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Posts Tagged ‘Teacosy’

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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In Scotland we sometimes refer to the small pancake as a ‘drop scone’ or ‘dropped scone’, presumably because the method of making one involves dropping a blob of batter into a frying pan. When I was growing up I remember thinking myself quite the linguist for knowing that wee pancakes and dropped scones were one and the same thing.

According to the Traditional Scottish Recipes website, such items are also known as  “Scots Pancakes, Scotch Pancakes, and Scottish Pancakes”, which suggests to me that this is a peculiarly Scottish business. Helpfully, the same website adds that A similar recipe in Wales is known as pikeletts.”

Here’s a picture of dropped scones that I swiped from the website:

I mention all this to set the scene for what’s coming next. I was in a delightful little tearoom in Dundee this morning when I noticed a bag hanging from a branch suspended from the ceiling. The bag conveyed a message that appealed to me greatly:

The wording reads: ‘Drop scones not bombs’, the ‘o’ in scones bearing a remarkable resemblance to one of the wee pancakes from the first picture.

There was no shortage of interesting things to look at in this tearoom, particularly on a couple of the walls. One wall had a row of coathooks with coats and bags painted onto the wall beneath them:

While most of another wall was occupied by a large map of the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg:

My delightful assistant and I settled into in two comfortable easy chairs in order to peruse the menu, and felt very pleased with ourselves for landing the only seats with cushions covered in the unusual fabric below. The red bits were made of a sort of felt-like material (quite possibly, felt):

I opted for a pot of tea while my assistant plumped for a small Americano, and we decided to share a large slice of coffee walnut cake, which looked delicious. The tea was served with a pretty cup and a mis-matched saucer:

The teapot was small, but very happily covered in a knitted teacosy. A small pink knitted pig sat atop the cosy and had difficulty perching upright because of the teapot lid:

The cake was excellent, very light and fluffy, with big chunks of walnut in it:

Thus refreshed, we scooted back to the car where the parking ticket’s time was up, and headed off for a sunny stroll in Dundee’s Botanic Gardens. One section of the garden is set in a beautifully constructed maze of dry stone walls:

We had the whole place to ourselves for the first hour or so and I wondered if the lack of visitors had anything to do with the roar of traffic coming from a very busy main road right next to the garden and Dundee airport’s runway, which is situated only a few hundred yards away:

Despite the noise, I really enjoyed wandering round the gardens in the sunshine. As well as lots of outdoor space, there is a large glasshouse containing temperate and rainforest areas. It was warm and cosy inside and we spent a very comfortable half hour mooching around soaking up the warmth:

My camera lens kept steaming up, but I liked the fuzziness it produced in these photos:

Four things in particular caught my eye in the hot house. Two of them were plants that are very dear to my heart, the first because I love to add it to soups, puddings and biscuits, and the second because it is one of the foundations of my very existence:

The third plant I particulaly liked was called ‘red head’, a rainforest plant with deep pink powder puff flowers:

Lastly, a little amphibian peeking out of a pond fairly cheered my heart:

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