Posted in Kafevend Blog
Following our recent foray into the best places to enjoy a cup of tea north of the border in Edinburgh, it seems only right that we should consider a few of the mouthwatering Scottish delicacies you could enjoy with said cup of tea. First things first though, why does tea taste so good in Scotland?
Most areas in Scotland have soft tap water. Not only does this cut down on the wear and tear to the kettle, it also makes for a much better brew. There's none of that unappetising film floating on top of your tea, or to put it a little more scientifically, the minerals in hard water combine with compounds in the tea and form solids as they bind together. Soft water, by contrast, creates a clearer, less cloudy drink and the flavour is unhindered by the mineral content. There's even a blend of tea that caters specifically to Scotland's soft water; 'Scottish Blend' is manufactured by Unilever, the multinational that also brings us PG Tips and Liptons.
So what would your first choice be with that refreshing cuppa? It stands a good chance you'll go with shortbread, which has become something of an emblem for Scottish cuisine. Scottish company Walkers do a brisk trade in tins and boxes of shortbread embellished with tartan and cute Scottie dogs, although it's a treat you can easily have a go at yourself. You need few ingredients; flour, butter and sugar are all it takes and perhaps it's shortbread's simplicity that makes it a perfect accompaniment to tea.
The forerunner to shortbread, in medieval times, was a kind of biscuit bread. Leftover bread dough was rolled out and left to dry in the oven, transforming it into something more akin to a rusk. Over time the addition of sugar and butter gradually led to the product we are familiar with today, although the expense of the ingredients meant that shortbread was strictly for special occasions like Hogmanay.
For those with a very sweet tooth who find shortbread too plain, tablet could be the answer. In England we have fudge, but Scottish tablet is a cut above. As far as ingredients are concerned the main difference is that fudge contains a higher proportion of butter while tablet packs more sugar; tablet is also cooked to a higher temperature. As for taste, tablet has a more grainy texture and is apt to melt in the mouth with no chewing required, which means you can go on savouring it even if your teeth eventually fall out due to all that sugar!
A safer alternative, if you prefer to stay out of the dentist's chair, is a scone, and there are plenty of variations to choose from in Scotland. In addition to the familiar plain or rich scones that you're likely to find as part of a cream tea, there are drop scones, also known as Scotch pancakes. Drop scones get their name from the dollops of batter that are dropped onto a hot griddle. The griddle, or girdle as it's called in Scots, is also the inspiration for the Scottish scone of the same name. They're cut into wedges which makes a change from the usual round shape.
Of course, if it's chocolate you crave with your tea there's always Tunnock's with their Teacakes, Snowballs or their pièce de résistance, the Caramel Wafer, which has been manufactured by the Scottish company since the 1950s.
We hope that's given you a few ideas. Even if you're not visiting Scotland this Summer, you can still conjure up the flavour!