This is something I wrote six years ago:
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 throw the cold tea away, I sometimes 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.