Flossie is always excited to learn about foodways of early Americans – today, she is learning about their love of tea and careful use of sugar – she and her fairy friends are quite fond of herbal tea served in rose petals and sweetened with honeysuckle!
In the 1700s, tea was sometimes compressed into “bricks.” For hundreds of years, the Chinese merchants packaged their tea this way to make it easier to ship and because it helped the flavor last longer. In the photograph below, you can see how the tea leaves are compressed; the brick is scored so that it would be easier to break into smaller pieces for brewing at home. Flossie just learned today that most people in Colonial America actually would have had access only to loose tea leaves (no tea bags yet!).
Many people would not have sweetened their tea – they would have enjoyed the bitter brew just like it was! Sugar was expensive and taxed (as was tea). Early Colonists didn’t even add sugar to their hot chocolate – can you imagine that?! Refined sugar came here from the Caribbean and was mainly harvested by enslaved people. Sugar cane was processed by boiling and filtering the sweet substance several times. It was then poured into molds and when ready to ship, it was wrapped in blue paper. The nippers were metal tools which allowed a person to break off a bit of sugar from the cone – or break the whole cone into smaller pieces like we are used to seeing today. You can learn more about this sugar-making process and actually make your own sugar cone following directions found at http://worldturndupsidedown.blogspot.com/2013/05/how-to-make-colonial-era-sugar-cone-or.html.
Flossie wishes you a sweet week until she sees you next Friday!