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Posts Tagged ‘teapot’

Delightful assistant no.1 and I recently took ourselves off to a tearoom we’d been meaning to visit for some time.

Berryfields, in the Perthshire village of Abernethy, used to be called Culdees, and in its previous guise it featured in my Tearoom Delights book.

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Culdees, as was, in Abernethy.

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Berryfields, as is (taken with my phone rather than my camera, resulting in a somewhat washed out look).

The same nice old stonewashed walls were in evidence, and the addition of fairy lights gave it a bit of festive sparkle.

It was a very cold day and luckily we managed to bag seats by the fire.

Since I wasn’t using my camera and most of my phone shots came out blurred, I’m afraid I don’t have a nice picture of the fire as it is now, but below is a picture of how it used to look in the time of Culdees.

It’s still similar to this, although nowadays there’s a sofa and coffee table where the dining table is in the photograph:

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Our seats were on the other side of the fire, and I had my back to the heat, which was jolly comforting.

We both ordered tea, which came with flowery china:

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Foodwise, there was a tempting selection of filling fare chalked up on a blackboard.

Delightful assistant no.1 ordered a baked potato with cheese and tuna mayonnaise:

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Filling burgeoning from a baked potato.

I opted for a panini with mushrooms and cheese, and was delighted by the proportions of the filling.

They were very generous with the mushrooms, which I believe had been fried prior to inserting into the panini.

It was all very tasty, and the salady items on the side could hardly have been fresher. Tip top.

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Next time I visit this tearoom I must take my camera and hopefully get some better pictures.

In the meantime, if ever you find yourself wandering around Abernethy longing for a tasty lunch, I recommend scooting up School Wynd and calling into Berryfields.

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There is a rather wonderful tearoom in Edinburgh called Eteaket.

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I had been wanting to visit this place for ages and I finally got round to it a couple of weeks ago when I popped down to the city.

A chum and I were lunching there, and although I was looking forward to my grub I found it hard to give my attention to the food menu because the tea menu stole the show.

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When the waitress came to take our order I think she mistook my delight for confusion when I told her that I was spoilt for choice and not sure which tea to go for.

She was keen to help and asked me what sort of tea I liked so that she could offer some suggestions, but my answer (‘I like all these teas’) probably didn’t assist her much. In any case, I had already whittled down my options to a handful and was simply trying to choose between these.

Under a little pressure from the helpful waitress (who was in fact providing a very useful service) I jumped to the quick conclusion that it was their Bollywood Dreams Chai I was after.

It was delivered to the table in a yellow teapot, while my chum’s choice of Awesome Assam came in a red one:

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The little egg timer that came with the teas told us when a 3 minute steeping time was up. Being desirous of a strong cup, I left it a little longer and shoogled my tealeaves about a bit before pouring.

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I’ve tried quite a few versions of what they call chai tea in the UK, i.e. a black tea with various spices such as cardamom, black pepper, cloves and ginger added to it, but I don’t think I’ve ever had such a full bodied and complex-flavoured one as Eteaket’s Bollywood Dreams.

Chai tea, as I first came to know it in Pakistan, was a thick, creamy and usually very sweet concotion. The whole caboodle was boiled up together: black tea, buffalo milk, sugar and all the spices that went into it. It was like the Guinness of teas, a veritable meal in itself.

I took the Bollywood Dreams chai black with no sugar to start off with, to see how I liked it. I liked it so much that way that I didn’t even try adding milk or sugar, and drank the whole pot black and invigorating.

To munch alongside my tea, I chose a cheese and tomato croissant.

I had in my mind a fluffy French pastry, puffed up with air, crisp on the outside and stretchy and delicious inside, with a nice bit of cheese and some tomato resting gently inside.

Much to my amusement, what arrived looked as if it had slipped onto the kitchen floor and been trodden on by a large boot:

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This was infintely more exciting than what I had been anticipating. I’m extremely partial to a toastie, and a toasted croissant, no matter how flat, was an unexpected highlight.

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I wish I had a photograph of the flattest toastie I’ve ever had, which was a sheer joy I experienced once at Dawyck Botanic Gardens. It made this croissant look like a balloon by comparison.

On tasting, I discovered that my squashed croissant was utterly delicious, and the salady items it was served up with were tip-top. I was particularly pleased with the couscous which came as plain little grains in a mound with nothing else in it.

My companion had a cheese and ham sandwich, which came untoasted but with the same sorts of salady accoutrements:

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Having devoured a chocolate and almond scone before lunch and then filled up nicely with the flat croissant, I didn’t indulge in a sweet treat at Eteaket. My comrade did, however, succumb to a cream scone, which I wished I had room for. The cream and jam came in little jars packed to the gunwales:

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The Devonshire method was employed: cream first, with jam on top:

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Somehow or other I managed not to even taste this scone. Despite being offered a bite more than once, I persisted in declining the kind offer. I was told it was exceptionally good and looking at the photographs now I find myself questioning my decision. However, being of the general opinion that hanging onto regrets serves little purpose, I have been endeavouring to accept it and move on.

One thing I like to see in bathrooms is a spare loo roll or two, and I was delighted to note that the Ladies’ facility at Eteaket was very well equipped:

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My chum wanted to pop into the Lyon & Turnbull auction rooms to have a look at a paperweight he was thinking of buying, and so we trotted down there after lunch, passing some of Edinburgh’s beautiful Georgian architecture on the way.

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One of the items on display in the auction house was an enormous stuffed white dog in a glass case, and there were several media people there with a real live dog, trying to get the real dog to look at the stuffed one.

Try as they might, tempting the dog with treats, things suspended above the glass case, etc. the little dog seemed interested in looking everywhere but at the stuffed dog.

By sheer chance, I happened to lift my camera and snap a picture at the exact moment the small dog complied with their wishes. My picture was zoomed in from the other side of the room so it’s a bit fuzzy and not the best of compositions, but this appeared to be the only occasion on which the wee one looked at the big one. I trust the photographers were pressing their buttons at the vital moment.

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As you might be aware if you’ve seen any news bulletins from this part of the world lately, a small prince has appeared.

The ‘Royal bub’ (to borrow an expression from Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd) is the first child of the Earl and Countess of Strathearn (aka Wills and Kate), and good old Twinings have come up trumps with just the gift to bestow upon the happy couple: a big black box with tea inside.

Depending on your point of view, the packaging could be considered chic or funereal, but in any case it’s a fine sturdy box, excellent for putting things in after the tea’s all gone. Here are some teacups to give scale to the picture, standing by ready to do their duty for Queen and country:

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Inside the box two cylinders nestle in shredded tissue paper:

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Look lively, young tins, new mothers across the nation are gasping for a restorative cuppa.

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The top half of each cylinder slides off to reveal the tea inside, with the word ‘congratulations’ hidden underneath the join between top and bottom:

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There are three different tea types you can choose from – Yunnan, China White and Peppermint – and what I have are the China White and the Peppermint:

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I was particularly excited about the white tea with its light downy leaves:

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But when I opened the peppermint…

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I was consumed by the strong fresh scent, a most marvellously minty concoction:

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I’m not sure I want to drink it so much as sew it into a little pillow and inhale it through the night.

Given the night-time nature of the peppermint and the fact that I was toasting the infant in the morning, I plumped for making the white tea first:

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It being some hours since breakfast, I paired my tea with a buttered slice of fruit and nut-filled bran loaf diced into baby-size bites:

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The tea was a very pale yellow colour and more fragrant in the cup than the dried leaves were in the packet.

On my first sip I detected lemons in the foreground with bachelor’s buttons as a backdrop. (I refer to the wildflower, bachelor’s buttons, also known as feverfew, as opposed to small round devices for doing up a waistcoat, which I suspect would not improve the taste of this tea):

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Bachelor’s buttons – a sweetish pungent backdrop to the lemony hints in Twinings China White tea.

On further tasting, after refreshing the palate with water, I became aware of what I can only describe as a whiff of raspberries on a distant breeze. I saw in my mind’s eye a rather lovely raspberry pie, all hot and juicy straight out of the oven with a shiny top and glistening juices leaking through a little crack in the pastry.

Now, whether all of this is down to the fact that I accidentally made the tea with boiling water, which is a cardinal sin with white tea, or whether if I’d made it properly it would still have had these complex flavours, I have yet to discover. I will need to do more tastings, brewing the tea properly next time, so that I can compare notes.

In any case, I found Twinings China White tea to be a delicately full flavoured brew, and if the peppermint tastes anything like as good as it smells I’m in for a treat this evening.

Congratulations to the new parents, and welcome to the world tiny prince, may your life be long, happy, healthy and filled with excellent beverages.

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One day last week the weather forecast showed the whole of Scotland under cloud apart from one little triangle in the Aberdeenshire/Banffshire area on the east coast.

Chasing forecasts often proves a futile business in this country, but as it happens on this occasion the forecasters got it bang on.

Delightful assistant no.1 and I hopped into the motor and sped off in the right direction, stopping en route at the splendid Balmakewan, where we partook of light refreshments.

A flat white with coffee and walnut cake for my delightful assistant:

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Imagine sinking your teeth into an extremely light, soft and delicious coffee sponge cake with unbelievably fluffy icing that melts as soon as it hits the tongue, and you’re part of the way to having the Balmakewan coffee walnut cake experience.

I had a very hard time choosing what to have, as Balmakewan always has a painfully extensive selection of delectable goodies on offer, but in the end I plumped for this coconut affair with blueberries and raspberries through it, accompanied by a first class decaf flat white:

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We decided to share these two items and while the coconut cakey thing was certainly very palatable, we agreed that the coffee walnut cake was outstandingly good.  I’m sure I’ve never had fluffier butter icing in any cake.

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A delicious duo with first class flat whites to wash them down with.

We left Balmakewan feeling that our day had got off to an excellent start. The weather was not particularly good but we had high hopes for our destination.

Around about lunchtime we reached the twin towns of Banff and Macduff, which lie on the Moray coast, and headed for Duff House.

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Duff House is a rather magnificent Georgian building designed by William Adam in the 1730s:

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Today it’s used by the National Galleries of Scotland to house some of their artworks, with the building being maintained by Historic Scotland and Aberdeenshire Council, but it was originally built by a chap called William Duff (aka Lord Braco, later 1st Earl of Fife).

William Duff had a large family, and even though the side wings Adam designed were never built, I expect the 50 rooms they ended up with were quite sufficient.

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Room for a small one?

I thought the building had many lovely features, but the curving staircases at the front were a particular favourite:

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Due to a broken pelvis that continues to heal slowly, going round the inside of the house with all its floors and stairs wasn’t really possible for my delightful assistant, but there was one area of the building she was very capabale of reaching.

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A sign to gladden the heart – tasty morsels this way!

Inside, the tearoom had the same sort of feel I’ve noticed in other National Gallery tearooms, being light, airy and tastefully decorated. The history of Duff House was written up on the wall in a timeline with photographs, which made for interesting reading.

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The menu was not extensive, nor did it cater particularly well for vegetarians, but there were various sandwiches to be had and I opted for egg while my delightful assistant went for tuna. I’m pleased to say that the sandwich far exceeded my expectations, being freshly made on very tasty brown bread and served with a delightful little carrot salad.

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One very nice surprise was that there was ‘proper’ tea, by way of leaf tea popped into long teabags of the sort that appear to be getting more popular in Scotland’s tearooms.

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We ordered a pot of Assam and a pot of Darjeeling and they were both tip-top. I often find I’m squeezing out the last cup from a teapot when I take tea, but in this case I had to leave some as there was so much to begin with (I managed three cupfuls):

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I don’t take sugar, but I liked the way it was served at Duff House, in a little kilner jar with lid (no flies landing on these lumps) and tongs on the side (hygenically encouraging people not to dive in with their dirty great mitts):

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The facilities at Duff House were another fine feature of the building, being nicely tiled in green and white with pull chain cisterns above the loos:

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After lunch we waved goodbye to Duff House and made our way along the coast to have a look at the two little villages of Gardenstown and Crovie, but I’ll save those for another post.

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Quite a while ago I drove through the village of Muthill in Perthshire and noticed a very interesting looking establishment:

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Birdhouse Bakery: a bakery that looked to me enticingly like a tearoom.

It appeared to be a tearoom, which is always a sight that fills me with joy, but it looked as if it had been closed for a while. It was mid-winter and I assumed that this was the reason, but perhaps it had closed down for good.

Muthill is not a place I pass through very often, but ever since that first sighting it’s been at the back of my mind to have another bash at visiting the Birdhouse Bakery, in the hope of finding it open and serving the punters.

A few days ago, in the company of my two delightful assistants, that ambition was realised.

Since it was about 12:30 and the tearoom looked fairly small from outside, I was worried it was going to be packed out. Luckily, we sneaked in before the lunchtime rush.

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Delightful assistant no.2 going to look at the blackboard menu and taking in the cake display en route.

One of the things that immediately caught our attention was the wallpaper on one wall, which was chock-a-block with birdhouses and birds. We found a nice little table for three perched up against it.

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Close-up of the Birdhouse Bakery wallpaper

There was a little bird nesting on our table, too.

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After perusing the blackboard, delightful assistant no.1 and I ordered the day’s hot special: vegetarian quiche with salad,

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while delightful assistant no.2 opted for chicken and avocado salad,

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which came with some very tasty home-made soda bread.

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We all chose tea to drink, which came in a teapot with an avian chum atop it,

and some pretty teacups.

On this occasion, we decided to pass up the cake counter in order to drive on and see other places, but I have promised delightful assistant no.1 that one day soon we’ll go back just for the cakes. I must say, the scones looked very promising.

I’m delighted to have sampled this tearoom at last, and am looking forward to a return visit. My only regret is that I wasn’t able to include it in my tearoom guidebook because I think it should certainly be in there.

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A few posts ago I mentioned popcorn tea, and several blogging chums commented on this curious phenomenon.

I first came across it under this name at a tearoom in the small Scottish town of Lanark, where it appeared on their tea menu:

In my previous post if I had used its other name, Genmaicha, perhaps less puzzlement would have ensued. (Or perhaps not, I suppose it depends on your level of interest in green tea.)

I was first introduced to Genmaicha by a Japanese flatmate I had many years ago in Edinburgh. She used to buy it in a Chinese supermarket, where it came in a dull green packet marketed without fanfare as ‘green tea with roasted brown rice’.  Going food shopping with her was something of a revelation to me.

Although green teas are more readily available in the UK now than they were a few years ago, Genmaicha, or popcorn tea, is not yet a common sighting.

However, I noticed in my local supermarket the other day that green tea in general seemed to be taking over the tea aisle, thanks in large part to Twinings and their love of pairing it with just about every fruit imaginable:

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Some of the many varieties of green tea available from Twinings. My local supermarket stocks these by the truckload so someone must be drinking it all.

The popcorn tea I had in the Lanark tearoom, and which I am sipping as I write this, is produced by the rather wonderful company, Teapigs.

The ingredients are very helpfully listed on the packaging in 11 different languages, but what surprises me is that there’s no mention of pocorn, which is what I thought the little white knobbly bits in the teabag were (see photographs of teabags below).

They call their design of teabag a ‘tea temple’, and describe it as a ‘spacious, silky, transparent purse’.

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A Teapigs tea temple, containing popcorn tea

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It’s a sort of tetrahedron type shape, although that’s quite possibly not the correct term for it. In any case, it is undeniably spacious and transparent.

The reason for the spaciousness becomes apparent when boiling water is added, as all the leaves, rice and and popcorn bits puff up to fill their mesh home:

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The colour of the tea (after steeping for 4-5 minutes, which is my favoured time) is a very delicate pale yellow:

A subtle malty scent wafts from the tea when brewed and, in terms of flavour, I concur with Teapigs that it has an undertone of Sugar Puffs.

It does taste like green tea but, unlike some green teas, the honeyed nutty warmth of the toasted rice appears to counterbalance any bitterness you might expect from steeping the tea for more than a couple of minutes.

In order to concentrate fully on the flavour while writing this post, I closed my eyes while I swallowed a few mouthfuls. (Naturally enough, there was a scone involved, on this occasion maple and walnut):

Teapigs popcorn tea with a maple and walnut scone.

On feeling the tea slip down my gullet, two images sprang to mind:

1. being outside on a beautiful, calm, sunny summer’s day with the warmth of the sun on my shoulders;

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2. being cosily ensconsed indoors with a hot water bottle in the small of my back.

Delightful assistant no.1 soaking in the warmth from a hot water bottle at her back.

All in all, the sensation was soothing, warming and extremely pleasant.

Popcorn tea is not something I drink every day, but I could imagine that if I lived in a society where drinking green tea was the norm, this sort of green tea would be my preference.

As it happens, popcorn has come into my life in another guise recently, but I’ll save the details for another post.

A new way to eat popcorn – enrobed in Cadbury’s Dairy Milk chocolate.

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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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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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There is a tearoom in the quiet village of New Galloway that comes worryingly close to perfection.

The idea of a perfect tearoom worries me on two counts:

1. I feel quite certain that it would overwhelm me

2. I suspect it might curb my enthusiasm for visiting other, lesser, tearooms

I’m afraid my photographs don’t do this place justice; ideally you’d experience it for yourself first-hand in order to soak up the refined and elegant atmosphere, but I realise that not everyone can do this so here are a few snaps to give a little flavour of it:

Everything about Kitty’s is top-notch, from the service, to the comfort, teacups, food and beverages. I sat beside the coal fire in the above picture one cold winter’s day and it was a most satisfactory experience.

My most recent visit was made a couple of weeks ago, when the delightful assistants and I zoomed our way (I was very excited to get there) from our holiday home at Culmore Bridge Cottages, to arrive in time for a spot of luncheon.

Kitty’s is situated on the main street in New Galloway, with green paint and a little flag outside that fills me with happiness:

No matter what the weather or your emotions at the time, when you cross the threshold of Kitty’s, you will almost certainly notice an elevation of the spirits. The delightful and well-presented staff are so welcoming that you could easily imagine they’d leapt out of bed that morning with the fervent hope that you, and you alone, would shimmy in and permit them to shower you with their delectable treats.

Each table is spread with two cloths, upon which teacups, milk jugs and sugar bowls with silver tongs are laid out most attractively. I was particularly pleased with my teacup on this occasion:

Kitty has a fine collection of china, displayed in glass-fronted cabinets and on shelves around the tearoom. I suspect she rotates the china laid out on the tables, because I don’t think I’ve ever been dished up the same design twice.

The china is just the start of things, and it only gets better once you peruse the menu and order your choice of grub.

Delightful assistant no.2 began his meal with cream of carrot soup, which came in a lovely wide Art Deco bowl:

He also had an enormous glass of cloudy lemonade which came with a slice of lemon in it, and followed his soup with a cheese and onion toastie:

Delightful assistant no.1 opted for the dreamily smooth and delicious leek and cheese quiche, which came as a large warm slice with salad, and was washed down with a glass of cloudy apple juice:

I very nearly went down the quiche route myself, encouraged by the waitress who was singing its praises, but all morning I had been reliving the memory of a certain dish that I’ve had here before, one of those that ranks up in the top echelon of meals enjoyed.

After a slight quichely waver, I wisely plumped for the dish of my dreams, the delectable Fat Naan – a naan bread stuffed full of curried vegetables, served with salad and a truly magnificent minted dahi (yoghurt):

It would be no exaggeration to describe this dish as divine.

After that, somewhat tragically, none of us had room of pudding. This almost made me cry because it meant I missed out on an opportunity to consume the stupendous sticky toffee pudding (I’ve had it here before and it remains in my mind as something unusually superb). However, I did enjoy a beautiful pot of Lapsang Souchong tea with my meal:

As an example of how caring the service is, along with the hot water pot in the middle of the above picture, I was given a cloth to wrap around the handle so that I could pour from the pot while maintaining a comfortable temperature in my fingers:

If you happen to be in the vicinity of New Galloway any time soon, I would strongly recommend a visit to Kitty’s Tearoom, not only because it’s an outstanding tearoom but because Kitty herself is retiring and the tearoom is now up for sale. Who knows how many more meals will grace those generously clothed tables before Kitty and her outstanding culinary skills tootle off into the sunset?

I fear that it would be a very tall order indeed for anyone to take over from her and maintain the same standards, and so I can only assume that this is the end of a truly magnificent era.

I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you to Kitty and her lovely staff, for providing me and numerous other diners with exceptional tearoom experiences over the years. I feel blessed with profoundly happy memories that I hope to retain for the rest of my days, chief amongst them those miraculously flavoursome fat naans and truly unforgettable sticky toffee puddings:

The temptingly named ‘Mata Hari’, Kitty’s delicious sticky toffee pudding

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