Monday 31 October 2016

Perfect Tea Mixology at Bluebird Tea Co

On Friday evening I attended a tea Mixology workshop at Bluebird Tea Co in Brighton. I had never heard of a tea mixology course before but as an avid (addicted?) tea drinker, when the man got me a ticket for my birthday, I was incredibly excited!
The evening began with a small group of us clustered around the tea counter in this beautiful shop, ordering drinks from the two lovely staff who were there to run the workshop. The ticket included free drinks for the evening whether hot or cold, or from the list of tea cocktail recipes that Bluebird have created.
It was therefore only logical to start with a mulled apple strudel cocktail which was a steaming blend of Nuts About You tea, apples, rum and cinnamon. My goodness it tasted delicious: the tea was full of almond flavours and really infused its way into the apple-y drink, and it was served in a mug I could clutch my little hands round.
For the first part of the evening, we learned about different kinds of tea: how they're picked, where they're from, their history and how they should be prepared. All kinds of tea (actual tea, not herbal or fruit blends) come from the same plant, but the different processes they go trough produces different qualities. For instance white tea is picked by hand and is made of the first leaves the plant produces. It has a delicate flavour and develops almost no caffeine. Green tea should be brewed at 80 degrees, not at boiling temperature as otherwise you can burn the leaves and the taste becomes bitter.
We also looked at samples of white, green and black tea, hybrids such as oolong, herbal and fruit blends, rooibos tea and South American mate. Bluebird also do a line of matcha tea which I'd never tried before: matcha is powdered tea, usually green, which is dissolved in water, so you actually drink the leaf rather than brewing and straining it. I've heard a lot about matcha as it suddenly seems to be everywhere and is included in baking, but I'd never tried it. The staff therefore immediately made some for us to try, serving it both neat and blended with vanilla and almond milk (so yummy). Matcha has a lot of health benefits (hence the trend) and antioxidants, particularly as you end up consuming the whole leaf.
My favourite part of the evening came next: the tasting. As I said, the staff could not have been more enthusiastic or helpful. They brewed about ten different kinds of tea for us to try including white, green and black teas, different blends and flavours, brewing each for the correct time.
Each one was delicious!
Actually, I lie, there was one tea blended with coffee beans that I didn't like, but I don't like coffee and that's what it tasted like to me. The coffee drinkers on the course loved it!
So, as I was saying, each was delicious! A few favourites were Nuts About You, the almond-filled tea that occupied my cocktail, Enchanted Narnia, a fruity herbal blend with a delicate taste of roses, and a wonderful tea called Mowgli's Fire Chai which was packed with an array of spices and had so many layers of flavour. Slurp!
For the final part of the workshop, we each got the opportunity to make three tea blends of our own, choosing a base and adding ingredients that we liked. It was lots of fun to experiment and I will share my blends another time. This was accompanied by a Mojitea cocktail: as the name suggests, like a Mojito but infused with a blend of tea (although I can't remember which one!).
To finish off the evening, I put a dent in my bank balance and treated myself to a Tea Advent Calendar, which I am really looking forward to starting. I also loved that you could get a sample size of any tea in stock for £3, which is enough leaf tea to make about ten cups without breaking the bank. The ladies in charge were very patient, hauling tin after tin down from the shelves for us to inhale the wonderful scents and chose what we wanted. Heaven! Plus as a course attendee, everything was 10% which is basically free so it's good economics to stock up on something as deliciously enticing as Dark Choc Chilli Chai (a personal favourite).
However, I think my ultimate favourite of the night was the Spiced Pumpkin Pie blend which was delicious as tea, but also tastes incredible brewed into a Pumpkin Pie Chai Latte. It's a black tea blended with pumpkin spices and carrot, cinnamon, ginger, vanilla and everything that makes you happy in autumn, and served in frothy milk with honey and a dusting of nutmeg, which made this absolute perfection. It's also limited edition so I had to get some to try this at home.
So I had a wonderful evening, thanks to the knowledgeable and enthusiastic people behind Bluebird Tea Co, and thanks to the man for finding such a brilliant treat for me. If you're interested, you can find Bluebird Tea Co here in time to pick up their new Christmas blends, and I recommend following them for their brilliant recipes for hot, tea-based drinks and tea-inspired recipes.
Please can I go again?
Kisses xxx
PS I did try to recreate the Pumpkin pie spiced latte when I got home and it worked like a charm. I made a giant mug and slouched on the sofa in my pyjamas, candles lit, re-watching Gilmore Girls. This is the life!

Thursday 20 October 2016

A September Story: Brunch at Barge House

Each month, I take series of photos on my phone using the photo-strip app called Pocketbooth; you can read about the full project here.  This is the story behind September...

First a confession: September was actually taken in October. Mostly because the man travelled a lot for work in September, making it home for only about four days in the whole month. 

I was so looking forward to having him home for a little while and I booked us in for Saturday brunch at Barge House. Largely because I had read about their Breakfast in Bread: enormous sourdough bread rolls, stuffed with breakfast fillings and freshly baked. Heavenly. Barge House also had a lovely canal-side setting and a carefully designed, rustic aesthetic which didn't hurt either. I can't resist a twinkly light (or a thousand), an open cafe front and a spot by the water. And with stripped down furniture, cookie jars crowding the counter and wild flowers tumbling over the table, let's face it: it was a bit of a hipster ideal.

We dodged through the rain down to the canal, seated ourselves and sipped gingerbread hot chocolate (me) and a coffee (him) and ended up discussing politics, Brexit and the US election. It is, as has been noted, good to talk, and we set the world to rights as the Barge House bustled around us. 

Brunch was immense; my bread was oozing with spinach, chilli mushrooms and beans, spicy chorizo emerging from the crater and topped with cheese and an egg baked to such perfection the yolk cascaded down the side as I breached the sides.

His was filled with smoked salmon, tomatoes, spinach, leeks, creme fraiche and finished with a touch of dill and the same on-point egg.

It pains me slightly to say that neither of us managed to finish. I was enormously full. It was awesome. 

We extended the lazy morning into the early afternoon with a second hot chocolate and a latte.

It was a lovely morning; it felt as though the world held us in a little bubble, together after weeks apart, talking inconsequentially, enjoying a wonderful meal and even better company. It was like a twnety-something fantasy: being able to brunch out an a weekend morning without a care in the world, by the water with a partner in crime. It is the brunch Richard Curtis' London-dwelling characters would embark upon, full of quiet happiness and contentment with life.

So on our way out, we snapped our September photo by the canal. A moment worth remembering for the month.

Kisses xxx

P.S. I may go back and write a note or two about some of my previous photostrips. So look out for time-warp photostrip stories.

P.P.S. It's also worth pointing out that Barge House takes bookings.  SCORE! I'm not a fan of the fad that refuses diners the opportunity to book and never fancy spending half my day hanging about for a table. So go ahead and make a reservation my friends, party because it's your right as an eater of food, partly because it can get quite busy, but mostly because you can!

Monday 17 October 2016

The Photobooth Project

For the past 20 months, I have taken a series of selfies of the man and me.  It started off about two years ago when I downloaded the Pocketbooth app, which I thought would be fun.  I used it once or twice, but it wasn't until January 2015 that I decided to make a little project of it.  I enlisted the man, and decided that once a month, I would use Pocketbooth to snap a black and white photostrip of something we were doing.  And I have kept it up ever since.

Pocketbooth has a built-in system where, for a few dollars, you can have your photostrip printed and posted to you.  Now, I'll be completely honest: the printing isn't the most fantastic quality in the world, but to what extent that's my phone's camera and to what extent that's the resolution of the image file I don't know. And they arrive, usually around three weeks later having been shipped from the USA, printed on quite thick card, instead of photo paper.

Having just written this, I'm now wondering if I ought to switch to a new photo booth app. However, while they aren't perfect, they do all match, and I'm not exactly aiming to win photography prizes with these.  But I digress...

I have been quietly following along with my little project for over a year and a half now, and I have each month's photos printed and sent to me, and I have amassed a lovely collection of all sorts of aspects of our lives.  Everything from silly snaps on holiday, to posed selfies at a wedding to slouchy pics on the sofa at the end of the month because I hadn't thought earlier in the month and I was running out of time.

But I like the mixture; I like that some are very every-day and some are at special occasions.  And I enjoy the progression of this little monthly silliness. I am still pondering what I would like to do with my collection; I think I'd like to have them up on the wall in some way, but I haven't settled on the way I'd like to do this yet.

Something I would like to start doing is writing a monthly little story, taking note of where I snapped the photo strip and why.  Some months this may be more profound than others, but once I again I hope the overall collection will be interesting and a written record will add a new dimension to this project. So look out for my September story shortly.  The photo strip hasn't arrived in the post yet, but my story is good to go.

Kisses xxx

P.S. If you have any good photostrip display suggestions, my crafting supplies are open for business.