Ria’s Teashop Secrets: Cinnamon’s spicy past

Cinammon coffee at Ria's Rosy Lee Tearoom
Cinammon coffee at Ria's Rosy Lee Tearoom

Ria Chambers from Ria’s Rosy Lee Tearoom in Wellingborough writes for the Telegraph.

In my last article I talked about one of the flavours of Christmas coming from oft-forgotten marzipan.

The other ingredient used prolifically at this time of year which I’d like to talk about is cinnamon.

A spice predominantly from Africa and Asia we use it now easily and liberally (well it is in my kitchen), to flavour a range of sweet and savoury foods.

At Christmas it is used alongside nutmeg and mixed spice in just about everything – mincemeat, Christmas cake, Christmas pudding, stollen, cookies – the list is endless.

Many may think of cinnamon as a modern ingredient which was popularised between the 1950s and 1970s when our multicultural nation expanded rapidly, and our new neighbours brought and shared a wide variety of flavours from warmer climates which we now take for granted when we enjoy a curry, a tagine, or jerk chicken for example.

But cinnamon has been used in Britain since as early as the Middle Ages as the New Worlds were being discovered and explored.

The spices of the Far East were used in times gone by to flavour otherwise bland food, as sugar was a luxury only affordable to the privileged few until more sugar beet plantations were established.

Then as more new foods were imported, such as tea and coffee, cinnamon was used to sweeten these beverages and make them more palatable until we became accostumed to them.

This was recently seen on the BBC programme The Paradise where cinnamon coffee was being taken.

In homage to this I have been working with the tea and coffee specialists at Irvin’s House of Flavour, in High Street, Wellingborough, to recreate cinnamon coffee as it would have been in The Paradise.

This smooth coffee is not flavoured by a syrup (which can be quite sickly) but the cinnamon is blended in when grinding, creating a coffee with a natural, subtle taste, ideal for diabetics (although not suitable for those who are pregnant). The taste can be enhanced with sugar if desired.

Cinnamon coffee is now exclusively available in the tearoom, and perfectly complements all the other spicy Christmas treats available to eat in the tearoom this month.

And if you want a full-on cinnamon overload how about trying the coffee with my cinnamon toast and English muffins, or with a cattern when available.

What is a cattern, I hear you ask?

Catterns have traditionally been made in Northamptonshire for many centuries by lacemakers celebrating St Catherine’s Day, Cattern being a form of the name Catherine.

The mixture of this cake/biscuit hybrid is swirled around to make a shape akin to a Catherine wheel firework.

I have resurrected this local recipe for the tearoom, and can best describe them as a chewy cinnamon cookie.

Finally, I would like to give thanks to all who have supported me so far, and wish you all a merry Christmas and a happy New Year.