I drink tea everyday and all day. Sometimes I crave regular simple, straight up, creamy, rich scones with jam and cream; sometimes I need savoury ones like a lovely cheese scone. I think I had my first generic cup of tea when I was about 12 years old. My parents were (are) advent coffee drinkers by the gallons really and tea was never an option at home. I think my mother once referred to it as coloured dishwater. Although they did have some lovely blends for the restaurant guests, I somehow never drank it. I hate(d) coffee (anything with that flavour is horrible to me). So it was on a school sky trip ……. I had tea for the first time at age 12. It was freezing in Austria and tea was a very welcome warm drink at the breakfast. It was generic but it made my tummy feel good and warmed me up. Back home I asked for tea but I don’t think I ever drank it. So the next moment I recall bumping into tea is when I was at work in Brussels at the Hilton hotel, I was 19 years old. Gradually although not instantly I got hooked. I learned about afternoon creams teas in UK and was blown away by my first experience at the Ritz in London. The scones will always be a vivid memory! Now I have a collection of brands and types of tea that i love sipping at different times of the day and seasons. I have the hardest time avoid going nuts and spend my entire paycheck in tea shops. Some of my favourite brands are : Mariage Freres, Hediard and Kushmi Tea. But there are plenty of lovely local tea shops with their own harvests and blends that are just waiting to be discovered Check out the tea shop I discovered in Stockholm here. My taste is rather simple, I am not a huge fan of a “grassy” green tea such as sencha nor a smokey lapsang susong but I can totally appreciate them once in a while.
I have to admit I am also a bit of a tea cup addict! Over the years I have collected some gorgeous tea cups and love having them displayed in my glass door pink cabinet in my open plan kitchen living room. I always look for a set of cup, saucer and dessert plate cause where would I otherwise but the scones? A few years back I got a Samovar, a traditionally Russian vessel to boil water in and keep the tea pot warm with the evaporating steam up top. The modern samovar I got is my pride and joy but I am secretly hoping one day soon to be able to buy an antique one. I did see a beautiful one at my fave London vintage shop Henry Gregory , read about my finds last August here .
My first cup in the morning is a mild white tea with a hint of lavender: Paris Provence by Mariage Frères.
In the afternoon I like a classic black tea with some power such as a strong Earl Grey or black tea blend with aromatic fruits or fragrant spices, something to keep me going like: Hediard Fruit blend .
At night, I love a soothing and delicate detox tea from Kusmi Tea.
WHAT IS TEA – You have white tea, green tea and black tea. They all come from the Chinese and Indian native shrub called Camellia. White tea is unfermented; in Green tea the leaves are steamed and Black tea is fermented. Herbal teas are infusions of herbs, fruits, seeds, roots and spices. Red Tea or Rooibos is a fermented South African herb. “Chai tea” is spotted in coffee and tea bars a lot today; chai means tea in India and this spicy, milky brew is made with black tea, milk (buffalo milk in India) and a variety of spices such as cardamon, ginger, nutmeg, vanilla,fennel seeds and much more.
BENEFITS OF DRINKING TEA – When you research this online, you get more than 96 million results. I can summarize in a few words what they say: drinking tea may be beneficial preventing and/or fighting a numerous of illnesses such as cancer, Parkinson, strokes, heart disease and lower cholesterol, and many more. It is the antioxidants in tea that are the benefactors here. The risks of drinking tea due to excessive consumption mostly attributed to black tea due to higher caffeine content, can lead to nervousness and sleep interruption.
COOKING WITH TEA – I love using tea in my cooking – check out my 5 insanely delicious recipes click here. Use them as you would any other spice or herb to bring unique flavour to marinates and sauces. Frequently you can spot Matcha used in cakes and desserts.
5 STEPS TO THE BEST CUP – Now regardless of your likes, tastes and habits; there are 5 STEPS to setting a perfect pot or cup of tea and you may be surprised how following these steps will improve your cup of comfort exponentially.
1. Filter the water – if you are unlucky like me the water in my region is extremely calcium packed and it leaves that horrific most vile white scum drifting on my tea. So first things first, filter your water. You can go for an elaborate water softer system such as Grohe Blue Pure (on my wish list!!) buy here or have a simple Brita pitcher at hand ( ve one at work, at home and at beach house) buy here.
2. Do not boil the water – if you pour boiling water onto those delicate tea leaves you basically burn them and thus alter the flavour. Remove from heat the water before boiling point or invest in a water boiler with adjustable temperatures. The ideal temperature for white and green tea is 75C degrees and 90C degrees for black tea.
3. Let it infuse – whether you set a cup or a whole pot and whether you use a tea bag or loose leave tea, you MUST infuse the tea as recommended by the maker and that is usually between 4 to 5 minutes. This will make a huge difference in flavor. and avoids you from burning yourself too. So let it sit for a few minutes.
4. drink out of porcelain – ban the plastic or foam throw away cup, please do! To truly enjoy your tea ( and help the environment too), use your funny quote mug or a beautiful cup and saucer, but it must be porcelain, or glass is a good alternative. Why tea cups are wider than coffee cups is not by accident neither, this not only helps to cool the tea quicker ready for drinking without burning once mouth but also allows the aromas to be sniffed up and tell our brains something yummy is coming our way.
5. Have a biscuit – again not by haphazard do we love our biscuit or scone with our tea. By dunking in the tea, yes a bit messy sometimes, the aromas send a signal to our brain and already we can “taste” it before our lips touch the sublime liquid or biscuit. Double the pleasure!
Yield 20 scones
110gr butter, unsalted, cut in small cubes
300ml heavy cream
1 vanilla bean
8gr or 2 teaspoons baking powder
2.5gr or 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
- Preheat the oven at 180C degrees. Add the vanilla bean seeds and pod to the cream.
- Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and pinch of slat in a large bowl. Add the butter and rub in the flour mixture till totally integrated.
- Remove the vanilla pod from the cream and stir the cream mixture into the flour mixture with a wooden spoon until almost absorbed and the dough is coming together. Turn our the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Combine the dough into a ball, roll out into 2 cm rectangle, fold the long side into thirds. Turn 90 degrees and roll out again to 2 cm rectangle.
- Cut out rounds with a biscuit cutter.Gather the rests, re-roll once, and cut out some more. I used a small 3 cm cutter and had about 20 scones.
- Place the scones on a parchment-lined baking tray. Brush tops with cream, sprinkle a little sugar on top and bake for about 20 minutes till golden brown. Rotate the baking tray halfway. Let cool to room temperature and serve with jam and/or cardamom cream.
recipe on www.leeksandhighheels.com by Sandra Slawinski
So what is your favourite tea? and do you dunk the biscuit or not?