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Welcome to Tea Tuesday, my weekly 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 Tea Tuesday each week, a virtual tea party which was 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.
GONE FISHING: Not unlike Downton Abbey and your other favorite TV shows, you may be seeing some re-runs over the next few weeks as I get ready for our annual family fishing trip and will offline for awhile. Lord D is great with watering plants and keeping the house while I am away, but prefers to do his own blogging (should he ever decide to grace the world with a blog).
My Online Guide to the Tea Ritual
Many of you will be traveling to the UK and will likely have “afternoon tea” on your list. 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.
Tweeting over Tea
If you tweet, you may wish to join me @downtoncooks, @theladygrantham and other fans of Downton Abbey and tea from around the world by entering the hashtag #downtontea Tuesdays at 4 pm GMT, 11 am EDT, 9 PST.
It is still pretty quiet this week on the gossip front, but you may find the following interesting, but be careful about spoilers:
The King of Teas: Earl Grey
You may have seen my informal poll asking tea drinkers about their favorite tea. Consistently Earl Grey seems to be the favorite. Please feel free to chime in with your own favorite.
Earl Grey tea was named after Charles Grey
Earl Grey tea was named after Charles Grey, who was British Prime Minister to King William IV. One story tells that he saved a mandarin’s son from drowning on a trade delegation to China in 1834. In return, the grateful mandarin provided him with a recipe for a tea blend which Grey brought back to England. The recipe was passed along to his own tea merchant for his own private use. He did have a large family with 10 sons and 6 daughters so I can imagine they would have consumed quite a bit of the tea.
The blend? Essentially Earl Grey is a black tea, infused with the oil of bergamot. The citrus fruit is not edible, but the blossoms and oils are prized, not only flavoring Earl Grey tea, but in perfumes as well.
Cooking with Tea
The partnership of tea and food dates back to ancient China where tea was often used in savoury dishes. You may have used it in fish dishes or even tea smoking. For Afternoon Tea lovers, you don’t have to settle for tea in the cup, it also goes well in in baking. It works particularly well in fruit cakes where you soak dried fruit in the tea. We made the Cup of Tea Cake using this method with a strong tea blend.
Earl Grey is a more delicate tea which can be used in breads, but can also provide a lovely flavour to biscuits, sponge cakes, ice cream and sauces. You can also put a spot of gin, ice, sugar and lemon in your tea cup for nice summer beverage (no one will ever know!). We have already used Earl Grey to make Earl Grey madeleines, and an Earl Grey créme anglaise, and today we will make a delightful and decadent chocolate mousse.
Earl Grey Chocolate Mousse
enjoy your cup of Earl Grey as a mousse
This recipe comes from the great Canadian hotel chain, Four Seasons London Hotel in Park Lane via one of my favorite tea books Tea & Crumpets, which shares recipes from great tea rooms across the UK. You can make the full fat version or see the tips of reducing fat and calories without sacrificing taste. I used a dollop of greek yoghurt as a garnish in my version.
Makes 4 to 8 portions
- 3 ounces dark chocolate, broken into pieces
- 3 ounces milk chocolate, broken into pieces
- 2 cups whipping cream* (or 1 cup non fat evaporated milk and 1 cup greek yoghurt)
- 3 Earl Grey tea bags
- 3 large eggs separated* (or 3 egg whites)
- 1/2 cup sugar* (or sugar substitute)
- Melt the dark and milk chocolate in a metal bowl placed on top of pot of low simmering water and melt, stirring well.
- In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine 1 cup of the cream (or evaporated milk) and the tea bags. Bring slowly to a boil, then remove from the heat. With a spoon, press firmly on the tea bags to extract maximum flavour. Remove and disgard the tea bags. Pour the mixture over the chocolate and stir until smooth.
- In a small bowl, whip the remaining one cup cream (or skip if using greek yoghurt) with an electric mixer on medium speed until stiff peaks form.
- In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks and sugar with an electric mixer until pale and thick. (or skip if you aren’t using egg yolks)
- In a separate small bowl, beat the egg whites with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form (add the sugar if you eliminated the egg yolks).
- Combine the egg yolk mixture with the chocolate mixture, then fold in the whipped cream and egg whites. (or fold in the egg whites and greek yoghurt with the melted chocolate).
- Spoon the mixture into 8 four ounce ramekins, or four tea cups and refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours, or until semi firm.
- Serve with madeleines or shortbread if you like.
*Making it healthier: You can make this mousse healthier by reducing the fat by eliminating the egg yolks, and cream and using non fat evaporated milk and Greek yogurt. You can also the amount of sugar in the recipe or use sugar substitute.