Saturday, April 10, 2010

Tea and Books Saturday #15 - "Teatime"

By The Tea Ambassador, Aubrey Franklin
Frederick Fell Publishers, 1981

Back in 1974, the tea industry here in the U.S. was in need of some promotional help, so Aubrey Franklin was enlisted by the Tea Council of the U.S.A. and given the title "Tea Ambassador." The man's resume is pretty fascinating. In World War II, Franklin served as official war photographer with Field Marshall Montgomery at El Alamein. By 1961, he had moved to the U.S., and 10 years later he opened a restaurant in Manhattan. This book is his delightful effort at promoting the greater enjoyment of tea and teatime, and I knew I was going to like it when I saw a chapter titled "Why People Should Drink Tea."

First things first: The most noteworthy thing to know about Franklin is that he invented, he says, the "Elevensey Cup." What's that? I own a couple, and I'll bet you do too. Named for the British custom of taking a tea break at 11 a.m., it's a tea mug with a lid designed to keep the tea as hot as possible while steeping. And Franklin is very big on keeping that tea water hot-hot-hot while preparing tea. I've long read that one should take "the pot to the kettle" rather than "the kettle to the pot," and Franklin tells us precisely why this is so. "Never take the kettle to the teapot, as you lose one degree of heat per second, and hot water for tea must be 212 degrees." (When I run out of tea activities to try, maybe I'll conduct my own experiment one day.)

About half the book is filled with recipes, often accompanied by amusing cartoonish illustrations of the ambassador himself, wearing his pith helmut as shown on the cover and sometimes in interesting, if unexplained, settings. (I daresay this is the only tea book you'll ever come across which includes an illustration of a stripper popping out of a cake next to a Tea Ambassador.) The recipes themselves are quite charming and infused with lots of tea history. In the section on savories, for instance, Franklin says the earliest reference to savories was in the Victorian period. He notes that Queen Victoria liked Marrow Toasts, and her son Edward VII loved Canapes Diane (Mushroom Toast). There are lots of traditional British recipes - crumpets, Sally Lunns, fish and chips, cornish pasties - and plenty of interesting tidbits that will make this a fun read for today's tea lover.


  1. yet another interesting book, angela!

  2. Another fun tea book. Where do you find them all?

  3. Your vintage tea books continue to amaze me!

  4. What a fun book! Thanks for sharing.


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