I've neglected my little website for quite some time now. I've been rather busy with my home based bread baking business (I had no idea how it would take off so well. It's been hard...but that's another story for another time). I thought I'd post this picture I took when I went to The Langham for a special birthday treat last year (2012). It was fabulous. One of the tasty sugar loaded delights was a Guinness and liquorice macaron. I know that there are all sorts of flavours around but this one has stuck with me ever since. It's an acquired taste and rather like Marmite, you'll love it or hate it. I think I rather loved it!
We're in Bali at the mo taking a bit of a break from all the goings on at the moment (some say we're mad to just when Fabuloaf is getting established - but we felt we needed a relax and veg out session). While here we had the opportunity to visit a working organic farm where they just about grow everything from white turmeric to coco and the highly praised civet coffee.....which we tried. And it was lovely. The civet only eats the best coffee beans whereby they are fermented inside the animal (sounds horrid but didn't put us off). What comes out the other end still resembles coffee beans, these are then processed by taking the outer shell and skin off and roasted: the end result is a mighty fine coffee. It's very labour intensive process hence the price.....I'd rather drink civet coffee than coffee from large coffee chains!!
> Bread, when you think of that word what do you think? Fluffy soft white and square or brown, crusty and round? I was brought up on bread that was the latter - white, pillowy and square and often stuck to the roof of my mouth. As I got older I began to eat brown bread, still pillowy and square (both types brought from the supermarket) and I was happy with that. Until I began to think about what was in my food. To my disbelief I found out what was in my supermarket mass produced bread (or specifically what was not in it). Why was I eating preservatives, bleach and sugar? I thought bread had 4 ingredients > Flour > Water > Yeast > Salt > And then I found out how the bread was made. Wheat processed through rollers that separated the goodness (essential fatty acids, fibre and vitamins) out and used added ingredients to replace the goodness taken out. Bread should be made slow and with care. It can take upto 3 hours to produce a carefully crafted loaf - the mass produced method takes about 45 minutes. This is not long enough for the yeast to get to get to work and for the dough to rise and prove. The wheat won't be properly fermented so when you eat it you could end up fermenting the bread in your gut, could this be the cause of so many 'wheat intolerances'? > I could go on but I won't - because I found out how to make real bread. It took a long time and I'm still learning. I made mistakes, my hands hurt and I got sweaty and impatient because I had to knead dough for 15 minutes or more (depending on the flour) but as I started to realise that good things come to those that wait I began to love taking my time with my dough turning it into bread. Bread making is a revelation a bit like being taught by Yoda or a playful Buddhist monk. You can't cut corners, you have to be honest and the lesson is never ending but unfurling. Bread, what do you think about it now?
On a sunny afternoon I found myself atop the roof bar of The Trafalgar Hotel tasting tea. Chateau Rouge Tea hosted a tea tasting session for lovers of this mighty fine product. I was warmly greeted by Sean Farrell, the owner of Chateau Rouge Tea, Clemence and Juliette from Clementine Communications.
As we settled down to tea and scones, Sean introduced us to the history of tea and the links between the tea producing countries and Europe through colonial trade, we crossed Europe through England; France and the Netherlands to India; Sri Lanka; Nepal and China. We learned how afternoon tea became synonymous with England thanks to Catherine of Braganza. I found it amusing to hear how the UK and Ireland are the second and third highest consumers of tea across the world!
As Sean was captivating us with the history of tea he passed around a selection of dried teas from his Chateau Rouge Tea collection. There was White Monkey Green Tea: Nepalese Black Tea; Arya Darjeeling; HoneyBush Tisane and Ceylon Tea. As each was passed around we were encouraged to smell and touch. Sean explained how each tea was picked; fermented/dried; steamed or fired and how this process affected the tea in producing black, green and white tea. By putting together the spoken word and the smell of the tea it evoked images of stepped hills in India populated by lush green bushes picked by experienced hands, of warm earth and smoky moody forests and fresh glades.
As the brewed tea was passed around (rather like a tea ceremony) we discussed brewing times and water temperature. Black tea can be brewed at 98 degrees (just off the boil). White tea brewed at 70 degrees and green tea in between. I also found out that leaving tea to brew for a long time does not make it stronger but more bitter, the taste is lost as it is overcome by tannins. The answer is to add more tea and brew for the recommended time - that's where I was going wrong!
Of the teas tasted, I was surprised to find that the Wild Harvest Organic Honeybush was my favourite. I had always avoided tisanes, but I had to admit that this was a rather special tea. The subtle and gentle flavour of honey was a delight, it was also very refreshing especially sitting in the full glory of the sun. The bush grows wildly in Africa and is similar to Rooibos, but in my opinion much better.
Sean was a most exceptional host, his knowlege about tea and his passion and pride in his brand was a revelation. And it shows. The tea we tasted was of the highest quality and knowing that they are organic and the relationship between him and the producers is a fair and equal one makes Chateau Rouge Tea the 'complete package' - talking of which, each tea is packed in the most beautifully designed boxes and caddies.
Do go along to one of Chateau Rouge Tea tea tasting sessions, you won't be disappointed.
You may have gathered by now that I love Earl Grey tea, well any tea really. And I'm quite partial to a tipple or two. So, in my mind to marry the two together is just the bee's knees. I also like all that flaffing about with teacups (tea) and shimmying around with fancy cut glasses (gin) around a home bar.
I've been watching and studying the rise in popularity of tea based cocktails and think it's a match made in heaven. One day, whilst reading the Metro on the way to work, I came across this great little recipe for Earl Grey Martini written by Keith Barker-Main, which I sort of followed:
6 Earl Grey tea bags steeped in 200 ml of gin (here he references Tanquery), I had Blue Sapphire. The bags are infused for 10 minutes. As there were only of 2 of us we had 100 ml of Earl Grey infused gin each, which was popped into cocktail shaker along with ice, one egg white (makes it fluffy and creamy) splash of lemon juice and a gloop of sugar syrup. Gave it all a good thrashing and poured into a Martini glass rimmed with sugar
The end result was a lovely cocktail that I was so pleased I'd made. I have to admit it was a little astringent, I'd probably use less tea bags or use loose leaf and not steep for as long. It did the job though and looked the part.
No picture of the Earl Grey Martini but here's a picture of the home bar I'm curently lusting after instead.