Welcome to Tea, a virtual tribute to the art of having tea. As Henry James once said: “There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.
I host a virtual tea party originally inspired by Christine, a follower who lives in France, who was curious about English tea traditions after watching a few episodes of Downton Abbey. The British may have failed miserably in other culinary areas, but they excel in the tea ritual. Join me every Tuesday as I dish on Downton Abbey, the Royal Family, UK tourism and other topical tea issues one might discuss at tea, served up with a tea treat recipe with a history.
My Online Guide to the Tea Ritual
Many of you will have been to the UK for the Olympics and perhaps have lingered to looking for a chance to have “afternoon tea”. To help avoid disappointment (there is a difference between afternoon and high tea), I have created a handy guide to help you enjoy the experience: Downton Abbey Cooks Online Guide to Afternoon Tea. The guide includes:
- The history of Tea in England
- Tea Lingo
- The difference between Afternoon and High Tea
- Proper tea etiquette
The guide also includes tips and recipes to host your own tea party, perhaps to gather friends to watch your favorite Downton Abbey episode:
- How to make a proper cup of tea
- Sweet and Savoury tea recipes, including a great scone recipe you can adapt many ways.
- How to build a tea service on a budget.
Or you can purchase your own handbook, Relaxing Over Afternoon Tea from the Shop page.
- New clips are here: last week there was a leak of the trailer which was shown at the July TCA (Television Critics Association) event (you know the one where Hugh Bonneville revealed his “free Bates” tshirt. I am pretty sure most copies have been pulled down for copyright reasons. But the good news is that his week ITV released two clips which hint at the battle of the wits.
- Downton gets a Toaster: If you thought the telephone was a big deal at Downton Abbey, imagine Mr. Carson’s reaction to the other new technological miracles like a toaster and vacuum cleaner which appear in Episode 4.
- Benedict is back to Downton Bashing: Benedict Cumberbatch, star of Sherlock took time in his interview with Reader’s Digest to poke jabs at Downton Abbey while promoting his new TV period drama Parade’s End. Julian Fellowes was quick to publicly forgive the lad who he has known for many years.
- Cashing in on the Snob Vote at the Emmys: As we already know, Downton received a number of nominations for this year’s Emmys. There is some speculation that they might grab the snob vote in the same way that Frasier became a favorite of the Hollywood press. That should give us much to celebrate. How are plans for your Downton Abbey themed Emmy party coming along? My ideas on what to serve on Sept. 23.
Fun Food History: Portuguese Custard Tart
Angel food cake is one of my favorite summer desserts to make for family and company. It is light, low fat and loves to be dressed up with fresh fruit. Since a cake will use almost a dozen egg whites, the question became what to do with the yolks. In our household it was to make lots of custard tarts, a classic English tea sweet which many European countries have adopted to make a variation of their own.
The story goes that the tart, called pastel de nata, was created in monasteries in the 18th century as one of many desserts which used egg yolks. A massive amount of egg whites were used for starching clothes (such as nuns’ habits) and in the process of making wine. I was horrified to discover how many calories each one had so with some experimentation I found a way to reduce the number of egg yolks required, and replace the cream with skim milk. It doesn’t help me use up lots of egg yolks, but makes a healthier dessert, and besides you can now buy pasteurized egg whites which I can use for my angel food cakes. There is still some fat, as can’t resist the puff pastry crust which makes the tart very easy to make, but this version cuts the calories by 2/3rds.