Thursday, 29 November 2012

Cutty Sark Tea Clipper

It's the year of the Cutty Sark

A part of the Royal Museums of Greenwich, the Cutty Sark ship was re-opened on April 25th by Her Majesty the Queen and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh.  For pictures of the official re-opening click here.  Obviously there was a lot of motivation to get the clipper tourist-ready with the London 2012 Olympic games this year, but this couldn't have been easy after the fire it endured in 2007.  

Talking of the Queen, if you saw Young Apprentice on the BBC last week, you'd have noticed that Lord Shugges himself took the young apprentices to the Cutty Sark for a project briefing!  This ship and Tea share a rich history, so it was a fitting destination because the task was to create and serve an Afternoon Tea at Blenheim Palace!  To see this episode of Young Apprentice again, click here.

Right so the Queen, Lord Sugar and then... Tea Street blog arrives!  Now let's be honest, if you don't live in London you're not going to train it in and not stop for a cup of tea first!  So on to the Cutty Sark cafe below!  

You sit under here for the cafe - what a view!

Love the choice of teaware, no pretty cups but proper crew mugs!  Never thought to use an old treacle tin as a napkin holder, note to selves!

Back to work!  On the ground floor and by the cafe you find interactive displays telling you the Cutty Sark is a Clipper ship used to import tea from China in the 1800s and that 'Clipper' was used to describe a fast vessel that could 'go at a clip', or go quickly.  

British shipbuilders may have been influenced by the Clipper ships coming from America, but they very much did their own thing and by the mid 1800s Britain had a new style of Clipper that typically had "a long narrow hull, a sharp bow, a yacht-like appearance, raking masts and a very, very large sail area." (Cutty Sark Souvenir Guide).  This design took over as a way of getting Tea from China for several years but there was still more to come.. 

Commissioned by John Willis and launched in 1869, The Cutty Sark was named after a Robert Burns poem about a beautiful witch!  

top right: Beautiful witch holding horses tail
The Cutty Sark design was different to other clippers as it was made of a composite of both wood and iron, rather than just one or the other.  With the wrought-iron frame onto which wooden planks were bolted, the hull was durable and spacious since there weren't big wooden beams taking up space.  This meant more room for cargo and became the principle method for building ships that would sail to China.  These Cutty Sark designs are on display and to buy too which looked good.

You can see the structure inside the ship as well as displays about tea production.
tea box foor panels
In the museum you can look at maps of the route from China to London and even have a go sailing the route by computer!  You can also learn about the famous clipper tea races where ships raced each other back to London with first flush tea, which would then be sold to the Victorians at the highest price.  

Many clipper ships in late 1800s were wrecked, foundered or lost within first few years and by the mid-1920's the Cutty Sark was the only one still afloat!  A ship of many talents, the Cutty Sark took cargo other than tea (like wool) while Steam ships became the more popular ship to transport tea.  Not necessarily fast in these early days but steam instead of sails meant they could keep to a reliable schedule. 

If you're interested in the history of tea and tea importing, you learn so much just by looking at the Cutty Sarks eventful career.  I think it's fascinating to see the ship sitting in Greenwich after all this time and looking so magnificant!  

Right in town with its own tube stop!

I don't know why, but i was expecting the ship to be huge and was surprised at how yacht-like it was.  It's nice to climb aboard and take in the craftsmanship that went into the clippers of this day when function didn't necessarily take away from its beauty. 

love the woodwork
tea making
Some more info can be found at the National Maritime Museum just up the road... 

I definitely recommend a visit! 

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Tea Street's Favourite Things for Christmas

 (like Oprah does but without the car give-aways!)

Christmas time is nearly upon us and this is a great excuse for me to round up some key items i've posted about this year that could inspire some lovely tea gifts!  So get your cup of tea and mince pies and happy reading...

(See pic below) If you saw my blog post on JING tea you may have noticed my bamboo tea tray.  Well i love it, it's as smooth as a baby's bottom and looks very well made.  I keep mine out on my 'coffee table', bring out my tea gear and if i want to tip some water away i just pour it through the lid.  I can then empty it when i've finished, rather than getting up and down.  It really is very convenient.  Sometimes i'd have a pot that i've steeped too long by accident (oops!)  and then pour the rest away and start again - so good for beginners too!  It also looks great! 

Glass teaware and Flowering Tea: 
My glass teapot is from Exotic Teapot and it's great because tea is so attractive you want to actually see it!  If you're looking for stocking fillers then Flowering tea is a great choice as it's so different and pretty!  This one is from My Cup of Tea in Montreal but you can also shop at Exotic Teapot, Choi Time (which offers pretty tea caddies) and JING tea to name a few.  What i love about these flowering bulbs is that you can re-steep them a few times and it doesn't go bitter!

Tea Tray as above
Tea Party favours:
I bought these fabric party favour bags (hiding in the bowls under the crackers!) and put in loose tea for a Christmas dinner surprise!  This is a nice little touch as receiving a gift when people sit down starts things off on the right foot and it's a good conversation starter!

For the favour bags,  Twinings Christmas tea would be perfect, it's an Assam tea with lots of spices - so is the tea version of mulled wine really! The other good thing about Christmas tea is if you're feeling a bit cheeky or like Uncle Albert, you can add some whisky for some extra Christmas spirit!  It's surprisingly nice (over 18 or 21 only)! 

These are from Glover and Smith and are a lovely personal gift as you can choose a teaspoon in the theme that suits the person you are giving them to.  

Cool Camping book:
You can see from my blog post Road Trip to Wales, that camping and Tea is like peas and carrots!  If you, or someone you know loves camping then a Cool Camping book is a great idea!  Cool Camping do a well laid out list of  'pros and cons' and 'nearest pub' and also locations grouped into 'allow camp fires' or 'by the beach'.  They also feature Glamping, which is glam and camping together! 

If you like camp fires while you're camping or you have a wood burner at home, a chimnea or an Aga - ok anything heaty - then a Cast Iron Teapot would be another great idea for your list to Santa!  You can use these as a kettle as they go directly on the heat and keep water warm for longer, great for winter nights.

Tea Stocking Fillers: 
Tea can be reasonably priced and can come in small attractive boxes and packages which means they make good stocking fillers!  You may have found a tea you like and think someone would like to try it without spending a lot on the experiment!  One Christmas i walked through the snow down to the post office and picked up a large box of teapigs tea.  On the box was 'real tea in transit' and the shopkeeper asked me about it.  I said it's lovely tea and they should definitely try it!  I then gave friends and family a box of Chocolate flake tea for Christmas! 

teapigs stocking fillers

Tea Gifts for Men:
Chateau Rouge Tea is a luxury tea brand and stylish enough for men too!  I was so impressed with their rooibos tea and think they'd make great gifts or stocking fillers!

Gift cards:
A gift card towards an Afternoon Tea experience like at Pennyhill Park Hotel and Spa would make a lovely Christmas present!

The Vintage Tea Party Book:
I received this last Christmas and it's such a beautiful book with vintage photos, teaware and loads of recipes for vintage inspired breakfasts, lunches, afternoon tea and entertaining.  It also has ideas for vintage style make-up and clothes!  I even strayed from the tea recipes and made a gorgous white chocolate mocha! Angel Adoree has bought out a new one this year called The Vintage Tea Party Year with more ideas.  Although i haven't read it yet, it looks like another brilliant book that's as much party planner as recipe book!  

Thanks for reading! 

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Tea Road Trip - Wales

In October we were looking for a place to take the VW Camper and get back to nature, and came across a picture shared on Tea in England's facebook page.  It was a picture of the Tu Hwnt l'r Bont tearooms, and it looked so beautiful we knew we had to visit! Ok so we don't live anywhere near Snowdonia, but have always wanted to go be a tourist there, so here is our tea road trip..!

How's this for a start?!  Stunning forest driving through mid-Wales...

The great thing about a camper is you can stop off for a cup of tea when you feel like it, no cafe required!  Can't think of a better place to crack open the teapigs...

Onwards and upwards to the coast.  Check out these ocean roads...

Always wanted to camp on the beach, especially when the weather looks like this!  It was pretty cold at night, but there was a campfire to warm up to.

You can just about see some campervans on the top of the cliff here - great views up there but we opted for right on the beach...

On to the next beach stop with cliff top views...

Clouds came over by next morning, so perfect time to warm up with a Clippers Breakfast tea.

Snowdonia National Park - way more than we expected, it's like fantasy land!

October was a great time to go for Autumn leaves - wowza!

We next stayed in Betws Y Coed for a couple of days and fell in love with the Alpine Coffee Shop! They're supporters of the Orangutan Foundation and Ape Action Africa and have some lovely animal paintings up on the walls.  Their menus look amazing and there's vegan and gluten-free choices too! 

There were many different types of teas and i went for the Jasmine: Dragon Phoenix Pearl!  Loved the presentation and all the bits n bobs.

Having a break from the camper we took to the Ffestiniog Railway!

Finally getting to the Tu Hwnt l'r Bont Tearooms! Luckily we didn't get lost as i don't think i'd have been able to ask for directions!  It had lost some of the bright red leaves but i think it's definitely in the running for the most attractive tearooms!

Stunning 360 views...

Got stuck into a cream tea!  Darjeeling tea with fruit scones, complete with cream and jam!  The cream was different to what i'm used to in the South as i normally have clotted cream!  Maybe the light, fluffy cream is a Welsh thing?! 

We're so glad to have taken this road trip; we enjoyed many a cup of tea either camping by the beach, or on forest roads and were so impressed with the tearooms we came across! Can't wait to go back to Wales!