The Afternoon Tea Awards

I was lucky enough to attend second annual Afternoon Tea Awards at  London’s Grosvenor House Hotel, thanks to the event’s fabulous sponsors, luxury tea company, Newby Teas.

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As if that wasn’t exciting enough the awards were presented by author and star baker, Martha Collison and hosted by AfternoonTea.co.uk (a brilliant website for afternoon tea recommendations).

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Newby Teas welcomed us with gorgeous tea-filled goody bags and a chance to sample all their blends. There were also bubbles from Lanson and of course, some delicious afternoon tea treats. I think it’s fair to say it was certainly the best awards ceremony I’ve ever been too!

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The awards are set up to recognise the best in afternoon tea and tea service, from some of the UK’s best hotels and restaurants. A team of expert judges anonymously call in for afternoon tea and look at all aspects of the experience for each prestigious venue (how can I get this job?!).

So, where are the best of the best places to enjoy tea and cake?

Afternoon Tea Award Winners 2017

  • Best Traditional Afternoon Tea – Hotel Café Royal
  • Best Contemporary Afternoon Tea – Mirror Room at Rosewood London
  • Best Themed Afternoon Tea – Churchill Afternoon Tea at The Wellesley
  • Best Children’s Afternoon Tea – Millennium Hotel London Mayfair
  • Best Tea Service – Fortnum & Mason

There were also several venues who received a highly commended accolade, including local hotel Lainston House (see the full list here).

Newby Teas

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The team at Newby Teas are no stranger to awards themselves, they actually have over 100 awards, making them the world’s most-awarded international brand in high-end luxury tea. So naturally, I was keen to try their range and I’ve steadily been working my way through the goody bag. I have to say I am loving Newby Teas’ Milk Oolong blend, which is a yellow green in colour with a natural sweetness and creamy aroma of caramel. I’m also enjoying the green tea and earl grey blends.

Thank you to Newby Teas for the invite to the awards and to AfternoonTea.co.uk for putting on such a fabulous event.

***All the fabulous photos in this post were supplied by AfternoonTea.co.uk***

 

Winchester Life Hacks

I love a good Life Hack…you know, those handy tips and quick fixes that save time and energy. Sometimes it’s the simplest tricks that make the biggest difference. Things like rolling your clothes instead of folding them when packing for a holiday – you can get so much more in and there are far fewer creases!

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I started thinking about some of my favourites tips and tricks for life in Winchester. After a few years of living here, you start to build up your own secret knowledge bank of how to make the most of the city. So here are a few of my favourites…

St Giles Hill – Avoiding the hike

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Views from the top of this panoramic spot in the city are beautiful, you can see out across much of Winchester. I personally love a trip up to the top of St. Giles Hill, however there’s no denying it’s extremely steep in places! The climb can require a certain amount of effort, which is itself rewarding, but if you’re feeling a little lazy or pressed for time, there are a few less strenuous routes you can take. My preferred one is to simply use the footbridge by the Chesil Street Multi-storey Car Park. This cuts the journey and the effort required right down, getting you to the top in no time.

Black Bottle – Make the most of your credit

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Who doesn’t love a trip to the Black Bottle now and again? Winchester’s unique wine vending machine venue is a great place to try different wines and relax with friends. After visiting, I often found I was left with odd small amounts of credit on my Black Bottle card, little did I know you can actually drink every last drop of your credit! Even if you don’t have enough left for a glass of your chosen wine, put your card in anyway and you’ll be rewarded with an equivalent amount of wine (this can work quite well if you pick one of the less pricey wines!). Is it just me who was excited to discover this? And am I the only one who didn’t know about it?

Bombay Sapphire Distillery – No need to drive

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Want to do the Bombay Sapphire Gin Distillery experience out at Laverstoke Mill but don’t want drive and miss out on all the gin? Don’t be fooled by it’s rural location, there are a few public transport options from Winchester. You can catch the 86 bus, which stops in Overton, from there it’s about half an hour walk from the distillery (or there are shuttle services available). Alternatively, if you can hop on the direct train to Micheldever, there’s a shuttle service running to the distillery too – offering you a perfect, gin filled day out, with no-one having to miss out on the fun.

Christmas market – avoid the crush

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I love Winchester’s Christmas market, it’s my happy place…apparently a lot of other people feel that way too, judging by the significant queues to get in. Avoid the slow-moving squash of bodies to get into Winchester’s fabulous Christmas market by entering from the back. Make your way in via the archway at the end of College Street, where it meets with St. Swithun Street. You’ll get into the market much quicker and avoid the crowded Christmas crush (especially if you go on a week day too). Keep this one in mind for December people! I know it’s summer right now but you could familiarise yourself with the route in readiness for the festive season. There are some lovely independent shops in the area that are well worth a visit.
What have I missed? Tell me yours!
These are four Winchester Hacks that came to my mind immediately, I’m sure there’s many more I’ve missed and even some that I’m completely unaware of. I’d love to hear your tips for getting the best from our fair city, please do share yours with me.

A diet of documentaries

These days there are plenty of food documentaries out there that are easy to consume thanks to the rise of streaming services like Amazon and Netflix. And I certainly have an appetite for them! I feel that there’s so much we don’t understand about the food we eat and its effect on our bodies (and the planet). So personally, I can’t get enough of food documentaries in my mission to educate myself a little better.

Here’s a few films (and a book) that I’ve devoured recently that have helped me…

That Sugar Film

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It came recommended to me from a trusted personal trainer and when I eventually got around to watching this, it changed the way I thought about calories. As many people will know I have been enthusiastic about low fat/low calorie snacks in the past and have eaten plenty of processed diet snacks to keep myself under a certain calorie limit. And no matter how much I heard about clean eating and healthy fats, I would often still choose a low calorie snack bar or fat free yogurt over something like a whole avocado or scrambled egg. ‘That Sugar Film’ taught me that sugar and sweeteners are the real enemy and that my low calorie snacks are packed full of it. I knew that they were, I just didn’t believe that sugar was actually that bad. Throughout the documentary, filmmaker Damon Gameau eats a high sugar diet without ever reaching for chocolate or sweet treats. He gets his sugar from supermarket cooking sauces, frozen yoghurt, fruit juices and breakfast cereals…all things we tend to think of as ‘not too bad’. It did shock me to realise the damage I could be doing to my body on what I kidded myself was a healthy-ish diet. If you’re looking to cut sugar (or just to understand a bit more about it), this film is enlightening, easy to understand and best of all, it’s actually pretty funny too.

Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret

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Okay, this film is not funny at all, and it is heavy going but it’s also eye-opening. It essentially concerns farming’s impact on the planet, which I really had no idea about. I thought as long as I was buying organic meat, eggs and fish that I was doing right by the earth and animals…but in short it seems no farming is sustainable. This is a much bigger story than animal welfare, it is about our future as a planet. It’s truly a staggering documentary. I have never wanted to give up dairy before, but I pretty much have now after seeing this. I would love to try and go veggie too but having recently adopted a paleo-approach to eating, it would be incredibly hard! I have to admit, the film has left me feeling really uncomfortable about eating meat and unsure of the way forward. I don’t regret watching it though, it’s better to be informed.

Book binge: It Starts with Food

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Whilst in America I read ‘It Starts with Food’ after being lent it by my friends at Studio Twenty3. It was a much needed read, building on what I’d learnt in That Sugar Film and really spelling out the ill effects of eating foods not found in nature. It also helps you to understand why we crave and love some of the things we do (cheese and crisps in my case!) and shows how little chance we have against some of the foods out there. They are specifically designed to be irresistible! The recommendations are pretty extreme…no dairy (except clarified butter), no grains (that’s no rice or wheat) and no legumes (like beans or chickpeas) and of course no added sugars or sweeteners. However, it does claim that a lot of the conditions and negative effects of eating a bad diet can be reversed, so it seems a fair price to pay.
The science is all there in the book, it makes a lot of sense really. I’ve been sticking strictly to this (it’s called the ‘Whole30’ if you’re interested) wherever possible and I’ve already felt better and lost a little weight too.

Bursting with food facts…
I’m trying my hardest not to be an annoying person quoting food facts but I do feel happier being a little better educated on everything. I’m always up for learning more though, so let me know if there are any food documentaries or books you recommend?

16 Thoughts I had about food in America

FoodTeaLife has been more than a little quiet lately, I could blame wedding planning, career changes and time abroad but it’s mainly that I’ve also been busy researching and thinking a lot more about nutrition lately…but that’s a whole other blog post.

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For now, I’ve just got back from America (a Californian road trip with a stop in Las Vegas) and of course, I thought about food a lot. The differences both positive and negative amused and intrigued me, so here goes…my thoughts about food while in America:-

  1. Coffee with cream in it?! What? That sounds SO ridiculously indulgent, yet it seems so everyday in the US. It seemed wrong but I have to say I soon got into it and kind of enjoyed it. Also, good coffee seems much more widespread over there. The UK has some catching up to to do on the good coffee front.
  2. On the other hand…the tea situation is pretty dire. No-one drinks it at breakfast like the Brits do and when you ask for milk you sometimes get hot milk, SO WRONG! Plus, why is it called ‘hot tea’, surely it’s just Tea or it’s iced tea? Tea is always hot unless otherwise stated isn’t it? I’m a tea fiend so this probably got me to me more than it should.tea solves
  3. Avocados, Avocados…Avocados everywhere! Woohoo! I LOVE avocados and ate one virtually every day whilst in the US, they’re grown in California so that may explain their abundance on menus. While avocados are pretty popular in the UK too, there are plenty of cafes that don’t offer some kind avo-centred dish, but happily this was not the case in the US.
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Breakfast of my dreams in LA, beautiful avocado toast!

4. Damn…the pies! Talk about pie porn! Sweet dessert pies, like Key Lime Pie were epic looking. The one slice I did have while out there was delicious.

5. Oooh so much amazing Mexican cuisine, so delicious and I’m in guacamole heaven…uh-oh, ate too many black beans, my tummy will not thank me for this.

6. Is In-N-Out Burger really that different to McDonald’s? I don’t get it.

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7. What exactly is a pound cake?

8. Wow sourdough is popular out here! Is that because all the other bread is sooo sweet? Either way I’m happy it’s an option.

9. The cheese situation is not great…what’s with all the liquid orange ‘cheese’? Yet the butter here is delicious…how does that work? Sort it out America. It made me realise just how spoilt for cheese choice we are in Europe.

10. Is bacon always crispy here? Would American’s be disgusted by the classic British Bacon Butty?

11. Ahh the international language of Subway, the same across the continents. I’m fluent in Subway and got a lovely fresh salad bowl whilst out on the road, on our way to Vegas. Although, American subway has banana peppers and fresh coriander in the salad options, we need these in UK (pretty sure my local branch doesn’t offer these).

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12. California’s got good wine.

13. Actual molten butter on popcorn….what?! I am a huge fan of popcorn (the lightly salted kind). It’s a cinema must for me. So when we went to ‘the movies’ in LA and I was offered buttered popcorn, it seemed like a classic American thing to try! It was good at first, but soon became not good (shouldn’t have got a large). What’s wrong with just sweet or salted?

14. Ooh Fever Tree mixers are out here too, how great (although there did not seem to be any in Vegas though). I always judge a bar or pub if it doesn’t have a good tonic like Fever Tree.

15. Dam nachos are epic out here!

16. Loving all the free and regular water top ups in restaurants, I can never get enough water, so this is amazing! The ‘soda’ tops ups are not so good though, have seen people drink two or three cokes with a lunch because of this…nobody needs that much sugar!

As you can see, I thought about food rather a lot. We had an absolutely amazing trip, full of adventures but right now I’m happy to be home in the land of good cups of tea and smaller portions.

I’m sure there’s plenty of things US visitors would find weird and wonderful about eating and drinking in the UK too (probably our tea obsession would factor highly!).

xXx

 

Dry-ish January – can it be done?

Last year as 2016 began my partner and his brother decided to do ‘Dry January’ – oh how I scoffed at the idea and made my lack of faith in them very apparent. But now that we’re in January 2017, I find myself wondering if I shouldn’t give it a go this year?

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It can’t be a completely dry 31 days, we’re going skiing at the end of the month and I don’t plan to miss out on the après-ski drinks…but can I last until the day before the holiday?

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No way am I missing out on the apres-ski action!

Incidentally, last January the boys only lasted two weeks (so I was justified in my lack of faith!). That said, we didn’t really go about it in the right way last year. With them off the booze, but me still on it, I made the excellent suggestion that we should drive to some out of town restaurants on the weekends (always looking at what’s in it for me!). The kinds of places that are near and you’ve always wanted to go but would be rather extortionate in a taxi…The Pig, Limewood, The Crab at Chieveley and the like. It was an amazing idea in theory, it meant we all got to experience the wonderful food at these places (and I still got to drink the wine). However, in practice it was total temptation of the highest order for the teetotallers! And it was the stunning bar out at The Pig in the New Forest that broke their will and saw them succumbing to a fabulous gin & tonic. It was a wonder that two dry weekends were managed with this approach really. In hindsight, going to lovely restaurants with amazing cocktails and wine lists was a terrible idea for those avoiding the booze (it worked well for me though!)…I’m surprised they agreed to it really!

So, after a very indulgent festive season and with a ski holiday coming up, I could certainly do with shaping up, losing a few pounds and generally getting back on track – and this is why I find myself contemplating a dry-ish January. I’ve never been tempted before, the closest I’ve come is giving up drinking on Fridays whilst on a pre-holiday diet and I found it incredibly boring! Never the less, I’m still feeling like giving it a go.

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I’m not sure how well I’d fare out in a restaurant and it’s the weekends I’ll struggle most with. Wine or a drop of gin, certainly makes you feel like it’s time to relax after a hard week of working. Lucky that I love tea really I suppose. This year we both got an abundance of board games, Lego, books and activity themed Christmas presents to keep us occupied, so perhaps this is the way to fill the weekends instead?

Have you ever done a month off the booze? What are your tips for staying away from the wine? I welcome any advice!

 

Chocolate, Cocktails and Christmas

Christmas seems to have crept up on me this year – but it’s a little like the Tesco Christmas advert…what starts off as a panic soon turns into excitement. I think we can all agree we need a little Christmas magic more than ever this year!

So, the Christmas lights switch on in Winchester came at just the right time. Winchester is always a beautiful sight but the high street really does look extra special in the build up to Christmas with the lights twinkling away.

After taking in the lights, my sister and I were lucky enough to have tickets to the perfect event to keep the festive feeling alive. We came in out of the cold to Winchester’s cosy little chocolate shop, Chococo, for an evening of special cocktails and sweet treats.

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Chococo-Late was a joint adventure from the Cabinet Rooms and Chococo and what a collaboration it was! Cocktail expertise and chocolate flavours were combined, with just a hint of Christmas thrown too.

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A warm mulled pear & ginger cocktail made with Gosling’s rum was my first tipple of the evening and it truly was Christmas in a cup! I also enjoyed the Chococo Russian and the Sublime Moment – both were beautifully presented and absolutely delicious.

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We tucked into Chococo’s milk, dark and white chocolate buttons as well as a warm chocolate brownie with cappuccino ice cream.  A decadent deluxe hot chocolate featuring cream, marshmallows and chocolate malt balls, also went down well on our table. We didn’t quite have room for the chocolate fondue on the menu but saw another table enjoying this and thought it looked amazing.

We left feeling warm, cosy and full of chocolate…but best of all, brimming with festive cheer. The countdown to Christmas has begun!

Thank you to the Cabinet Rooms and Chococo Winchester for a lovely evening. You can find out more about the brilliant foodie events from the Cabinet Rooms on their website.

Recent finds

I’ve been up in London for both work and play recently and made lots of exciting foodie discoveries, I thought I’d share a few of my favourites here.

The Restaurant Show + The Bar & Pub Show

I was lucky enough to be working at this fantastic event and had a great time visiting different exhibitors and hearing their stories. Here are a few things I found…

Twisted Halo

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Health conscious but enjoy a drink? This is for you! Twisted Halo is a gently sparkling blend of coconut water twisted with ginger and muddled with premium vodka. At 90 calories per 275ml bottle, it’s light, fresh and very drinkable. I hope to see pubs and bars stocking it soon!

Curio Spirits

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Yes more booze – but I loved the Curio Spirits collection of gin and vodka. Made in small batches all the way down in Cornwall they were full of fragrant botanicals and natural ingredients. I liked their Rock Samphire Gin, made with Cornish spring water and quadrupled distilled with 15 fragrant botanicals, including Kombu seaweed.

The Snaffling Pig Co. – Pork Crackling

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If you watch Dragons Den you may remember this company, who had reinvented pork crackling as a high end pub snack. I had to try some and I wasn’t alone in doing so, their stand was very busy with people sampling the tasty flavours. Expect to see these in good pubs soon!

This is just a little snapshot from the show, there were so many other great things to see and try and talks to learn from too.

Stylist Live 

A week or so later I was back in London for a fun day out at Stylist Live. This is a truly amazing event, with so much going on. I could have gone to all the talks and bought so many lovely things! There are foodie stalls, gins, clothes, jewellery, interiors, make up – just everything. It’s fair to say I was a little over excited. So here’s just two fun foodie finds…

Crosstown Doughnuts – Matcha Tea Doughnut

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I have had the pleasure of sampling Crosstown Doughnuts before (they’re amazing!) but I’d never tried their Matcha Tea Doughnut before. With Match Tea being all the rage at the moment I had to give it a try and it didn’t disappoint. These sourdough doughnuts are on another level! Seriously indulgent but seriously worth it.

Rebel Kitchen – Raw Coconut Water

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From indulgence to innocence…this refreshing coconut water has no additives so it naturally turns pink in the bottle. I’d never seen coconut water with this pink glow before but apparently they’re the result of naturally occurring phenols (anti-oxidants to you and me). It tasted different to other coconut water brands and was lovely and refreshing. I’ll be stocking up on it!

xXx

 

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