.

Downton Living: How to Step Up Your Tea Ritual

Celebrate the new season of 'Downton Abbey' with these classic afternoon tea recipes.

Credit: Shutterstock
Credit: Shutterstock

Written by Julia Halewicz

The DVDs were on your library reserve list for months and you never gave up hope that you'd be next. You refused to read the spoilers when last season's finale premiered in the U.K., and the concept of a day revolving around getting dressed, taking a nap and eating has you more than a little intrigued. Yes, you're a Downton Abbey fan. But how do you bring some Downton living to your home now that you're in a full-on Season 4 frenzy?

The biggest learning from all that Downton watching? Do tea right. Americans threw the most famous tea party of all time and yet we haven't mastered the art of all things tea. We pay so much attention to coffee and buzzing through the week that we neglect the fine details that make drinking tea both a ritual and an excuse to slow down and relax.

Here's what you need to know to make the perfect cup of tea and throw a classic tea party. The Dowager Countess of Grantham would approve. And please take a breath. Downton Abbey may very well live beyond season 5.

6 Tips for a Perfect Cup of Tea:

  • Before you begin, you need the basics. A tea service is defined by a teapot and cover, coffee pot and cover, sugar bowl and tongs, tea cups and saucers, coffee cups, milk jug and cover, a slop bowl, spoon tray, teapot stand and tea canisters.
  • Keep tea hot. Fill a ceramic teapot with hot water, then pour the water out; this prevents the teapot from absorbing all the warmth of the tea water.
  • Fresh is best. Always store tea in an airtight container and always use fresh water to brew tea.
  • Know your measurements. For flaked tea, use one heaping teaspoonful per serving, plus "one for the pot," and about a cup water per teaspoon of tea.
  • Timing is everything. Steep tea for about five minutes before serving.
  • Choose wisely. You can add lemon or milk but not both. If you choose milk, add it to your tea cup first so it mixes better.
Fun Facts About Tea Service:
  • There's such a thing called "nursery tea." That's when children enjoyed tea with their nanny's without a parent in sight. They enjoyed seasonal food like toasted bread and crumpets in the winter and sponge cake and jam in the summer.
  • "Drawing Room" teas were elegant affairs for the owners of the house. They enjoyed crustless sandwiches, individual cakes and teas from China and India.
  • Tomatoes, egg salad and sardines were common sandwich fillings. Biscuits, crumpets and shortbreads also were served with cream, and seed and sponge cake were enjoyed. Even fruitcake was served.
Read on for some classic afternoon tea recipes:

Fruit Scones

Ingredients: 

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 2 t. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1 egg white

Directions: 

  • Heat oven to 425 degrees F. 
  • Mix all dry ingredients together. Add buttermilk and mix well. 
  • Take dough and place on a floured surface; roll out using a rolling pin, into about a 1-inch thick rectangle. Cut into small triangles. 
  • Place each triangle on a greased cookie sheet. 
  • Brush top of each with egg white. 
  • Bake for 15 minutes. Serve warm.


Lemon Muffins

Ingredients: 

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla 
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 cup lemon curd (or favorite jam flavor).

Preparation: 
  • Heat oven to 375 degrees F. 
  • Mix together butter and sugar. Add eggs. Add milk, lemon zest and vanilla.
  • Add dry ingredients: flour, salt, baking powder. Mix together well and pour into greased muffin tins. 
  • Bake for 20 minutes and let cool. 
  • When cool, use a melon baller to hollow out a hole in the center top. Fill hole with lemon curd and serve.


English Style Crumpets

Ingredients: 

  • 3 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 package yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 ½ tsp. salt
  • whipped cream (optional)
  • jam (optional)

Directions: 

  • Dissolve yeast in warm water. Add flour and salt. Cover with a clean cloth and keep in a warm place to rise (about two hours).
  • Once it has doubled in size, thin it with more warm water if necessary to get it to a batter consistency. 
  • Cook on stove top in greased baking rings on a hot griddle, filling the rings about halfway to the top.
  • Turn when dry on top and remove the rings. If the batter is too thick, holes will not form—so test one first, adding more water as necessary. 
  • Serve with your choice of whipped cream or jam, or both.


Cucumber Dill Tea Sandwiches

Ingredients: 

  • 1 package (4 ounces) cream cheese, softened
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh dill, chopped
  • 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
  • 12 slices good quality thin sliced white bread, crusts removed
  • 1/2 English (hothouse) seedless cucumber, thin-sliced into 48 slices

Directions:

  • In a small bowl, combine first three ingredients and stir to blend; season to taste with kosher salt and pepper. 
  • Spread cream cheese mixture evenly on 12 slices of bread; arrange 6 of the cream cheese covered bread slices on flat work surface. Top each with 6 cucumber slices; close with top halves of tea sandwiches and press lightly to close. Using a serrated knife to carefully cut off crusts. Diagonally slice each sandwich in half and arrange on a serving plate. 
  • Garnish with additional fresh dill sprigs, if desired. 
  • Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate to hold.
 

Toast Points

Ingredients: 

  • 8 slices of whole wheat or white bread, crusts removed
  • 6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
  • 6 Tbsp. marmalade 1/2 cup chopped pecans (or other nuts of choice)

Directions:  

  • Remove crusts from bread. 
  • Combine butter, marmalade and nuts, mixing with a fork. Spread on bread. Cut the slices into two-inch "fingers" or toast "points." 
  • Place on baking sheet and put under broiler at 500 degrees for about two minutes, or until marmalade bubbles. Serve warm. 


Pound Cake Petit Fours

Ingredients: 

  • 1 small pound cake (store-made or homemade, 10 oz.)
  • 1 jar jam, any flavor
  • 1 cup vanilla icing.

Directions: 

  • Slice cake horizontally into at least three layers, more if desired. 
  • Spread a thin layer of jam on top of the layers—omitting the very top layer.
  • Stack layers together, with top layer "clean" (no jam). 
  • Cut cake into bite-sized squares and place on a cooling rack with parchment or waxed paper below to collect the drippings.
  • Heat icing in the microwave for about 15 seconds at a time until it is pourable. (If using store-bought icing, be sure to remove all metal covering before this step or transfer the amount needed to a separate container.)
  • Drizzle warm icing over the top of the squares of cake in a hot cross bun pattern, or drench each piece with the icing. Allow icing to harden before serving.


Apple Cake

Ingredients: 

  • 2/3 cup flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 cups apples, peeled and diced
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts

Directions: 

  • Heat oven to 350 degrees F. 
  • Mix flour, baking powder and salt. Combine with remaining ingredients.
  • Bake in square pan for 45 minutes. Serve warm, with whipped cream.


Butter Cream Candies

Ingredients: 

  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1  tsp. unsalted butter
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. mint extract (or peppermint)

Directions: 

  • Cream together all ingredients. Place into a decorator icing bag with star tip, or use a plastic bag with a tip added. 
  • Squeeze out icing in candy-sized drops onto parchment paper or waxed paper on a cookie sheet. 
  • Place cookie sheet in refrigerator for about two hours, or until candies have hardened.
  • If you prefer, you can roll the dough into a cylinder, wrap in wax paper and refrigerate, then cut or mold it into balls once it is hardened. Place on parchment or waxed paper and flatten balls with a fork, then refrigerate again until ready to serve.

More from Kitchen Daily:

6 Brunch Recipes Worth Waking Up For
The Secret to Perfectly Stringy Grilled Cheese

This article is part of Mix It Up, an editorial series created in collaboration with AOL's Kitchen Daily and Huffington Post. It is dedicated to making the lives of mothers easier through articles, videos and slideshows focused on simple and creative solutions to everyday challenges. From healthy recipes to exciting ideas for a more balanced lifestyle, this section aims to become a resource for moms everywhere.

Gloria January 14, 2014 at 11:33 AM
thank you what a great idea!

Boards

More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something