When I drink tea I like it hot, piping hot (the origin of the term ‘piping’ hot, used by Chaucer nearly seven hundred years ago, by the way is from the sound very hot food bubbling on a plate makes – I guess it is literally what you hear in Indian restaurants when you get one of their sizzling dishes!) … We make tea with leaves in a pot, and no matter how carefully i try to judge the amount of water I pour in, there is often tea left over once I’ve poured it into the cups.
I don’t like to waste anything, and although I often do throw the cold tea away, I often can find a use for it. One of the tastiest and most well-known ways is to use it to soak dried fruit before making cakes or breads; perhaps the most famous is the tea bread bara brith, what my friend described as the national bread of Wales and here is one of many recipes – I guess as many as there are people making it!:
- ½ pint warm black tea
- 1lb dried mixed fruit
- 9oz brown sugar
- 2 tsp mixed spice
- 1lb self-raising flour
- 1 egg, beaten
- soak the fruit overnight in the tea
- mix everything together and put into a greased lined tin
- put into a preheated oven, 170C/325F/Gas 3, and cook for 1½ hours or until done
Eat it with plenty of Welsh butter while it’s still warm! There is a similar Irish fruit loaf, barm brack, which has the addition of black treacle… which is best served warm with plenty of Irish butter.
I also use cold tea for stock in soup or gravy, when I’m soaking anything from dried fruit to couscous and bulgur wheat – with the latter two it gives a lovely colour to the grain, and also a subtle taste – especially if you use a tea with a distinctive flavour such as lapsang souchong, Earl Gray, Lady Gray, rooibus… or any of the flavoured teas which are so popular now.