Certain days call for sophistication. Heels above trainers, straighteners in place of hair ties and tailored rather than swathed. Life may not be taking you anywhere special but sometimes you need to feel as though it is (and you are). When these days are upon us, not a detail should be overlooked, right down to the cuppa. This is the day to politely decline the everyday leaf – an Earl Grey will do very nicely thank you.
Opening a Twinings tea sachet always feels a bit luxurious. It seems to create a sense of occasion as a newly opened selection box of chocolates or a gift tin of biscuits will do. Perhaps this harks back to a long past era when these everyday indulgences were ‘special treats’ and like Pavlov’s dogs, our automated response of pleasure is ignited at the break of the seal. Whatever the precursor, it’s lovely to have a small collection of these packages sequestered in the pantry when the need for a little spoiling arises. On occasions such as these, a fragrant Earl Grey is my (and Nigella’s I believe) sachet of choice.
And as the glamorous assistants on the Chanel counter will advise, for maximum effect, it is always best to layer your fragrances (ie purchase the entire range). So, in keeping with this prestigious advice, you can ‘layer up’ the Earl experience by baking one of these divine Earl Grey chocolate cakes to accompany your next EG brew. A lovely fudgey chocolate cake with the infusion of tea adding another dimension altogether.
With this powerhouse of an international ingredient list collaboration: (Swiss Lindt chocolate, British Twinings tea, Greek yoghurt, Danish Lurpak butter and Melburnian boiling water), how could this cake possibly fail to deliver anything other than the height of baked sophistication?
6 Earl Grey tea bags
1 cup boiling water
120g butter, softened
2 cups sugar
100 dark chocolate, melted & cooled
2 cups plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1/2 cup plain yogurt
icing sugar for dusting
- Preheat oven to 180° C. Grease a bundt tin or large cake pan (this makes a generous cake).
- Brew the tea in the water 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the tea bags and set the tea aside.
- Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy and beat in the eggs, one at a time.
- Blend in the chocolate.
- Mix through the flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and salt.
- Mix through the yogurt and tea alternately. Your batter will be light and fluffy. Pour into the pan.
- Bake for 50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out cleanly.
- Cool for 5 minutes, turn out of the pan and dust with icing sugar
Postscript: And with the recent Gatsby mood infiltrating our consciousness, you can also pour a cup, cut a slice and channel your inner Daisy Buchanan.
Tickling ice and sliced fruit bobbing about in a tall pitcher – how cooling and refreshing the thought of an iced tea can be. Unfortunately when succumbing to a commercial variety the reality is often another overly sweetened soft drink. Thankfully, the varietal expanse of tea available allows us to tailor our own blends, minus the hefty sugar hit – and financial outlay.
To pour yourself (and a friend) a chilled glass of iced tea is quite a civilised way to endure a hot summer’s day. No special equipment required, just a large jug, seasonal fruit, ice and of course the tea of your choice. If you have an infuser, fill it, or simply make a large teapot of your favorite brew. Let it steep for a good 10 minutes and then strain into your jug. Whilst your tea is brewing, make a light sugar syrup (1 cup hot water with 2 tbsp sugar dissolved within it). Slice up your fruit – we used apple and pineapple because our tea was lemongrass and ginger – yours can be any combination you desire. How about peaches or nectarines with raspberry leaf tea?
Add the fruit and sugar syrup to taste (take it easy). Once the tea has cooled, fill the jug with ice and stir. Top up a couple of chilled tall glasses with your tea, clink and sip.
Goodness only knows why a cowboy wielding a frying pan dispenses my loose-leaf tea, but apparently the 1950s/60s Japanese manufacturers considered it to be the height of kitchen chic to do so.
Being a Twinings tea-bag girl, it’s not often that this canister makes an appearance from the back stalls of the pantry, but on the occasions when a teapot brew is called for, gosh it makes me smile.
Making a pot of tea signifies a break in the daily journey – a segment of life dedicated to ‘right now’. The ritual of tea making – warming the pot, allowing the leaves to steep and carefully straining as you pour – necessitates a slower pace and time to consider. There is nothing instant about this process.
It is no coincidence that a slice of fruit loaf tastes so good with a cup of tea – rather than when it is consumed unconsciously on-the-fly amidst email checking or grocery unpacking. While your tea settles to drinking temperature, there is time and attention made available to savor each morsel.
In the company of friends I am more inclined to fill the teapot as it suggests multiple refills and an extension of conversation, an atmosphere the one-tea-bag-per-cup alternative fails to achieve.
It may have been a while since last you saw your teapot. If this is so, in the coming week I encourage you to seek it out, allow it to pour you a decent cup of peace and place that well-deserved comma in the lengthy sentence of your day.
Postscript: I’m sure my tea canister is one of a series, possibly having siblings named rice, flour and sugar – would love to organise a family reunion someday.