Tea Brack

I didn’t drink tea when I was young but my first dabbling with the beverage was at the age of twelve and involved soaking sultanas in cold black tea for several hours to make a tea brack. I was a bit of a one-trick pony when it came to baking: every Saturday for several years I made this brack. It never occurred to me to make something different. Why would I? Everyone loved it, it was easy to make and several hundred bracks later, I had fine-tuned that recipe to perfection. I can’t find the worn out sheet of paper that has that magic formula but the recipe below works well and makes a moist, fruity loaf that suits the windy autumn days we’ve been having.

 

Tea Brack Recipe (loosely adapted from Odlums recipe for tea brack)

teapot and brackIngredients:

250ml strong black tea (cold)

10ml Irish whiskey (optional)

400g sultanas

150g light brown castor sugar

30g butter (melted)

1 egg (lightly beaten)

275g self-raising flour

 

 

The tea should be a solid black tea like an Assam or a Kenyan (none of those delicate Darjeelings) and needs to be strong, strong, strong. As a one-time exemption, ignore everything I’ve ever said about not over-steeping tea ;-).

Place sultanas in bowl and cover with the cold black tea (and whiskey, if using). Leave for at least four hours and preferably overnight.

After soaking, preheat the oven to 175°C/347°F/Gas 5.

Add the sugar and egg and melted butter.

Sieve the flour into fruit mixture and combine.

Grease a loaf tin with butter and place the raw cake batter in the tin. Flatten the top with the back of spoon and bake in the pre-heated oven for 75 minutes or until cooked through (when knife or skewer is inserted into the centre of the cake and comes out clean).

 

Brack SlicesMy teenage self would probably call this a very rough attempt at a tea brack but it’s not bad at all. I’ll re-post in a couple of years when I’m finished fine-tuning!!

 

Grading Black Tea

I’ve been tasting a lot of black tea over the past couple of weeks but before I start talking  TGFOP and BOP, I thought it would be worthwhile to have a reference article to go through one of the most common grading systems for black tea. The grading system has four separate scales that are based around the size of the leaf. Size is not directly correlated to quality but it is used as an indicator.

 ORTHODOX TEA

Whole leaf – the leaf remains intact during production (not broken or torn)

  • SFTGFOP – Special, Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe
  • FTGFOP – Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe
  • TGFOP – Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe
  • GFOP – Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe
  • FOP – Flowery Orange Pekoe
  • FP – Flowery Pekoe
  • OP – Orange Pekoe

Broken leaf – the leaf has been torn or broken

  • GFBOP – Golden Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe
  • GBOP – Golden Broken Orange Pekoe
  • FBOP – Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe
  • BOP – Broken Orange Pekoe
  • BPS – Broken Pekoe Souchong

Fannings are broken pieces of tea that have a granular texture. The small pieces mean that they release their taste and colour quickly, which makes them suitable for teabags.

  • FBOPF – Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe Fannings
  • BOPF – Broken Orange Pekoe Fannings
  • FOF – Flowery Orange Fannings
  • GOF – Golden Orange Fannings
  • PF – Pekoe Fannings

Dust is a powder tea that is smaller in size than fannings.

  • OPD – Orange Pekoe Dust
  • BOPD – Broken Orange Pekoe Dust
  • PD – Pekoe Dust
  • D – Dust

 

CTC  stands for Crush Tear Curl and is a modern manufacturing method where the tea leaf is chopped to small uniform pieces while it is being oxidised to black tea. This gives small granular pellets. There is a separate grading system for CTC tea that is also broken down into Broken Leaf, Fannings and Dust.

A few notes on the terms:

Orange – Orange does not refer to the citrus fruit or to an orange flavour. It comes from “House of Orange” which was the royal Dutch family where the finest teas were presented in the 1600s.

Tippy refers to the proportion of buds in the tea

Flowery mean that larger leaves as well as buds are present