Sunday, May 18, 2014

Recent Tea Adventures

Being a Yorkshire girl I've always loved tea - a milky cup of builder's and I'm in heaven. However I think there are occasions when it's good to be a bit more adventurous with your leafy consumption, especially with so many places in Manchester to go and get a cuppa. With the help of self-confessed tea-snob Hungry Hoss (who has kindly given me loads of good advice - and tea!), I've been making the effort lately to try some new things. So here is a round-up of some recent tea adventures.

Sweet Octopus Tea Tasting
Hoss first brought my attention to Tako Horton's Sweet Octopus mail order tea website during a Twitter conversation about where to get the best Matcha Tea.

Even more exciting than being able to get well-priced, good-quality green tea from a lovingly-run local company is the fact that you can actually book Tako to come over to your gaff, make the place look pretty then serve you and your mates fancy green teas, traditional Japanese cakes and even a glass of booze! I couldn't wait to get booked on and was joined by Hoss himself as well as other tea-loving folk from Twitter.

Delicious Japanese cakes
The tea tasting was loads of fun, not only did Tako's teas taste great, she is also so lovely and easy to talk to, not to mention knowledgeable - I actually learnt quite a lot about teas in a short space of time. I learnt how to make Matcha tea, what happens when tea is grown in different lights, that I should never buy crappy supermarket green tea again and that my new favourite tea is Genmaicha (sometimes know as 'popcorn tea' because of the popcorn-esque flavour of the roasted rice in it) which I will be ordering at every future opportunity. Oh and by the way to avoid future embarrassment when ordering said Genmaicha, I made sure Tako taught me exactly how to pronounce the name of it...

Our tasting with Tako was honestly one of the most fun, relaxing and educational Sunday afternoons I've had in a long time and I would wholeheartedly recommend the experience. It's also a bargain when considering the quality of the teas and very affordable for birthdays and celebrations.

Proper Tea
Still feeling the tea love, I arranged to meet my friend Hayley just a few days later at the pleasantly located Proper Tea on one of the most beautiful spring days of the year. The Cathedral was a sight to behold bathed in glorious sunshine.

The tearoom itself is a stunningly done out place. Beuatiful tiled floors, unusual little touches in the décor and splashes of colour make these the perfect environs for a natter and a cuppa.

However I have to admit this is where my enamourment with the place ended as everything else I found a little bit annoying. The teas were fine but at £4.20 plus per pot I was left wondering what exactly was so special about these leaves when at the aforementioned Sweet Octopus tea-tasting I'd paid £7.50 for 10 tea samples, a glass of plum wine, cakes and the pleasure of Tako's company!

Also, I know a lot of people love the fact that you're given a timer with your tea and yes I know it's important to steep your cuppa so it tastes right (especially when you've paid knocking on for a fiver for it!) but it felt a bit gimmicky and "Look, look how much we know about tea!!"


The service left a lot to be desired too - on asking the waiter if they could whip me up a vegan sandwich made of the various dairy-free ingredients I'd seen on the menu on the other sarnies (avocado, salad etc), he looked at me as if I was a leper but said he would go and find out if this was possible... and then never bothered getting back to me. Harumph. I also felt quite patronised when I brought out my best Genmaicha pronunciation (as per Tako's adept instructions) and he replied "Oh, you mean the Jeeeeeeen my ssssshhhhhaaaaa...?" Um... no.

Finally, the slice of lemon drizzle cake Hayley ordered, although tasty, had gone dry in a way cake drizzled in copious amounts of lemon juice never should. A cake tragedy.

Having said that it was a pleasant afternoon and I wouldn't let my grumpiness put you off going and making up your own mind as it is in a really nice spot.

Fig & Sparrow
My dad and fellow tea lover always says that a hot cuppa on a hot day can help regulate your body temperature and cool you down. Not sure if that's an old wives' tale but I was happy yesterday to use it as an excuse to pop into my favourite Northern Quarter coffee shop Fig & Sparrow despite it being the most scorching day of the year.

I've always enjoyed the cuppas I've had in here; this time I decided to go for a Samovar Orange Spice tea, priced much more reasonably at £2.60 (also I didn't mind that they just told me to leave the tea to steep for 3 minutes without giving me any sort of timing device). This was the probably most fragrant cup of tea I've ever had - getting your nose in the pot was like sniffing in all the pong particles of a flowering orange grove. For those not sold on the old 'hot tea vs hot day' theory, Fig & Sparrow were doing all their coffees iced and Bailey thoroughly enjoyed his sweet Iced Mocha.

Service at Fig & Sparrow was, as always, nothing short of delightful, proving once again that you don't need to be an indifferent hipster poser to run a good café in the Northern Quarter.

So there are my recent tea adventures. I'm only sorry there weren't more to report! If you have any more good top tea tips for me, feel free to hit me up on Twitter or drop me a comment below!

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