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  • Writer's pictureGethin Thomas

Biscuits - Rich Tea

Originally published on Photoblog by Gethin Thomas JANUARY. 12, 2021

[164-365] 12th. January 2021- Yet another "Ye Olde Biscuite" post. Because these are the oldest yet.

Rich tea is a type of sweet biscuit; the ingredients generally include wheat flour, sugar, vegetable oil and malt extract. Originally called Tea Biscuits, they were developed in the 17th century in Yorkshire, England for the upper classes as a light snack between full-course meals. One of the best-selling biscuits in the British Isles, the biscuit is also popular in Malta and Cyprus. The plain flavour and consistency of rich tea makes them particularly suitable for dunking in tea and coffee. (Wikipedia)

I've always thought that they actually taste of strong black tea so I think that is the malt extract that gives them the depth of flavour. They are surprisingly moreish for such a plain looking biscuit.

Like many popular branded biscuits in the UK, Rich Tea biscuits were introduced by the McVitie’s company. Rich Teas were originally called simply Tea Biscuits and were developed to act as a palate-cleansing snack between courses of an evening meal. The precise date of origin is unknown, but in 1891 the size of the original Rich Tea Biscuit was reduced in diameter by McVitie’s in order to accommodate the smaller, more delicate tastes of Londoners. The biscuit has remained largely unchanged ever since. Whilst we’ve yet to come across a poor tea biscuit, the “Rich” in the title is said to refer to the sugar content of the biscuit, as this would have made it a luxury item back in the nineteenth century. (Nibblemybiscuit)

Victorian dining by all accounts was a dreary, late, and long drawn out affair. If you have seen the Royal family dining at Osbourne House in the film Mrs. Brown you probably have a good idea.

The Victorian evening meal must be a unique culinary event in human history for having had another meal, Afternoon Tea, invented, to stave off the hunger that was otherwise suffered in the long wait for it to start. The courses were many, and by all accounts most were tasteless and almost all were cold, if only for the fact that the food had to be brought about a quarter of a mile from the kitchens, through stone cold corridors before it arrived at the dining table.

There was a special serving container and special cutlery for almost every food type. Dinner services were vast and a status symbol, so it was vital that every varying course's main purpose was not to satiate the appetite but to show off the required silverware.

The Grand Service is the magnificent silver-gilt dining service commissioned by George IV (1762–1830) when Prince of Wales. It is made up of over 4,000 pieces for dining and display in a vast range of styles. Among them are elaborate dessert stands, candelabra and ice pails, as well as simpler items like trays and egg cups.

The Service was made by the Royal Goldsmiths, Rundell, Bridge & Rundell, following an initial commission of £60,000 worth of plate. The first delivery was made to Carlton House in 1811, and at a dinner there that year, the Prince sat against a glittering backdrop of the new silver gilt. In addition to this impressive Service, guests were also surprised by a channel of water running down the centre of the table, with real fish swimming in the stream.

Among other items, the Grand Service includes 140 dishes, 288 dinner plates, 118 salts, 12 ice pails, 58 dessert stands and centrepieces and 107 candelabra. The pieces have no single style of decoration but include a range of Greek, Roman, Egyptian and oriental designs. Some pieces include marine themes, inspired by the dining service of George IV's grandfather, Frederick, Prince of Wales (1707–51).

The Service is so large and so magnificent that it has never been replaced. It remains in use to this day and is placed on the table for State Banquets at Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace, as well as for other official and ceremonial events. (Royal Collection Trust)

Here is fair warning. If you get invited to a State Banquet, remember to sneak some Rich Tea biscuits in with you. It could be a long night.

In 2011 Prince William chose a groom's cake for his wedding reception made from 1,700 McVitie's rich tea biscuits and 17 kg of chocolate.

McVitie's advises, "Entertain the great tasting crisp courtsey of the Rich Tea." So they are obviously still playing on the link with the upper classes and their dainty nibbles.

British Corner Shop. One of the biscuit world’s elder statesmen, the McVities Rich Tea biscuit is the archetypal British tea drinker’s biscuit – and is particularly suitable for dunking.

Light, crunchy, and sweet, they are a lot healthier than many of their contemporaries (each biscuit contains only 36 calories).

Most popular with customers in United States of America (USA), France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Canada, Austria, Greece and Denmark, but you can buy McVities Rich Tea Biscuits for delivery worldwide.

I just leave you with this thought when you next lay the table for your supper. Leave room for the Sugar nips, the snail forks and the marrow scoops.

Yes, that's a special spoon for eating marrow, I'm presuming bone marrow but I'm not sure, it could even be the vegetable.

Make a place for the spoon warmer, a large device filled with hot water in which one keeps ones serving spoons, for fear that what little warmth left in the food may be transferred to the spoon while serving.

A caddy spoon will be required if one takes tea, preferably one engraved with paeonies of course. An ordinary spoon won't do.

The asparagus server may be laid next to the knife rests and of course keep those grape scissors handy.

Much of your Victorian meal could have arrived in aspic. This is jelly made from bones and many dishes were suspended in jelly to prevent bacterial spoliation, yum yum. The jelly sealed in the food minimising contact with air. No refrigeration you see. But although there was no fridge there was the highly specialised aspic spoon which allowed one to pierce the jelly and with it's cutting edge slice through dainty morsels and lift them to your lips.

Then of course there was the crumb scoop and tray but this was used by the servants to remove all the mess you have just made with the above.

If you had been very careful and discreet between courses and managed to sneak a quick nibble, it would also cope with the Rich Tea crumbs scattered around the crisp linen.

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