Tuesday 7 December 2010

Konditor and Cook - My Saviours

Leisurely afternoon teas have sadly been out of the question for me lately, but that doesn't mean I haven't been making the effort to indulge in a quick cuppa and little something sweet. Thank goodness then for Konditor and Cook. From their fantastic mince pies to their tangy Black Gingerbread, their shops shops really are a sight for work-weary eyes. I could write a post on pretty much any one of their cakes (yes I have tried most of them...) but I'm here to tell you about their amazing brownies.

Monday 22 November 2010

A Dangerous Mug Obsession

Orla Kiely mugs by post
 During our recent move Coffee Boy insisted that I get rid of some of my enormous collection of mugs. I was horrified at the suggestion. What? Give away that 25p IKEA mug I bought for work eight years ago? No way! But on arrival at our new house I had to admit that the drinking vessel situation had got a little out of hand.

Monday 1 November 2010

Review: Barcomi's, Mitte - Revisited

You may remember that some time ago I wrote about a rather disappointing cake-away I'd had from Barcomi's in Berlin's Mitte. Well, in the spirit of fairness I decided it was time to go back. As I reported late last year I have been to Barcomi's - both the Mitte & Kreuzberg branch - many times and last Christmas was the first time I'd been anything other than impressed.

Friday 22 October 2010

Review: Petitou, Peckham

Petitou fig walnut cake

One of the best things about moving house is exploring all the little shops and restaurants of your new 'hood. But obviously for me it's all about discovering previously unknown cafes and teashops. So when my friend L told me she had spotted a nice looking cafe near the place she does an upholstery course (note to self: check out the courses there ASAP) I could hardly wait to go.

Wednesday 13 October 2010

Life Beyond Tea

Japanese Sencha cup
I know it's sacrilegious to say it but sometimes there is more to life than tea and over the last few months I have found myself desperate to write about other things. I am a huge fan of design, beautiful fabric and all sorts of other arty and crafty things. When this came up in conversation with my friend Trudi and she told me that she was also thinking about starting a blog, we decided to combine forces and set one up together (particularly appealing as we both have pretty busy day jobs...).

Tuesday 28 September 2010

Spiced Maple and Pecan Muffin Recipe

Spiced maple and pecan muffin recipeI really feel like I've been duped. How can I have got this far in life without discovering just how simple muffins are to make?

For someone who considers themselves a fairly enthusiastic baker, I recently realised I've never made a muffin in my life. This thunderbolt hit me when my lovely friend R bought me Muffin Magic by Susannah Blake as part of a rather wonderful housewarming present. I suppose I had always assumed that muffins would be much more difficult to make than, for instance, cupcakes as they have a more bready texture. But how wrong I was. The first muffins I tried were a savoury cheese and onion batch which turned out amazingly well. Frankly it came as something of a surprise as throughout the mixing process - which took all of about 10 minutes - I kept thinking, this can't be right; it's just too easy.

Tuesday 21 September 2010

Back in the Game

PG Tips moving house

Hello tea friends! It feels like I have been away so long. Let's just say I've been in house moving hell where the only tea I've been making (although rarely drinking) is the above.

But now I'm almost settled I plan to get resolutely back on the tea and cake horse. More anon (and thanks for bearing with me)...

Sunday 15 August 2010

Review: Tate Britain Tea Update

Tate Britain afternoon tea Rex WhistlerFirstly apologies for recent quietness - a job has been keeping me very busy and away from the blog for a couple of weeks. To make up for my lack of afternoon teas I decided to pop to the nearby Rex Whistler restaurant at Tate Britain today. I have written about the excellent afternoon tea there before but as things have undergone a few changes I thought I'd just mention it again.

Friday 30 July 2010

What's with the Milk?

Germany tea coffee creamerWhat is wrong with this picture? Have you spotted it yet? Yes, it's the plate full of coffee creamer. Rarely a good thing in my book these little plastic pots, but when served up alongside a pot of tea? Yuk.

Friday 23 July 2010

Tea and Chocolate - A Dream Combination

Matcha Chocolat tea chocolatesWhen Sarah from the lovely Maison Cupcake contacted me recently to say I'd won a giveaway I was thrilled. When I realised it was for a box of tea flavoured chocolates I was pretty much ecstatic! Somehow the existence of Matcha Chocolat had passed me by, which was frankly a miracle as it is a product combining two of my favourite things in the world. Such is my love for tea flavoured chocolates I had previously sought them out at Pierre Marcolini and l'Artisan du Chocolat amongst others but here was an opportunity to have a whole box devoted to that most glorious of combinations. I awaited them with eager anticipation.

Thursday 15 July 2010

Where's the Green Tea?

Frae Islington frozen yoghurtIf you're in London, I'm sure the latest craze for frozen yoghurt hasn't passed you by (and if you're in the States you're probably thinking "latest craze??"). I wasn't overly fussed about it having had a couple of fairly disappointing tubs but then I discovered that Frae offered a green tea flavour and I hot-footed (or hot-wheeled) it up to Islington to try some. My anticipation grew as I saw that one of the toppings on offer was mochi - the pounded rice sweets I had so enjoyed in Japan. I also added some mango and was ready to go. Well, it was another disappointment I'm afraid. Sure the mango was deliciously ripe, and the mochi were nice but where was the green tea in the frozen yoghurt? At first I thought I'd been served the wrong flavour but on comparison with Coffee Boy's I could taste that it was a bit different but I'd have been hard-pressed to tell you what the flavour I was eating was.

Friday 9 July 2010

Green Tea cupcakes

Green tea cupcakes buttercream
Recently I decided to indulge two of my favourite things at once: tea and cakes. But not in the usual way: you know a lovely cake with an accompanying cuppa. No, this time I planned to enjoy both in one creation. Luckily, the lovely Rachel that I met on my cupcake course last year had sent me a recipe for green tea cupcakes that I adapted a little. In truth, although I loved the way the matcha frosting turned out, the tea flavour in the cupcake was a little bit too subtle for me. But then I do love my tea... I might be tempted to up the tea content in the cakes in future and lose the cocoa powder altogether. Still, they went down very well with everyone else so here's the recipe I used.

Tuesday 6 July 2010

Review: Fleet River Cafe, Holborn

Fleet River Bakery afternoon teaIt always makes me happy when I read about a new independent cafe. With so many chains filling every high street in the UK it's good to know that smaller enterprises can make a go of it. One such place I was particularly pleased to hear about was Fleet River Bakery. For those of you that don't know the Fleet River is one of London's old rivers that is now subterranean. It starts in Hampstead and flows down to the River Thames just near Blackfriars. Apparently there are certain spots where you can hear the river flowing beneath your feet as part of London's labyrinthine sewer system.

Tuesday 15 June 2010

Iced Matcha Latte in Style

Matcha latter Drole Naka-Meguro TokyoIt's hard to single out a favourite area in Tokyo: as with any huge metropolis there's so much diversity it feels crazy to pick just one spot. But an area I absolutely loved was Naka-Meguro and what's more, I stumbled across it almost by accident.

Sunday 6 June 2010

Happy Anniversary

I just wanted to post today to celebrate the first anniversary of my blog. It was exactly one year ago today that I first set sail on this journey and I've loved every minute of it. Meeting so many like-minded readers - and other bloggers - has been an unexpected joy and having a forum in which to talk at length about all things afternoon tea-related has probably helped me stay sane!

So thanks to all my regular readers; and those that just stop by from time-to-time. Here's to many more years of tea fun.

Saturday 29 May 2010

An Ace Iced Tea

Iced MugichaThere's no doubt that Kyoto is a pretty amazing city: attractive canals; the occasional glimpse of a Geisha; great food (even for a veggie) and far more temples than you could possibly shake a stick (or ring a bell) at. But the most significant thing about Kyoto for me was that it was where I finally learned to look up. Finding addresses in Japanese cities is basically a nightmare; and finding a bar to pop into for a quick drink is no mean feat either. But in Kyoto I cracked it.

Thursday 13 May 2010

Maid in Japan

Shinjuku Tokyo taxiFrom reading my last post you could be forgiven for thinking that Japan is simply a country of tranquil tearooms, zen gardens and traditions stretching back hundreds, if not thousands, of years. But, as I hinted, there is a whole other side to the place, and for my money it's a side every bit as interesting. Nowhere is this other side more evident than in Tokyo. Tokyo is quite definitely my kind of town: streets as busy as Oxford Street on a Saturday; neon lights that dazzle your eyes; and noise emanating from shops, arcades and even passing trucks. It may rain a lot (witness the umbrella cover dispensers outside every shop) and it may not be the most beautiful of places but it really feels alive.

Sunday 2 May 2010

Japanese Tea - The Bitter & The Sweet

Japanese matcha and wagashiSo, I'm finally back from my extended (thank you ash cloud) trip to Japan. And it was fantastic. I saw, ate and, of course, drank so many amazing things it's hard to know where to begin. Before I travelled eastwards I'd hoped that I might be able to have tea in at least one or two traditional tea houses, but I never in my wildest dreams imagined I would be indulging virtually every other day! As wonderful and individual as each of these experiences was I think writing about all of them might stretch everyone's patience so I have decided to concentrate on the tea that made the biggest impact on me.

Monday 19 April 2010

Stranded in Tea Heaven

Japanese matcha gateau

Sorry for the longer than expected hiatus. Thanks to the cloud of volcanic ash I am stranded in Tokyo. Although with delights such as Matcha Tea Cake to console me things could be worse... Hopefully normal service will resume sometime soon.

Wednesday 31 March 2010

A Little Tea Break

Japanese drinks vending machine

I am currently in Japan - a country so obsessed with tea, there are vending machines selling iced versions every 100 metres. So please excuse my lack of posts over the coming weeks.
I will be back with tales of tea nirvana soon!

Sunday 28 March 2010

Lavender & Chocolate Chip Cookies

Homemade lavender chocolate chip cookiesMuch as I love cupcakes – and in fact cakes in general – there are times when biscuits are called for; one such time was the other day. I had arranged to go to Miss O's for lunch and it wasn't until about an hour before I was due to leave that it hit me – I hadn't made anything sweet to take along. Never one to let an opportunity for baking pass me by I started searching for a recipe. What did I have in the cupboard? All of the usual basics: flour, butter, sugar etc. But what could give these biscuits a taste of the unexpected..? Chocolate – never wrong but hardly a shocking choice. And then it hit me: my old favourite, lavender. Perfect. I could make a sweet biscuit with lavender and chocolate chips.

Wednesday 24 March 2010

Little Blog Awards

I just wanted to post a little note to say thank you so much to everyone who has voted for me in the Dorset Cereals Little Blog Awards: I am currently in second place - which is very exciting! If you haven't voted yet and would like a chance to win a case of lovely Dorset Cereals - not to mention making me very happy in the process - please click on the link below.

Monday 22 March 2010

Last Impressions Count


I like to think I've got pretty good instincts. If I meet someone and don't warm to them I rarely find that we end up becoming good friends. Likewise, if I go into a shop, restaurant or cafe and get a bad vibe there's not much hope it's going to become a favourite. But sometimes first impressions can be misleading.

Monday 15 March 2010

Review: J&A Café, Clerkenwell

J and A cafe Clerkenwell cakesThe other day I had agreed to meet the lovely Miss O for a little afternoon get-together. She was coming from Islington and I offered to find us a delightful spot to have afternoon tea in the area. I was determined to cycle as it had been so long since I'd strapped on my rather chic helmet (yes, that's right I said chic!) so I started to do some research. I had a vague memory of a cafe I'd heard about in Clerkenwell, incidentally my favourite bit of town and the area that contains my familial roots (perhaps the two things are connected..?), and after a little bit of research I found it and arranged to meet Miss O there.

Sunday 7 March 2010

Chocolate Cupcakes with Vanilla & Rose

Chocolate cupcakes with vanilla buttercream and rose fondantI was giving a dinner party recently and wanted to be all thoroughly planned and organised. But in my more typical style it wasn't until a couple of days before that I got a chance to sit down and plan the menu. I quickly settled on the starter and main course but couldn't make up my mind about dessert until I stumbled upon Maison Cupcake's recipe for Chocolate & Raspberry Trifle: it sounded perfect as it could be prepared in advance thereby taking the pressure off on the day itself. The other big bonus was that the base of the trifle required chocolate sponge. I had an old friend coming for tea that day and hadn't made anything yet - chocolate cupcakes would offer a double whammy of delight!

Tuesday 2 March 2010

Review: BagCo, Charlottenburg

Kantstrasse and Fasanenstrasse from BagCo Charlottenburg

Whenever I am in Berlin I rarely venture to the west of the city. I'm not necessarily talking about the part of the city that used to be on the "right side" of the wall as I do hang out in Kreuzberg quite a bit - although I'm not sure that really counts. It's become something of a standing joke amongst my friends and family, and my Berlin-loving friend K likes to remind me that I no longer need to obtain a special pass to visit.

Wednesday 24 February 2010

Review: Lotterleben, Prenzlauer Berg


Kaffee und kuchen Berlin teaI'd heard that Berlin had recently had a big snowfall so I wasn't altogether surprised to see the entire city blanketed in white as my plane came in to land at Tegel Airport last week. But what did come as something of a shock was the eight inches of thick ice - still containing the residue of New Year's Eve fireworks - covering every pavement. Winters are always hard in Berlin but this was something else. Ice upon grit upon snow upon ice - well you get the picture. Undeterred Coffee Boy and I headed to the Mauerpark Flohmarkt the morning after we arrived. It's an enormous flea market held in a park where part of the wall used to run and sells everything from handcrafted baby clothes to bits of old electrical cable. In truth we were more interested in browsing than actually buying anything (sorry freezing stall holders) but did purchase some delicious caramel & mint licorice. After we'd had our fill of shuffling past the eclectic offerings we stopped to watch the intrepid sledgers on the steep hill in the park alongside - some of whom were reaching speeds that wouldn't look out of place in the Winter Olympics. By this stage we were thoroughly cold and decided that the best thing to warm us up would be a hot drink and perhaps a slice of cake.

Sunday 14 February 2010

Global Communitea

Patterdale TerrierIt was a cold and miserable day in London last Monday (no big surprises there - it is February) so walking Jimmy, my beloved terrier, was a little bit more of an effort than usual. It's not helped by the fact that as he gets older - he's around 16 - he gets more reluctant to go out in the rain himself. Anyway, on arriving home, damp and ever-so-slightly gloomy, I discovered a parcel left by the postman. It had come from Australia so I knew it had to be the tea that The Likkle Girl who Wurves Pwetty Things had promised to send me. But I was expecting a few tea bags and this was a not inconsiderable parcel. What could be inside?

Monday 8 February 2010

Upmarket Cupcakes

Upmarket Truman Brewery Brick Lane cupcakesI've realised I am becoming quite fussy when it comes to cupcakes. The more baking I do myself, the more I feel it's unacceptable for so-called bakeries to make a boring old vanilla cupcake, stick a few sweets on top and charge upwards of £1.75 for it. So what a delight to stumble upon Molly Bakes yesterday. I had a lunchtime bowling date for a friends birthday and on the way home decided to pop into UpMarket at the Truman Brewery to grab a bite to eat. One delicious Ethiopian injera wrap later it was time to head home. But just as I was thinking "hmmmnnn, what I really fancy is something sweet", the Molly Bakes stall appeared before me as if a vision. My growing scepticism about cupcakes may have encouraged me to walk on by were it not for the lavender cupcakes I spotted.

Thursday 4 February 2010

Banana Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting

Banana cupcake chocolate buttercream starI really hate wasting food; it just feels wrong on every level. But there are some things that no matter how infrequently I buy them, I seem to find myself tossing, mouldy, into the bin a week or two later. One such culprit is the black banana. Truth be told I'm not the world's biggest banana fan. Oh I like them and everything, but if I'm reaching for a piece of fruit it's generally fairly low down on my list of preferences. Coffee Boy purportedly loves them though, so from time to time I buy him a bunch. But clearly he doesn't love them quite enough as I often find them hanging sadly upon the banana stand (yes, yes, I know I have far too many kitchen gadgets) looking black and pretty yucky.

Tuesday 26 January 2010

Review: Bake-a-Boo, West Hampstead

Bake-a-Boo West Hampstead interior buntingMy quest to sample afternoon teas beyond zone 1 yesterday took me out to West Hampstead and back to the 1950s. I had arranged to meet up with Miss O and remembered hearing about a place not far from her called Bake-a-Boo. To make sure I wouldn't be disappointed after my journey up the Jubilee Line I phoned the day before to see if I could book a table. I was told I could but if I wanted the Afternoon Tea, I would have to book in advance and pay a deposit. I was somewhat taken aback but we were keen to skip lunch and make an afternoon of it so I went ahead, reserved and paid the 50% deposit.

Thursday 21 January 2010

A Greener Start to the Day

Genmaicha leaves teaThis morning as I walked, still bleary-eyed, into the kitchen, I was hit by a horrible realisation: we had run out of milk. Although this didn't pose a major problem for breakfast - fruit, yoghurt and granola is my preferred option at the moment - it did mean I couldn't start the day with my usual cup of tea. In the old days I used to like a latte first thing in the morning, but over the past few months I find I just can't wait for that first cup of lovely, refreshing tea. A fairly strong black tea with milk is now, definitely, my preferred way to start the day.

Sunday 17 January 2010

Review: High Tea of Highgate

High Tea of Highgate afternoon teaLiving in the centre of London, it sometimes feels like a little bit of an effort to travel anywhere for afternoon tea. There are so many nice cafes right on my doorstep, even heading out to zone 2 can seem unnecessary. But there are tea shops with quite a different feel when you move away from the hustle and bustle in the middle of town: less swish and corporate and more family-run in atmosphere, which means it's always worth seeking them out. This week I had the perfect excuse to make, admittedly only a small, journey to meet fellow blogger Caroline of Caroline, No. Once I discovered that she lived in north London I remembered a tea room I had heard about not far away and suggested we meet there to give it a go.

Monday 11 January 2010

The Perfect Mince Pie

Perfect mince pieI've always enjoyed cooking and especially baking. But in recent years the relentless treadmill of work means there's been little time to do much more than throw together dinner at the end of the day. My decision to become a freelancer, and specifically my decision to take more time off to try and achieve some kind of work/life balance, has changed all of that. Now I'm constantly looking for excuses to cook. Visiting a friend for tea? Quick make some cupcakes. Sister coming over for the day? Get that breadmaker fired up. Upcoming dinner party? Trial some recipes. Well, you can imagine that hosting Christmas gave me the perfect excuse to spend some time in the kitchen.

Thursday 7 January 2010

Review: Si An Tra, Prenzlauer Berg

Si An Tra Prenzlauer Berg cakeDespite what some people may assume, there is a lot of good food to be had in Berlin. Sadly, if you're a vegetarian, traditional German cuisine doesn't have a lot to offer. True there is Flammkuchen – a kind of pizza without the tomato sauce – and Käsespätzle can be nice on a cold day, but if you're looking for variety you need to seek out the increasing number of good restaurants serving ethnic food. Although Berlin can't really compete with London on that score, I always make an effort to visit the type of restaurants that are a bit of a schlep for me to reach in the Big Smoke.

Monday 4 January 2010

Review: Café Einstein, Mitte

Cafe einstein hot chocolate
Cafe Einstein is a Berlin institution. The original branch in the heart of Christopher Isherwood's Schoeneberg near Nollendorf Platz is a lovely place to while away a few hours. It's in an historic villa with all the grandeur of a country house. The Unter den Linden branch in Berlin's Mitte area can't really compete in terms of atmosphere but the menu is basically the same.

Saturday 2 January 2010

Tea is the Best Medicine

Bad Heilbrunner Erkaeltungs tee
I am a great believer in the healing properties of tea, but here in Germany they take that belief a whole stage further. Walk into any chemist, drug store or supermarket and you'll find a whole stand devoted to medicinal teas. I came down with a fairly terrible bought of flu over New Year a few years ago and a German friend sent me home with a selection of teas she assured me would help me feel much better. I was somewhat skeptical - this was in my pre-tea obsession days - and can't really remember if I drank them, or if I did what impact they had.

Well, New Year, new illness. This time it's Coffee Boy who has been nursing a stinking cold. Whilst purchasing herbal nasal sprays, echinacea bonbons and a variety of more heavy-duty drugs I happened upon a tea especially for colds. It contained such interesting things as Linden blossom, Elderberry leaves, Dandelion and Peony flowers. He wasn't convinced but was prepared to try anything so I prepared him a cup. And I must say, he felt much better after sipping the brew. So much so, in fact, that he has nearly finished the box. So it just goes to show, tea really is the best medicine.