November 07, 2012
Being English, I love tea time. Even now, living in the great U.S.A., tea time is still "celebrated" in my home.
What is tea time? Like coffee, tea can be drunk at any time. Generally speaking, it is break time, which falls at approximately 11:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. What does that encompass? One brews a cup of tea in the tea pot, pops on a tea-cosy, and then places both on a tea tray with bone china cups, saucers, plates, and a plate of biscuits or cakes with a milk jug, tea spoons, serviettes (napkins), and a sugar bowl. Some people prefer lemon instead of the milk though. My daughter and I love this time of the day and usually sit and natter (talk) and work on our knitting.
In Victorian times, tea came into its own. I love to check out books from women of that era. One such woman was Mrs. Isabella Mary Beeton. Mrs. Beeton’s books on household management and cookery have been the word in the proper form for tea time for years. Trust me, there was so much food and norms of conduct that a baby boomer such as I would have felt uptight. My Gran would put on such a spread. She would have a pot of tea brewing on the hob of the fire and would allow me to toast the crumpets over the fire. She would then butter them, lather on the Cornish clotted cream, and then cover with homemade pineapple jam or strawberry jam (I drool as I type!).
Although I am not really old yet, when I was a girl tea time was after school. Our tea was comprised of a light meal, such as a Cornish pasty or egg and bacon pie, Scotch eggs, salmon or cucumber sandwiches, or a cold meat in the summer time. There would also be a cake or a trifle. Jam tarts, biscuits, lemon curd tarts, and buns (cupcakes) were also in the spread. Recently, while visiting my "girl" friend in England, tea time was tea by the pot full and scones with Cornish clotted cream (so much yummier than Devonshire cream).
On Sundays, Mummy would set up a card table by the fire, set a beautiful tea time table cloth on top, and then proceed to bring in all the food. This was the one day that we had a really good old fashioned tea. It was a special time. Mummy baked all day Saturday and then again on Wednesdays. Buns were her specialty. The number of seedy buns, currant buns, and rock cakes devoured by her very healthy daughter gave her great joy. She had grown up very poor at times, and to be able to provide for her family was very important. We ate fast in the winter time because our home was not centrally heated. We had just one fireplace (coal fired), and the windows were painted by Jack Frost - such cozy memories!