Recipes from Scotland 1680s to 1940s



In the late 17th century, tea was popular particularly with women — unlike coffee, which was the fashionable drink for gentlemen.

By 1715, when Margaret Carnegie settled her bill for expensive 'green tea' and 'bohea tea', tea-drinking using the new tea kettles, tea pots and china was well-established among the Scottish female élite.

Afternoon tea

Tea, blended by the customer, was the drink for ladies who would gather in the afternoon to sip tea, eat cake and exchange gossip.

'We had every reason to be satisfied with our Landlord for what he provided, as besides bread & butter cut, he supplied us with plenty of tea cakes of several sorts & his teapot sugar dish and milk ewer wd not have disgraced a London silversmith. Our party was very merry and did not leave us till past nine.'
— Judith Beecroft, journal of 'Mrs and Miss Beecroft's Third Visit to Scotland', [Library reference: 1833.MS.1393]


Taxation and transport costs initially put tea beyond the reach of ordinary Scots, and smuggling was rife. Many, especially men, were suspicious of it and considered it an indulgence.

After 1784, when a new flat and lower rate of tax was introduced, tea became more socially acceptable.

Sweetened tea later replaced ale as the accompaniment to food in most homes.

To this day, tea remains the drink of choice for many Scots.

Handwritten bill including an order for green tea

Margaret Carnegie's bill of 1715, addressed to 'Modem Fleatcher', includes expensive bohea tea and green tea. By permission of Andrew Fletcher of Saltoun. [Library reference: MS.5065, f.4v]