Monday, October 5, 2009

Tea, Jane Austen Style

From Susanne Dietze

As a lover of both tea and Jane Austen, (1775-1817), I can't resist picking up books with either of those subjects in the title. Kim Wilson’s Tea with Jane Austen is a double whammy for me, as it delves into the role tea played in Jane’s life and novels. Here's a bit of what I learned about the serious business of tea in Jane's day.
The ritual of tea has changed a bit since Jane enjoyed it. For one thing, she wouldn’t recognize a tea bag. Tea (green and black) was sold in bulk quantities of loose leaves, and she preferred to purchase hers from Richard Twining’s tea warehouse in London. The unquestionable quality and superior taste were worth paying for, even though government-imposed taxes on tea (and around two thousand other items) made it quite expensive.

Jane could have procured tea from a local shop or a traveling salesman, but sometimes tea came from questionable sources. Unscrupulous sellers might offer "smouch," a mixture of tea and other leaves which had been steeped in sheep's dung and toxic green vitriol, which supposedly gives it the appearance of real tea. (One tries to avoid thinking about the taste.) A bit less nasty was the practice of servants selling their employers’ used tealeaves. It is little wonder that those less able to afford pure tea resorted to acquiring smuggled tea, though many didn't care for it. Aside from the the fact that smuggling was illegal, the tea apparently gave off an unpleasant smell, having been packed in oilskin pouches to protect it from seawater en route from the continent. No wonder Jane liked to go right to the source.

Once purchased, she locked her tea away from thieves in the dining parlor cupboard at Chawton, the home where she wrote Mansfield Park, Emma, and Persuasion, and revised Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice.
1869 engraving showing an idealized, young :en...Image via Wikipedia

Jane enjoyed numerous opportunities to take tea during any given day. Every morning, she brewed the family’s breakfast pot. She might enjoy another cup while calling on neighbors or visiting higher-end establishments. If her errands were more mundane, she could stop in at a pastry cook’s for an invigorating cup. On evenings out, tea was offered at formal parties, but as she spent most evenings at home, Jane would have enjoyed her after-dinner cup with bread and butter. If her family invited friends to join them for an evening comparable to our coffee-and-dessert, the company might enjoy cards, music or parlor games with their tea.

Afternoon tea as we know it today came about after Jane Austen’s time. The story goes that in 1840, Anna, Duchess of Bedford invited friends to join her for tea and snacks (and one imagines a bit of gossip) as a pick-me-up between breakfast and dinner. Though afternoon tea is therefore not in the style of Jane Austen, I believe that she might have enjoyed it, especially if it included clotted cream.

According to the Jane Austen Centre (, clotted, or Devonshire cream has been enjoyed in England since the 1600s. It’s essential to a “cream tea,” spread on warm scones with strawberry jam, but in America, it’s only available in specialty stores.

However, many good “mock” clotted cream recipes exist and my favorite comes from my friend Arlena. In the spirit of Jane Austen, I’d like to share the recipe with you. This cream is indulgent, both in price and calories. But it’s a scrumptious treat, the perfect accompaniment to tea and scones. Or a plain old spoon.

After you read the recipe, I'd love to hear about the most indulgent thing you've ever eaten. Let me know in the comment section, and don't forget to leave a comment by 9 pm PST , Oct 8, to be entered to win the prize for today, an Inkalicious recipe book! Please protect yourself from spammers trolling the internet by providing your email addy in a form like this: name [at] address [dot] com.
Image showing the crust on clotted cream.Image via Wikipedia

Arlena's Mock Devonshire Cream

4 ounces mascarpone cheese (famous for its starring role in Tiramisu)
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 or 2 tablespoons granulated white sugar

Beat the ingredients in an electric mixer until the mixture looks like softly whipped cream. Refrigerate until ready to use.

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  1. I have a friend who would really enjoy this book. Thanks for sharing! I'll be sure to pass it on...

    ~ Lori

  2. Leave your email address today~

    (put brackets around or write the word AT to keep it from being held up by highwaymen on the moors) because Susanne's got a great giveaway gift today!

    Susie, i'm really going to have to try that recipe. And yes, I've enjoyed a real tea party a few times but we never had the clotted cream.

  3. I always liked the name Devonshire cream much better than clotted cream, but really, no mater what you call it, it's delicious. An extra decadent whip cream, with just a hint of sour cream. Mmmm. If you've never had it, you should definitely give it a whirl.

  4. That recipe sounds great, Suzanne! We loved doing teatime on our trip to England a few years ago and I've never been able to quite recreate the experience at home.

  5. I enjoy tea and I LOVE Jane Austen, so this was an enjoyable read. Thanks for sharing! In the past, I've eaten lots of yummy foods, so picking the most indulgent would be impossible. There are just too many to enjoy!

  6. Just lovely, Susie D. I love all things tea, so I really enjoyed reading this. I have to say, I'm glad tea is so easy to come by today. I can't imagine having to lock it away from would-be thieves. My most recent indulgences was sharing a chocolate mousse with my mom in an Italian restaurant. Oh my. I wanted to lick the plate. But I refrained.

  7. Lisa, I am totally with you on the "clotted" thing, which brings to my mind blood. Okay, forgive the early Monday morning grossness.

    I will think of Jane this week when I "have tea," New Orleans style, at Cafe du Monde by the Mighty Mississippi.

    Cafe au lait spiked with chicory
    Beignets dusted with confectioner's sugar (also sounds so much better than powdered, like talc)

    Wish y'all all could be there, but I'll eat a beignet for you!

  8. Susanne,

    A lovely look at a bygone age!

    As for indulgent treats, I'm afraid we go to England for those. My sister-in-law lives in Cornwall, where they disdain Devonshire cream for Cornish cream (same thing, to me--really, really rich). It is a necessary topping to any pudding (any type of dessert) and they add table cream to go on top of the Cornish cream. Arteries thicken just thinking about it :-)

  9. Patti, the best hot chocolate and "snack" I ever had was at Cafe du Monde by the Mighty Mississippi. The beignets were unbe-yum-able!

    So, Susanne, for those of us who aren't tea drinkers, what could we use our Devonshire cream on/with besides tea?

  10. Thanks for coming by this morning, ladies! Sadly, the only cream tea I'll be having today will be a virtual one. My refrigerator is on the fritz so any Mock Devon cream would've been gone by now. It's the first thing I'd have eaten at the first hint of trouble. This is not something you want to throw out!

    If you are not into scones, this cream is fab-u-lous with anything you'd eat with whipped cream. Well, maybe not hot choclate, but you get the point. Fruit goes really well with it...berries are my particular favorite. Pound cake and strawberries, brownies, a cookie. I'm serious: try it and you'll eat it on just about anything. You'll become crazed to find more to accompany it.

    I'll be gone for a while this morning, but I'll be back. In the meantime, if you care to enter the drawing for an Inkalicious Recipe book (not the tea and Jane Austen book, but a collection of Inky Recipes) please make sure to leave your email addy in the comment, with spaces and brackets to protect yourself from spammers.

  11. Susie,
    I am SO glad you shared this! I have read untold stories that mention clotted cream and never once figured out what it was. I think I'd gotten something like cottage cheese in my mind's eye. Not cute.
    Indulgent for me is usually peanut butter, or a full sugar and cream latte from Starbucks. But I love Krispy Kreme raspberry filled doughnuts. Good thing the nearest Krispy Kreme is four and a half hours away. (There's a reason Colorado is the skinniest state in the nation!)

  12. All this food talk is making me want something decadent too.

    Patty, shame on you for waving your french pastries at us. But I know you'll enjoy and will think of us!

    Dusted not powdered, and nothing clotted please!

    The upscale, local grocery chain has these little pecan sticky buns (more pecan and sticky than bun) in their pastry display by the coffee bar. Some days I just have to go the long way around so they don't see me and try to melt in my mouth.

  13. Beignets and chocolate mousse and sticky buns sound soooo delicious. Even though it was my question, I'm trying to think of the most indulgent thing I've ever eaten. When I'm out to a nice dinner, I tend to order creme brulee. Maybe I've got a thing for dairy. I have a recipe for "creme de pumpkin" which sounds odd, but it's nothing like pumpkin pie. A sort of autumnal creme brulee.

  14. I don't know if it's the most decadent thing, but I love French "pain au chocolat." It' just bread and chocolate. Usually a croissant style bun wrapped around chocolate.

    Where it gets decadent is that they eat it as a sandwhich for lunch. Got to love the French. Viva la France!


  15. Susie,

    I love Devonshire Cream and would count it as one of the most indulgent things I've ever had - right up there with a supersized creme brulee! Thanks for all the great information!

  16. Mmm, I had the best creme brulee last Christmas at a fancy restaurant. It was peppermint, which sounds strange at first, but it was soooooo good. Definitely worth waiting until next year to get more, even if the waiting is hard.

  17. Ohhhhhhhhhhh, Susanne. Love tea and love Jane Austen and adore Devonshire Cream and now I want to go back to England and pretend I don't live in 2009. Guess I'll just have to go work on BIAW instead.:)
    Let's see I've had so many decadent desserts: Banana Flambe comes to mind, chocolate cordial pie which is this huge yummy looking mousse from my favorite eating establishment. Then there is caramel flan or custard with caramel sauce. Oh, and the puff pastery with ice cream, fresh berries in season and hot fudge sauce. YUM!:)

  18. Ok, I need to starting eating out with you guys. Flambe? Peppermint creme brulee? Chocolate sandwiches? The French are so smart.

  19. Boy we can sure gab about food, eh?

    The pumpkin creme brulee sounds wonderful.

    Good night!

  20. susie...not good for my diet, lady!

    i know this is a group blog, but since this pertains to many of you...

    I wanted to let you know about my blog address change. *sigh* If you're following me, my posts now won't show up in your feed, dashboard, sidebar, whatever. So please forgive me, but you'll have to change the address for my main writing blog, Where Romance Meets Therapy, to To do this, you have to "unfollow" me and follow me again. Sorry for the confusion!

    The Character Therapist

  21. Thank you. I always wondered what Devonshire Cream was. :)

  22. Interesting post. Thanks Even thought we live in an apartment above a French bakery, I still prefer "English Tea time".
    A few years ago at the end of a book (sorry can't remember the name), they had some recipes. "the kitchen staff at the Morgan Estates prepared a full English tea for Jessica on the afternoon.." Then they gave recipes. The one I like is Jessica's Devonshire Cream -3 oz light cream cheese, 1 tsp sugar, 1/4 tsp vanilla extract, i cup heavy cream. Blend cc and sugar until light and fluffy. Add van. and cream. Beat on high until stiff peaks form. Cover and refrigerate, Easy but very good.
    I am having tea with my British friend on Saturday.
    O yes, My favorite French dessert is "profiteroles'
    mrstgr at msn dot com

  23. Mmm, thanks Theresa. I will have to try that recipe. I hope you have fun on Saturday! I envy you. I've got you entered in the drawing.

    I've got you entered, too, Jeannie! Thanks for the info! I'd better go re-follow you. Or unfollow you. Whatever it takes; I love your blogs!

    Deb, I'll share the recipe. The pumpkin creme brulee is dangerously delicious.

  24. Great post! I love Jane Austen and tea. The recipe sounds so delicious. Thanks for sharing. An indulgent dessert that I love is the white chocolate bread pudding with rum sauce that I tried at the Columbia restaurant in Celebration, FL. So delicious!


  25. Thanks, Cherie. Mmm, I love bread pudding. Dee-lish.

    Got you entered in the drawing!


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