queen elisabeth

Tea and ice cream with Jane Austen

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Kirándulás 011Who would not sit down with Jane Austen and join her in a cup of tea? Kim Wilson did it and wrote an interesting book under the title: Tea with Jane Austen, a book about Jane Austen and her tea enthusiasm.

The book begins with a morning tea at the Austen’s and ends with tea drinking in the evening, at balls and other gatherings. Each chapter includes description of how tea was taken at a particular place or time of day (in the Georgian time), along with history and recipes. Her book, which was published first in 2004, is very topical now because this year will be the 200 year anniversary of Jane Austen’s famous book’s appearance the Pride and Prejudice. It’s unbelievable but Austen’s brilliant work has already given its readers pleasure for 200 years. From this occasion there are lots of events will spread over in the world. There had already been one celebration in April in Canberra (Australia) but the biggest one will come and will be held in Bath (Great-Britain) in the Regency Tea Room in September from 13-to 21.

Terrific tea and trendy teatime in the Georgian time

Jane Austen loved tea. She mentions tea so often in her novels and in her letters. No wonder because the tea became very popular with the rich in the 18th century. But it wasn’t always like that.

When queen Elisabeth Ist ruled England, the British were aware of China only as a distant, almost mythical land, they had certainly never heard of tea. Queen Elisabeth drunk good English ale with her meals and never dreamed she was missing anything. However two hundred years before Jane Austen’s birth saw an astonishing array of changes in England and the rest of Europe. Improvements of navigation and shipbuilding brought the most distant parts of the world within reach, and new, exotic goods and foods flowed in, changing the daily lives of the Europeans forever. Tea from China, chocolate from the New World, and coffee from Arabia, captured the imaginations and the taste buds of Europeans, quickly becoming all the rage with the upper classes.

Coffee was the fashion for some decades, but by the 1700s the British elites were beginning to prefer tea. Charles II’s wife Catherine of Braganza was England’s first tea drinking queen, and it is often said that helped to popularize it with the aristocracy. The new, fashionable beverage in that time was so expensive that it was kept in tea caddy with lock on! And of course it naturally required very expensive equipment to properly serve it. Delicate porcelan cups, saucers, and teapots were imported by the thousands from China. Woodworkers carved elegant tea tables. Silversmiths handcrafted tea sets. Ladies competed each other to show off their expensive tea and costly tea things at stylish tea parties. In London, and other cities lavish tea gardens were laid out. As the price of tea gradually fell, tea-drinking grew in popularity with working class as well. By Jane Austen’s time, tea was so firmly embedded in British culture that it was considered practically a necessity of life, a belief still widely held today!

Tea with Jean

We learned from Jane’s books that every day at 9 o’clock Jean made breakfast for the family. That was her part of the household work. The tea and sugar stores were under her charge because both goods were so expensive (remember they kept them locked up). Sugar was sold in many grades, from the highly refined (for the well-off) to the darkest of brown sugar (for the poor). Jane and her family took sugar in their teas but they didn’t put milk or cream.

The tea making procedure was more demanding then now such as: the servants boiled the water for the tea in an urn and then they carried in the steaming tea urn to the breakfast room and place it at the end of the table, next to the lady of the house, who would make the tea herself in a fine China or silver teapot. Breakfast was not a formal meal so people chatted, or read letters, newspapers. The food was some variation of bread and butter. Cakes, muffins, toast and rolls are all mentioned in descriptions of breakfasts of Jane Austen’s time. The Georgians invented toast. A nasty Swedish visitor said that the English invented toast because their houses were too chilly to spread butter on cold bread!

1783_1Ice cream with Jane

With a fair amount of work you can recreate some of the goodies with which Jane Austen might have refreshed herself at a pastrycook’s shop.

This simple and elegant recipe is made essentially the same way today, although the freezer or the electric ice cream maker makes the process easier!

Ingredients: a quart of rich cream, half a pound of powdered sugar, the juice of two large lemons, or a pint of strawberries raspberries.

Put the cream into a broad pan. Then stir in the sugar by degrees, and when it well mixed, strain it through a sieve. Put it into a tin that has a close cover, and set it in a tub. Fill the tub with ice broken into very small pieces, and strew among the ice a large quantity of salt, taking care that none of the salt gets into the cream. Scrape the cream down with a spoon as it freezes round the edges of the tin. While the cream is freezing, stir in gradually the lemon juice, or the mashed strawberries. When it is all frozen, dip the tin in lukewarm water, take out the cream, and fill your glasses, but not till a few minutes before you want to use it, as it will very soon melt.

source: 75 recipes for Pastry, Cakes and Sweetmeats from 1828

There was a good trade in used tea-leaves. Traders put some colour back into the old tea leaves with chemicals. These chemicals could make people ill-or even kill them-but traders didn’t mind too much-after all they didn’t drink the stuff.