Is it Tea time?

  • The custom of tea drinking was brought to Europe by Dutch and Portuguese traders in the 17th century and rapidly spread to Ottoman Empire. However in Ottoman occupied Greece it never became popular. Its high price, the dominance of herbal teas and infusions and the growth of coffee consumption excluded tea from the list of favorite nonalcoholic drinks.

  • When Greece escaped from Ottoman rule the drinking of tea was put in a context of luxurious goods. The cookbooks of the late 19th and early 20th century, which had been written for the new emerging middle class, provided detailed instructions for the preparation, serving and drinking tea. Thus tea became an opportunity to practice good manners and civility.
  • If the drinking of tea in upper – class establishments was agreeable relaxation, a social event, a chance of gossip, even an opportunity for the promotion of charity, among highly educated Greeks was blended with political, philosophical and literary talks.
  • The lower classes and the very poor used it as a panacea for high-fever diseases, dysenteria or as drink for old people.
  • What should be served for an early 20th century Greek tea party? Cakes, cookies, fresh bread, rusks, butter and marmalade.
  • The old cookbooks mention that someone should never dip a piece of buttered bread into his tea.


 1 cup olive oil

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 cups orange juice

2 tb cognac

1 tb baking powder

flour as much as needed

1 cup sesame seeds

cold water

Mix the flour and baking powder in a bowl. Set aside.

Cream the olive oil and sugar together.

Add congac, the orange juice and 1/3 cup sesame seeds. Mix well.

Add the flour and mix well. Preheat the oven to 375 F and oil a baking sheet.

Place the dough on a floured surface and knead until smooth.

Take small amounts of dough and shape into little fingers.

Dip each cookie into the cold water and then roll in sesame seeds until well coated.

Place on baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes or until golden.

Let cool on a rack.

(Er. Yogaraki, Arta 1930)

This is my entry for Spring Tea Party hosted by The Skinny Gourmet.



18 thoughts on “Is it Tea time?

  1. Yes Maria, they are crispy. In fact, not only are the cookies crispy, the sesame seeds themselves are as well.
    They are perfect with an afternoon tea or coffee and great dipped in milk.

  2. These sound fabulous! I’ve never made sesame cookies before, but my husband loves them when we buy them out at cafes. And I am particularly excited by the wonderful history of tea in Greece that accompanies this recipe. What a great addition to the tea party roundup!

  3. Thank you Erin,

    I also enjoy so much reading your entries. And I am looking forward to read the other posts about tea culture and tea recipes.

  4. Yes, these look like wonderful tea cookies (or coffee for that matter). I will definitely make them. Is the publication you mention they were in a book or a magazine?

    I’m really interested in your books – are they still in print? If so, what are their names in Greek? I’d like to buy them when we’re in Greece in the fall.

    I am so intrigued by the hints you make, like in this article, about older Greek cookbooks. I have collected English language Greek cookbooks for many years and probably have 350 or so. I have a number of Greek language cookbooks but they are from the last 20 years or, if they are older, tend towards an international style of cooking as oppposed to a traditional style.

    Also, do you know of any bibliographies that exist for Greek-language Greek cookbooks? Can you tell that I’m deeply interested int his subject? I AM!

    Sorry if I’ve asked too many questions…

  5. My books will be available in bookstores in 2009. The sesame cookies’ recipe is in E. Yogaraki’s hand written cookbook.

    The Libraries and local Historical Archives have collections of cookbooks — some dating back to the 1880. It is true that until the 1960s, the Greek cookbooks had developed recipes and cooking style based mainly on French cuisine. So, I usually have to read behind the lines. Old magazines, old newspapers, hand written family cookbooks, history books, archaeological finds (for ancient cuisine), commercial lists, import-export lists etc. give me major help. Besides, the most important part of understanding food history comes in understanding of historical, social even political environment.

    Before you come to Greece send me an email. I’ll be glad to help you.

  6. Yes, I agree about the need to understand the historical, social, and political environment if you want to understand food history. I’ll be very interested to read your books when they come out (and I’m a little glad they aren’t out yet because it means my googling skills are still intact). Thanks for the very kind and generous offer of help.

  7. Mariana, I speak ungrammatical Greek, and particuarly struggle with verbs. I read Greek pretty well depending on the topic. Cookbooks and articles aobut food I read quite easily (probably because I’ve read a lot of them) – subjects like politics and philosophy are harder. Our Greek house is in a rural village and none of our friends, relatives, shopkeepers etc. speak English and I get by there without difficulty.

    By the way, who is E. Yogaraki?

  8. Erasmia Yogaragi is a woman from Arta (Epirus) who gave me her hand written recipes and a huge amount of information on the local culinary traditions. She died 3 years ago, at the age of 90.

  9. I never enjoyed history lesson so much till now. But well, this is about tea…and food. Will be nice if they introduce this in school 🙂

    Lovely cookies.

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