I’m only human. I forget things. I can’t be as ‘on it’ as Tea-na the Warrior Princess ALL the time. In 2015, I forgot a great many wonderful, delicious and – oxymoronically – memorable tea adventures. So before this year comes to a sputtering halt and my brain finally gives up after too many Hotel Chocolat Tea-dly Santas, here are three brew beauties that I really SHOULD have remembered.
Asho: ‘Are you trying to get me killed, man?! I thought we were tasting tea not collecting drugs from Jason Statham!’
Me: ‘No. No, I don’t think I’m taking you to your death. Although, this industrial dock does look like the set for Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Teapots.’
Asho: ‘This cake better be bloody worth risking my personal safe-tea.’
And it was.
This was the scene when I took my BFF Asho – who thinks that all tea ‘just tastes tea-ey dunnit?’ – to a festive tea tasting event at Tea Studio (TS) in East India Dock, London. Once we had successfully avoided being shot by Vinnie Jones behind a shipping container, we stumbled into TS’ cosy corner of the shipping yard as Kyle kindly invited me to try his infamous tea event as an avid fan of his Hojicha and Camomile blends. How could I resist an afternoon of the finest brews and cakes bigger than Santa’s paunch?!
In true Wagamamma’s ‘let’s-scare-people-by-making-them-sit-next-to-strangers’ style, Asho and I sat with seven other brew and battenburg botherers at a bench of top quality TS teas and mouth watering treats made by Keke Loves Cake. The setting was sophis-tea-cated, the brews stunning, and the desserts pant-wettingly sensational. A couple of standout favourites for us were:
- Tea Studio’s Christmas Blend – not your average spaffing of cinammon and cloves into a generic black tea base. Kyle combines sweet apple and orange pieces with spicy coriander, cardamom, cloves and hot fruity pepper for a truly unique fes-tea-ve cuppa with zing. Asho also liked it, exclaiming that: ‘it doesn’t taste like a library…I LIKE IT!’ A warming Christmas tea then, without being as clichéd as a reindeer penis pouch.
- KeKe’s Flavoured Marshmallows – who knew that little balls of fluff could taste so damn good?! From salted caramel to mint chocolate chip and vanilla white chocolate, these cum-inducing clouds were DIVINE!
Kyle and Kiran (of KeKe Loves Cakes) were engaging hosts, even managing to stimulate conversation between us horribly reserved English bas-tea-rds. I also learnt a new word – ‘umami’ – to describe the fifth taste sensation AKA the distinctly savoury taste you get from a green tea or a well prepared sage and onion stuffing ball. Apparently, it ISN’T a martial art state of being popularised by Ross from Friends. (‘Oonagi,’ if you were wondering, or have been living under a rock for 15 years.)
Anyway, what I am trying to say is that Tea Studio’s event was a charming, informative and tas-tea experience that would make a great gift for the men-tea-list in your life, rather than a submarine shaped tea infuser. My only criticisms are the event price and location; I think an average of £32 for a tea pairing event (compared to the £12-15 here in Sheffield) and risking your neck in a Guy Ritchie film set is a little steep/dangerous for a decent brew. That said, I haven’t had a tea experience like it, and what do I know about money? I live in the North where a pint is 25p!
The second brew journey that I inconvenien-tea forgot about was my visit (and multiple ones since) to Alyssum Cafe Bistro here in little old Crookes, Sheffield. I found this cute cubby of calm when taking a new walking route to work to avoid a cardboard cutout of Leonardo di Caprio in a window – it scared the shit out of me one too many times. No joke.
Alyssum is run by the lovely Alexa – a doppleganger for Amy Winehouse pre-substance abuse – and specialises in homemade, hearty Greek food. It is also the TINIEST cafe known to man, with only space enough for 6-8 Borrower sized individuals to sit comfortably. However, this only adds to its charm, with mismatched and whitewashed modern vintage furniture and cute table games cultivating a cosy atmosphere. It feels like you are luncheoning in the comfort of your own living room, although a much better decorated version…if you could cook like Zeus…and didn’t mind strangers putting their feet all over your furniture.
Unfortunately, Alyssum don’t sell any loose leaf tea, only teabags from a company that I’m not a fan of and rhymes with ‘Key Figs’. BUT, Alyssum does do a decent Grumpy Mule coffee, complete with a loyalty card to further encourage your caffeine addiction. Where this cafe really excels though is in its incredible, fresh and authentic food. I have had a scrumptious Greek flatbread with homemade humous, rocket, goat’s cheese and red onion relish; and handmade truffles ranging from snickerdoodle flavour to Irish coffee cream. There are no words that can do these 90p sugary sanctuaries justice. YOU SIMPLY HAVE TO TRY ONE. They are the best tasting balls I have ever juggled in my mouth, and that says a lot coming from a slag of Hotel Chocolat.
Alyssum have recently started opening late on Fridays for their bistro nights, to celebrate their culinary wizardry beyond breakfast and lunch bites. I can’t wait to sit on the laps of fellow diners in the cafe’s only wingbacked chair to try it in the New Year.
Alexa, I salute you, you Greek Goddess of Grub!
Finally, my new tea haunt of late is Moon Unit’s Tea Emporium (MUTE) above The Harley Pub on Glossop Road. A stone’s throw from the stresses of the office, malfunctioning spreadsheets and students with less common sense than my heterosexual urges (i.e ZERO), this magical room blaring jazz and selling fine loose leaf is one of my favourite spots in Sheffield. Run by the adorable Chloe and her blonde haired friend with exceptional jumper taste (haven’t worked out her name yet…), MUTE stocks the best brews from Northern Tea Merchants, hosts a guest blend every few months (December’s being Birdhouse’s Mulled Wine ), and – get this – make a mean tea infused alcoholic cocktail. Naugh-tea Moon Unit! I’ve tried the Apple Chai Slushie with Malibu so far, that was a perfect treat to round off a hectic Xmas shopping day. However, MUTE also do a virgin version if you are that way inclined…or on your lunch break and don’t want to be pissed in a meeting.
So, MUTE has everything that a good cuppa hangout should; high quali-tea loose leaf, unique selling points (alcoholic tea infusions and opening hours that go past my bedtime), and CRUMPETS! All sold at a reasonable price, in a chilled environment that is three minutes from face-palming at my desk. What more could a girl want?!
Although, MUTE has only just opened and I particularly enjoy reading books there in peace, so don’t tell anyone about it, alright?! In fact, don’t go (I mean, do go). Forget you have read this (please, don’t forget, tell all your friends). And do not, under any circumstances, visit and pap me reading obscure fantasy erotica in the corner over a chocolate tea (no, seriously, DON’T).
That concludes my trip down memor-tea lane for 2015 then chaps. Stay tuned on New Year’s Eve though for the hotly an-tea-cipated Witchy’s Brew Awards 2015!