Historic Recipe: Tea Caudle (1736)

Source: The Compleat Housewife, or, Accomplish’d Gentlewoman’s Companion by Eliza Smith (1736)

A much older recipe this time – right back to the eighteenth century.

Eliza Smith was a cook and a housekeeper in a number of wealthy households and this book, first published in 1727, met a growing need for a guide to assist women with their task of running a household. Containing food recipes alongside those for alcoholic drinks, medicines and ointments, the book is remembered today for recording the first recipes for ‘katchup’ and bread and butter pudding. It was incredibly popular and ran to eighteen editions across a fifty year span as well as having the honour of being the first cookbook to be published in America (by William Parks in Williamsburg, Virginia, 1742).

Best of all it’s available at Google Books for free, right here

I decided to tackle a recipe for tea caudle, what’s that? Good question. Ale or wine caudles were thickened hot drinks containing sweetened alcohol. A variety of thickeners were used including egg yolks, ground almonds or, later, oats. Caudle remained widely consumed until the nineteenth century. Tea caudle seems to have been a mid to late-seventeenth century creation when tea was first introduced from China and follows the pattern of traditional caudles but with the unsurprising addition of tea

Make a quart of strong green Tea, and pour it out into a skillet, and set it over the fire; then beat the yolks of four eggs, and mix with them a pint of white-wine, a grated nutmeg, sugar to your taste, and put it all together; stir it over the fire till ‘tis very hot, then drink it in China dishes as caudle.

I quartered this recipe as it seemed rather a lot to make of something I was vaguely suspicious of, also I refuse to waste a pint of wine for anyone– new quantities as follows:

½ pint strong green tea
1 egg yolk
Quarter of a grated nutmeg (about 1tsp)
¼ pint white wine

I used some loose-leaf gunpowder green tea that I brought back from Morocco and left it to brew for about half an hour to make it nice and strong. I strained it and threw it in a pan, then mixed up all the other ingredients as instructed -‘sugar to your taste’ threw me a little bit, but I guessed and used 2-3tsps of soft brown sugar and that seemed about right. This made a yolk-y, wine-y, rather disgusting looking liquid that I added to the hot tea slowly, stirring continuously. I kept stirring (which was really boring) until it was all hot and then served.

The resulting liquid looked like weak tea with slightly on the turn milk in it – the sort of pale tea that someone who doesn’t understand tea makes, something my grandma used to refer to as ‘maiden’s piss’. It tasted warming and slightly spicy with a weird citrusy wine-kick at the end – I definitely wouldn’t want to drink it at breakfast time but it wasn’t exactly unpleasant, just really, really strange.

Suggested alterations: I can’t decide how I feel about this recipe, sorry.

Final verdict: The drink is so bizarre to modern tastebuds that I don’t think it’s due for a revival.


2 thoughts on “Historic Recipe: Tea Caudle (1736)

Add yours

  1. Tea and wine – strange indeed. I did try a delicious tea drink once, though, which I called a pot-tail – it was green tea, gin, and Pimms. Some other stuff, too, but all in all, delicious. Served cold, though, not hot. Maybe it was the hotness that turned you off?


    1. That sounds amazing – three of my favourite things in the same glass. You’re right it might have been because it was hot, it was just very strange.


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