Ode to the Humble Tea Bun

Anyone who has visited Newfoundland and Labrador has likely been introduced to the simple pleasures that seem to burst from the seams of this place. It could be a sunrise, salt air, sea breezes, vistas that reach out into forever, or a word with a local passerby. Perhaps it’s a cup of tea served with a treat that you may have overlooked, until now that is.

We are, of course, talking about the simple pleasure of the humble tea bun. A baked good that is as analogous as anything to the elegant necessities of a culture, people and place that go back many years. At some point European visitors showed up and brought with them the necessary ingredients of flour, sugar, baking powder, butter, milk and eggs and so began the Newfoundland and Labrador Tea Bun.

Slathered with jam, this becomes a decadent treat
The occasion for consumption of a tea bun is also as varied as the people who call this place home. Breakfast, yes. Add some cheddar cheese or ham and bacon for a savory lunch. Dinner? In a pinch maybe and they make a fantastic dessert with freshly picked berries and cream.

Taking pride in the simpler things is what makes life here satisfying and delightful. Although the ingredients that go into a tea bun are straightforward, don’t let that fool you as the finished product is in fact deceptively refined. Unadorned and yet a polished product unafraid to be what it is, the tea bun most certainly transcends generations as well.

Pairs well with conversation

The tea bun also leaps past the formalities of dining as it is just as delicious a dessert served on the finest china or as a snack on a hike. They have also been known to be sent as a part of a care package to a loved one or slathered in your favourite condiment for guests who popped in for a visit at tea time.

Tea buns freeze well, so they keep for another day, making them a wonderful gift to your future self no less.

Baking can be done in a versatile manner as well, whether using a baking pan, cookie sheet or a cast iron skillet, they all turn out equally hearty and tasty almost as if a touchstone to a time gone by, a link to the past where many things were different but some stay the same.

Now that we have piqued your appetite, perhaps you would like to try making them on your own? Here is a recipe from Lori McCarthy who is, among many incredible things, an innovative chef, forager, hunter, educator and enthusiastic outdoors person. She is also a pioneer of the local food renaissance, whose family has been making them for generations.You can find this recipe in her book Food, Culture, Place: Stories, Traditions, and Recipes of Newfoundland. Here is a link to find out more.


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A post shared by Lori McCarthy (@foodcultureplace)


Traditional Newfoundland and Labrador Tea Buns

Lori McCarthy
Food, Culture, Place

3 cups of flour
4 tsp baking powder
1 cup butter
½ tsp salt
½ cup sugar

Crumble in the butter with your hands being careful not to overwork your dough.

Mix together and add:
(reserving ¼ cup so your dough is not too wet and add only if you need to): ¾ cups milk and 1 egg.

Gently bring together the mixture with a light touch patting, not kneading. Pat to a 1” thickness on a floured surface, cut out rounds with a glass and lay on parchment paper.

Brush with egg wash or milk for nice browning.
Bake at 450 – 20 mins."

If you have a favourite tea bun you would like to share, we would like to see it. Tag us on Instagram @NewfoundlandLabrador and use our hashtag #ExploreNL when you post.

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