Earlier this month, I shared a photo from our Burlington Photo Collection with Mark Bushnell for his article, Burlington’s Winter Carnival was a Smash Hit, in VTDigger. Shot from Church Street, the photo shows the Main Street coasting hill and spectators watching a traverse pull up to the finish line. We both noticed the sign to the left of the Coasting Club arch advertising “Hot Beef Tea.”
Although today we might expect a sign advertising hot chocolate, hot beef tea was a popular drink in the late 19th century, promoted for invalids, as a temperance alternative to alcoholic beverages and for refreshment. Burlington’s carnival organizers included refreshment stands as one of the event attractions. Reporting on carnival preparations on February 11, 1886, the Burlington Clipper reported, “The ice obelisk in the park is completed, and is draped with boards and blankets to keep off the sun. The first floor of the structure forms a good-sized room, which will probably be used for a beef tea restaurant.” On March 5, the Burlington Independent noted, “The beef tea and bouillon on sale at the slides and the coasting hill was in great demand last week, especially on Friday afternoon, during the cold wind storm.”
At least three businesses on Burlington’s Church Street advertised hot beef tea in winter months during the 1880s and 1890s. In December 1886, perhaps capitalizing on the carnival sales earlier in the year and looking ahead to an 1887 carnival, Zottman and Company, a drug store at 17 Church Street, advertised an apparatus that provided hot water and beef tea “in a surprisingly short time.” The tea was most likely quickly prepared from commercial beef extracts. Zottman & Co., praised as the best soda fountain in the state, promoted beef tea with a series of small advertisements.
In 1888, Confectioner J. D. Tousley installed a new hot soda fountain and began serving beef tea along with other beverages farther south at 106 Church Street.
J. D. Kent, advertising as Kent the Confectioner, set up shop near Tousley at 101 Church street. In 1890, he promoted his hot drinks, highlighting BEEF TEA. His ad targeted “ladies out shopping,” assuring them that Kent’s was a pleasant place to rest and refresh.
We may not be able to find beef tea at Church Street candy stores today, but recipes for homemade beef tea abound in cookbooks and on internet recipe pages. I found the one below in my 1964 edition of the classic Joy of Cooking.
Contributed by Prudence Doherty, Public Services Librarian