What is it about cozy mystery lovers and tea?
Whether you are a devoted reader or a world-class novelist, you probably enjoy a good “cuppa” from time to time. And if you enjoy British cozies, the odds are spot on that you’ll recognize your favorite brew (everything from Ceylon to Darjeeling) in your reading.
The passion for tea and mysteries goes back to Agatha Christie. Remember how Hercule Poirot loved his “tisanes”? He would often try to unravel a crime while sipping from a steaming cup of herbal tea and urging Captain Hastings to “use his brain cells.”
Dame Agatha loved her tea, and since she hailed from Devon, her characters have been known to indulge in a Devonshire Tea, complete with clotted cream. In the opening pages of Nemesis, Agatha sets the scene by picturing Miss Jane Marple drinking tea and reading the paper. In A Pocket Full of Rye, the author uses tea in the narrative. Rex Fortescue meets his end after drinking his morning tea. It’s not surprising that Ms. Christie would refer to tea again and again in her novels. She once admitted that she did her best thinking while “eating apples and drinking tea.”
Television detectives have continued the trend. In the Inspector Morse mysteries, Detective Inspector Robert Lewis says to his sergeant, “I need a drink.” Detective Sergeant James Hathaway reminds him, “You just had a cup of tea.” DI Lewis replies, “It was herbal.” DI Hathaway gets the message and says sympathetically, “Oh, you do need a drink!”
Mystery writer Alexander McCall Smith (The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency) admits to being addicted to tea, and his protagonist, Precious Ramotswe, enjoys a pot of rooibos tea while struggling with a case. Smith reveals that “there has always been tea” in his life and black tea was served several times a day at home during his years in southern Rhodesia. He believes that tea offers a sense of comfort in times of crisis.
The next time you open a cozy mystery, be sure to pour yourself a nice cuppa to enjoy with it.
And for those of you who appreciate a sweet treat with your drink, try a Yorkshire scone (recipe, care of Tea Time With the Cozy Chicks, below).
Mary Kennedy is the author of two mystery series, The Dream Club Mysteries and the Talk Radio Mysteries. She has written over 40 novels, including a young-adult fiction series called The Hollywood Nights. She is also a tea cup carrying member of the group of cozy mystery writers the Cozy Chicks, which has published a Tea Time With the Cozy Chicks (2015) cookbook full of favorite recipes, tea-time memories, and suggestions for themed tea parties, along with fun facts and fascinating articles.
The Cozy Chicks Recipe for Yorkshire Scones
(makes one dozen)
- 3 cups flour (regular, all-purpose flour)
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened at room temperature
- 1/4 cup, plus 2 tablespoons, sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1/3 cup of milk
- 1/2 cup sultanas (I use a mix of raisins, craisins, and chopped dates, or whatever I happen to have.)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Sift together the flour and baking powder. (If you don't have a sifter, use a mesh strainer and tap it.)
In a separate bowl, beat the butter until creamy. Add the sugar, beating until pale and fluffy.
Add the eggs, one at a time, then add the flour mixture and the milk. Sprinkle the raisins/dates, etc., over the dough and gently fold them in. Sprinkle the 2 tablespoons of sugar on the top.
Drop by “mounds” on a baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes.
Mary Kennedy says, "I actually use a little more than 1/3 cup of milk. I start with 1/3 cup and then add a tablespoon more at a time. No more than 1/2 cup of milk total. I couldn’t get the dough to hold together with the 1/3 cup amount."
The original “drop” recipe is all you need. If you handle the dough too much, they can become tough.