Make Ahead

Black Tea Jelly

April 19, 2010
3 Ratings
  • Serves enough for a small dinner party
Author Notes

While Amanda and I were researching and testing old New York Times recipes for her upcoming cookbook, we came across a lot of 19th century recipes for jellies, gelatin molds and blanc-manges (according to my mother, pronounced “blaw-mawnge”). Both suckers for “nursery food,” we agreed that it’s kind of sad that these wobbly, comforting -- and often beautiful -- desserts have passed out of fashion in this country.

In the eighties, my mother often made a gelatin mold flavored with sherry, which she served at dinner parties with just a drizzle of heavy cream. But she hasn’t made a lot of dessert molds over the past decade, and recently she bequeathed me her wonderful collection of ceramic molds, collected over the course of several decades, each with its own wire harness for hanging and display purposes. A few weeks ago, I just happened to be thinking about all those great homemade jellies as I sipped a cup of my favorite tea, and it occurred to me that a tea-flavored jelly could be a wonderful, light end to a meal – or even part of a composed dessert, perhaps with a rich, milky ice cream and a crisp cookie of some kind.

I went home and experimented, using one of my mother’s beautiful antique molds, and came up with this almost embarrassingly simple recipe. It is indeed light -- really almost a palate cleanser -- and just barely sweet. If you like more sweetness, feel free to add more sugar; if you’re after an even more delicate tea flavor, use less tea and more water, or just steep the tea for less time. This recipe yours to play with. The only thing I don’t recommend adjusting is the proportion of gelatin to liquid. —Merrill Stubbs

What You'll Need
  • 2 cups of your favorite black tea (I use Taylor's of Harrogate Scottish Breakfast), strongly brewed and cooled to room temperature
  • 2 packets (1/2 an ounce) powdered gelatin
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  1. Brush a 4-cup mold or bowl lightly with vegetable oil.
  2. Sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the tea and let it soften for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, put a kettle on to boil. When the water boils, measure out 1½ cups and stir in the sugar until it dissolves. Add the tea and gelatin and stir until the gelatin dissolves, about a minute.
  3. Carefully pour the liquid into the mold and refrigerate for several hours, until set. To unmold the tea jelly, set it in a bowl of very hot water for about 30 seconds, place a serving plate over the top, hold your breath, and flip. If you don’t hear a squelching noise, followed by a plop, jiggle the mold a little. Once it's safely on the plate, decorate the edges of the gelatin mold with berries or whatever else you’d like, parade it into the dining room and serve with heavy cream or vanilla ice cream on the side.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • betty888
  • Baguette & Beurre
    Baguette & Beurre
  • jessalikestoeat
  • midnitechef
  • gluttonforlife

12 Reviews

betty888 August 20, 2021
I made this tonight for a small dinner party just for kicks. Something new! Wanting a little more complexity in the flavor, I used Tazo Chai black tea and grated the zest of an orange into the tea/gelatin/sugar mixture and let it steep for a bit. I strained the liquid. when I poured it into the molds so the jelly wouldn’t have any bits in it. I also increase the sugar by about a tablespoon (it was still quite subtle). I didn’t have a proper mold so I used two small (2 cup) metal mixing bowls. It set up well (it spent a bit of time in the freezer) and plopped right out. I served it with lightly sweetened vanilla whipped cream and blackberries and our guests raved! One of our guests brought macrons which were also enjoyable to pair with the jelly. I was sort of surprised - wasn’t expecting that much, to be honest! I will definitely make this again - it’s so easy and a refreshing palate cleanse after a heavier meal.
Baguette &. March 7, 2013
I'd love to try the recipe but don't have a mold -- can it be done in a plain bowl? Or perhaps cups or glasses for individual timbale-like servings? this, and the coffee jelly, seem a great way to end a seder meal -- light, leaven-free, and fortifying g for the remainder of the evening.
Cookie16 September 9, 2012
Any idea how long this will keep?

I am dying to make this with my favorite French tea as I can't find their tea jelly anywhere in the U.S.! Thank you, Merrill!
Merrill S. September 9, 2012
Like Jell-o, it's best eaten within a few days. Hope you like it!
Cookie16 September 9, 2012
Oh crap. Well I'll just have to eat a whole lot of scones then. :)

Thanks Merrill!
Ascender July 8, 2012
Your post makes me regret having donated my mother's lovely copper-colored aluminum molds when we moved her into Assisted Living. I have limited cupboard space and it was hard choosing what to keep. She had a fish shaped mold and used it to make salmon mousse. It had round "dimples" that she would put cocktail onions in, then add a layer of clear gelatin and let it firm up before filling.
jessalikestoeat July 8, 2012
This is commonly used in Taiwanese bubble tea, typically jasmine or black tea jelly, in place of the tapioca pearls. Even though I like it in my milk tea, I've never had it simply as a jelly. Good idea, Merrill!
midnitechef January 20, 2012
Aspic, here I come!
healthycooking4all November 24, 2011
This is a great idea. I love making gelatin molds for the easy and inexpensive. I still have my old tried and try tupperware molds. My favorite holiday mold is made with an herbal orange spice tea from Celestial Seasonings and gives all the health benefits of an herbal tea to the recipe without the caffeine. I do add a touch of stevia to my tea mold recipes. Yum!
gluttonforlife May 22, 2011
Somehow I missed this last year when I was going through my own obsession with aspic! This looks beautiful and I will have to give it a try with jasmine tea...
OK, directly after my final exam tomorrow I am running out to buy a pretty gelatin mold! What a beautiful recipe!
Sagegreen April 17, 2011
Thank you for this recipe. Love the dinner with a movie post. You have a lovely articulate set of directions with this recipe, especially with the unmolding part! This is really similar to the coffee aspic jelly my husband's grandmother always made during the holidays which I am trying to tweak.