Our kitchen seems to breed tea. The cupboards are full of it. We never seem to get through it all by just drinking it, so I decided to try experimenting with tea in some baking. I was pleased to discover that Ceylon Tea works perfectly well in shortbread biscuits!
Ceylon is the name given to tea that is grown in Sri Lanka, which was known as Ceylon prior to gaining independence. Sri Lanka is an Asian island country just below the southern tip of mainland India. Sri Lanka has a very long and interesting history which I really enjoyed researching, but as I don’t want this blog post to be too long, I’m going to talk about it’s more modern history. Maybe I’ll write some more about Sri Lanka in the future! Britiain first occupied the coast of the Island in 1796 during the Napoleonic Wars, naming it Ceylon.The Kandyan Convention agreement signed in March 1815 between the British and the Chiefs of the Kandyan Kingdom formally ceded the country to the British.
Coffee plantations were very successful and became the primary export of Sri Lanka (tea cultivation was restricted to home gardens, although in India it was by now a thriving industry). However this came to an end after the plantations were struck with the ‘coffee rust disease’ in 1869, destroying the industry. The British responded by cultivating tea instead. James Taylor is credited as the British planter who create the tea industry, however it was H.K. Thwaites who gave Taylor his first tea seeds. Ceylon tea was first exported in 1872 and Taylor built the first tea factory in 1873. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the economy of Sri Lanka became reliant on the production and exportation of cinnamon, rubber and, most importantly, Ceylon tea, which gained a reputation for the world’s finest tea.
Ceylon was granted independence in 1948 as the Dominion of Ceylon until 1972 when it became the Republic of Sri Lanka. In 1965, Sri Lanka became the world’s largest tea exporter. Tea plantations were operated by the private sector until the 1970s when the colonial plantations were dismantled and nationalised as a welfare state was established. Following this, the industry declined, so in the 1990s most companies were privatised. Tea production and exportation remains an essential element of the Sri Lankan economy, and today Sri Lanka remains the largest exporter of tea in the world.
My recipe for Ceylon tea shortbread uses loose leaf tea that I ground up slightly using a mortar and pestle, but you could use the back of a spoon, a food processor, or even the bottom of an egg cup! You don’t want the tea pulverised into dust, just crushed so you don’t get large bits in your biscuits.The tea adds a lovely subtle flavour to these delicious, light biscuits.
Ceylon Tea Shortbread
- 200g flour
- 100g cornflour
- 100g sugar
- 200g butter
- 2tbsp Ceylon tea
- Pre-heat the oven to 170c and grease 2 baking trays
- Grind up the tea slightly
- Sieve together the flour and cornflour and then add the sugar and the tea
- Rub in the butter with your fingers. It will be crumbly at first, but keep rubbing and it will form a dough
- Turn out onto a floured worksurface
- Roll out to about 1cm thickness and cut out circles using a 5cm wide cutter
- Place on the baking trays and prick the tops with a fork
- Bake in the oven for about 16 minutes until a pale golden colour
- Remove from the oven and leave to cool on the tray for 5 minutes before transferring the biscuits to a cooling rack
Thanks for reading!