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Posts Tagged ‘Cinnamon’

The autumn colours in Perthshire are particularly good this year and, thinking that the Scottish Borders would be putting on a similarly spectacular show, I took the delightful assistants down there for a gawp at the weekend.

We were most surprised to find that, despite being further south, it felt like winter rather than autumn in the Borders. Many of the trees were completely bare and most of the leaves that were left on the trees were well past their flame-grilled best.

However, I’m happy to say that at our destination of Dawyck Botanic Gardens, nature’s loveliness was abounding:

A couple of beech trees had curious wrappings round their trunks:

There was a poem, entitled The Bandaged Trees, attached to one of the trunks, but I found it a tad depressing so I won’t burden you with it.

Looking up into the trees was beautiful with the sunlight on the leaves:

Dawyck (more or less pronounced Daw-ik) is a beautiful place to walk around, and even though there were a lot of cars in the car park, we met very few people as we strolled through the gardens.

Here are a couple of tiny assistants perched atop a lovely bridge:

The air smelled very fresh and I took lots of deep breaths. The amount of lichen on the trees was perhaps a good indicator of just how pollution-free the atmosphere was. Some of the birches looked as if they were dressed in furs and feather boas:

Bits of the garden were in the shade and quite frosty, an ideal hiding place for ice nymphs and frost elves. Apparently, if you run backwards making chirpy little whistling noises they sometimes pop out. I tried this, but I didn’t see any. Mind you, I find that trying to stay upright while running backwards takes up most of my concentration.

My camera battery died just past this bench,

which was a pity as I had been hoping to take photos of the lunch we had after our walk.

However, I wouldn’t like to sign off without a small morsel to share with you, so here’s a Christmas pudding scone* I made yesterday instead:

*so called because it was inspired by Christmas pudding, and contains sultanas, mixed peel, slivered almonds, cherries, dates, mixed spice, cinnamon, nutmeg and treacle, as well as the standard scone ingredients

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Yesterday, I do believe I had the best Danish pastry I’ve ever tasted (I’ve had them in Denmark, where they were pretty good, but this one may have topped even those).

My delightful assistant and I were heading north, in order to rummage around the astonishing second hand complex that is Steptoe’s Yard (I posted about it on my Teacups Press blog here, if you’re interested), and we needed something to sustain us during our exertions.

Slightly off our main route to the second hand shop, in a tiny village or indeed hamlet, is a tearoom I have been trying – and failing – to visit for some time now, ever since fellow blogger and ceramicist, Anne, recommended it to me. I have made various attempts to take lunch there, which have been sadly thwarted for different reasons, but yesterday I finally struck lucky and succeeded in enjoying morning refreshments.

It wasn’t the sunniest of days but, even so, I thought the outside of the tearoom looked very welcoming:

The entrance was pretty marvellous too, with a little porch:

The porch had attractive windows on either side:

The tearoom is run by Danes, who sell Danish designed homewares in the adjoining shop. The tearoom chairs reminded me of Ikea (which, admittedly, is Swedish, not Danish) and I found them very comfortable:

I should perhaps have expected Danish pastries in a tearoom run by Danes, but I might not have anticipated the options. There were cinnamon, berry and custard pastries, and I chose custard. I don’t think I’ve ever had such a fancy napkin in a tearoom:

The pastry had been freshly baked and was still slightly warm. The whole thing was incredibly light and the custard slipped down almost before I knew it. The pastry was tasty, light and utterly delicious. It was a decent size but I wouldn’t have been at all upset if it had been bigger.

My delightful assistant had a berry pastry, with coffee, while I had English Breakfast tea:

Inside the bathroom, there was a commendable supply of loo rolls, and a stack of small hand towels, including three hung up next to the toilet rolls:

There was also a choice of five different coloured liquid soaps, sitting in a wire holder, with instructions to “just squeeze the middle and soap will come out”. I squeezed the light green one in the middle and, right enough, soap came out, straight through a hole in the wire netting:

After enjoying our comestibles, we had a quick look in the shop, which appeared to be doing excellent business with a queue forming at the counter. The displays had been done beautifully, and I especially liked one featuring a small day bed full of teddies relaxing (not perhaps terribly clear in the picture, but the middle of the picture shows a metal bed or sofa lined with fabric and housing a number of stuffed creatures):

I’m delighted that I have finally managed to visit this tearoom, particularly as we took advantage of the special morning deal offering a pastry and a tea/coffee for £3. Unfortunately, this place is not included in my tearoom guidebook, because I didn’t manage to visit it in time, but I will be going back to have lunch there one day, and when I come to run a second edition of the book I hope to add it in.

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“Tearoom of the Week” has been a bit neglected lately, so I thought it was high time I slipped another one in. This tearoom comes to you from the county of Angus.

Angus sits on Scotland’s east coast, with Dundee to the south, Perthshire to the west and Aberdeenshire to the north. If you kept going east out of Angus you’d end up in the North Sea.

This picture was taken bobbing about somewhere in the North Sea last year. I was astonished by the number of gulls sitting on the water so far from land, I don’t know what they were doing there but there were hundreds of them (you might need to click on the picture to enlarge it and see them properly):

This isn’t particularly relevant to the tearoom in question, since it’s not on the coast, I just fancied putting a cool watery picture in because I’m sitting here typing this on a very warm day.

One of the wonderful things about this tearoom is the setting, which is quiet and attractive, surrounded by rolling green hills. Unfortunately I don’t seem to have a photo of the views from the tearoom windows, but this is what it looks like when you arrive. It’s inside an old forge on the right where the window is, and the building on the far left houses a stable (with horse):

Inside, it’s light and airy and has a farmhouse feel, with exposed stone walls, wooden beams, and wooden furniture around the room:

My delightful assistant and I popped in here yesterday for a light luncheon, having just had enormous pancakes at another tearoom not far away. Since we weren’t terribly hungry, we shared egg salad sandwiches:

I think the eggs may have come from some of the free range hens that we saw wandering around the car park. There were some lovely grey stripy ones, which I think were Scots Greys, that were wisely sitting in the shade of a fence:

And there was a very attractive little black one. Its feathers had a greenish sheen that caught the light. It’s not demonstrated brilliantly in this photo, but it had the sort of silky iridescence you see in oil slicks:

After our sandwiches and some cool drinks, we left the car at the tearoom and went for a walk nearby to enjoy the glorious weather and work up an appetite for some spice cake. I had spotted the cake under a glass cloche and was keen to sample it, but I needed to make room by burning up some calories first.

We found a grassy path through some deciduous trees, and the dappled light made it look refreshingly appealing in the heat:

It was indeed very pleasant and peaceful, and by the time we arrived back at the tearoom I found I had a cake-shaped hole inside me.

We ordered a big pot of tea for two, and the spice cake:

I don’t think I’ve ever had this cake before, but as far as I could gather it was a basic sponge with cinnamon and other spices in it. The icing was very nice and spicy too, and I got a jelly sweet into the bargain.

All of the chairs in this tearoom are wooden, but some of them are of delicate design, with prettily frilled cushions on them. These were perhaps my favourites:

As we were leaving the tearoom, a little chap popped up from behind a dry stone wall and thanked us for coming. We thanked him for having us, and I look forward to renewing his acquaintance in the near future:

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I can’t claim to be an expert when it comes to tea, but I do drink several pints of the stuff most days.

My first tea of the day is taken in a large mug, which holds just over a pint. I fill it as full as I can, and so each day starts off with a nice big pint of tea:

This first tea is Darjeeling, brewed from a teabag:

It has just occurred to me while writing this that taking Darjeeling in a pint mug is a bit like wearing a silk dress with steel toe-capped boots. Somewhat incongruous, for Darjeeling is a very light, almost floral, floaty sort of beverage, also known as the ‘champagne of teas’. I think it would be the tea of choice for butterflies, flower fairies and water nymphs (this may be entirely erroneous and simply a figment of my imagination, then again it may not).

There have probably been many mountainous tomes written about Darjeeling tea, because it likes to think of itself as the glamourous face of hot beverages, attracting lots of attention and high prices for the first crops of the season. Perhaps I’m subconsciously trying to keep its feet on the ground by swilling it from a pint mug, I don’t know. All I do know is that when I wake up in the morning I am desperate for a large quantity of Darjeeling tea.

I like my first cup of tea to be black, and Darjeeling is perfect without milk. Because I take it black I can brew it slightly stronger than I want it and then add cold water to it, which allows me to drink it immediately without having to wait for it to cool down. This, to my mind, is the perfect scenario: a large quantity of instantly drinkable tea at the point in the day when I’m most keenly in need of it. Tea purists would no doubt be horrified by this ritual, and if I have offended you in any way I apologise.

About an hour or so after breakfast comes stronger leaf tea with milk. At the moment I’m in the habit of mixing two leaf teas that happen to be in the cupboard, because it turns out that they make a very flavourful and delicious blend:

The one on the left is my local supermaket, Tesco’s, cheapest leaf tea. You might think that since it’s so cheap (only about 95p for the box, I think) it wouldn’t be up to much, but it has some tricks up its sleeve. It’s a blend of African and Indian black teas and is quite astonishingly good, in fact I would say it’s even better than some other more expensive leaf teas. The one on the right is also a blend of African and Indian black teas, and was purchased in the Lancashire town of Carnforth, in the famous railway station refreshment room. Carnforth was the location for the film Brief Encounter, and they’ve jumped on the bandwagon by flogging all manner of film merchandise to anyone giddy enough to part with their cash. Being prone to a bit of giddiness, this included me when it came to their specially packaged tea.

I like to take this blended tea from one of my recently purchased tea-and-cup-plates (aka tea and toast sets, thank you for that information, Marian). Sometimes I accompany it with a scone, or a slice of cake, or some chocolate, and on other days I am a good girl and have a healthy snack instead (chunks of honeydew melon and sultanas sprinkled with cinnamon, in this instance):

My regular post-luncheon cuppa is English Breakfast (oddly enough), or occasionally Traditional Afternoon, both supplied by the inestimable Twinings:

Other black teas that are currently resident and sometimes get a look-in include the beautifully packaged and very flavourful Yorkshire Tea:

The somewhat suave and gentlemanly Earl Grey:

And Cafe Direct’s tasty blend of African teas:

One tea that is not currently residing in the tea cupboard is, strangely, one of my all-time favourite black teas: Assam. For information on this tea, I would like to refer you to the magnificent Shona Patel, a fellow blogger who was brought up on an Assam tea plantation and is a wealth of information on the subject.

If I’m not awake and drinking tea, then I like to be asleep. I’m a big fan of bedtime and look forward every night to getting into my jim-jams preparatory to falling into bed nice and early and allowing myself a decent long snooze.

In order to make the most of this,  after about 14:00 I switch to decaffeinated tea. I’ve tasted many woebegone tasteless decaf teas, but thankfully I have found two brands that do at least have a bit of oomph about them. My current favourite is Twinings Everyday Decaffeinated:

I drink this as I would most other black teas, brewed nice and strong, taken with a little cold milk and no sugar. If I fancy something a little lighter, or slightly different, in the evening there are several other decaffeinated teas I often turn to. One of these is Redbush, a beautiful red coloured tea from South Africa:

If I’m in the business of consuming a considerable quantity of chocolate (a not unusual occurrence)  there is a tea that I think is the perfect accompaniment. It’s called Kukicha and is made from roasted Japanese twigs. It’s taken black and has a sort of smoky, earthy flavour that I think is truly wonderful:

When it comes to tea on a worldwide scale, I feel I am dreadfully ignorant. I know very little about Far Eastern teas and one of these days I would like to visit Japan and attend a tea ceremony.

What I do know about tea is probably what most other Brits know. Tea is a big part of life in Blighty and, as far as I’m aware, I have only ever physically met two people who didn’t like tea. One of them didn’t like any hot beverages, and I can’t remember anything about the other one, I just remember mentally chalking up a second non-tea-drinker on my radar.

I’m not sure how widely travelled the concept of ‘Builder’s Tea’ is, but I believe it’s a British expression. It refers to strong tea with milk and lots of sugar in it, the sort that builders apparently prefer (along with a big plate of chocolate biscuits, cakes, scones, sandwiches and pies, if they can get them). I didn’t know, until yesterday, that it existed as a brand. I might not have noticed it at all, were it not for the fact that it wolf-whistled at me from the shelf:

It claims to be ‘tested and approved by real builders’ and, according to the side of the pack, the tea people are ‘proud to work in partnership with the Federation of Master Builders’. I almost bought a pack but then I put it back, remembeing that there simply isn’t any room in the tea cupboard.

There are many other excellent teas I haven’t mentioned here, some of which I only have occasionally and keep for tearoom consumption, such as Oolong and Russian Caravan, but since tea is such a massive subject any post I do will barely scratch the surface.

This afternoon, in an attempt to soothe my burning throat (all sympathy welcome, I appear to have caught a cold), I tried a sort of hot toddy tea, using this Yogic concoction:

I thought the spiciness might be good for throat pain, and to give it a bit more welly* I added some honey and a splash of whisky. The whisky was, for any interested parties, a 10 year old Macallan fine oak triple cask matured single malt. Adding this to a cup of tea might seem a disgraceful way to treat such a prestigious beverage, but it was the only whisky I had to hand, and I must say it produced a most satisfying throat soothing medicine.

*according to the Wiktionary this expression means to add fuel or power to an engine, but it’s generally used as a slang term in the UK to mean adding some ‘oomph’ to something

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Something wonderful happened on Monday the 2nd of April: one of my favourite local tearooms reopened its doors for the season, an event I’d been waiting for all winter.

This tearoom is situated on the outskirts of Perth, on my main route into the city, and many’s the time over the past few months I’ve driven past, longing for it to open again. When the big day finally arrived, on Monday morning, I took two delightful assistants Perthwards to celebrate this marvellous event.

I have been warned on many occasions by my delightful assistants that in my over-the-top enthusiasm for certain tearooms I may be getting people’s hopes up so much that they end up being disappointed when they visit one of my recommendations. I understand this concern, but there are some occasions when I simply cannot help myself. If it’s of any reassurance, when my tearoom guidebook comes out it will be a little more restrained and balanced in its reviews (that’s the plan anyway, but who can tell what will actually happen?), so that hopefully if you read it you won’t be let down. I do apologise in advance to anyone who suffers as a result of my adoration, but when it comes to certain tearooms I feel I have some sort of defence.

If you’ve ever had a relative, friend, partner, pet or pair of shoes that you have felt a deep and fervent love for, you will understand my feelings about this tearoom. Like a proud parent when their child comes first in the egg and spoon race on sports day, stepping through the door of this tearoom the other day briefly felt like the best moment of my life.

A sight for sore eyes: an empty table in this wonderful tearoom:

It being that lovely time of day between breakfast and lunch I selected, from their splendid scone options (on this occasion: plain, fruit, date and cinnamon, and cheese), a date and cinnamon scone. It was almost certainly the best date and cinnamon scone I’ve ever had (at least, since the last one I had here):

What’s more, it had not long ago come out of the oven and was still slightly warm. A universe away from a microwaved job. The outside was of perfect crispness, while the inside was as fluffy and light as you could possibly want, and the datiness and cinnamoniness made it nothing short of heaven on a plate:

To accompany this marvellous creation I had a pot of excellent tea, which lovely assistant no.2 joined me in along with her choice of a fruit scone, while lovely assistant no.1 had a decaf coffee and another date and cinnamon delight.

One of the many things I love about this tearoom is the way the teacups and plates are laid out on the pretty tablecloths ready for my arrival. It’s so welcoming, as if they’ve been expecting me and have popped the required crockery out because they know I’ll be needing a nice cup of tea and a scone when I sit down:

Had I not gone for a scone, I might have had a slice of one of these very tempting looking cakes that were smiling at me in an engaging manner from inside the chiller cabinet:

A thing I always like to see in a tearoom is a ready supply of napkins/serviettes, because you never know when you might need a spare one. Here, we even had a choice of yellow or green, and a most delightful little cow to serve them to us:

This tearoom, as well as being one of my top places for a good scone and a nice cup of tea, has charming service. The lovely ladies (and, occasionally, men) who take the orders are volunteers, and all profits from the tearoom go to a cancer charity. Despite the very reasonable prices, they raise thousands of pounds a year by selling their delicious morsels. By patronising this tearoom, not only can you indulge in superb fare, but by doing so you’re helping to save lives. It is a most excellent win-win situation.

Attached to the tearoom is a small gift shop which sells, amongst other enticing items, the cafe’s own first class cookery book. I mentioned this book in a previous post (see here) because it is currently my favourite recipe book, and I was delighted to see that they were still selling it this year. Delightful assistant no.2 was overjoyed to discover this, as she had been waiting for months to buy a copy for herself.

Seats were set up outside ready to welcome the long warm days of summer (I live in hope), along with a rack of second-hand books, from which I have sometimes found a little gem to take home with me:

As if all of this were not good enough, when I went to pay the bill I discovered that, since we had been one of the first 12 customers of the new season, the coffee was free of charge!

If I could recommend this tearoom more highly I would, but bearing in mind the stark warnings I’ve been getting about my over-enthusiastic approach to such things, I will content myself with saying that this is a jolly nice tearoom and I’m looking forward to many more visits during the coming months.

N.B. There was no Tearoom of the Week last week because the previous one had been in two parts (see Tearoom of the Week (Part One) and Tearoom of the Week (Part Two)), and I decided to have a small break before the next one. I was delighted to be able to make this one TotW (9) though, as I’ve been wanting to highlight it ever since I started this blog. Hurrah!

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