Posts tagged ‘tea’

June 20, 2012

A Day in Alnwick

I took the day off work for my birthday treat and we drove up to Alnwick in Northumberland. My main aim for the day was to pay a visit to Barter Books, one of the largest second hand bookshops in the country and certainly one of the most interesting.

It’s located inside an old train station, complete with a great little cafe in the old waiting room and a small model railway whirring around a track above the bookshelves. There are good stocks of many specialist non-fiction books alongside a comprehensive collection of old and contemporary fiction and a children’s section. I was there on the hunt for Ruby Ferguson first editions, vintage Penguin paperbacks and books on Antarctica, although the joy of pottering around a second hand bookshop never diminishes for me, so even if I had come away empty handed, I’d still have loved every minute.

After a long, and fairly extensive search around the shop, and a little talking to myself about how I couldn’t really buy anything that cost over £100, I ended up with a History of the Royal Navy (for David) a map of North Yorkshire and a copy of ‘The Worst Journey in the World’ by Apsley Cherry-Garrard. This book ticked two boxes, being both a vintage Penguin and a book about Antarctic exploration. I’m quite excited about this, having seen the notes that would form the original manuscript in the Scott Polar Research Institute in May. The old Bartholemew map is in three pieces, but will be getting cut up anyway and used as backing for some of the spaces in my letterpress drawer, a birthday gift this year. This will be put on the wall of my bedroom eventually for holding little trinkets and mementoes.

Our other stop in Alnwick was at the lovely Bari Tea. Now, I know that I’ve written about coffee on this blog before, and I will do so again. But as much as I flirt with coffee, my heart really belongs to tea. And if you’re a tea lover as much as I am, there can be no better place to spend some time than in Bari Tea. Impeccably clean and with great cakes and customer service, the crowning glory is the almost-overwhelming list of teas. To make your decision easier, little jars of each of them are available for inspecting and if you tell them what you’re going to eat, they will recommend a tea that would be particularly suitable. I love the ritual of the tea making, complete with a little timer to tell you when it will be perfectly brewed and ready to drink. A great place and one I will definitely return to on my next visit to Alnwick.

After a really lovely and tranquil day, we drove back home along the coast road, stopping in Craster for a blast of sea air and the for a supper of fish and chips.

A lovely birthday. Only four years until my fortieth. Perhaps I’d better start planning that one now?…

June 1, 2012

The Secret Tea Room

As part of my 35:35 Challenge, I recently spent a wonderful afternoon in the company of the wonderful Lynn Hill and a table full of strangers.

Lynn Hill is a bone fide celebrity these days. Founder of Clandestine Cake Club, creator of The Secret Tea Room, she is all about the cake. You might even recognise her from TV! The Secret Tea Room is a pop-up afternoon tea, held in a (you guessed it) secret location in Leeds. Lynn sent out the menu a few days before we all arrived and it whetted my appetite immediately: finger sandwiches, homemade savoury tarts, followed by a selection of different cakes, Yorkshire tea loaf with Wensleydale cheese, and plain scones with clotted cream and strawberry conserve…mmm.

I arrived on my own, to be met by a table full of nine people, all of whom knew one other person, but not the whole group. It didn’t matter. There is nothing quite like a table groaning under the weight of home-made afternoon tea treats to get the conversation flowing.

We chatted throughout the whole two hours and managed to work our way through the wonderful food. I loved all of it, but I surprised myself by loving the plain scones with clotted cream and jam the most – I ate two on the day, and was inspired to have a go at making my own afterwards (which you can see below) as part of my own Cookbook Challenge. The Secret Tea Room was such a lovely experience. The pop up or underground food experience seems to be well and truly established now and often involves talented people inviting strangers to dine in their own homes. Having enjoyed this so much,  I’m going to investigate other places to visit and eat. There is something truly interesting about dining with people you don’t know and the addition of food ensures that there is always something to talk about.

I might even join my local Clandestine Cake Club too – which is now a global phenomenon with 126 clubs dotted all over the world, including some amazing places such as Barcelona and the Grand Cayman! Perhaps Lynn should do a CCC World Tour…

If you have any food recommendations, I’d love to hear from you!

May 11, 2012

Coffee in Rome and in Leeds

I used to think that I didn’t like coffee. I’m a tea drinker, and although I love the smell of coffee, the taste has always disappointed, often bitter and with a lingering aftertaste that I hated.  It turns out that what I dislike is bad coffee. In Rome, I was presented with a giant bowl of latte as part of breakfast every day and I loved it. Spurred on by this, we hunted down several espresso bars during our trip to try them out.

One of my favourites was right next door to the Pantheon. Called Caffe Tazza D’Oro, this bar was full of burnished wood, brass fittings and regular local customers alongside us tourists. It’s a well known place and was bustling with customers on our visit, so had a great atmosphere. You paid at the till, then took your ticket to the bar where your coffee was made fresh to order. I loved it, especially watching how the coffee was made and it’s given me something of a taste for espresso as well as a curiosity about how great coffee is made.

Luckily, the city I live in is undergoing something of a coffee renaissance. Several independent coffee places have opened up in recent months and years and they’re serving great coffee. I had my first coffee back in Leeds after my Rome trip at Brewbar Espresso and it was made with obvious care, beautifully presented and lovely to drink, without any hint of the bitter aftertaste that has put me off coffee in the past. Each coffee place in Leeds has their own unique twist and I’m going to do a proper review of them all in another post, after I’ve been on a coffee crawl! In the meantime, you could read this great review from Mondomulia, who went on the first Leeds Coffee Crawl, here.

I’m always going to be a tea drinker, but now coffee has turned into another option, rather than something I would completely avoid. Having never, ever had coffee from a chain like Starbucks (something I’m actually a bit proud of, considering their dominance over the market) I am very happy that Leeds now has an independent option, where coffee is made and served by people who have a passion for what they are doing and want to spend time chatting with you about the coffee they are serving. It’s the start of an education for me, and I’m looking forward to learning more.

So, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to hunt down the prices for a coffee making master class and a machine for my kitchen…