Water Wagon: 500 recipes for delicious drinks, which can be made at home (New York, 1919.) The book was written all those years ago in response to Prohibition, and proves that flavoured teas are not a yuppie modern tea-shop invention.

First scald the teapot. Allow from half to a full teaspoonful of tea to each cup, according to variety used. Pour freshly drawn boiling water over the tea, and allow to stand from three to five minutes. English breakfast tea should stand at least five minutes before it is served. Serve with sugar, cream, lemon or orange.

Tea à la Commodore
Make tea according to preceding recipe, and serve with sugar and three cloves to each cup.

Tea à la Biltmore
Serve tea sweetened with red and white rock candy instead of sugar. A slice of lemon may be

Honolulu Tea
Make a syrup of one half cup of juice from preserved pineapple to two tablespoonfuls of
sugar, and simmer cubes of pineapple in it until the syrup is nearly absorbed by fruit. Serve
three cubes to each cup of hot tea, and more sugar if desired.

Russian Tea
Scald earthenware teapot with boiling water and put in two teaspoonfuls of tea, pour over
boiling water, filling the pot one fourth full, and let stand three minutes. Then fill pot full of
boiling water and let brew five minutes. In serving, dilute with hot water, and put a slice of
lemon in each cup. Preserved strawberries or cherries may be added.

Tea à la Mitchell
Serve a spoonful of orange marmalade to each cup of hot tea.

Sherbet Tea
Place a spoonful of lemon sherbet in a glass with two tablespoonfuls of lemon syrup and a
dash of acid phosphate. Nearly fill the glass with cold tea, and add a little cracked ice and soda
water. This is a delicious drink for hot days.

Quotation for the Day.

Thou Female-Tongue-running, Smile-smoothing, Heart-opening, Wink-tipping Cordial.
Cibber, The Lady’s Last Stake.


Deptford Pudding said...

Gunpowder tea is the way to go.

The Old Foodie said...

I agree! Gunpowder tea is good!