Saturday, 28 April 2012

Afternoon Tea Kew Gardens

Hi all!

Despite the April showers at the moment, we took a trip to Kew Gardens, London, last weekend. We had a lovely day out and on seeing 'Afternoon Tea at the Orangery' quoted in the guide leaflet, we finished up there.
It is a lovely building and all the food looks of good quality but it wasn't quite the afternoon tea i was expecting.  I'm not sure if it was because we went later on in the day as opposed to lunch time or whether i've just been spoiled in the tea department!  ...You can only imagine the decadent images of sandwiches and scones that pop up in my head!

Finest tea?

Anyway, i saw on the menu was 'Kew's special blend tea' and that there were glass jars of loose tea on the counter, which looked very nice, so i asked which loose tea they had.  The lady serving just sort of barked that they were just for show and listed the teas they had so i quickly chose Jasmine and grabbed some chocolate cake! It was a very nice cake but at £3.50 per slice we decided to share a piece along with our drinks which was fine.


The tea was nice enough but wasn't quite the silk teabags and quality teas that I've had from places such as Teapigs and Jing before. Also, the teapot wasn't that polished up and there was some limescale in the bottom, ewwww haha! So i think this is probably what you expect from places offering tea because it doesn't always get quite the same amount of care as with coffee e.g. Costa "would you like chocolate sprinkles with that?"!  Since i aim high though, i do crave good service and think a bit more effort could be put in to serving tea.  

The Tea

Maybe it's just too busy in London for quality tea service but i had higher expectations at Kew compared to the standard tea shop, as it's such a famous garden and they know a thing or two about plants.  Perhaps the tea experience could have been as rich as the prices? 

Let me know what you think and have a great weekend!

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Glamping with a Cast Iron Teapot Kettle!

Yurt Holiday

Are you venturing into the realm of Glamping this year?  Glamping is a cross between camping and staying in a hotel really, and seems to be the new way of holidaying if you like the great outdoors but also a few creature comforts!

We decided to give it a go and headed for ‘York Yurts’ near York a few summers ago.  Yurts are usually fully equipped but knowing there’d be a wood-burning stove in the Yurt and wanting to be a real Mongolian Nomad, I wanted to buy a type of Teaport/kettle before we went so I could make cups of tea off the stove!

So I did a bit of research and found that a cast-iron teapot would be just the job for dealing with such high heat, such as on fires or stoves.  This means they can be used to boil water as kettles, or as teapots that keep the water hot for a much longer time.  Either way sounds useful to me!

Cast Iron teapots are very aesthetically pleasing and although they originated from ancient China, this is mostly due to the Japanese adopting them in the 17th century and giving them the name ‘Tetsubin’.  Since they were developed into being decorative items, you can really shop for one that suits you, looking at different shapes and colours.

My cast iron teapot

I wanted a hobnail design because I thought it would be much more likely to fit onto the surface of a wood-burning stove, as opposed to the ‘flared’ wide and shallow ones you could get.  I also thought black looked really authentic.

You can also get different sizes but I opted for one with a fairly small capacity for water because they’re heavy little things!  Health and Safety moment – the handle gets hot when it’s used as a kettle so I use a tea towel to protect my hands.  I’d also be cautious if you have any problems with your hands or with your fine motor skills because of the weight.

We really enjoyed our first Glamping experience in the Yurt and had lovely weather for it too.  One slight hitch was that because the weather was so nice, it was too hot to want the wood-burner on to make tea inside!  So we decided that it might be better to go Yurting in cooler conditions if you want to make use of the cast iron teapot indoors!  Luckily we were allowed fires outside the Yurt, which meant we could still make tea on the fire pit - hurray! 

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Why was Tea Street built?

Tea was a welcomed guest in my family growing up in 80’s England. My Mum couldn’t start the day without her cup of tea and on family Sundays my Granny would bring tea and cake round on her trolley, while singing a cheerful tune! It was always the traditional black tea, milk and lots of sugar too! So I always knew that tea was a useful tool for hosting guests and I now know this holds true for many families in many countries. Apart from the social side to it though, tea
itself didn’t seem like a particularly interesting drink to me then, I mean, what was there to know?

As I got older, I started to notice people drinking coffee, which seemed a bit more stylish and exciting with its Italian names ‘cappuccino’ and ‘latte’. Coffee also shared with tea a social side to it, but with a shift from home and family to European cafĂ© culture and independent living or travel. It was a staple of chic cities and people-watching afternoons or for the work-hard-party-hard professional.

It dawned on me though, that aside from these cultural differences, these drinks simply came from a plant, (Camellia Sinensis for tea) and usually grown somewhere much farther away than England. It’s easy to forget in this day and age how much we think is English is actually an import. This made me want to explore where tea really came from and how different cultures drank it rather than just accepting the way I knew.

I started to see such a contrast between coffee, with it’s many styles of drinking and chic coffee bars and tea, which was largely the same in origin but offered in English tea shops in the form of dumping a dust-style tea bag to drown sorrily in the bottom of a teapot!

Once I started to feel quite detached from what I was really drinking with my tea I started to think about how we’re all sometimes guilty of being detached from the food and drinks we consume, due to the industrialization of food. If we start to connect with what’s in our teacup, will we be more mindful to other things we consume or to life in general?

Luckily there are now more places that offer a variety of quality tea options and I will blog about these wonderful places! One place I’ve noticed on the web that’s turned Tea culture on its head is the ‘Samovar Tea Lounge’ in San Francisco - and I hope to travel there one day! Afternoon Tea has also become fashionable again but this is sometimes a treat rather than a day-to-day affair.

I hope this gives an idea of how my interest in something as simple as Tea came about and why I had to start Tea Street to talk about all these lovely new teas I was drinking.

…So much to discuss, but for now, Cheers everyone!
The Mayor!