Welcome to my blog, the Tafferty Designs blog. This blog has been on my bucket list for a long, long time. 2020 just seems like the year to finally get it off the ground and embrace the power of blogging. so here I am!
Whilst Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have given me platforms to connect with my customers, fellow crafters and fellow small business owners, I am always acutely aware that many in those audiences are not always keen on posts which are longer than a few lines. This makes it tricky to do more than skim the surface and I am hoping that the blog will allow me to provide my readers with more insight, reflection and research into the goings-on at Tafferty Designs, the world of tea and a bit of everything else that comes my way.
Tea has always been my favourite beverage and it is the beverage I am most familiar with. So I shall use this blog to chronicle my enchanting and enlightening discovery of all things tea-related, from beautiful tea accessories, artisan teas, tea ware, recipes and books. I am excited to share with you loads of information that will make you fall in love with the wonderful beverage and the pastime of teatime, over and over and over again.
In the meantime, you can visit my Etsy shop to see my range of handmade teapot cosies, mug cosies/cup sleeves, tea purses, and lots of other tea accessories. Sign up to my newsletter to be the first to know of any developments, announcements and updates. You may even get sneak previews of upcoming products.
Hello and happy Teacup Tuesday! I am not quite sure who came up with the term ‘Teacup Tuesday’, but I am glad whoever it was, did. It is such a fun concept and is very popular among the tea lovers and tea blogging community. Now, how you interpret Teacup Tuesday and what you do to mark it is really up to you. Many people will talk about the latest teacup they purchased, or give a little story about their favourite teacup…anything goes, really, and there are no hard and fast rules about it. The only thing that matters is that the teacup must be the subject matter, for obvious reasons. Teacup Tuesday is something that I have come to really enjoy and try as much as possible to participate in regularly. I love searching the net for teacups I have not featured before and trying to find suitable accessories to pair them up with. I have to say, it has really opened my eyes to lot of interesting facts about tea ware and teatime accessories. I find it all incredibly fascinating.
When serving Afternoon Tea or High Tea, choosing good tableware (aka cutlery, flatware, etc) is an important and integral part of the process. For many, the decision requires a lot of thought and it can take some time to finally decide on the cutlery to go with your chosen tea set.
With so much choice available to us, whether you are buying in-store or online, it can become a little overwhelming when you have to decide what to buy. My first principle is to go with your instinct. We have an inherent detector for what makes us happy, and when it comes to organising something like Afternoon Tea, finding joy in your choices is vital. You should then look at colour and design. Pick something that doesn’t clash with the tea set design. If you anticipate that you will be pairing your cutlery with more than one tea set, then might be a good idea to choose something that is not too elaborate, that can go with most things. In terms of colour, you might want to pick a colour on the tea set as your guide, or go for something neutral, again if you plan to use it with more than one tea set.
So, the reason for this preamble is to introduce to you one of my takes on Teacup Tuesday. I’ve been running a weekly event (usually!) for some time now, on my Instagram and Facebook pages. I have also recently started to run on Twitter so that my Twitter followers get in on it as well. I was inspired by a few Facebook pages who run similar events, but I wanted to do mine a bit differently. So instead of matching up a teacup to a stylish outfit, which the other pages do, I decided to make the teacup the main feature, and then let people choose the accessories to go with the teacup. The accessories vary every time, although tea napkins tend to be the most frequent ones for some reason. I like to change it up now and again, just to make it more interesting. Otherwise I fear it could get a tad boring after a while. It is great fun, and in some ways it inspires me to think about how I could make future tea times a bit more special.
Anyway, without any further ado, pictured is today’s match-up. Here we have a gorgeous Royal Albert teacup and saucer in the classic Old Country Roses design, and some cutlery I thought could possibly be paired up with the set.
Which cutlery would you choose to go with the teacup and saucer? I’m going to go with option 2 today.
Afternoon tea, a quintessential English custom that is now enjoyed worldwide, was introduced in 1840 by Anna, the Duchess of Bedford. The Duchess was a lifelong friend of Queen Victoria, having served as a Lady of the Bedchamber between 1837 and 1841.
In the 19th century, it had become the norm to serve dinner between 7pm and 8.30pm. In the Duchess’ household, dinner was served around 8pm. Even though luncheon had been introduced by then to fill the gap between breakfast and dinner, the luncheon was a very light affair and the Duchess found herself feeling very hungry, usually around 4pm.
Whilst visiting the 5th Duke of Rutland at Belvoir Castle, the Duchess regularly asked to be served a light meal of tea (usually Darjeeling) and cakes or sandwiches, between luncheon and dinner. Being a social butterfly, the Duchess preferred to enjoy this treat with her friends and would invite her friends to join her for tea and cakes, every afternoon, around 4pm. Soon, other middle and upper class households joined the trend, and Afternoon Tea was born.
Afternoon Tea was more than just a cup of tea. Being a friend of the Queen, it is safe to assume that the sandwiches and cakes that were served were extravagant affairs. By then, a special cake had been named after the Duchess’ friend, the queen. The cake was called quite simply, the Victoria sponge cake. The cake was the star of the show, and every day, the bakers would try to outdo the previous day’s cake. As the Duchess was always accompanied by several of her friends, one sponge cake was simply not enough for the tea party. Scones, delicate finger sandwiches, as well as other delightful pastries, therefore always accompanied the cake. Earlier, around 1762, the Earl of Sandwich had developed a snack (called the sandwich) by putting a filling between two slices of bread. Clotted cream and jam were also regular accompaniments, because, let’s face it, the Duchess had a bit of a sweet tooth and, in the spirit of being the hostess with the ‘mostest’, the more accompaniments you had, the better.
Today, Afternoon Tea still follows the original format, with tea, cake and sandwiches forming the core part of the meal. Tea rooms, cafes, hotels and restaurants now offer Afternoon Tea to suit all tastes and budgets, from the glitzy Ritz to the homely café, you can be served Afternoon Tea all over the world. Fancy tea dresses and posh suits are the only suitable attire in a formal setting, but nobody will fault you if you enjoy it in your leisurewear at home on lockdown. After all, comfort is a priority!
Whilst many people immediately visualize a fancy, glamorous tea room when you mention Afternoon Tea, now is a good time to remember that Afternoon Tea was originally enjoyed in the home. It was only in latter centuries, when entrepreneurs got the idea to serve afternoon tea in the tea rooms, that most people stopped having it at home.
So now, while most of the world is in Coronavirus quarantine/lockdown, Afternoon Tea is something you can treat yourself to now and again at home. Yes, it’s more fun if you gather with your family and/or friends, but for now, you can be creative about how you can enjoy it with your family and friends whilst you are miles apart. Trust me, you can still have lots of fun. With modern technology, your family or friends’ faces are just a call away. So you can enjoy a virtual afternoon tea and talk about the teas and treats you are all enjoying. If you decide to host an online afternoon tea party session, you can describe what you are serving and send each other pictures of your displays, as well as have a chat, or blether as we call it in my neck of the woods.
Traditional Afternoon Tea will, of course, include a selection of sandwiches cut into dainty ‘fingers’ or triangles. A selection of cakes, scones and other sweet pastries are included. The Victoria sponge is a must, and the scones are served with clotted cream and a selection of jams and preserves. Cutlery, linen and other accessories are carefully selected in order to coordinate them with everything else. So, yes, it takes a lot of thought and planning to host a traditional Afternoon Tea. However, it is not always necessary to have the full spread and full regalia when you are enjoying it with your family and friends, or even on your own, especially when supplies are limited as they are now. The whole point is to make it more special than just pouring a cuppa and plonking yourself on the sofa.
So, have a go at baking the Victoria sponge, scones, cupcakes and other pastries, if you have the ingredients of course! Make your favourite sandwiches and cut them up into dainty fingers, or triangles. You can cut off the crusts to make them more ‘presentable’, but it you are rationing your food like many people are at this point in time, don’t bother cutting off the crusts. Just make them face downwards on the plate and the sandwiches will look great. Please don’t waste food for the sake of Afternoon Tea! They will add a bit of character anyway, won’t they? Presentation is important though. So even if you don’t have the finest china, the finest cutlery or linens, how you lay your Afternoon Tea on the table (or floor if you don’t own a table!) is important, and will make it that bit more special.
So go ahead and treat yourself. I have included my mum’s recipe for dairy-free, egg-free scones, which is one of my favourite scone recipes. I use this all the time and use either white flour or wholewheat flour. either works, every time. You may be wondering why I have chosen this particular recipe. It is simply because I don’t eat dairy and eggs are currently in short supply. You can find plenty of other recipes that you may prefer online. There are so many to choose from. You can also buy the Kindle versions of recipe books on Amazon, such as The National Trust Book of Scones: Delicious Recipes and Odd Crumbs of History . (You won’t need to wait for the book to be delivered). If you don’t know already, egg-free scones are a bit denser when compared to those with egg in them. So don’t discard them if they are not as light as you expected. That is exactly how they should turn out. The most important thing is to lock in as much air as possible (excuse the pun!). That is what will make them rise and make them light in texture. So, without further ado, here is my mum’s wonderful recipe for you to try.
*If you prefer to use butter instead of margarine, just use butter instead of margarine, and use dairy milk instead of the alternatives. It still works!
My Mum’s Recipe for Dairy-free, Egg-free Scones
Self-raising flour already has raising agents and a bit of salt in it.
If you have self-raising flour but it has been open for a while and was not kept in an airtight container (it happens!), consider treating it as if it plain flour because after a while, the raising agents will not longer be as potent as it was when it was produced, if it was left to mix with air.
If you don’t have self-raising flour and you only have plain flour, add 2 tsp of baking powder.
If you are strictly vegan or dairy-free please check the margarine to make sure it doesn’t have any buttermilk in it. I’ve been caught out a few times!
This recipe will give you anything between 12 and 16 scones. It just depends on how big your cutter is.
400g self-raising flour (See notes 1 and 2 above)
50g castor sugar (caster sugar is the best sugar for baking as it is fine in texture, but if you don’t have it, just use whatever you have)
half tsp salt
100g dairy-free margarine, cut up into small pieces/cubes
150 ml dairy-free milk alternatives (oat milk/drink is the closest match to cows’ milk in terms of taste and consistency, but you can use any that is available, e.g. soya or almond milk/drink. If you are really stuck, you can just use water, but bear in mind they will much be denser than usual)
50g dried fruit (optional)
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius (Gas mark 6).
Grease a baking sheet with a bit of margarine and sprinkle a bit of flour all over it. Line a baking tray with the greased baking sheet. (If you don’t have a baking sheet you can use a sheet of aluminium foil).
Sift the flour and salt together into a mixing bowl. Add the sugar and mix. (Sifting is important as it will aerate the scones, especially as they have no egg in them to make them light and fluffy).
With just your fingers, rub the margarine into the flour, repeatedly lifting the mixture up, again to incorporate as much air as possible into the mixture. Rub the margarine until the mixture resembles fresh breadcrumbs. Try not to do this for too long as you don’t want the mixture to be warmed by your warm hands. Add the fruit at this point if you are making fruit scones.
Using a fork, make a ‘well’ in the centre of the margarine and flour mixture and add the milk (or water), a little at a time, and mix, until you have a soft, slightly sticky, well mixed dough. My mum and sisters always tell me it is better to use a knife or fork to mix with, to keep the mixture as cool as possible, and also to keep as much air in the mixture as possible (Sorry to bang on and on about this aeration thing, but it’s important).
Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured board and knead the dough very gently for up to a minute, and not any longer.
Pat down with your fingers until the dough is about ¾ of an inch to an inch high. (Do not use a roller, otherwise all the hard work you’ve put into aerating the dough will be wasted. Rolling it with a pin will just squash out the air).
Use a scone cutter (or a small glass turned upside down if don’t have one) to cut the dough into round shapes and lay them onto the lined baking tray.
Brush the scones with some milk, (so that they turn golden brown when baked, and to prevent the top from hardening into a biscuit!)
Bake in the preheated oven, on the middle shelf of the oven until they have risen and are golden brown (approximately 12-15 minutes).
Take them out of the oven and cool them as soon as they are done, otherwise they will harden into rocks! Use a cooling rack to cool them, so that the bottom doesn’t get soggy from the steam that has been generated inside them. Nobody likes a soggy bottom!
Serve them with your favourite jam. Remember, break them apart where there is a natural horizontal crack around the middle, into a top half and bottom half. Don’t cut them in half! If you want, you can use a tiny bit of whipped margarine instead of clotted cream. It’s not the same, but it does hit the spot.
Enjoy with your favourite tea and other Afternoon Tea accompaniments.
As for the order in which you eat the food for Afternoon Tea, there is nothing special about it really. It is the same as any meal. You would therefore begin with the savoury food (sandwiches) and finish with the sweets (scones, pastries and cakes). The biggest cake, such as the Victoria sponge cake, is usually eaten last. This is because this is the queen of the event and, just like Her Royal Highness enters/appears last at any event, the queen of the show, the Victoria sponge (or your choice of big cake), is served last, so that it enters your tummy last, but more importantly, so that you end on a high!
Enjoy my lovelies! If you decide to host your own Afternoon Tea, either by yourself, with family or friends, via Facetime, Skype, or an online virtual Afternoon Tea, let me know how it goes. If you use my mum’s recipe above, she and I would love to know how they turned out. Let me know!
Finally, how do your serve your scones? Do you put the jam first or the clotted cream (whipped margarine for the vegan version) first? These methods are called the Devonian/Devonshire method (cream first then jam) and the Cornish method (jam first then cream). Which one do you prefer?
Whatever you do, please continue to enjoy social distancing, stay home and stay safe.
I have been making character tea cosies for as long as Tafferty Designs has been around. In fact, I made some before I opened the shop. Hedgehog tea cosies are among some of my favourites in this category, although right now I can’t think of the ones I don’t like making! I really enjoy making all of them, but there is something a bit more special about the hedgehog tea cosies. They are full of fun, charm and character. I love making tea cosies which you won’t find on the market. So I designed the delightful hedgehog tea cosies for those looking for the unusual yet practical tea cosy. Being hand-made, they are not mass-produced and therefore you will not find many like them on the market. Many of the ones I make are either limited editions or one-of-a-kind (OOAK).
For some reason, I have not made the small 2-cup versions that often. Yes, they are a bit more fiddly, because everything is scaled down to miniature size, but I think I have just tended to make the bigger 6-cup sizes almost be default.
Well, this lockdown situation has given me an opportunity to sit down and really think about where and how far I want to take my little business. I think on some level, having more time to reflect has brought out my creativity on a whole new level, and I have a burning desire to explore other ideas…other avenues, as long as they remain relevant and true to what Tafferty Designs is about. One of those ideas is to try to cater for most teapot sizes. I will need to have a written plan/to-do list in order for this plan to succeed, because usually, I tend to make one size more than the others at any one time. Obviously that means at any one point, some of my customers are being ‘left out’, and we cannot behaving that now, can we? so, from now on, I will make a point of making cosies to add to the shop inventory, in more than one size, as much as possible. Sometimes it’s just not practically possible, for example if I have a limited amount of a particular yarn, or if the yarn type is not suitable to use it in making a tea cosy of a particular size. That’s fine, as long as I then don’t just continue to make the same size and neglect the others.
So, with that in mind, I plan to make more of the hedgehog tea cosies in the smaller sizes. As you know, teapots come in the following sizes: 2-cup, 4-cup, 6-cup, 8-cup and even 10-cup. The 2-cup and 6-cup sizes are ‘standard’ sizes, so they tend to appear in the shop most frequently. I have tended to make the other sizes as custom orders, but from now on, I plan to add the 4-cup tea cosy sizes to the inventory on a regular basis as well. The 8-cup and 10-cup sizes, however, will remain on a request/made-to-order basis, as not many people or families use those. I have to take such things into consideration from a cost-effectiveness point of view.
The good news, therefore, is that small hedgehog tea cosies, like little Poppy (pictured) will be making a regular appearance at Tafferty Designs when the shop reopens. I’ve put little Poppy next to Patricia, so that you can see the size comparison. Patricia is sitting on top of a standard 6-cup teapot whilst Poppy is on a standard 2-cup teapot. Poppy may be small, but she is perfectly formed! I am really excited about this and I can’t wait to make more!
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If you have any questions, suggestions or comments, I would love to hear from you. So please feel free to leave a comment. If you’re prefer to ask privately, you can always Email me or send me a private message my social media pages.
In the meantime, take care of yourselves and enjoy lots of tea times. Happy Friday everyone!