Afternoon Tea in Gaiman, Patagonia – the Welsh Heritage and Welsh Tea Cake Recipe
After sailing through the Rio de la Plata to Uruguay and exploring Montevideo and Punta del Este for a couple of days we begun our journey south-west in the calm waters of the Sea of Argentina until we entered the Golfo Nuevo towards our next destination, Puerto Madryn,
Welsh History in Patagonia
Puerto Madryn was originally home to the indigenous Tehuelche people who lived off the sea and land. It was later settled by 150 Welsh immigrants who arrived from Wales in late 1800s after two months aboard the clipper Mimosa. The unlikely group, seeking to escape religious prosecution in their country arrived here hoping to create a traditional Welsh community in the new world. They came at the invitation of the Argentinian government who wanted to establish their authority in this disputed region and was seeking immigrants to settle there. The Welsh were lured with the promise of a large tract of land to be given to them near the Chubut river and government help in establishing farms and housing. Arriving at the shore, the Settlers named the port Puerto Madryn in honour of the Welsh Baron Madryn who was instrumental in getting them to Argentina.
Upon their arrival none of the provisions promised by the government were waiting for them in this isolated, inhospitable land and the settlers had to dig caves in the cliffs above the shore for shelter until supplies arrive. You can still see these caves, dug into the rocks of Punta Cuevas as you drive into Perto Madryn today. Eventually provisions arrived and the Government asked the Tehuelche to help the Welsh get settled and teach them the way of the land. Thankfully for the Welsh, the natives were gentle and hospitable and helped them understand how to survive in the harsh conditions. The Chubut river that was needed for water and irrigation was not near the shore and some of the men left on a trek inland to find it. They decided to settle there and later sent for the women and children to join them. Soon after they built an agricultural community along the shores of the river, irrigated by canals they dug by hand from the river to their fields.
An influx of immigrants from other countries ensued but the Welsh influence is strongly felt in Patagonia to this day. There are a number of small towns preserving the distinct Welsh heritage of those original settlers.
Afternoon Welsh tea in Gaiman
We wanted to track the Welsh history and drove to Trelew where Welsh heritage is particularly well preserved. Trelew means “the village of Lew” referring to the village founder Lewis Jones. There are about five small Welsh towns in the area, too many towns, too little time. They are known for their tearooms serving afternoon Welsh style tea. For our afternoon tea we drove to the small town of Gaiman who’s main attraction are its Casas de Te (tea houses).
We stopped at the famous Ty Gwyn Casa de Te located on the tree lined Yrigoyen avenue in Gaiman. The place was founded in 1974 by Alberto and Maria Elena and now run by their daughters Daisy and Sonia who are dedicated to creating a tearoom that celebrates the Welsh settlers legacy.
We had tea in a room set with white cloth covered tables and tea paraphernalia and women in traditional dress soon came with platters of sandwiches and sweets, from finger sandwiches, buttered bread and homemade jam, traditional Torta Alesa (fruit tart) and various cream tarts and scones. Everything was made in their kitchen and quite delicious. We ate and ate throwing all caution to the Patagonian wind and drank a few cups of dark tea savouring the food, drink and the surrounding.
The tea was poured from teapots kept warm with hand knitted tea cozies that are also available for sale at the tearoom (did I get one? Need you ask? Of course). The tea was very (very) dark, made from tea leaves they sell as well. The tea was as dark as coffee but never mind, it was so delicious and warm that we drank a few cups each, with a little sugar and thick cream poured in as well.
When in Welsh Patagonia do as the Welsh do. I can’t wait to get back to this interesting, remote part of the world.
Welsh Tea Cakes Recipe
These are not too sweet tea cakes, crispy on the outside, soft inside. Serve with butter or homemade jam.
Scant 2 1/2 cups self rising flour
1 stick butter, salted
1 cup powdered sugar
1/3 cup sultana raisins
1 egg, beaten
1-2 tablespoons cream
Combine flour and butter in a food processor and pulse a few time to create large crumb like texture. Do not over process.
Transfer to a bowl and add the sugar, raisins and egg and mix to form a dough.
Roll the dough on a floured surface to about 3/4 inch thickness.
Cut into 3″ rounds with a cookie cutter.
Cook the cakes on a baking sheet in a 350ºF oven or in an electric griddle, lightly buttered.
Cook until the cakes are beginning to turn golden.
Let cool slightly, then dust with powder sugar or cinnamon sugar.