A Simple bit of Nostalgia

Still struggling with time management here, not least because I spend half of it procrastinating, but hey ho.  It’s made much worse this week because we are having a new kitchen fitted very soon.  In fact they are coming to gut the current one on Friday, so I’ve had to start emptying it out and packing up.

I find it quite incredible how much kitchen related stuff we have accumulated over the years.  Like everyone else, we have umpteen used-just-the-once gadgets tucked at the back of cupboards – a potato peeler, a spiralizer, a waffle maker… you know the sort of thing, the sort that seemed a good idea at the time.  I’ve also got bowls and pots my mother gave me when she was clearing out, and which I can’t believe I have some sort of sentimental feelings over – for goodness sake, they’re just stuff!  But I did find a glass dishy type thing (I have no idea what to call it) which was used to display cucumber slices at Sunday tea-time when I was a kid.  Gosh it did bring back some memories!

Our Sunday teas were sit down at the table affairs, and most weeks would consist of sea food and salad.  Dad would have picked up the sea food from the stall outside the pub when he went for his Sunday lunchtime beer(s). There were always prawns, winkles, cockles and sometimes fresh scampi, which I have never seen since those days. The salads were different then too. Not the mixed up colourful affairs of today, oh nooo.  The cucumber had its own dish, the celery would be standing sentry like in a vase, the lettuce would be in one bowl, the tomatoes in another, and we’d pile our plates with the individual bits and pieces, and no, of course there was no fancy dressings just a splosh of salad cream if we were feeling fancy.

While we were eating ‘Sing Something Simple’ would be on the radio (I should point out this was the year of the Beatles White Album which my sister and I would have much preferred to have been listening to (actually I lie, I would have preferred to be listening to the Monkees :/))Of course, when I recalled that I just had to look it up on youtube (what can’t you find on youtube??)  So now you can grab yourself a boring salad, find a pin to winkle out your winkles (if you don’t know what I mean I expect you can find that on youtube too) settle down, relax, and join me listening to some old tunes from 1968!  There’s no meaningless chatting, no ads, no callers, just a bit of harmonising… quite soothing in the current mad climate!  Enjoy 🙂

Thirsty Thursday


For anyone who hasn’t yet visited Marrakech, Morocco, you must.  Jemaa El-Fna is the huge square in the centre.  Scooters and motorbikes go in all directions as do pony and traps, there are entertainers dancing, gymnasts flick flacking and climbing on each other to make pyramids (ta da!) hawkers selling, well everything – we even found a stall selling second hand false teeth (where did he get those from I wonder?), people with performing monkeys, musicians, people telling stories, people grabbing your hands to try and paint henna on them, it’s colourful, noisy and mad, in the best possible way.  In fact you can just sit in a cafe sipping your tea and watch it all for hours.

I’ve always liked a refreshing glass of mint tea, it’s good for the digestion you know, and can help if you’ve got tummy upsets or the like.  However, I’d never tasted mint tea as good as the brew they deliver in Marrakech.

They pop freshly picked mint and a dollop of honey into a silver tea pot, bung in some boiling water and serve (from a height to cool it) into wee little glasses.  Perfect on a scorching hot Marrakech morning (or afternoon).. (or evening)…

‘We can’t make it this good at home’ we thought ‘the little teapot must be the key’

We set off to the souk to buy one, and while we were at it, thought we’d get some for our daughters too, as a souvenir  So we needed three topnotch teapots.  Surely there would be a deal to be done.

The souks run off of the square and are narrow covered lanes with market stalls or tiny shops on either side. They are normally packed with people, animals pulling carts, and mad motorcyclists trying to run you down. It’s steamily hot,and there are some interesting smells. But I absolutely love them.  The atmosphere is like nowhere else. Mostly jovial, but you have to beware of anyone trying to fleece you, or pick your pockets.  Probably no worse than any other tourist ridden place though.

It didn’t take us long to find a small shop whose shelves were overloaded with gleaming teapots of all different designs and sizes.  We pondered long and hard over which three to choose while the owner of the shop stood courteously to one side watching us diligently.  As soon as we picked a couple up, he swooped and gave us an outrageously high price which he swore was a bargain for these authentic Moroccon items. Now, anyone who has ever been to Morocco must know that the rule of thumb is to seriously haggle over the price. When he found out we were buying three, he did drop it a bit, and after haggling good naturedly for a good half an hour, we got him to a more reasonable sum which was about a quarter of the original price he’d suggested.

Letting us know that he wouldn’t be able to feed his family of ten for a week because we had struck such a hard bargain (hmm….) he wrapped up our lovely bona fide Marrakechian pots and we went off to find a cool spot to have another cup of tea.

When we got back to our room in our little Riad, we were eager to inspect our purchases. Polished and shiny, prettily patterned, they would be a perfect reminder of our short holiday in Morocco.

Though we did see the funny side when we turned them over and found ‘Made In Manchester’ stamped brazenly on the bottom!!

Tea in a Marrakech cafe

Cooling off with a cuppa in a Marrakech cafe

Thirsty Thursday – Won’t you join me?

DSC_0484Having a nice, proper, cup of tea today. By proper, I mean not from a manky old teabag, and not spoiled by the addition of milk.  As you know, I love tea, and have a pretty big selection in my cupboard, but more often than not I just grab a bog standard teabag like everyone else.

When we visited the tea plantations in Sri Lanka, we were told that the tea in our Western teabags pretty much consisted of the sweepings from the floor in terms of leaf quality, and I must say that when I do make the effort and opt for something like an Orange Pekoe, that does become pretty obvious. ‘Real’ tea is light and refreshing and not in any way bitter.This morning’s cuppa is made with tea that my daughter brought back from Malaysia for me.  It’s described as ‘An exquisite flowery Pekoe with a delicate aroma’ and it is, and there is no need for anything else in the cup, just pure tea. Lovely.

Many people I know find it hard to take tea without quantities of sugar.  I’ve seen people heap three of four teaspoons of the white stuff into just a small cup.  Ok, hands up, I used to do the same, that’s how I was brought up. As a child mum put sugar in my tea, and it was all I knew.  But many years ago now, I came to my senses, cut out the sugar (it wasn’t easy at first, but worth the effort) and got my taste buds back. I can now appreciate the infinite subtle nuances in the flavours between different types which makes it worth the effort of making a proper brew.  It’s just like the differences you find between wines.

Mind you, I cheated with this one, instead of getting the pot out, I just put a heaped teaspoonful of leaves in a tea strainer and poured the boiling water over it and into the cup. Probably not the perfectionists way, but is ok when it’s just me.  You’ll notice I did drag the posh china out for the occasion though. Well….you can’t drink proper tea from a mug now, can you?


Tea for me please #2

Reading my last post back, I noticed that I failed to mention that although I don’t drink coffee, I am, in fact, a tea connoisseur.  Even I didn’t realise that until after I’d written it.  Perhaps it was when I counted the different teas I have in my cupboard.  Twenty.  Yep, twenty different teas.  There’s the bog standard fairtrade everyday tea bags (I like Diplomat ones from Aldi by the way!) and then there are packets of:

Camomile, Peppermint, Pomegranate & Raspberry, Cranberry & Raspberry, Fennel, Masala, Ginger, Selfridges Afternoon Tea, Boh tea from Malaysia, Tetley’s Earl Grey, Jasmine, Kiptagich Highland Tea from Kenya, Darjeeling, Fairtrade organic Breakfast tea, Sarawack tea from Borneo, a packet of herbal tea from Sri Lanka, Fortnam and Mason’s Orange Pekoe, Pure Ceylon from Sri Lanka and Highcrown BOP from Sri Lanka.

A fair selection I think you’ll agree.  Some of them have been hanging around in my cupboard for a while, but I’ve tasted them all. Many are brought from distant shores and remind me of holidays.

I’ve sipped a thick sweet black tea in a make-shift corrugated iron cafe by the sea in Turkey.  Warmed up with Jasmine tea after nearly being frozen to death, even in the brilliant sunshine, on the Great Wall of China.

The mint tea in Morocco was served from tiny silver teapots into little glass cups, in a sweetsmelling and peaceful courtyard tucked away behind the exciting and exhausting madness of Jemaa el Fna and the Medina’s.

Recently I had my first taste of Masala tea in India.  The slightly curried warmth of it will always remind me of collapsing by the pool at one of the fabulous hotels after a full-on day of exploring the mosaic cities, wonderful palaces and extraordinary rivers that make India such a fascinating and wonderful place to be.

Ginger tea was taken on a rooftop terrace in the sunshine, while contemplating the world of people wheeling around the brilliant white Boudhanath Stupa in Katmandhu, Nepal.

Without a doubt though, the best cup of tea I have ever had, was after a very long and arduous journey in a jeep up into the mountains of Sri Lanka.  We’d travelled through rising seas of tea plantations, lush and green, dotted with women in colourful sari’s plucking the leaves.  We were hot and sticky when we eventually stopped to visit one of the factories.  The manager there greeted the four of us (me, husband, two 14 yr old daughters) warmly, and took us to one of the fields where we learned about the bushes and their growing habits, and the different types of tea.  We then saw the tea itself in different tubs depending on quality (always look for Orange Pekoe!) and were told, somewhat disconcertingly, that the tea bags we get in England are made of the equivalent of the sweepings from the floor!

After the, fairly brief, tour, we were shown into a beautiful, fan-cooled room, where there were huge soft sofa’s that we were ashamed to plonk our grubby selves on.  We did nonetheless, and sat and enjoyed the comfort after the bashing around we’d had in the jeep.  Tea was served to us by a beautiful young Sri Lankan lady dressed in an simple orange sari.  She poured from a proper teapot, into proper china cups.  The tea was black, and untainted by sugar.  It would be impossible for me to describe the flavour, but I would say that it was exquisite, subtle, and refreshing.  To top it all it was served with a slab of perfect chocolate cake.  I was in heaven.

Of course, as well as my travels, tea reminds me of a nice cup of tea with my mum after a hard day at school, and all the time’s when I’ve come home from work feeling grumpy and a cuppa has made me feel better.  Some of the tea’s in my cupboard have been bought for me by my daughter’s when they have been on their travels (Malaysian BOH, and the Sarawack from Borneo for instance), which makes me proud and happy too.

So yep, I admit it, I’m Kaye and I’m a Tea-aholic!

Tea for me please

For the first time ever yesterday, I went into a Starbucks on my own.  Actually, I’m not sure that I’ve ever been in a Starbucks at all before, so it was a new experience for me.  I’d like to say here and now, that I won’t be going back.  Nor will I be venturing into any other ‘coffee shop’.

For a start I don’t drink coffee.  Tried it a few times, but just the smell makes me feel slightly nauseous and lightheaded.  Last time I drank coffee was at a dinner party some 20 years ago.  We’d just moved in to a new house, and were invited by kindly neighbours who were, frankly, ordinarily a little too posh for the likes of us.  We didn’t know any of the other four couples there at all.  It would have felt very unsophisticated to ask for a cup of tea instead, so I took the coffee served in tiny cups at the end of the meal, and tried not to turn my nose up at it as I drank it.

Pretty much instantaneously, I felt my head swim, things went a bit blurry, and I felt the need to excuse myself to head to the loo to slosh some water on my face.   The next thing I knew I was sitting on the floor on their deep-pile carpet with my head between my knees, having passed out cold.  Very sophisticated. They all thought I was drunk.  I wasn’t, which was apparent by my swift recovery. But once they realised I was sober as a judge, everyone made a big fuss, and a doctor was called.  I felt a right twerp.  All I wanted was a cup a’ rosy.

Anyway, I’ll never know whether it was the coffee that made me faint, it doesn’t seem to have that effect on anyone else, but I haven’t drunk it since.

So, anyway, I was hanging about, very bored, waiting for a train yesterday, and thought I’d get myself a cup of hot chocolate (I can’t abide tea in plastic cups).  Starbucks was the only place in the near vacinity, so I braved it.  Oh, the smell.  Do you know (I expect you do) that they have a pile of coffee beans, just loose on the top of some machine….eewww….!  All I wanted was a cup of hot chocolate, but I had to make decisions about what size/type, and I also had, for some unfathomable reason, to tell the girl my name.  Then go and queue for my drink.

It was ok.  Lukewarm for hot chocolate, even without the pile of cream I was offered.  I had to sit on a primary school sized stool at a bench table.  Can’t say I enjoyed it.  At all.  But it killed some time – all of five minutes, mostly queueing.

I am, I admit, slightly jealous of all those other folk happily ordering their fancy named beverages. Knowing the difference between a latte, a macchiato, cappacino and espresso, not to mention the different versions of them.  I do still feel very unsophisticated compared to those who sit with friends slowly sipping something frothy, or people who rush about clutching enormous plastic cups of something or other that they seem to need to just fuel them through their day (they must be loaded too – have you seen the price of those things??? And why don’t they need the loo all the time???)  However, I have learnt in my old age, that the one thing that makes anyone seem sophisticated is their being able to ask for what they want with confidence and ease, and without embarrassment.

So these days, if I’m coming ’round to your house, put the coffee maker away and make sure you’re stocked up on tea bags – you know that’s what I’ll be asking for.