Dec 232013
 

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Husky sledding at Sweden’s Ice Hotel – © Kavita Favelle 2012

 

How to bring a little Kyoto spirituality home from your travels…

With a staggering two thousand Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines, City of Temples is an apt epithet for Japan’s former imperial capital. One of the delights of a trip to Kyoto is not only visiting the famous ones in all the tourist guides but stumbling unexpectedly across so many others as you explore the city and surrounding prefecture.

But don’t worry about becoming “templed out” – not only are these places of worship and prayer compellingly beautiful, they are also hugely varied, endlessly fascinating and an excellent way to gain an insight into Japanese culture. For many Japanese, religious practices are as much about tradition and custom as they are about worship. It’s not uncommon for Japanese people to practice both Buddhism and Shintoism, for which they visit both temples and shrines on special occasions, to remember their ancestors, and to ask for help in specific matters. For a first-time visitor, it takes a little knowledge to distinguish the temples from the shrines.

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Shinto shrines are sacred places in which to pray to one or more of thousands of different kami (spirits). Created as sanctuaries for the kami, the shrines are designed to blend in with their natural surroundings. Many are associated with specific spirits; worshippers often seek out kami that can help with particular issues they are experiencing. There are shrines for pregnant women wanting a safe delivery, shrines where one can pray for a good harvest, shrines for requesting success and wealth in business, shrines to ward off evil spirits and even shrines dedicated to relationships and sexual gratification. A particular highlight of our first visit to Kyoto was a visit to Yasui Konpira-gu Shrine, where we watched a long line of young girls pass through a hole in an enormous paper-covered boulder known as The Stone of Breaking and Bonding. Wriggling through in one direction breaks bad relationships and crawling back in the other direction creates new, positive ones.

Simple thatched wooden buildings echo the design of storehouses and prehistoric dwellings and are usually surrounded by a sacred grove of trees. Thick ropes hung with shimenawa (tassles) and gohei (white paper) cordon off sacred corners – they are often tied around a sacred sakaki tree known as the heart post. Entrances to Shinto shrines is usually through a torii (gate) which marks the transition from the profane to the sacred. They are often guarded by statues of lions or dogs, though at Fushimi Inari-taisha, you will find messenger foxes. This shrine is also famous for its senbon torii, paths of hundreds of torii gates snaking up the hillside, one after another. Painted bright red, they are individually paid for and donated by worshippers praying to Inari, the kami of fertility, rice and industry. Visit at sunset for the most spectacular play of light and shadow between the gates’ red pillars. The first stop for worshippers is the chozuya (water basin) to purify hands and mouths, using the long-handled ladles provided, before proceeding to the haiden (main shrine). There, a front porch features a rope, a bell and a collection box; visitors usually clap, ring the bell and make their prayers.

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It is also common to write prayers or messages for the kami. Originally, horses were given as votives, to represent the divine steed, but over time, boxes painted with their image were given instead. Nowadays, these have been replaced with wooden plaques called ema, on which personal messages are written before they are hung onto hooks provided. Ema come in different shapes – though rectangular ones are most common, we also spotted octagon, heart, rice-paddle, torii and ruler shaped plaques – the designs are varied; often colourful, intriguing and occasionally even startling! Sales of ema help support the shrines financially, so staff are very happy for visitors to buy ema as souvenirs to take home with them. They cost from 300-1000 Yen each (£2-7) and each shrine has its own designs to choose from. Shrine visitors also make small payments in exchange for o-mikuji – paper slips revealing their fortune. These can either be tied to walls of strings provided, for the resident kami to influence, or taken home.

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Buddhist temples are devoted to worshipping Buddha and the many gods within the Buddhist pantheon. As well as a main hall, where one or more statues of Buddha are located, some temples feature impressive multi-storied pagodas, a few of which – such as Yasaka Pagoda – permit public entry to the upper levels. Temples may also have kodo halls, where monks study and chant, and kyozo depositories, where sacred texts are stored. In the grounds, the many groupings of Jizo statues are impossible to ignore. Jizo is the patron of travellers and children and is most strongly associated with helping the souls of babies ­who were aborted, died during birth or as young children. Depicting a short, round, bald man the simplistically styled statues are often decorated with bibs and woolly hats in red and white. Some temples have a dedicated graveyard with family gravestones, many in the traditional gorinto (five ringed tower) form. You may also spot an enormous bell, rung to mark the New Year and other occasions. Outer and inner gates to the temple are usually guarded by an array of fierce animals, warriors or gods who ward off evil spirits. Some Buddhist temples also have torii, but these are usually smaller and less prevalent than in Shinto shrines. Visitors pray by making monetary offerings (thrown into a saisen-bako box), lighting incense and candles and leaving food and drink offerings. Like Shinto shrines, ema and o-mikuji are often on sale for leaving messages and discerning one’s fortune.

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During my two trips to Kyoto, I have amassed a beautiful collection of ema from many different temples and shrines. The pale wood, red and white cords and colourful images (also featuring lots of red) make unusual and memory-laden tree ornaments, and look lovely shown off against the green branches of a traditional tree or hung onto a more modern metal spiral one.  I’m delighted at how well they have helped me bring a little Kyoto magic into my home this winter.

 

This piece was written for Good Things Magazine, a new food, travel and lifestyle magazine launching to consumers in Spring 2014. Content will be available via the website soon, or follow @GoodThingsUK for the latest news.

Dec 182013
 

My sister and I were definitely Blue Peter girls.

We loved making the many craft projects shown on the programme. I remember spending weeks making a cardboard dolls house with lots of furniture inside: instructions for additional items taught across a series of episodes; one week a chest of drawers made from matchboxes with split pins for handles; another week a table lamb using the fancy lid from a common brand of shampoo or bubble bath bottle. We made 3D greeting cards, witches’ hats and face masks from empty cereal boxes. There was a large castle made from a cardboard box, with toilet-roll holder turrets.  And I can no longer recall whether it was an empty jam jar or washing up liquid bottle inside the cotton wool-covered snowman. Oh and I thought my home-made personal organiser was the epitome of sophistication! There were hundreds more I’ve forgotten, of course, as we were pretty prolific. We improvised, of course – to this day I don’t think I’ve ever even seen sticky backed plastic and how many times was there an empty box or bottle just when you needed one?

We also loved to make a mess in the kitchen. We did enjoy proper cooking but it was also fun to make simple things we could do on our own like peppermint creams, coconut ice and marzipan fruits. Making marzipan fruits kept us occupied for hours, so I suspect it was a favourite with our parents too!

As well as a block or two of shop-bought marzipan we assembled our tools – various items of cutlery to make indents and marks of different shapes, such as teaspoons, toothpicks, tiny crab forks and a large grater to help pattern citrus peel; food colouring and some water to dilute it as needed and water colour paintbrushes with which we carefully blushed red over green for apples and orange over yellow for apricots. We usually kneaded the base food colouring into the actual marzipan and then painted the secondary colours over the top. We used cloves as stalks, stuck in one way for citrus fruits and the other for apples and pears. Leaves were too complicated so we either skipped them or used real ones from the garden.

Oddly, I have no memories of eating our finished creations – just of sitting in the kitchen sculpting away!

 

When I spotted some large marzipan fruits in Carluccio’s Christmas range, they bought those childhood memories straight back. For comparison purposes, I also picked up boxes from Sainsbury’s and Waitrose. I had hoped to include Niederegger marzipan fruits, as I love the quality of their marzipan, but discovered that these are no longer available. I was not able to pick up products from other supermarkets.

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Carluccio’s hand painted Sicilian Frutta di Marzapane (£16.95 for 400 grams) were certainly visually impressive and would be the prettiest of the three sets if you want to make a table display, although I wasn’t convinced by the plastic stalks and greenery. The fruits were very large – especially the tomato, lemon, fig and orange – which would also make them harder to share and hard to eat a whole one at once. Sadly, I was disappointed by the taste and dry mealy texture of the marzipan itself.

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Waitrose marzipan fruits (£4.99 for 170 grams) were a much better match for the ones my sister and I used to make and less heavily coloured too. All the fruits were about the same size, just right for enjoying in one or two bites. But I was disappointed by the flat bottoms – the fruits were shaped only on the top, rather than all the way around. On the plus side, the taste and texture of the marzipan was, surprisingly, far better than Carluccio’s.

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At just £3 (for 150 grams), Sainsbury’s marzipan fruits were the most keenly priced. Like the Waitrose box, each fruit was evenly sized and this time they were shaped all the way around. That said, the moulding was poorly aligned and the colouring and detail far less attractive than the others. The texture was pleasantly soft and smooth, but the flavour wasn’t as good as the Waitrose ones.

 

My pick of the three are the Waitrose marzipan fruits which provide the best combination of good looks, great taste and a reasonable price.

 

Kavey Eats received a sample box from Carluccio’s and purchased the other two samples directly from local supermarkets.

 

Having put so much time and effort into creating my previous Christmas gift guides, it’s lovely to be asked by regular readers when my 2013 one will be ready. Of course, that’s hugely gratifying – it makes me very happy that people find my gift guides helpful – but does put the pressure on when I’m running a bit late! So, to those who have been eagerly awaiting this post, thanks for your patience and I hope you find some items you like!

You may notice I got a little caught up in tea towels but, stay with me, I move on eventually!

Note, some items are from international stores, with prices shown in Euros or dollars, appropriately.

 

3D Space Cookie Cutters

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Do you remember my delight at the 3D safari cookie cutters I found last year? Well, how about these 3D Space Cookie Cutters, also from Suck UK? There are 4 different designs and each one costs £7.50. with free delivery.

 

Super Badger Coffee Set

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How cute are these Super Badger Coffee Cups by Jimbobart? Available for £45 (plus £4.95 delivery) via Culture Label. Check out his other products on the same site – there are several other funky stacked coffee cup sets and a range of plates, all featuring foxes and bears and badgers.

 

Muji Wooden Nutcracker

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I much prefer the bowl and screw type of nutcrackers to the hinged ones, and this pretty Wooden Nutcracker from Muji is an attractive option. £9.95 (plus £2.95 delivery).

 

Muji Stainless Steel Colanders

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Also from Muji are these stainless steel colanders. I really like the simple shape and style. Available in three sizes (Small 15cm, Medium 18cm and Large 21cm) they cost £6.95, £7.95 and £8.95 respectively (plus £2.95 delivery per order).

 

Harvey Nichols Honey

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This French Rosemary Honey, English Wildflower Honey and Scottish Heather Honey from Harvey Nichols are just £3.95 a jar. Delivery is £6 but if you live near a store, you can buy online for collection instead.

 

Food Themed Heritage Playing Cards

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There are ten different sets of heritage playing cards available from Steenbergs Organic, of which my favourites are these five food-themed ones featuring mushrooms, fruits, vegetables, spices and herbs. Each set is £3.88 (plus £4.50 flat rate delivery).

 

Death Star Tea Infuser

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Made from stainless steel, with a cute Tie Fighter counter balance, I like this clever take on a regular globe infuser. Death Star Tea Infuser, $19.99 (plus $9.64 economy shipping to UK), from Think Geek.

 

T Bird Swing Tea Infuser

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Another adorable tea infuser, this time in the form of a swinging bird. Designed by Kozihaus, the T Bird is available in green or purple from Travelling Souk for £9.50 plus £2.95 delivery.

 

Sagaform Retro Stoneware

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Isn’t this retro Acacia Stoneware design by Sagaform wonderful? Very much the kind of thing I love (and am sometimes lucky enough to find in charity shops). If you prefer retro style but new products, you can buy the Small Sagaform Retro Storage Jar for £12.60 (plus £2 delivery), the Large Sagaform Retro Storage Jar for £22.99 (with free delivery), a two pack of Sagaform Retro Mugs for £15.70 (with free delivery) and the Sagaform Retro Teapot for £29.99 (plus £2 delivery), from Amazon UK.

 

Citrus Trees

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I have been meaning to buy a citrus tree for ages, and there’s a nice selection available from Plants 4 Presents. The large Buddhas Hand (90 cm tall in a 5 litre pot) pictured is £40 (plus £6.50 delivery). I‘m tempted by the calamondin too.

 

Japanese Tetsubin

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Gifts of the Orient have a superb range of tetsubin – Japanese cast iron tea pots or kettles, including the ones I’ve picked out above. Prices range from £34.99 to £299 (though most are less than £60). Some come with trivets, some with cups and some with tea included.

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Exotic Teapot have a smaller range, but very well priced and some great modern designs. Kettles are £28.00 – £46.00, with trivets and cups sold separately.

 

Japanese Cast Iron Windchimes

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And talking of Japanese cast iron, I also love these cast iron windchimes available from Zen Minded on Amazon UK. Priced £7.95 to £14.95 each (plus £3.75 delivery). Here are the links: Green Owl, Yellow Fir Cone (check colour, image shows yellow but description reads green), Green Firefly, Violet & Gold Temple Bell, Green Temple Bell, Brown Round Owl, Brown Owl and Green Pine Cone.

 

Eat For Great Britain Tea Towel

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The price tag of £8.50 (plus £1.20 delivery) makes this Eat For Great Britain Tea towel from Hidden Art an affordable and fun gift for lovers of a great British breakfast!

 

Edward Monkton Pasta Tea Towel

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I’ve been a fan of Edward Monkton for many years and even though the range is now ubiquitous, it still makes me smile; this Edward Monkton Your Inner Pasta Tea Towel is no different. £6.00 (with free delivery) from Amazon UK.

 

Scrabble Tea Towel

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This Scrabble Tea Towel works as both tea towel and travelling game board. £8.95 (plus £1.99 delivery) from Amazon UK.

 

Guess Who? Tea Towel

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Another on the theme of childhood games: A game that’s caused many moments of hilarity in my lifetime is Guess Who? This Guess Who Tea Towel is £7.99 (plus £3.95) from Not The Usual.

 

Operation Tea Towel

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Yes, and another one! This Operation Tea Towel is £7.99 (plus £1.50 delivery) from Amazon UK.

 

Butcher Print Tea Towel

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Available in two colour ways – black on white or white on charcoal grey – this Butcher Print Tea Towel is £9 (plus £1.75 delivery) from Not On The High Street. I don’t know whether I’d frame it or dry the dishes with it!

 

Tunnocks Teacake Tea Towel

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Warming to the tea towel theme, how about this Tunnocks Teacake Tea Towel by Gillian Kyle? £9.50 (plus £2.75 delivery) from Not On The High Street.

 

Fox Tea Towels with DIY Cut & Sew Instructions

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I don’t know whether Mibo’s Fox or Sarah Young’s Felix the Fox came first, but I really like both of them, available from Not On The High Street. Either use as tea towels or cut and sew into cushion toys. Priced at £12.95 (+ £1.95) and £11 (free delivery) respectively. Mibo has a lion version too. Sarah Young offers lion, hare, owl, cat and doll versions.

 

Cockney Rhyming Slang Tea Towel

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There are a few Cockney Rhyming Slang Tea Towels on the market, but my favourite is this one by Victoria Eggs, available from Not On The High Street £9.95 including delivery.

 

Victoria Eggs London Tea Towel

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Another Victoria Eggs design, this London Tea Towel is £8.00 (with free delivery) from Amazon UK. Her Scottish dinner design (same price) is also cool.

 

Ecologie Fish and Mushroom Tea Towels

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These marvellous Ecologie Fish and Ecologie Mushroom tea towels are available from Gift Republic via Amazon UK. Fish is £8.49, mushroom is £9.99, delivery is free on both.

 

London Underground Tea Towel

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I love the iconic London Underground Map! Here it is on a tea towel, available from Amazon UK for £3.99 (plus £1.50 delivery).

 

Legumes en bocaux – Canning Vegetables Tea Towel

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The Williams Sonoma store is full of goodies. As a fan of home preserving, I like this set of vegetable canning tea towels, $19.95. International shipping requires a US billing address.

 

Periodic Tablecloth of Swearing

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Although this one is self-labelled as a tablecloth, it seems to be most commonly sold as a tea towel. I think it’s probably best used as a wall hanging myself. Periodic Tablecloth of Swearing, £8.50 (plus £3 delivery) from Pick Me Up London.

 

Nina Jarema Folkore Tea Towel

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I love Nina Jarema’s Folkore range and her Folklore Tea Towel is no exception. Available from Amazon UK for £7.99 (plus £1.99 delivery).

 

Nina Jarema Folkore Tins

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The retro design of Nina Jarema’s Folklore range reminds me of my childhood doodles, though it’s far prettier. If your tea towelled out, how about these Folklore 3-in-1 Tins, £11.95 (plus £6.99 delivery) from Amazon UK.

 

Map Coasters

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I love maps! These Aerial Map Coasters from Map Marketing are £21.99 (plus £5.95 delivery) and personalised to your chosen address and postcode.

 

Fleur De Lys Tumblers

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At £6 each (plus a flat rate delivery charge per order of £5 standard, £8 express), I really like these Fleur de Lys tumblers from Anthroplogie. I’m not sure whether I’d buy 2 of each colour or 6 of one; what do you think?

 

Tetris Cookie Cutter Set

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I first saw these Tetris cookie cutters in Athey Moravetz’s Etsy store.  After being laid off from her job at a video game studio, she turned her hobby of selling funky items created using her 3D printer into a full-time business and has now set up her own dedicated website, Warpzone Prints. Specialising in “geek” cookie cutter designs, her store has items for fans of Doctor Who, Star Wars, Game of Thrones, Totoro, Monty Python, Harry Potter and many other much-loved fictional worlds. The Tetris Cookie Cutters cost $15 plus $12 shipping to the UK, approximately £17 GPB in total. Shipping for additional items is less.

 

Kovrikus Parallelepipedus Door Mat

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How funky is this parallelogram doormat by Art Lebedev Studio? It’s £23.99 with free delivery from Amazon UK.

 

Circle Mugs

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I used to collect mugs when I was a child, and I still find it hard to resist unusual ones like these Circle Mugs by the National Theatre. Available for £25.99 a pair (plus delivery at £2.65 first class, £4.95 recorded) via Culture Label.

 

Grammar Grumble Mugs

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Speaking of mugs, I think this set of six Grammar Grumble Mugs from The Literary Gift Company is just brilliant! The set is £39.95 (delivery is free on orders over £30) or you can buy individual mugs for £7.95 each (plus £4.95 delivery).

 

Colourblind Tea Mug

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Now I’m on a mug roll, do you remember taking the Ishihara colour blindness tests at school? This fun Colourblind Tea Mug costs £7.99 from Hidden Art.

 

Master of Malt Tasting Sets

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I’ve bought Pete a few drams from Master of Malts and am a big fan of their Drinks by the Dram offering, whereby you can try whiskies you might otherwise balk at buying a full bottle of in a handy 30 ml pot. Of course, you can choose your drams individually – keep in mind that they’re usually sent out in boxes that hold 5 pots so multiples of 5 presents well. Alternatively, go for one of their ready-made tasting sets of 5 or 10 drams, such as Sherry Monsters (£25.95), Bourbon (£70.95), Islay Whisky (£25.45), Texan Distillery Balcones (£26.44), Ian Buxton 101 World Whiskies to Try Before You Die (£77.45) or MoM’s own Christmas 2013 Festive Selection (£70.95). Standard delivery to UK mainland addresses is £4.89.

 

Dino Corn-on-the-cob Holders

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I love corn-on-the-cob, preferably cooked un-covered on a BBQ until some of the kernels char to black. I usually use my hands, impatiently waiting for the cob to cool down enough that I can pick it up without burning my fingers. Wouldn’t these dinosaur holders be fun instead? T-Rex is $31.99 and Triceratops is $27.99 but international shipping from US store Digs to the UK is a whopping $42 so this is probably one for North American readers only!

 

Seed Bombs

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The origin of seed bombing was to forcefully turn derelict land into attractive and wildlife-supporting habitats by throwing in compressed bundles of soil and seeds, which would break open on the ground and create new growth. While you could certainly buy Darren Wilson’s SeedBoms for your own urban guerilla gardening movement, I think they also make a nice gift for anyone with space to create a meadow of flowers. Great for bees and other insects, too! Choose from poppies, cornflowers, wildlfower mix, great British bloomers, sunflowers, thyme, a pollinator mix and forget-me-nots. Single SeedBoms are £2.95 or buy a 4-pack for £10.95 from the SeedBom Shop on Etsy. Delivery is £3.00 and just 25 pence for additional items.

 

Panther Satchel

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Not even a tenuous link to food but I love this Panther Satchel by designer La Lissette. Hand made from leather with appliquéd details and a snap button nose, it’s £89 (plus £4.95 delivery) from The Shop Floor Project.

 

Map Ornaments

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Back to maps, with these lovely globe Christmas tree ornaments from the V&A Museum. They are £4.50 each.

 

Hannah Turner Owl Egg Cup Set

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As a lapsed egg cup collector, I’m coveting these quirky owl egg cups by designer Hannah Turner. The Owl Egg Cup Set includes four egg cups for £46, available from Quince Living.

 

Kokeshi Lamp

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After two holidays in Japan, I’m utterly charmed by Japan-inspired items for the home, such as this adorable Kokeshi Lamp, available from Mr Maria. It costs 165 Euros and shipping is free not only across the EU but to many other countries too. Miffy fans take note; there are Miffy Lamps sold here too.

 

You can also browse my previous gift guides below. Not all products are still available, but many are.

Please note that I have affiliate accounts with Amazon UK and Master of Malt – the cost you pay for anything you buy from them doesn’t change but I receive a tiny referral commission for any items you buy after following my links.

Oh and if you do buy something from the list, let me know. It gives me a warm fuzzy feeling!

 

Mendiant.

It’s an interesting word, isn’t it?

It usually refers to a disc of chocolate with flavours and toppings added. But what’s the origin of this chocolate treat?

Traditionally, a mendiant is a French confection described as a chocolate disc studded with dried fruits and nuts that represent the four mediaeval Roman Catholic mendicant orders of the Dominicans, Augustinians, Franciscans and Carmelites; Mendicant comes from the Latin verb mendicans, to beg, describing the reliance of these orders on begging for charitable donations, following their vows of poverty. Figs, raisins, almonds and hazelnuts were chosen for their colours, each representing the robes of one of the monastic orders.

In Provence, the Christmas tradition is to finish the celebration meal with the 13 desserts of Noël, representing Jesus and his twelve apostles. The list of items varies among households but nearly always includes the four ingredients representing the mendicant orders.

Today, mendiants often have flavours added into the chocolate as well as a much wider range of toppings than the four original fruits and nuts.

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This Christmas, Bettys have three different mendiants in their range.

I’m most intrigued by the Gold, Frankincense & Myrrh ones. Dark chocolate discs are flavoured with oils of frankincense and myrrh, and sprinkled with golden sugar crystals. The flavour is musky and citrusy and rather delicious. They are priced at £7.95 for 85 grams and come in a pretty presentation tube.

Crystallised Orange Mendiants are also wonderful. The crystallised citrus fruit pairs beautifully with the dark chocolate. They cost £7.25 for an 85 gram tube.

And last but not least are the Peppermint Mendiants, in which peppermint oil has been mixed into the dark chocolate. The sugar crystals on top are pepperminty too! These are also £7.25 for an 85 gram tube.

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COMPETITION

Bettys are kindly offering one Kavey Eats reader a set of all three chocolate mendiants above. The prize includes free delivery within the UK.

 

HOW TO ENTER

You can enter the competition in 3 ways:

Entry 1 – Blog Comment
Leave a comment below, telling me what flavourings and toppings you’d use on a chocolate mendiant.

Entry 2 – Twitter
Follow @Kavey on Twitter. Existing followers are, of course, welcome to enter!
Then tweet the (exact) sentence below.
I’d love to win a set of chocolate mendiants from Kavey Eats and @Bettys1919! http://goo.gl/KdH90I #KaveyEatsBettysMendiants
You don’t need to leave a blog comment about your tweet.

Entry 3 – Facebook
Like the Kavey Eats Facebook page and leave a (separate) comment on this blog post with your Facebook user name.

 

RULES & DETAILS

  • The deadline for entries is midnight GMT Friday 6th December 2013.
  • Kavey Eats reserves the right to alter the closing date of the competition. Changes to the closing date, if they occur, will be shown on this page.
  • The winners will be selected from all valid entries using a random number generator.
  • Entry instructions form part of the terms and conditions.
  • Where prizes are to be provided by a third party, Kavey Eats accepts no responsibility for the acts or defaults of that third party.
  • The prize is a set of three chocolate mendiants from Bettys of Harrogate , with free delivery within the UK.
  • The prize cannot be redeemed for a cash value.
  • The prize is offered and provided by Bettys of Harrogate.
  • One blog entry per person only. One Twitter entry per person only. One Facebook entry per person only. You do not have to enter all three ways for your entries to be valid.
  • For Twitter entries, winners must be following @Kavey at the time of notification. For Facebook entries, winners must Like the Kavey Eats Facebook page at time of notification.
  • Blog comment entries must provide a valid email address for contacting the winner.
  • The winners will be notified by email, Twitter or Facebook. If no response is received within 7 days of notification, the prize will be forfeit and a new winner will be picked and contacted.

 

With thanks again to Bettys for review samples.

This competition is closed. The winner is Jason Fallows (@smilingback2u).

 

Christmas shopping should be such a pleasure – finding the ideal gifts for your loved ones and anticipating their pleasure in them – but the reality is often far more stressful with time, budget and practical constraints that often get in the way.

The response to last year’s gift guide was wonderful so here once again are my favourite picks for 2012.

See my 2012 top tea recommendations here and browse last year’s epic gift guide here. Many of 2010’s suggestions are also still available as are 2010’s cookery book ideas.

You’ll notice a strong Japanese influence to my selection this time, though there are plenty of other ideas too.

Enjoy!

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At the John Lewis Christmas preview this summer, my favourite products were the five Kokeshi Doll Japanese tree ornaments (£3.50 each). The Origami Kimono ornaments (£4 each) and Chinese Lucky Cat ornaments (£3.50 each) are also cute. They all remind me of the charms I bought in Japan, for attaching to mobile phones or handbags.

 

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How cute are these Koziol Kasimir Cheese Graters (£9), available in red or black from John Lewis?

 

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Amazon has a huge array of titles on Japan, from personalised accounts of life and culture to alternative travel guides to cookery books, here’s my wishlist selection. (I’ve used affiliate links).

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How can I not love these penguin salt and pepper shakers (£20) from Culture Label, given the trips south I’ve taken to visit my penguin friends?

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We considered buying a couple of the moulded plastic models of food that restaurants display in their windows during our visit to Tokyo’s Kappabashi Dori but found them too expensive. These Iwako Food Erasers from the Japan Centre are far more affordable and a fun stocking filler for adults and children alike. Each set is £4.99 each, with some currently reduced to £4.49. There’s a Kokeshi Dolls and Cats set too.

 

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Is it a pie or a plate? It’s a Pie Plate (£29.50) from Culture Label.

 

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Having reviewed several books this year, these are the ones I recommend above the rest:

 

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This is very similar to the one I bought myself as a tacky but fun souvenir from Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo. From Japan Centre, £8.90.

 

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One of the few chocolates Pete and I both enjoy over Christmas are Lindt Lindor balls so we really liked their Christmas Maxi Ball (a clear plastic ball containing over 40 individual Lindor truffles), which I was given at their Christmas preview over summer. Priced at £14.99 from Tesco or directly from Lindt’s website. Pete also likes two of the alternative Lindor flavours, Stracciatella and White Chocolate. I am happier with Hazelnut ones or the original. You can also get Dark and Irish Cream flavours.

 

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Yuzu citrus has a very distinctive taste, and one that reminds me very strongly of childhood, which is strange as I hadn’t been to Japan until this year, and wasn’t exposed to Japanese food until adulthood. I wonder if it’s an Indian citrus that it reminds me of? Regardless, it’s completely different from regular lemons and limes and is a flavour I really adore. Here’s a round up of yuzu products from Japan Centre.

 

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I came across Joe and Sephs flavoured popcorns at this year’s BBC Good Food Show, inspired by trips to the US where Joseph Sopher became increasingly fond of gourmet popcorn. Since then, he’s perfected his own technique for applying a caramel coating to popcorn, and created a range of familiar and more unusual flavours many of which have been recognised by the Great Taste Awards. Most pouches are 80 or 90 grams and you can choose any 3 for £12 or 6 for £19.95.

 

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For a Japanese influence in the garden, how about a beautiful Japanese maple or Japanese cherry tree? The Garden Centre Group have a wide range on offer and have stores nationwide.

 

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Do you love lego? I do, though I have friends who love it even more. I am sure they’d appreciate this Lego Drinking Bottle (£6.80), also available in other colours. It’s made from plastic, and Amazon reviews suggest built quality is not great, so it may not last long, but would make a fun stocking filler gift for a lego fiend.

 

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Sous Chef is a new online cookware, ingredients and books vendor launched by a food enthusiast I originally met on twitter and have since come to know as a friend. Nicola and husband Nick have collated a fabulously desirable selection of treats from simple but specialist ingredients to ones more commonly used by molecular gastronomists, from good quality knives to obscure but exciting equipment and recipe books too. Here are my recommendations, for Japanese and non-Japanese items, though I suggest you have a jolly good browse of the entire site:

 

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Lazybone have a fun selection of mugs including two versions of Camera Lens Mugs (£14.99 each), which appeal to my inner camera geek, the Dr Who Tardis Mug (£13.99), which is super cool and the Twitter Mug (£9.99), which makes me smile.

 

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We had a great visit to the Yamazaki Distillery during our trip to Japan. You can read about the Yamazaki whisky library on Pete’s blog.

Master of Malt offer a Japanese whisky tasting set (£34.45), which is a great gift for someone who wants to start drinking Japanese whisky. Alternatively, you can buy whole bottles. Pete suggests the Hibiki 17 Year old, for which he tasted the component whiskies as well as the finished blend.

 

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And if you do buy some whisky, how about a Bladerunner glass to drink it in? It’s one of my all time favourite films, so this whisky glass from Firebox really appeals. I’m less enamoured with the £54.99 price tag!

 

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For a great selection of Japanese tableware, visit Doki, now located in Harrow Weald. I used to love browsing when they had a shop in Oriental City, but found the Wembley Pacific Plaza location less convenient. They’ve now moved again to Middlesex. The online store has a very limited selection to best so visit the shop in person.

 

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Also from Firebox is this OCD Chef Chopping Board (£19.99), marked to help finicky foodies be more precise.

 

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This Pig Cutting Board (£24.40) is rather fun, sold by MyDeco and designed by Catherine Fouchard for Cocobohème.

 

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Image by Kake Pugh, used with permission under non-commercial sharealike Creative Commons licence

I’ve already mentioned Japan Centre and Sous Chef. Another great source for specialist Japanese ingredients is Atari-ya which has several shops in London but doesn’t offer online shopping or mail order. The store in North Finchley is fantastic!

 

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At least half the Lakeland catalogue appeals to many cooking enthusiasts, myself included. I’ll be blogging separately about the cheese making kit items soon but in the meantime, am tempted by Mrs Bridges Ginger Gift Set (£14.99), Maxims Pistachio Macaroon Dessert Chocolates (£5.99) and the Anthon Berg Cherry in Rum Marzipan Chocolates (£5.49). I had lots of fun this summer with the Zoku Quick Ice Pop (Lolly) Maker (£39.99) I was sent to review; I can recommend it! I can also recommend the Cuisinart Electric Pepper Mill (£19.99), which I own and like but haven’t yet reviewed.

 

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I absolutely love these funky bird jars by Swedish designer, Camilla Engdahl. Available from MyDeco Family Little Rose consists of several members, priced between £47 and £80 each, including delivery from Sweden. The more bird-like Chicken Container is £37.60. And the Wagtail Bird Jars are £28.20 each.

 

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Recently I cracked open a bottle of one of my favourite tipples – Pedro Ximénez . This bottle was a gift for my 40th last year, and is particularly excellent. Look out for Harveys Pedro Ximénez VORS; VORS stands for Very Old Rare Sherry. At just £21 a bottle, I think this is seriously good value for a seriously delicious drink and you can find it at Waitrose and Ocado, on Amazon, and other online retailers. Drink as it is or serve over a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

 

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Lastly, I leave you with the BBQ Donut Boat, which seats up to 10 around a central BBQ grill, has storage under the seats and a sun shade above and has an outboard engine that can run for several hours. A snip at just £20,000!

 

Merry Christmas!

 

I love sharing recommendations for great products and great gifts. Here’s last year’s epic gift guide. And a selection of food books I suggested the year before. And the main gift guide from 2010 too. And back in 2009 I shared some great tea products from suppliers including Jing, Lahloo, Rare Tea Company and Teanamu.

It’s certainly well worth reviewing those posts as they’re full of fabulous shopping ideas, most of which are still available.

This year, I’ve encountered more excellent tea from a range of sellers, and decided it was high time to share the very best of those on Kavey Eats – Adagio Teas, East India Company, In Nature, Momo Cha, Steenbergs, Tregothnan and Waterloo Tea.

 

Adagio Teas

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Adagio Teas is an American family business that grew out of a love for Chinese tea. Sophie Kreymerman switched from being a part time manicurist to running her own tea retail business, with her two sons Michael and Ilya. Launched in 1999, the business opened a European website (based in the UK) back in 2008.

I tried a selection of their teas, and found the range and quality very good.

Yunnan Gold is a black tea from Yunnan province in China. The loose leaves have a wonderful caramel aroma which comes through more gently in the flavour once brewed. The liquor is a beautiful bronze colour. The tea has just the merest hint of sweetness to it. This is a mild and light black tea with no bitterness even when brewed strong. (£9 / 43 grams)

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Ti Kuan Yin is one of my favourites, and this example is lovely. The clear liquor has a very subtly floral aroma, but also the typical fresh grassy smell of an oolong. On tasting, it’s similarly subtle and pleasantly refreshing. (£14 / 85 grams)

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The Earl Grey Lavender is a beautifully balanced black tea. The slightly medicinal floral taste of lavender blends beautifully with the citrus notes of the bergamot to create a wholly new flavour. This is rich, sweet and smooth. (£5 / 85 grams)

 

East India Company

The first time I tried a small selection of products from The East India Company, I was disappointed, especially with the tea. The box of The Campbell Darjeeling Loose Leaf I was sent to review was so bland, dusty and so lacking in flavour that I threw it away. (Follow this link to learn about the history of The EIC and read my first review).

However, earlier this year, I went in to the store itself – on Conduit Street, just off Regent Street – and tried a wider range of teas, under the guidance of the East India Tea Company tea master, Lalith Lenadora. Mr Lenadora began his tea career 3 decades ago, as a tea planter in Sri Lanka, and has enormous experience working for some of the great tea estates of his home country. Nowadays, he personally selects and supervises the teas sold by The EIC.

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All the teas I tried were very good (though I didn’t try that Campbell Darjeeling again) and some were truly excellent. I’d recommend going into the store in person, so you can smell the sample leaves for each one and taste the samples they brew each day.

Mi Lan Dan Cong Oolong is also known as Phoenix Honey Orchid and is a black oolong from China. Typically, tasters describe floral and honey notes, but for me the key characteristic that comes through on smell and taste is malty milkiness and then, just a hint of honey. The tea is a pale cream colour when brewed, and needs a fairly long brewing time for the flavours to fully develop. It’s great hot but delicious enjoyed cold. This would be a good choice for someone who usually likes milk in their tea but is looking for a tea to enjoy without it. (£10 / 50 grams – this is the least expensive of EIC’s oolongs, with others priced at £35 / 100 grams and £50 / 100 grams)

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Italian Orange Blossom is listed on EIC’s website as an Iced Tea; I’m not sure why and I brewed it with hot water. Dry, the leaves have a strong orange blossom aroma, which is quite intoxicating. Once brewed, they produce a beautifully orange-coloured tea liquor however the orange blossom flavour is very subtle, giving just a tease of floweriness to a classic black tea. This would suit anyone who loves bright and fragrant blacks and wants to change it up a little, without going down the route of full-on flavoured teas. (£7 / 100 grams).

 

In Nature Teas

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In Nature offer organic teas sourced from China. They sell only loose leaf tea which is grown in high mountain tea estates.

I tried their three oolongs, natural, alpine and floral.

The Natural oolong has a smoky, caramel and condensed milk aroma. On the palate, a creamy, malty milk flavour and gentle smokiness comes through. (£5.45 / 50 grams)

The Alpine oolong brews a greener liquor, and the aroma carries more of a fresh green tea along with that condensed milk smell again. Milk comes through in the taste, along with the grassiness of green tea. (£5.45 / 50 grams)

The Floral oolong is quite unusual in that it brews to a pale amber-pink colour. The aroma is heady with apricots, with a hint of smoke. On tasting, it reminds me of a black tea, with citrus and dried apricots. Brew stronger for a richer colour and taste. (£6.55/ 50 grams)

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Momo Cha Fine Teas

In recent years, I’d grown more and more disillusioned with the Good Food Show, disappointed with the prevalence of big brands, low quality products and even exhibitors that had no connection to food whatsoever. This year, assured that the show’s focus was on high quality and relevant products, with many more smaller producers in the mix, I was persuaded to give the show another try. Sceptical, I went along, only to be genuinely blown away, not just by one or two of the new producers I encountered but by many of them! It was a fantastic day meeting many talented producers offering many fantastic products.

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One of my biggest pleasures of the day was meeting Niels & Mojca of Momo Cha and trying some of their teas. The pair had always dreamed of running a tea house and sharing good quality tea with their customers. During a holiday to Japan, they researched tea production there, and hooked up with a guy who’d been trading tea for decades. He helped plan a specialist trip around Japan, to meet the best producers and farmers. After that, they started selling Japanese teas at Brick Lane, to gauge customer interest; that was two years ago. They also travelled to Taiwan and Korea to find more producers and more top teas. And just one year ago, they developed their packaging and opened the webshop.

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Several of their teas won one, two or even three star Gold Awards in this year’s Great Taste Awards, great recognition for such a young and small company. These are the most expensive teas in my round up, but if you have the budget, I’d strongly urge you to give them a chance.

Happy Sencha is an early harvested green tea from Japan’s Uji region. The aroma is typical cut grass and meaty umami, and when the tea is brewed hot, this comes through clearly in the taste. This is one of the best green teas I’ve tasted, and the flavour is wonderfully intense. It can also be brewed cold for a sweeter, less bitter drink. I still got lots of flavour not just from the first and second hot brew, but from the third and fourth as well. (£22.50 / 50 grams)

I’ve never had anything like the Cherry Tea, which consists of hand-picked and rolled leaves from Japanese cherry trees. It has an amazing floral smell, but not like your typical fruit teas, which smell or taste of the fruits themselves – it’s a woodier sweetness, somewhat musky and reminiscent of tobacco. On tasting, there’s a suggestion of sweetness and a gentle black tea flavour. A very unusual tea. (£11.50  / 30 grams)

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The High Mountain Oolong is, without a doubt, the best oolong I’ve ever tasted. The aromas are just as you’d expect from a high quality oolong – a fresh grassiness, a sweet malted milkiness, the merest hint of smoke and flowers. The taste is incredible – a more intense or vibrant version of the oolongs I regularly enjoy. All the promises of the aroma come through on the palate. Best of all, you can brew the same leaves three or four times during the day, so a little goes a long way. (£13 / 50 grams)

Amacha is a tea made from the Japanese Hortensia plant, which we more commonly call the Hydrangea. The leaves are picked, steamed, dried and hand rolled, just like traditional tea. But unlike regular tea, they are sweet – and not just a little sweet but super sweet! The leaves contain phyllodulcin which is hundreds of times sweeter than sugar, hence the name ama-cha, which simply means ‘sweet tea’. That said, as it’s not a true tea and has no caffeine, it would be better thought of as a tisane. In Japan this tea is traditionally served on April 8th, to celebrate Buddha’s birthday. You can enjoy this tea on its own, though the sweetness is very intense, or alternatively you can brew then water down, or mix with regular teas to make your own blend.

 

Steenbergs

I had previously associated Steenbergs, a small family-run business founded in 2003, with high quality herbs and spices but recently learned that they offer tea too. They focus on organic and Fair Trade, with a genuine commitment to ethical sourcing.

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They offer a wonderfully wide range of teas, and all their teas come in tea caddies and tins rather than packets.

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Baihao Oolong, also known as Beauty Oolong, is an unusual oolong from Xinhui in Northern Taiwan, a wet and humid region. Dry, the leaves have a strong spicy aroma which reminds me of garam masala. The tea produces a red liquor, typical of a heavily oxidised oolong. Once brewed, the smell of spice resolves into black pepper and nutmeg, and this definitely carries through to the taste. I’ve never encountered this in a tea before! I would recommend it to those who like Indian masala chai. (£8.95 /125 grams)

Produced by the Ambootia Tea Estate is in Darjeeling, in the foothills of the Himalayas, the Green Darjeeling is not at all like traditional Chinese and Japanese green teas. Dry, the smell reminds me of dried fruits and forests, with none of the grassiness of East Asian green teas. The taste is very mild, like a very light black Darjeeling. (£5.95 /125 grams)

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The Organic White tea is an organic Pai Mu Tan, named for the petals of the white peony, and comes from the Fujian province of China. The leaves are dried in the sun and packed immediately, with no oxidisation or rolling. It releases less caffeine on brewing than most teas. Dry, it smells musty, but in a pleasant way, like a freshly rain-drenched forest and there’s also a strange salty sweet aspect to the smell. Brewed, it has a very fresh and leafy taste. (£5.50 /125 grams)

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Flowering teas offer a little spectacle in the cup, as well as drink of tea. Sold as tightly wrapped balls, they slowly unfurl once hot water is poured gently over them. Steenbergs Jasmine Silver Balls are hand crafted in China’s Chongquing Province; long white-mottled leaves are selected, tied together, shaped by cutting and then formed into a ball before being steamed and dried with fresh jasmine flowers. For me, the flavour was 100% wonderfully intense jasmine – I couldn’t detect the tea at all. My only disappointment was that the ball started to disintegrate almost immediately, even though I’d poured the water very gently down the sides of the glass. It didn’t unfurl into the beautiful flower shape more common of these balls. (£7.95 / 70 grams)

 

Tregothnan

Tregothnan grow tea in England. Yes, it really does grow here! Two hundred years ago, this estate was the first place in England to grow ornamental Camellia. The team made their first, experimental teas back in 2000 with those original camellia plants. Now, they grow Camellia sinensis tea in a number of locations on their Cornish estate, and at additional farms in Cornwall. #

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Manuka is usually associated with New Zealand but Tregothnan grow it here too, and use the leaves to make their herbal tisane, called Manuka Infusion . Caffeine free and rich in antioxidants, this is not a strictly a tea, but adds welcome variety to the range. (Loose leaf caddy £5 / 25 grams or £3.50 / 10 sachets)

I also tried Classic Tea, a breakfast blend black tea, and Earl Grey, both of which are good quality every day teas.

 

Waterloo Tea

How I came across Waterloo Tea is a lovely story to share. Last year, my sister and her friends held a memorial charity fundraiser in the name of a very dear friend who was tragically killed in a car accident 10 years previously. Asked to help secure auction prizes for the event, I turned to twitter and my request was generously shared by others. That’s how it came to the attention of Kasim Ali, director of Waterloo Tea in Cardiff, Wales. Having never interacted with me online, let alone met in person, Kas generously donated some of her teas for the auction, knowing that there wouldn’t be any media coverage. She did it just to be nice. Having read Waterloo Tea’s website, I knew these teas were high quality, and of course, I wanted to bid on some of the auction items myself, and contribute to the fundraising total, so I bid on these teas … and won them! The memorial event raised £3579.57 for The Chicken Shed Theatre.

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Kas chose four Indian black teas, having secured Grand Reserve lots, which are the best available.

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I’ve already enjoyed 2 of the packets in the selection but opened the Darjeeling Second Flush Makaibari Estate, Grand Reserve to include in this review. Dry, the leaves have an incredibly intense aroma of dried figs and a hint of tobacco or wood. It’s a really heady, intoxicating smell. What we call black tea here is known as hong cha or red tea in China, where it originated. When you see the beautiful red-orange colour of this freshly brewed tea, it’s obvious why. Once brewed, the fruit takes a back seat and the tea smells much more like a regular black tea. On the palate too, it’s a light, elegant black tea. (£8.50 / 100 grams)

The next tea I want to try from Waterloo Tea is the incredible sounding Yuzu Oolong, made by infusing Taiwanese high mountain alishan oolong with citrus peel. Sounds good, doesn’t it?

 

Kavey Eats received review samples from some the suppliers above, along with others which I’ve chosen not to include, as they did not impress.

 

For the third year running, I’m very happy to be able to spread the Hotel Chocolat love with readers of Kavey Eats and just like before, I have three great prizes to share with you which I’ve chosen myself from their 2012 Christmas selection.

Having missed the preview night, Hotel Chocolat generously sent me a goodie bag so I could try this year’s range for myself. I really like the simpler and more elegant design theme they’ve chosen – lots of white with accents of pale blue, silver and gold. As always, there are products available at a range of prices, from small and inexpensive stocking fillers and tree ornaments to large hampers filled with gifts.

Several of the chocolates in the Classic Christmas selection are very sweet – too sweet for me – but Pete rather enjoyed them. Luckily there’s a wide range to choose from including marzipans, pralines and salted caramels, which are more to my taste.

 

COMPETITION

1st Prize – Rather Large Christmas Cracker

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An enormous cracker at 64 centimetres long, this one may be best for sharing. It’s filled with 40 chocolates, 12 party hats and jokes too. This item retails for £38.

 

2nd Prize – The Festive Collection

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Pete and I are both big fans of Port, so I like the inclusion of a 50 ml bottle of Special Reserve Aged Tawny and one of Ruby Port to enjoy with the chocolate – a cookie wreath, 6 rum and raisin truffles and Dasher’s dream slab. This item retails for £25.

 

3rd Prize – Gingerbread Liquid Chocolat Drinking Chocolate

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Smooth, rich hot chocolate with a warming gingerbread flavour, this is a fabulous winter warmer. This item retails for £10.

 

Each of the three prizes includes delivery in the UK.

 

HOW TO ENTER

You can enter the competition in 2 ways:

Entry 1 – Blog Comment
Leave a comment below, answering the following question:
Christmas imagery and chocolates often feature reindeer from the Arctic and penguins from the Antarctic. But which animal do you think should be immortalised in Christmas chocolate, and why?

Entry 2 – Twitter
Follow @KaveyF on twitter. Existing followers are, of course, welcome to enter!
Then tweet the (exact) sentence below:
I’d love to win @HotelChocolat Christmas chocolates from Kavey Eats! http://goo.gl/cX4JC #KaveyEatsHotelChocolat

 

RULES & DETAILS

  • The deadline for entries is midnight GMT Friday 23rd November 2012.
  • Kavey Eats reserves the right to alter the closing date of the competition. Changes to the closing date, if they occur, will be shown on this page.
  • The winners will be selected from all valid entries using a random number generator. The first name picked will be awarded the first prize, and so on.
  • Entry instructions form part of the terms and conditions.
  • Where prizes are to be provided by a third party, Kavey Eats accepts no responsibility for the acts or defaults of that third party.
  • Prize 1 is a Hotel Chocolat Rather Large Christmas Cracker. Prize 2 is Hotel Chocolat’s The Festive Collection. Prize 3 is a Hotel Chocolat Gingerbread Liquid Chocolat Drinking Chocolate.
  • Prizes cannot be redeemed for a cash value.
  • Prizes are offered and provided by Hotel Chocolat.
  • One blog entry per person only. One Twitter entry per person only. You do not have to enter both ways for your entries to be valid.
  • For twitter entries, winners must be following @KaveyF at the time of notification, as this will be sent by Direct Message.
  • Blog comment entries must provide a valid email address for contacting the winner.
  • The winners will be notified by email or twitter (for twitter entries). If no response is received within 7 days of notification, the prize will be forfeit and a new winner will be picked and contacted.

This competition is now closed. Winners, in order: Selena Banister, Jane Willis and @Beachrambler.

Kavey Eats received samples from the Hotel Chocolat 2012 Christmas collection, courtesy of Hotel Chocolat.

 

Guest post by Kelly Atkins.

After much persistence this year I finally caved in and agreed to join my mother on a mother daughter trip with some family friends to Germany.

Faced with the possibility of having to finish my Christmas shopping in the hustle and bustle of Oxford Street, I decided the week before Christmas was better spent getting into the festive spirit in Dusseldorf’s Christmas Market.

Unlike any holiday I have been on before I had not booked, planned or googled anything – I really had no idea what to expect. But after Kavey offered me the opportunity to write this guest post one thing was certain… I was absolutely going to consume more food and drink than necessary, all in the name of research.

The Hotel

Hotel Flora was exactly as described elsewhere – clean, well positioned with friendly and incredibly helpful staff, providing you have no need to alter your booking or discuss money.

One of the best parts of staying in this hotel is that it offers free tram travel for the duration of your stay and the staff will happily talk you through the location of the markets and the great places to shop and eat.

The Christmas Markets

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Due to building work, this year, unlike others, the markets were split up into a series of smaller areas making it harder than usual to navigate.

Known for its ambience and selections of hand crafted gifts the Dusseldorf markets particularly come alive throughout the evening when the lights create a picturesque scene and locals come and join the tourists to enjoy a mulled wine or cold beer.

The gifts available are so beautiful you could almost be convinced that buying miniature gingerbread houses is what all your friends and family want to receive this Christmas – but it is the food and drink that keeps you coming back.

No Christmas market would be the same without a German sausage on offer and as suspected the Bratwurst lived up to its reputation, but there were many other options on offer. Crepes, gingerbread and tea cakes were perfect for those with a sweet tooth and with most stalls offering a try before you buy you could make sure you bought a flavour you were sure to enjoy.

Here are some of my favourites as well as my disappointments from the stalls:

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Fritters – Not particularly my favourite out of all of the food options due to it being incredibly greasy to the point of sickening. The most impressive part of the Fritters is by far the way they mass produce them with industrial mixers in full view of the market.

Kinderpunch – is quite literally Christmas in a cup. Made with eggnog, white wine and a German buttercream, even when it was snowing in Germany it managed to warm me up.

Raclette – Saving the best until last – who knew cheese on toast could be so addictive? This has to be for me the best thing I consumed throughout the entire holiday, so much so I went back more than once. The melted cheese is scraped onto a choice of flavoured breads, including garlic and herbs and even writing this makes my mouth water.

Despite being a Swiss and French dish this highlighted one of the best parts of modern Christmas markets all over the world – the opportunity to experience a range of different cuisines from guest stalls. I have since heard that there is a Raclette stall in Borough Market and I’m already planning a trip there to try it out!

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Evening Meals

Dusseldorf like the majority of European cities has a wide range of cuisines at a range of prices.

Feeling rather tired the first evening we only ventured next door to Auf’m Hennetamp, a Greek/ German restaurant which initially seemed like a bizarre combination.

Auf’m Hennetamp were incredibly welcoming and were happy for us to avoid set meals and served platters of meat, fish and salad for us all so that we were able to sample a range of different dishes. This was the cheapest of all of the restaurants we ate in over the course of our stay. We were able to eat 2 courses with wine for as little as £15 per person and we were even given a shot of Schnapps to try at the end of the meal and before being promptly told that it was not customary for women to drink Schnapps in Germany.

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Cape Town as the name suggests is a South African restaurant famous for its cocktails. But it was in fact the food that excelled all expectations.

Between the four of us we tried a mixture of Ostrich Stew, Beef Clay- Pot, Traditional South African Chicken and Cape Town Vegetable Stir-fry. Not only were the dishes beautifully presented but each mouthful, even down to the last vegetable was packed full of flavour and seasoning that we all felt a desperate need to finish every bite, despite all feeling full half way through.

The infamous cocktails for myself lived up to their reputation, however they did seem to change in flavour every time a new one was made. I like to think this was not because I was becoming more intoxicated but that, as I suspected, the ingredients seemed to be subject to change.

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Another great foodie experience…

In the majority of pubs in Dusseldorf you are able to order a takeaway from a selection of authentic restaurants nearby. Ranging from Thai to Italian you can relax in a laid back pub environment and take your pick to suit your stomach. Even better still – the pub will put the takeaway on a tab so that you can pay a full bill at the end of the evening.

The Best Parts

Aside from enjoying a relaxing break with my mother and family friends the most enjoyable part of the Christmas Markets is the ability to get involved in all areas of the market. During my time there I was able to get behind nearly ever stall I requested and aside from the merry go round which I have been informed I am definitely too old for I was able to try my hand at it all.

As we are already looking at Belgium for this year I can safely say – I am a Christmas market addict!

 

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Pete and Kavey wish all the readers of Kavey Eats & Pete Drinks a very merry Christmas!

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