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Posts Tagged ‘beverages’

Yesterday was the delightful assistants’ 53rd wedding anniversary.

Acting as chauffeur, I whisked them off into the county of Angus for a tasty luncheon, an invigorating walk and afternoon treats.

Here they are attempting to gaze lovingly at each other for the camera:

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They found this highly amusing.

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Delightful assitants in a more natural pose.

Delightful assistant no.1 chose to go to Peel Farm, near Kirriemuir, for lunch:

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A welcoming sign at the entrance to Peel Farm.

We arrived nice and early, a little before noon.

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The entrance to the coffee shop at Peel Farm, decked out with wreaths and other Christmas decorations.

Due to our fortunate timing the coffee shop was unusually empty, which allowed me to take a photograph of the inside.

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Inside the lovely Peel Farm coffee shop, unusually empty of hungry punters.

The delightful assistants wisely chose a table at the fireside end of the room, from where we all ordered a farmhouse special of soup with a roll and butter, followed by a scone and tea or coffee.

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Delightful assistants perfectly placed near the fire with bowls of hot soup.

Delightful assistant no.1 and I both chose carrot and parsnip soup, while delightful assistant no.2 had red pepper and tomato.

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Carrot and parsnip soup with a crusty roll.

Our soups warmed us up, and when they’d been polished off it was time for scones.

There were three options available: plain, fruit, and raspberry. After considerable deliberation I plumped for raspberry, while delightful assistant no.1 chose fruit and delightful assistant no.2 chose plain.

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My choice of a raspberry scone – I was not in any way disappointed.

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A fruit-studded scone for delightful assistant no.1.

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A beautiful plain scone for delightful assistant no.2.

A delicious jam was delivered with the scones and delightful assistant no.2 felt that his plain scone gave the perfect base for it.

The jam was a new creation by one of Peel Farm’s master jam makers and was a combination of plum and orange. It tasted a bit like marmalade because of the orange, and it had a wonderfully zingy sweet flavour. Delightful assistant no.1 christened it ‘jarmalade’. Here’s a blob of it on my raspberry scone:

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Raspberry scone with a blob of jarmalade on it.

I wasn’t too sure how my raspberry scone would fare as a platform for such a sprightly spread, but when I tasted them together I was immediately won over and slathered the rest of my scone with the stuff, enjoying each mouthful with gusto.

When we’d finished our scones and downed our tea and coffee we had a quick look in the Peel Farm craft shop where I spotted the happiest little gingerbread men I think I’ve ever seen.

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Cheery wee chaps on a string.

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Utterly delighted to meet you.

We got back into the car and drove to nearby Loch of Lintrathen, which has a level road all round it, virtually devoid of traffic and very pleasant for strolling along.

It was grey and chilly but we walked briskly, enjoying the fresh air and the noise of wind in the trees and on the water.

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Loch of Lintrathen.

Quite a few branches and twigs lay scattered about after recent high winds; delightful assistant no.2 fashioned one such branch into a walking stick.

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Delightful assistant no.2 taking twigs off the fallen branch of a larch tree.

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The old chap making use of his newly acquired walking equipment.

On our walk we passed a well constructed bird hide, and I popped in to see what I could spot.

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Loch of Lintrathen bird hide – I had it all to myself.

I didn’t see anything particularly unusual, although someone had noted a white tailed sea eagle in the visitor’s book a couple of weeks before.

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Gateway to the bird hide at Loch of Lintrathen.

After my bit of birding I caught up with the delightful assistants and we scooted on to the nearby town of Kirriemuir to seek out an afternoon snack.

On past visits to Kirriemuir I’ve been unable to find interesting tearooms, so my hopes weren’t terribly high.

We parked in the free cark park and walked towards the town centre.

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Delightful assistants keeping each other upright.

Before we even reached the main street, to my astonishment and delight, we passed this promising looking establishment down a little alleyway:

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A side window at The Auld Surgery Tearooms in Kirriemuir.

Just around the corner we found the front door, and swiftly sailed in:

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Front entrance to The Auld Surgery Tearooms in Kirriemuir.

The interior had a charmingly rustic farmhouse feel with solid wooden furniture and gifty things dotted about. We perched ourselves at a table for three:

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Seated comfortably close to the wooden dresser where there was a selection of tasty looking treats.

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A dresser showing off its cakes and biscuits.

Delightful assistant no.2 was the first to make up his mind and went for a mug of hot chocolate and a mint chocolate traybake, which was enticingly decorated with broken bits of fondant-filled mint thins:

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Chocolate mints on top of a traybake – a stroke of genius.

Although very fond of mint chocolates, I thought this traybake might be too sweet for my tastes. However, having tasted a piece of the one in the photograph, I would gladly return to Kirriemuir just for a slice of this excellent confection.

As it was, I went for a slice of fruit loaf with butter, downed with a cafetiere of decaf coffee:

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Delightful assistant no.1 also had coffee, but in the solids department she made a traditionally festive selection:

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Delightful assistant no.1’s choice of a mince pie. Such a good girl, she didn’t make a fuss about the lack of cream.

After enjoying our treats we had a quick squiz at a few of the items for sale, some of which were displayed at the bottom of a gracefully curving banister:

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One item in particular took the fancy of delightful assistant no.1.

In her youth she remembers having a little wooden rocking horse that rocked very nicely, and when she saw something similar at The Auld Surgery Tearooms she didn’t want to go home without it:

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Small wooden rocking horse with teacup: a happy ending to a lovely day.

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Continuing on from my previous post, we arrived at the House of Menzies and tootled indoors out of the rain in search of a little luncheon.

From the outside of the building, which was constructed in the 1840s, the inside is perhaps something of a surprise.

Straight ahead was an open log fire, with jewellery and other gifts for sale beyond.

To the left there were more gifty things, and an area selling wines and whiskies:

To the right was the bit we were after, the cafe:

For our liquid refreshment, delightful assistant no.1 had orange and passionfruit juice, delightful assistant no.2 had Bundaberg ginger beer and I had my usual, a pot of tea.

Choosing from the tempting food menu was a little trickier but, after some deliberation, we settled on our options.

Delightful assistant no.1 had Caesar salad (with two different dressings very helpfully put into little dishes on the side, to allow her to choose which she wanted):

Delightful assistant no.2 went for a toasted panini with roasted vegetables:

And I had a curried lentil burger with spinach and tomato, which was jolly tasty:

After that we felt too full for puddings, but before we left delightful assistant no.2 reacquainted himself with one of House of Menzies’ prize attractions:

Having satisfied himself that all the little wooden trains were running nicely on their tracks, he joined us back in the car and we buzzed off in the direction of the scenic village of Kenmore, which sits at one end of Loch Tay.

As I was driving along a small road, a curious building by the roadside caught my eye. While the assistants stayed put in the warm car, I jumped out to take a closer look:

The house, which was uninhabited, appeared to have been abandoned some time ago.

Despite its somewhat neglected state, some interesting architectural details remained:

When I walked round to the back of the house, I found that part of the roof had caved in, and that the whole building was slowly becoming a part of the hillside.

This business of making a front porch out of tree trunks is something I associate with this part of Perthshire, and for some reason the trunks are usually painted red. I don’t think they’re always paired with such an interesting wooden roof structure though:

Dragging myself away from this fascinating little property, we drove on to Kenmore, where I left the delightful assistants dozing in the car while I nipped out to examine Kenmore Parish Church.

Unfortunately, the weather had turned rather grey. On a sunny day the war memorial in the foreground and the church with its lychgate and Loch Tay beyond makes for an attractive scene:

As I walked round the churchyard, I saw a small owl perched on a tree stump and thought it added a nice touch to the surroundings:

When I reached the doorway I was utterly delighted to find that the church was open for visitors.

The church building was built in 1760, although most of what you see inside today dates back to a renovation in 1870. The interior included some beautiful stained glass windows:

I can’t recall ever having seen anything quite like these in a church before, but in addition to the stained class there were two windows of etched glass:

One of the etched windows was dedicated to long-serving Elder of the Kirk, Duncan Miller, who was an engineer, farmer and fisherman, as well as being a member of the Royal Company of Archers (the Queen’s official bodyguard in Scotland). My favourite part of the window was a bit with some sheep (sheeeeeps!) on it:

Each church pew had its own unique pew cushion design, which I thought was a very pleasing situation:

Back out in the churchyard, as well as the owl mentioned previously, I found another bird. The headstone told a sad story, but somehow the little puffin warmed my heart:

When I finally joined the patient assistants back in the car (both of whom had apparently enjoyed a relaxing snooze in my absence), we agreed to head for home.

Our lunch having settled, we felt we might have room for a little something on the way, and so we called in at the Allium Garden Centre in Ballinluig for a pit stop.

Just as I was starting to photograph our afternoon tea treats my camera battery died. I took a few pictures with my phone camera, but they look very small on the screen and, not being a technical wizard or any sort, I have no idea how to enlarge them.

I wasn’t going to have any cake, since it was getting close to dinner time and all I really wanted was a drink (an extremely good decaf cappuccino, as it turned out), but the assistants both chose a sweet treat. Delightful assistant no.2 had a surprisingly tasty chocolate oaty nutty traybake composition and delightful assistant no.1 asked for a piece of the lemon drizzle cake.

When the waitress brought our orders over, she brought two plates with lemon drizzle cake on, one of which was a smaller slice. She explained that once she’d cut a portion from what remained of the large lemon drizzle cake for delightful assistant no.1, there was just this wee bit left which was too small to serve as a portion. In the circumstances, she generously decided to give it to us as a free extra.

I’m not saying it tasted better for being free, but it was an exceptionally good piece of cake, very lemony and a highly satisfactory end to the day’s outing.

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I recently received an email from a company offering to send me some free Twinings tea of my choice to review.

Looking in the kitchen tea cupboard, I observed that there were already 7 boxes of different Twinings teas lurking there, 5 black teas, 1 herbal and 1 green tea:

Taken in the context of the 115 varieties on offer from Twinings, this is a very small sample.

A quick squiz at their website suggested a few others I’d like to try, so I wrote back requesting some teas and a couple of days later a substantial box arrived.

The box contained not the handful of individual selected teabags I had been expecting, but no less than four full boxes of Twinings tea. Also enclosed was a high quality ‘with compliments’ card, adorned with a gold lion:

It felt a bit like Christmas.

Of all of the teas enclosed, the Yunnan tea was perhaps the one I was most excited to try, simply because I had no idea what to expect and it sounded intriguing.

According to the blurb on the box, “Yunnan, in South West China is well known for it’s* magically fertile land and spectacular fields of beautiful flowers. It may be no surprise then to learn that Yunnan is where tea was born over 2000 years ago, and many of the ancient tea trees are still nurtured and picked from today.”

(*A superfluous apostrophe; when I saw this mistake I was reminded of just how difficult it is to achieve perfection. When I was writing my tearoom guidebook I read and re-read the text numerous times, checking for errors. I also had two other proofreaders, and yet when it was published several mistakes were discovered. Frustrating, but part of life!)

The front of the box showed a golden land and an appealing description of the tea inside:

The tea came in teabags:
The first time I brewed this tea, I made it for myself and my two most delightful assistants. I should have taken photographs at the time but I’m afraid I was too intent on the tea consumption.

Brewing it again for myself this morning, I had a second bash at the tasting.

The instructions on the box say that you should “drink it black, or with a drop of milk”. When tasting with the delightful assistants, we all started off trying it black. The thing that struck me most about it was a smokiness that reminded me of Lapsang Souchong.

It reminded me of Lapsang Souchong again today, although the smoke was less prominent than I’ve found it to be in Lapsang Souchong. The other thing that struck me was a silkiness, which was perhaps my interpretation of the “mellow” alluded to on the packet.

When I first tasted it black I found it a little too bitter, but tasting it today I wasn’t put off by the slight bitterness.

In my mind, I was whisked off to the lounge of some quiet country house hotel. The room contained good quality, but comfortably worn, soft furnishings and a log fire producing sweet smelling wood smoke. A grandfather clock ticked soothingly in the corner, there was the gentle murmur of background chatter from other guests, and time slowed to a pleasantly relaxed pace.

I had been fully intending to add milk after the first couple of sips, but looking into my teacup I found that I had polished off the whole cupful before getting round to it.

Luckily I still had some in the teapot for another cup:

During our first tasting, both assistants declared that the flavour was improved by the addition of milk. It then improved for both of them again with the addition of sugar. I didn’t go that far myself, having tasted a sip of a sugared tea, and stuck to the addition to milk only.

Although I would have been completely happy to drink another cup black this morning, there was something nice about it milked up.

The taste became smoother, and the little bitterness present when black disappeared.

Drinking it with milk transported me to the grounds of the aforementioned country house hotel, where I sat in an elegant outdoor chair on a patio, looking out over beautiful gardens under a bright blue sky and blissful sunshine. The twittering of small birds and the buzzing of bees filled the air.

Being ever ready for a small snack, I didn’t drink the tea without a little comestible. A piece of fruit cake slipped down just as well with milky tea as it did with the unmilked version.

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What I deduce from these tea tastings is:

a) I initially enjoyed Yunnan with a splash of milk
b) On second tasting, I found I enjoyed it just as much black
c) I am utterly delighted to have been given a free box of this delightful beverage

I still have another three teas to taste, but I’ll keep them for other posts. In the meantime, I raise my teacup to you, dear bloggers, and say a hearty thank you to Twinings for introducing me to the joy of Yunnan tea.

If you’ve never tried Twinings teas, or even if you have, you might like to know about the free samples you can obtain from their website. I don’t know if this is restricted to the UK or not, but I took advantage of it myself some time ago and it led to me buying a box of tea I might not otherwise have tried.

Incidentally, I wasn’t the only one taking an interest in the tea tasting this morning:

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A few days ago, having not been to a new tearoom for some considerable time, I was beginning to get withdrawal symptoms.

There being only one sure fire way to fix that, I whisked a small delightful assistant south-eastwards to where the BBC promised us decent weather. (Well, I say decent, what I mean is it wasn’t raining.)

I had read a review of a certain tearoom in Cupar, Fife, which made a bold claim and I was eager to pop down there and have a look:

Cupar Tearoom sign, Cupar, Fife

There used to be an advert for Carlsberg that had the tagline “Probably the best lager in the world”, and I’m assuming that The Cupar Tearoom has borrowed this line for its tearoom, a little tongue in cheek.

When you approach this tearoom, you find it behind the main street in Cupar, in a paved area called Ferguson Square. On entering this area I felt I was walking into a 1960s council housing estate. Not the most promising of beginnings, and yet the outside of the tearoom looked surprisingly at odds with its surroundings:

The Cupar Tearoom exterior

Inside, it was busy, with only one free table. The counter at one side of the room was reassuringly piled with large and attractive looking scones, and there were books in bookcases dotted around the walls. There were also packets of Teapigs tea for sale in one bookcase, and these teas were also on the tearoom menu, which pleased me.

We opted to share a pot of Teapigs English Breakfast tea for two, which came in an unexpectedly decorative teapot:

Decorative teapot

To accompany her tea, my delightful assistant chose a slice of lemon drizzle cake, which was served on a rather worn, but nevertheless prettily floral, plate:

Lemon drizzle cake

I opted for a fruit scone, which I’m delighted to say was delicious.

The teacups were also patterned, and I was quite impressed that when the waitress saw that one of them had a piece of cake in it, she whipped it away and brought a clean one.

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One question I always ask myself when visiting a new tearoom is “Would I include this tearoom in a tearoom guidebook?” I like to visit a new place at least twice to make sure, but I’m confident that this one would be a contender.

Is it the best tearoom in the world? Well, that’s a matter of personal taste and I can only speak for myself, but I’ve been to many establishments I would rank above this one. I’ve also been to many that have been considerably lower in standard. On balance, I’d say it sits somewhere just above average.

Some of the things a really top tearoom has to have, in my opinion, is homemade jam for the scones, sugar cubes or granulated sugar in a bowl with a nice set of tongs or a teaspoon, salt and pepper you can grind yourself, elegant table settings and a beautifully presented menu. The Cupar Tearoom didn’t quite come up to scratch in these areas:

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On the other hand, I would also include excellent home baking, a good range of teas, nice china, quiet surroundings and cheerful, pleasant staff, all of which The Cupar Tearoom provided.

I apologise for my negative comments, I wouldn’t normally mention down sides in a review, but I felt I couldn’t include the first picture without addressing the claim in some way.

Despite all of that, I enjoyed my visit to The Cupar Tearoom, and would certainly visit again.

Although it was a dry day, it was overcast and quite cold. We had a short wander round the town centre after our tea, and I was reminded of how many narrow closes (‘close’ is a Scottish term for an alleyway) the town has.

I need to return on a warmer day and take pictures of some of the other closes there. I did photograph one close though, which had a sign above it saying “Tannage Close” which makes me wonder if leather was treated there in the past, but I really don’t know the history of it.

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Cupar on a dark, damp, January day is not perhaps the most inspiring of places, but one thing I must commend the town for is its parking charges – only 40p to park for up to 2 hours in the central car park. Very good value for money, I’d say.

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If I have a favourite day of the year I think it must be the 1st of January.

Being in possession of a short attention span, I enjoy turning over new leaves. I suppose you can do this on any day of the year, but it’s nicely symbolic that on the 1st of January you can put behind you all the disappointments, failures and frustrations of the previous year, and look forward to new opportunities, challenges and delights to come.

I’m also rather partial to making new year’s resolutions.

This year one of them is to declutter. I’m aiming to get rid of at least 365 items by 31 December. I was going to make it 2013 items, but I feel this might be a tad ambitious. Even 365 might be a struggle.

Each of these 365 items must be something that can be passed on to someone else, donated to charity or recycled in some way (empty sweetie wrappers, nail clippings and used teabags don’t count).

When I told my sister about this plan she was delighted because when I get rid of things I normally pass them on to her, and she will take just about anything. The only thing I can remember her turning down was the inside cardboard tube from a roll of wrapping paper, because she said she had too many already.

I hope the coming year holds lots of nice surprises for you, many tasty morsels and a multiplicity of joyful moments.

Happy New Year!

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Today is the second of Annie’s Virtual Vegan Potlucks, in which a whole host of vegan and vegan-friendly bloggers unite in a big festival of meat- and dairy-free noshing around the globe.

Participants chose a category from a list of menu items (breads, mains, desserts, beverages, etc.), decided on what they wanted to bring to the virtual table, and were then placed in a list organised by Annie (for the full list of participants, please see here).

Each blogger taking part will post their own contribution today, adding a link to the blog before and after them on Annie’s list, creating a chain of vegan blogs that you can, if you wish, work your way through in a massive banquet of vegan delights.

Last time we did this, I opted for the beverages category so that I could write about tea. This time I’ve opted for the beverages category so that I can write about tea.

If you happen to live in the northern hemisphere you will perhaps have noticed a chilly change in the weather of late. In light of this, I’ve chosen to bring a lovely warming chai to the potluck (equally tasty south of the equator, I’m quite sure):

20 years ago I popped off to live and work in Pakistan, thinking I might stay there for about 3 months. Unwilling to leave a country that dished up such excellent tea, I gave up on coming home so soon and stayed on for another year to get in a decent amount of tea drinking.

During my time there I drank a lot of chai. It was consistently hot, spicy, usually sweet, and virtually always delicious.

I can only recall one less than satisfactory chai experience. I was visiting someone, I forget now who or where it was (there was a lot of visiting and tea taking going on), and was given a welcoming cup of sweet chai to sup on. My host, as he was pouring out the chai, unwittingly dropped some of his cigarette ash into the cup. Out of politeness, I consumed both the tea and the ash.

Speaking as one who has tried it both ways, I would strongly recommend drinking chai without the addition of cigarette ash.

I have often tried to recreate at home the taste of the lovely ashless Pakistani chai that I drank so much of back then, but I’ve never succeeded in getting it to taste as good.

Clipper’s chai isn’t quite like the stuff I remember from those days but it is a very quick and easy way to get that spicy, warming, delicious tea taste, and the combination of spices Clipper have come up with is far better than any concoction I’ve managed to mix up for myself. One of the slightly unusual ingredients in the tea is lemon peel, which I think is what sets it apart from other chai teas I’ve tried. The lemon is not overpowering but it adds a little citrusy zing to the spiciness, which I think works very well.

In order to bring joy to your life once you have a packet of this stuff, you’ll need some boiling water, and possibly some sort of milk and sweetener, if you like it that way (although it’s also jolly nice black, in my opinion).

It is highly acceptable served straight into a mug, or from a teapot with pretty china and a few chums to share the pleasure with.

At first glance (or indeed, after a prolonged stare), turning up to the potluck bearing nothing but a box of teabags might seem like a bit of a cop-out. I can’t deny that, I admit that it shows a distinct lack of culinary effort on my part, but on the up side if I’m let loose near a kettle I can promise you a perfectly brewed pot of tea.

As any regular tea drinker will know, there are a few key elements to making a nice cup of tea, and chief amongst these (at least for black tea) is boiling water .

I’m sorry to report that occasionally in a tearoom I have been brought a pot of hot water with a cup and teabag on the side. This has been both painful and distressing, very much like standing on an upturned plug or stubbing a toe.

In a tearoom, even if the water is boiling when it goes into the pot, it certainly won’t be boiling by the time it reaches the customer. Sitting alone in the pot, its bubbly loveliness is wasted on the inside of the pot instead of usefully infusing the tea.

Pouring hot – but not boiling – water onto a teabag is the sort of experience one should restrict to those occasions when one is marooned at the top of Mount Everest.

Following their successful ascent of Mount Everst in 1953, Tensing Norgay and Edmund Hillary take tea out of tin mugs (I bet it tasted pretty good, too).

Up at 29,000 feet, due to a decrease in pressure that results in the water boiling at a lower temperature, a warm slooshy tea-like concotion is the best the weary climber can hope for. (I have this on good authority, although I can’t claim to have tested it out for myself; it’s regrettable, but being in possession of this information has put me right off climbing Everest). Down nearer sea level there are no such excuses for shoddy tea preparation.

Here are my top tips for making a lovely pot of Clipper chai:

1. Get some Clipper chai tea, a teapot and however many teacups you require.

2. Put plenty of freshly drawn cold water into a kettle and put it on to boil.

3. Just before the water boils, pour a decent splash of nearly boiling water into the teapot to warm it.

4. Slosh the water around the teapot while the kettle comes to the boil, and then discard the teapot water and bung in as many teabags as you think you’ll need (one per person, is my advice).

5. When the kettle boils, immediately pour the water into the warmed teapot onto the teabags and give the whole lot a stir with a spoon (and perhaps a squidge of the bags, if you feel like it).

6. Pop a teacosy onto the teapot (such as this delightful creation by veteran teacosy maker, Laine Williams:

7. Wait patiently for around 3 minutes and then pour the tea into cups (personally, I wouldn’t warm the cups because my feeling is that the tea has already done all its infusing, and now I just want it to be cool enough to drink as soon as possible).

If you want to add milk, you might like to glug a slosh of soy or alternative milk (I have tried it with oat milk, which was quite nice, but I wonder if almond might be preferable) into the cup prior to adding the tea. Alternatively, you may prefer to add the milk afterwards, but in any case I don’t think you need to worry about the china breaking with the hot tea (which is, apparently, one of the reasons for adding the milk first) since the tea will have cooled down a little since you added the water to the pot. If you’re nervous about adding too much milk, I would advise adding it after you’ve poured the tea, and just a little at a time so that you can taste it and find the quantity you prefer.

Sweetener is another matter of personal taste. The chai I had in Pakistan was generally very sweet, and I enjoyed it greatly at the time, but when I make Clipper chai I don’t add any sweetener because I’ve developed a taste for it ‘plain’, so to speak.

If you fancy trying this tea but can’t find Clipper chai at an outlet near you, it is available online from a number of websites, including the Clipper site, here.

Bottoms up!

image courtesy of thethreetomatoes.com

To visit the blog on the list before mine, Don’t Switch Off The Light, please click on the image below:

To visit the blog after mine, Veganosaurus (which, as it happens, contains a chai recipe), please click on this image:

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As some of you may be aware, today is a big vegan foodfest in the blogging world. Dreamt up and coordinated by the quite astonishingly brilliant Annie of anunrefinedvegan, 66 bloggers are taking part in a virtual vegan potluck.

Each blogger is making and posting about their own vegan dish or drink, chosen from various categories (e.g. starters, salads, mains, desserts).

I chose the ‘beverages’ category and am bringing you a couple of lovely teas. The beautiful teacup below isn’t mine, I saw it on Facebook recently, on Pavlova and Fox’s page. I think it would enhance any cup of tea:

My first tea is perhaps something of an acquired taste, and doesn’t necessarily appeal to the mass market, but if you haven’t tried it I would recommend at least having a sniff.  I believe there are people who like a splash of milk (soy, or otherwise) in this tea, but personally I like it black.

It smells predominantly of woodsmoke, and one heady sniff of it is enough to bring about an urgent desire in me for a big smokey cupful of the stuff. The smokiness comes from the preparation of the leaves as they’re dried over the embers of pine wood fires. As the piney smoke rises up, it infuses the tea leaves lying on racks above the fire, and gives them their unique taste.

Tea no.1 – Lapsang Souchong:

When I was very young I had a Disney game, which consisted of a board painted with Goofy, Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and perhaps one or two others. Their noses/beaks were made from plastic and stuck out at right angles to the board. The game came with a set of rubber rings, which were thrown at the board, in an attempt to lasso the protruberances which resulted in winning points. I mention this because the smell of those rubber rings has stayed with me through the years, and in addition to the obvious smokey smell of Lapsang Souchong, I detect this rubber ring scent, along with a touch of Creosote and perhaps a smidgen of tar.

I think of Lapsang Souchong as the “Islay malt” of tea, because it has similar qualities to the malt whiskies from Islay (an island off the west coast of Scotland, pronounced ‘eye-la’), which are characterised by a peaty smokiness.

If you haven’t tried Lapsang Souchong, but you like a peaty, smokey whisky, I think this tea might appeal to you. And, vice versa, if you like this tea, you might well also enjoy an Islay malt. If you’re not usually much of a drinker of either tea or whisky, but you can’t pass a freshly Creosoted telegraph pole without inhaling deeply, Lapsang Souchong could add a wonderful dimension to your life.

If, however, none of the above sounds like your sort of thing, perhaps I can tempt you with an alternative. There is such an enormous choice of teas that deciding what to offer up has been difficult, but I thought that since this is an international affair it would be a good chance to highlight something from my native country.

My second choice is another black tea, which is often taken with milk (perhaps soy, rice, or indeed almond) and sugar, should you so wish. Unlike Lapsang Souchong, this is a blended tea (a sort of “Famous Grouse” of teas, to continue the whisky analogy), made up of Assam, Ceylon and Kenyan teas. You may have heard of English Breakfast tea, but this might be new to you:

Tea no.2 – Scottish Breakfast:

When I open a new packet of this tea, my senses are awakend to a warm, velvety maltiness, the sort of smell tea had in my youth. I am transported to the diningroom of the house I grew up in, taking tea in fine china cups on a Sunday with my grandparents visiting, a large table laden with cakes, and my grandmother shockingly licking her side plate knife. As a tot, I liked my tea weak and milky with sugar. These days I take it stronger and unsweetened, but if I were to try and recreate those days of yore, the tea I’d choose to do it with would be Scottish Breakfast.

And so, back to the point of this whole business, the Virtual Vegan Potluck.

In theory, there is a chain of all the participating bloggers, one post leading on to another in a set order determined by Annie (the order can be found on her blog here), so that when you click the images below, you will be taken to the previous link in the chain (the ‘go back’ image) and the next link (‘go forward’). However, because people are posting from all over the globe, the timings may not quite coincide. Being in the UK, I’m a considerable way behind Australia but ahead of America.

If you click on the ‘go back’ image below, you’ll be able to visit the page that came before me, Good Clean Food, where you will find another post in the ‘beverages’ section. If you don’t see the potluck post now, perhaps you could pop back later in the day.

And to visit the next blogger on the list, Turning Veganese, the final ‘beverages’ post, you can click on the image below this:

I hope you enjoy all the wonderful vegan fare on offer today, and thank you again to Annie for doing such an amazing job of organising it all!

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