Jam & Tea, A Love Affair
Originally Tea was considered a medicine, only affordable to the wealthy and affluent. This was one of the reasons it went out of style during the French and American Revolutions. Somehow the love affair between the relaxing hot beverage, jam and those that honor the traditions continue. Tea was originally introduced to the English by China in the late 1600’s and was traditionally served with sugar and milk. It is said that the drink “replaced the Gin in England”.
In Britain tea is usually black, served with milk (never cream; the cream of a “cream tea” is clotted cream served on scones, usually with strawberry jam, a tradition originating from Devon and Cornwall). Strong tea served with milk and occasionally one or two (or more in some cases) teaspoons of sugar, usually in a mug, is commonly referred to as builder’s brew. Much of the time in the United Kingdom, tea drinking is not the delicate, refined cultural expression that some might imagine: a cup (or commonly a mug) is something drunk often, with some people drinking six or more cups of tea a day. Employers generally allow breaks for this.
The American tradition of Tea Parties
The American tradition brings to mind women of the past sitting with small teacups and some butter cookies or flour biscuits and a plate of jam. Of course depending on the area of the country you are from the tradition changes a bit with your choice of cream, milk or a wedge of lemon.
The enjoyment of Jam with one’s beverage is not sole to America, in fact more than likely a customary tradition brought here as families came to the ‘New World’.
The Russian Tea Party
For hours after the dinner dishes have been cleared away, Russian families will sit and drink tea as if it came from an endless samovar. Your first few times in their home may carry more of a ‘guest’ feeling and perhaps the vodka will show up more frequently.
But once you’ve been accepted as a welcome guest/new family member, it’s time for the vodka to take on less importance and the tea will come out to much more often. Russians like to have jam with their beverage. A small dessert spoonful of jam is placed on the tongue and then the tea is sipped slowly, washing the jam down with the hot brew. Very tasty! For more on Russian Tea see: Russian Report
A forgotten history
Strawberry and Apple Jams have a forgotten history when it comes to tea not only in America but world wide. These Jams were commonly used (as well as honey) during post WWI as a sweetener , as sugar was costly and often rationed. A teaspoon of jam would be added to the hot beverage.
Adding a teaspoon of Jam to your tea certainly sounds more appealing than the artificially flavored ones available on the market these days.
World wide we find different teas with different jam pairings and each with their own customs. A small spoonful of jam on the tongue before sipping your tea, a spoonful of jam stirred into a fresh cup of hot tea, or just jam and tea served with scones, this love affair has woven it’self into the fiber of our daily lives as we find new ways to enjoy it!