December 18, 2013

PROPER ENGLISH TEA PREPARATION

ELIMINATE EFS (event fatigue syndrome)
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HAVE A CUP OF TEA
or
HAVE A FULL-ON FORMAL TEA PARTY!
I don’t usually blog about food, clothes, or style outside of the home - however, being from a southern family with English roots I think a proper tea is something a well-run home should know how to prepare and serve. 
(Makes you look all fancy an’ stuff)

HOW TO MAKE TEA - PROPERLY!
Here are guidelines for a perfect cup of tea and ways to serve it!
Don't forget to click on the ORANGE or PINK highlighted text for further description and recipes.

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TRADITIONAL TEA PREPARATION
(IN THE KITCHEN)
1. Let your tap run for a minute or two before filling kettle, it aerates the water and draws fresher water that hasn't been stagnating in the pipes. When making any tea, be sure you begin with good water, it makes up over 90 % of the end product. Water quality and taste vary greatly between locales. If your water tastes really good out of the tap chances are it will make good tea. If there is any noticeable unpleasant taste in the tap water, e.g. Metallic, chlorine, earthiness etc. that taste will come through in the tea.

2. Fill the kettle and bring it to the proper temperature for the type tea your using.

3. The teapot should be near the kettle when it’s heating up.

4. While the kettle is heating up fill the teapot with hot water from the tap. This warms the teapot itself. Swirl it around a bit.

5. When the kettle reaches proper temperature empty the teapot of the "warming water." Then measure the correct amount of tea into the pot. A good standard guideline is 1 rounded teaspoon per 8 oz. cup. This refers to a measuring teaspoon, not the teaspoon in your silverware set which is usually much larger than a true measuring teaspoon.

6. Add the hot water. Different teas require different steeping temperatures. Using the wrong steeping temperature is probably the most common error people make when preparing tea. You can buy a thermometer to gauge temperature or you can look for visual clues.
Black Tea 
  • Generally should be made with water at a full, rolling boil, 212 degrees.
  • Black teas steep 4-6 minutes. Darjeeling’s are the exception; they should be steeped 2-3 minutes.
Oolong Tea 
  • Should be made with water a little bit below boiling, between 190 and 203 degrees. The water should be steaming rapidly and there should many bubbles rising in the kettle, but not really breaking the surface.
  • Oolong teas vary dramatically and you need to experiment or follow the suggested steeping instructions on the bag. Many oolongs are perfect at 3-4 minutes; some need 6-8 minutes.
Green tea 
  • Should be made with slightly cooler water, between 160 and 180 degrees. The steam should be wafting or gently swirling out of the kettle. 
  • Green teas should typically be steeped for much less time, 2-3 minutes.
White tea 
  • Should be made with even cooler water, anywhere from 150 to 160 degrees, when you see the very first hint of steam. 
  • White teas typically should be steeped around 2 minutes, although some can be steeped much longer with good results.
Herbal tea 
  • Should typically be made with boiling water. 
  • Herbals typically should be steeped a minimum of 4-6 minutes, some for up to 10 minutes.

IMPORTANT: 
Whatever preparation method you use make sure there is enough room for the leaf to expand up to 3-5 times in size. Brewing the leaves loose in the teapot and then straining works great as do the teapots with insert infusers. 'Tea balls' make poor tea because is no room inside for the leaf to expand, so the flavor never gets fully released into the liquid.
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Once properly steeped you'll need to separate the leaves from the tea. Be careful as most teas turn bitter if steeped too long! 
Using a tea infuser, shown above, makes this step easy. 
Using a strainer as shown below works well too.
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Making great tea is very easy,
but it does require a little bit of attention to detail.


HOW TO SERVE A 
CASUAL TEA or "LOW TEA"
Between 3:00 & 6:00 PM
 Snack or dessert type foods are served to hold one over until the dinner hour (they're the English version of hot wings and popcorn shrimp)
Served on a Butlers tray, side table or coffee table

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SERVING DIRECTIONS
  1. One large tray with the following items on it:
  2. One teapot or thermal carafe with hot water only.
  3. One teapot with loose tea in the hot water or if using tea bags use two in the pot - but remove them prior to serving
  4. A teacup on a saucer with a Demitasse Spoon
  5. Small bowl with sugar cubes or decorative sugars (natural cane or Demerara Sugar is best)
  6. One wafer-thin slices of lemon on a small dish or plate.
  7. Nicely folded small napkins.

FOOD to serve with "LOW TEA"
It’s nice to have a small treat at teatime.  Cream Scones topped with Devon Cream and strawberry jam = YUM!
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Shortbread Cookies or savory breads like Banana or Walnut loaves are nice. Not candy, but Cheese Straws, even ginger snaps are a nice pairing.


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HOW TO SERVE A "HIGH  TEA"
Between 5:00 & 6:00 p.m.
A more elegant late-day snack for people who will only have a very small supper later in the evening.
This may be had at a tea table in a living room, or served from a tray on a side table

SERVING DIRECTIONS:

  1. One teapot with hot water and loose tea leaves
  2. One smaller teapot of hot water only
  3. Tea cups on saucers with a small demitasse spoon on each saucer
  4. One small bowl with sugar cubes and sugar tongs. If using a granular sugar, use demerara-sugar with a spoon with a small "bowl"
  5. One small pitcher of warm 4% milk (not cream, not skim)
  6. One small dish with thin lemon slices (not huge-ass wedges) the thin slice is put into the cup, not squeezed into it. If you have one, use a small fork or pick with the slices on the table
  7. One small (10" x 10") starched and folded cloth napkin per guest.
FOOD to serve with HIGH TEA
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English High Tea Time usually offers Tea Sandwiches of salmon, ham, cucumber or egg-salad on white bread with the crust cut off. Cream scones with Devon Cream and jam is traditional, and tea time often ends with petits fours. Alcohol is not offered at teatime. Tea sandwiches should always be small enough so they may be handled with one hand.


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HOW TO SERVE A "FORMAL" TEA
Between 3:00 & 6:00 p.m.
A formal tea is for entertaining an honored guest, state functions, social groups, daytime celebrations or formal bridal showers only.
Guests should be dressed in smart attire: Men - jackets and ladies dresses or pant-suits
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Same process as above, except the serving pieces are all silver or porcelain and part of a matching set, or "service"
  • Always use a "black" tea.
  • Lemon juice is pre-squeezed and served in a small silver or glass pitcher with all seeds and pith removed.
  • The entire "service" is kept stationary on a sidetable, buffet or butlers-tray table in the same room. It is NOT served from a handheld tray.
  • If the room is properly staffed, guests are asked individually how they prefer their tea (milk, sugar, lemon)
  • The tea is then poured into porcelain cups and the condiments are added.
  • If a guest prefers sugar: One cube is placed in the cup.
  • If the guest prefers milk:  A small amount is poured into the cup.
  • If the guest prefers lemon: A few drops are poured in.
  • The hostess or servant NEVER stirs the guest’s tea.
  • A demitasse spoon is placed on the saucer and the tea is handed to the guest with a napkin - if the guest hasn't had anything to eat from the food display.
  • If its self-service all the accoutrement's are laid out on the serving table
  • Ample seating is required for the ladies to sit down.
  • Formal teas are not seated at a table, they are purposefully left unstructured so guests may mix and mingle.
  • Tea sandwiches and cakes may be passed by a servant, not the hostess. The table where the tea service is placed should have the food artfully displayed with forks, napkins and condiments conveniently placed nearby.

  • Condiments (butter, clotted-cream, jams, etc.) are never put out in their retail containers. They should be placed in porcelain, silver  or crystal dishes with the appropriate utensil. They may also be put out in a multi-compartment piece, like a relish dish.
  • Guests tea can be topped up by taking the teapot to a guest, and returning with the condiments on a small tray. The hot water pot can be passed intermittently with the teapot.
The reason for a separate hot water pot in addition to the teapot is the tea in the teapot continues to become stronger as it sits. The separate hot water allows you to warm up your cup and water down the tea from the teapot.

The foods served at "High Tea" are what we Americans would call a light meal, consisting of small portions of ham, fruits, savory breads and dessert cakes or puddings.

To keep hot water warm, a candle stand or alcohol burner is used for the hot water pot only.
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To keep the teapots contents warm, don't rest it directly on a counter, place it on a towel or hotpad. Then get a tea cozy that fits over the entire pot, this keeps the tea inside warm much longer
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ENJOY YOUR TEA AND YOUR HOLIDAYS!


You Can Do It, I'm Here to Help!

jpdsodpb@aol.com

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