I'm sure that the tea sommeliers of this world could wax lyrical about our ancient brew's chemical qualities, so I'll leave that to the experts. For me, the soothing power of tea is as much about the cathartic ritual that a cup of the good stuff entails - the kitchen table, loved ones, biscuits, inevitable tears and, in most cases, resolution.
It's little wonder that we Brits take tea so seriously. If ancient practice is to be believed, the dregs of any good teacup can foretell the future and, faced as we are with the insoluble national debate over what makes the perfect cup, I'd wager that our infatuation with tea is here to stay.
Tea is on my (long, and ever lengthening) list of things I would like to learn more about one day but, for the moment, I'm happy as the tea-heathen I am, often found clutching a large mug of builders. When it came to translating my favourite brew into cake form however, the situation called for something with a touch more class, and smoky fresh Earl Grey works perfectly.
Sandwiched with sweet honey and a tang of lemon buttercream, this cake packs the punch of a mug with every slice. Perhaps adding the contents of two teabags is a little unconventional, but nobody wants a tea cake which doesn't taste of tea. If you like, you could strain the milk before you add it to the cake batter.
2 Earl Grey teabags
200ml full fat milk
200g caster sugat
50ml sunflower oil
180g plain flour
3 tsp baking power
1/2 tsp fine salt
125g icing sugar
1 tsp honey
1 tbsp lemon juice
Preheat the oven to 180C, and line x2 5" cake tins with parchment. In a small pan, heat the milk until it is just boiling, then remove from the heat and empty the contents of the teabags into the hot milk. Stir and leave to cool.
In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs with a tablespoon of the flour, and beat until smooth. With the mixer running, add the oil, then the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the cooled milk, straining first if preferred, and beat until you have a smooth, runny batter. Pour into your prepared tins, and bake in the center of the oven for 15-25 minutes until risen, golden and the cakes pass the knife test.
Transfer the cakes to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely. Separately, make the buttercream icing. Beat the butter until pale, then gradually add the icing sugar a spoon at a time, until all has been added and you have a sandy mixture. Add the honey and the lemon juice one teaspoon at a time, and once the mixture is just wet enough beat it for 5-7 minutes, so that it is airy, pale and fluffy.
Spoon the buttercream into a piping bag, and use to sandwich and decorate your cake. Serve with tea and good company.