History of Cream Tea – Every Tea Drinker Should Know This

Muffin with clotted cream and jam and cream tea.

Clotted Cream, Jam, and Cream Tea

Cream tea refers to practice of having tea with scones and clotted cream. A truly British practice coming out of the afternoon teas, or high teas, made popular by the Duchess of Bedford in the early 1800’s. The practice of afternoon tea became extremely popular by the mid-1800’s, even spreading to the United States.

What is Cream Tea

Afternoon tea became popular at the same time that the railroad expanded in London. Londoners would get on the train and spend the weekend along the southern coast of England. It was in the West Country of England (actually the southwest part of England along the British Channel), which encompasses Devon, Cornwall, Dorset, Somerset, that brought the term of cream tea into the British lexicon. The local restaurants and pubs, in catering to the weekend tourists turned afternoon tea into cream tea.

This area of England was and still is well known for their lamb, beef and cheese production. Their use of local ingredients for the food at the afternoon teas created huge demand, especially for the clotted cream, which is best described as whipped cream meets butter. Keeping in mind that refrigeration had not come along yet, clotted cream would have been a true treat. It does not keep for more than a few days, even in modern refrigeration. So if you can imagine having something like frosting, without the sugar, on top of your scone in a time where nothing like that existed you can understand why it came to be called cream tea. And they always added jam to give it sweetness. Welcome to where the 3-4 pm sugar and caffeine fix came from in European and American culture!

Modern Cream Tea

Cream tea is still alive and well in the West Country of England. There are even debates on whose clotted cream is better, Devon or Cornwall. So if you should ever find yourself on the southern coast of England, stop into the tea shops and enjoy the original clotted cream. If you want to make your own, here is a recipe that doesn’t require the use of the stove top.

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3 Tips for Improving Your Flavor Palate

Cinnamon, Cloves & Star Anise

Improving your flavor palate doesn’t require much. The benefits include finding new flavors you enjoy, appreciating what you eat and drink, and slowing down. It is both funny and sad to think that many people cannot describe the flavors of their last meal. Partially because eating has become something we do mindlessly and on the go in the US. We are not taught the words or the steps to make us pay attention to what goes into our mouths. It is just assumed we will figure it out ourselves as we grow up. Well, many of us don’t. So here are 3 easy steps you can take to improve your flavor palate, which will make drinking tea an even more fun experience.

  1. Think when you eat or drink. When you put something in your mouth, focus on it. Then pick out words to describe what you taste and smell. This is actually a fun exercise to do with kids as you will get some pretty funny, yet eye opening, descriptions. If you are struggling for words there are many flavor wheels on the internet that can help. Here is a flavor wheel that is one of our favorites.
  2. Drink more tea! Yes, you had to see that one coming. Don’t just drink more of your favorites, try new things way outside your comfort zone. We generally recommend venturing into white teas like Bai Hao Silver Needle, as they are so subtle that you must concentrate on them when you drink or you will miss their flavors and aromas. Looking to find a tea that will give you a dizzying array of flavors, play in oolongs like Oriental Beauty or  Wen Shan Bao Zhong. Then there are teas that will give you a whole new vocabulary of flavor, Puerh.
  3. Watch how much salt and sugar is in what you eat. The typical American diet has way too much salt and sugar*, both of which greatly effect what you taste well after it has left your mouth. Both salt and sugar make it more difficult to pick up subtle flavors because they over stimulate your taste buds, making it hard for your brain to also process the other flavors. Want a fun experiment? Try for one week to eat as little salt and/or sugar as possible (read labels carefully). Then go back and eat a small portion your favorite salty or sweet snack. Wait for the head rush and see how truly overpowering the saltiness or sweetness is.

So while you are working on expanding your palate, don’t forget your medicine cabinet. One of the most frequent and not really talked about side effects of antihistamines, antidepressants, anti-inflammatory and high cholesterol drugs is the loss of taste and smell. So if you happen to be a regular consumer of one or more of these, it has likely effected your ability to taste and/or smell. Dosages can be adjusted down to help with this, but it may require you to increase the amount of spicing (skip the salt and sugar) on your food and the amount of tea you use to brew your favorite cup. Enjoy expanding your palate!

*  The US Food & Drug Administration recommends less than 50 grams of sugar a day with a 2,000 calorie diet. This is what you will find in a 16 oz soda.  The World Health Organization recommends less than 25 grams.

 

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The Mouthfeel of Tea

The brain plays a major role in interpreting and describing mouthfeel and flavor.

Mouthfeel is defined as the texture of a substance as it is perceived by the mouth. It is funny to think about how something feels in your mouth, but it is actually a very important part of how your brain decides rather or not you like a particular food or beverage. We spend a lot of time focused on smell and taste and often overlook mouthfeel until a particular food or beverage does not feel the way we expect it too.

Tea has a mouthfeel that is created by the polyphenals reacting with our saliva and the mucus membrane on our tongues. This means that different teas have different mouthfeels.

Describing the Mouthfeel of Tea

Below are the three most common mouthfeels used to describe tea that do not reference the temperature of the tea itself.

  1. Astringent or Drying. Some people use the term brisk to describe this sensation as well. Astringency is the ability of the substance to leave the tongue and roof of the mouth feeling dry after  swallowing. If you pay close attention, you may notice that only certain parts of your tongue and roof of your mouth give that sensation. English Breakfast is usually the least astringent, followed by Scottish Breakfast and then Irish Breakfast. Assam black tea is what makes Irish Breakfast the most drying.
  2. Creamy. You do not need milk to drink a creamy tea. Oolongs, like Oriental Beauty, and certain green teas, like Dragon Well, have creamy textures. The tea leaves the sensation of remaining on your tongue after you swallow, just like milk. It general reacts the same way on all parts of your tongue, which makes the tongue feel coated in tea.
  3. Full bodied. This one is a little tricky. Body refers to a thick, sticky consistency. A full bodied tea is not going to feel the same on the mouth as a full bodied beer or wine. The most common example of full bodied tea is Lapsang Souchong, but this pine-smoked tea is not drunk by everyone. Another example is Malty Assam Black.

So the next time you sit down with your favorite cup, think about how it feels in your mouth. It may surprise you!

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Breakfast Tea: What is the difference between English, Irish and Scottish Breakfast?

Ever wondered what the difference is between English, Irish and Scottish breakfast teas. Well, it’s a relatively simple answer driven by the terroir of tea. While there is no uniform formula for each of these blends, their flavor profiles are generally agreed upon within the industry. English breakfast is typically sweeter, while Irish has the most astringency (making it the perfect candidate for milk or cream). Scottish breakfast is astringent like Irish only the astringency is felt further back in your mouth, so it is not as forward as Irish but still milk worthy. We know plenty of people who put milk in their English breakfast, and that is fine too. However, it is a smooth black tea blend if made in the right ratios and nice to drink in the morning plain.

Not all black teas are the same, nor should they be. Remember tea is an agricultural product and it should vary in flavor year-to-year and by wIrish Breakfast Teahere it is grown. The three black teas that make up these three breakfast blends are Keemun, Assam and Ceylon teas. That’s right, all three blends are generally made from these three black teas. The ratios of these teas change whether the tea is an English, Irish or Scottish breakfast tea.

English, Irish, & Scottish Tea Differences

English breakfast is predominately Keemun tea out of China mixed with Assam tea from India. Depending on the tea blender and the characteristics of each tea for the year, English breakfast can also have a small portion of Ceylon tea. Keemun tea from China is a malty black tea that is slightly sweet and stone fruit in flavor. It doesn’t have the astringency of an Assam or Ceylon. However, blending it with those teas helps to give them more complexity in flavor and a softer mouth feel.

Irish Breakfast is predominately Assam tea with a little Keemun and Ceylon teas thrown in. This is a strong tea in that it can dry your mouth quickly
because of the combination of Assam and Ceylon. Scottish is predominately Ceylon with smaller portions of Keemun and Assam included. To tell the difference between Irish and Scottish, you need to exclude the milk and look at the color of the brew. Ceylon tea is a beautiful red while Assam is brews more orange. You should also pay attention to where your mouth gets dry in drinking these teas. An Irish breakfast, will dry your mouth more toward the front to middle while a Ceylon will hit further back on your tongue and throat.

So the next time you a few minutes in the morning with your cup of tea, pay attention to what you feel in your mouth and the flavors of these popular blends. It is a fun way to appreciate the complexity of something that on the surface seems rather simple.

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Tea Ice Cream Floats – A Cool Summer Time Treat

Ice Cream Floats Made From Tea

Delicious Tea Ice Cream Float

Tea ice cream floats are a fun way to drink tea when it is really hot out or you are in the mood for an ice cream float but without the soda. Below we used Ginger Honeybush, as this was for dessert after dinner and we did not want caffeine that late in the day. The recipe below is scaled for 4 people but is easy to scale down or up. There is also no requirement that you freshly brew the tea, if you have iced tea in the refrigerator, feel free to try with that.

Tea Ice Cream Floats – Ingredients

4 tablespoons Ginger Honeybush tea
4 teaspoons of Agave Nectar
2 1/4 Cups Boiling Water
Seltzer Water (Should be cold)
Vanilla Ice Cream (You can use any ice cream. We happen to like Matcha Green Tea Ice Cream)
4 Large Glasses
4 Spoons

Tea Ice Cream Floats – Steps

  1. Take your 4 glasses and put 1 teaspoon of Agave Nectar into each glass. Bring your 2 1/4 cups of water up to a boil.
  2. Steep the 4 tablespoons of Ginger Honeybush in the water for 5 minutes.
  3. Strain off the tea and pour 1/2 cup into each glass and stir (yes the tea is hot). Pour in selzter water until half-way up the glass and stir.
  4. Scoop in vanilla ice cream and then pour in additional seltzer water to the desired level. Serve and enjoy!

This is a fun way to do ice cream floats without soda. The seltzer water still gives you the crunchy ice cream effect that you get with soda.

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