“Put the kettle on”– those four little words us Brits love to say!
Those little brown leaves have come a long way…tea – the drink reached Europe in the 16th Century, but up until the 1780’s tea was so heavily taxed in England it was a luxury only the rich could afford. The high taxation lead to a growing trade in smuggled tea and dealers regularly mixed the tea with twigs and leaves. Some of the leaves were even mixed with sheep’s dung or poisonous copper carbonate to maintain the correct color of brewed tea.
Thankfully by the late 18th Century the huge 119% tax on tea was reduced to more affordable 12.5% thereby ending the illegal trade and tea became widely available, affordable and the standard thing to drink in England.
Black tea is the most common of all tea; it is drunk by the gallon in England (popular brands are PG Tips and Typhoo) and is usually taken with a splash of milk and sometimes sugar. However if black tea doesn’t take your fancy, green and oolong teas are readily available in most grocery stores.
Black tea – the fermented leaves produce a hearty brew that is higher in caffeine than other teas, but still lower in caffeine than coffee. Popular varieties are:
- Earl Grey
- English Breakfast
- Irish Breakfast
- Lapsong Souchong
Green tea – the non-fermented leaves are delicate in flavor, light in color, low in caffeine and very soothing. Green tea is never served with milk, sugar or lemon and popular varieties include:
- Lung Ching
Oolong tea – the partially fermented leaves provide a taste that is stronger than green tea, and more delicate than black tea. Formosa Oolong is a very popular Oolong tea.
Few countries have given the world as many recipes for cake as Britain – from traditional recipes that are recognized everywhere to quirky regional creations that have made a small town or village famous. Each and everyone has a historical tale to tell.
Consisting of four main ingredients – flour, eggs, sugar and butter – English cakes shy away from the European showy artistic cakes and have evolved to become a cozy tradition that is more about the simple joy of sharing a freshly baked cake at home.
So why not get out the baking trays, celebrate this most genial of English traditions and relax with a cup of tea and a slice of something good.