English Garden Tea

Being rather partial to a tearoom, I used to think I really ought to aim to open one of my own.

Then I realised that if I was providing tasty fare to the hungry customer, I wouldn’t be sitting at a table being waited on.

I had already found my tearoom niche: walk in, nosh up, walk out.

Very fortunately for me, not everyone thinks like this.

Blessed are those angels in human form who invest time, energy and money in delightful tearooms into which I can wander when in need of sustenance, and from which I can depart when replete.

Hallelujah!

If I were such an angel, and wondering how to go about becoming a successful tearoom provider, I might well turn to the English Garden Tea Room company to assist me.

I follow this company on Twitter and they recently very kindly sent me a stack of teas to taste:

I wasn’t expecting this volume or choice, and I was quite astonished when I received the boxes.

Rather fortuitously, my brother and his family came to visit at Easter and when my brother’s partner learned that I’d been sent all this tea and was feeling a bit overwhelmed about tasting it properly, she sprang into action.

She made a cup of each of the eight English Garden teas and labelled the brews with their packaging:

She then brought me, my mum and my brother (who were lounging around chatting) each tea in turn, and recorded our scores out of 10, as well as recording her own. Each tea was tasted black, to keep things on an even keel (ignoring my dear mama’s repeated comments of the ‘I’d like this if it had milk in it’ variety).

Later on, my dad and my sister appeared and also tasted the teas, marking down their scores on the little pieces of paper that had been provided for the purpose:

Before tasting I had my own ideas about which teas I’d like best; my preconceptions were overturned quite spectacularly.

The eight teas were:

Assam

Camomile

Darjeeling

Earl Grey

English Breakfast

Green

Lemon

Being an enthusiastic consumer of black teas, but rarely venturing into herbal arenas, I assumed that the black teas would be those I’d prefer. I was pretty much convinced that two of my most frequently chosen beverages – Assam and Darjeeling – would top my list of English Garden teas.

Here, however, was the order in which I liked them, with my score out of 10 in brackets:

Earl Grey (9)

Camomile (9)

Peppermint (8)

Darjeeling (7.5 – I just couldn’t decide on 7 or 8)

Green (4)

Lemon (4)

Assam (2)

English Breakfast (1)

There were many views and comments on each tea and although on some occasions other people completely disagreed with me (rather shocking, since when I taste a tea and make a pronouncement about it I assume I’m right), I was delighted to witness the passion with which each taster spouted their own opinion.

9 was the highest score given for any tea (2 scores of 9 for Camomile), and 0 the lowest (1 score of 0 each for Camomile, Earl Grey and Green).

I didn’t attempt to guess the outcome prior to tasting, but if I had I certainly wouldn’t have put any money on peppermint coming home in a blaze of glory.

This is the order in which they were rated, with a score out of 60 in brackets (6 tasters each scoring out of 10):

Peppermint (37)

Camomile (33)

Earl Grey (31)

Lemon (30)

Assam (30)

Green (27)

Darjeeling (27)

English Breakfast (25)

Tasting tea is all very well (and it is, to my mind, an excellent way to pass a Saturday afternoon), but sooner or later one needs a bit of stodge to balance out all the liquid.

What with it being Easter and all, I had baked a Simnel cake (which, for anyone not in the know, is a fruit cake traditionally decorated with marzipan and with a secret layer of marzipan in the middle of the cake; the marzipan on top is often browned under the grill or with a blow torch):

The making of Simnel cake apparently dates back to Medieval times. The cake is traditionally decorated with 11 balls of marzipan on top, symbolising each of Jesus’s 12 apostles minus the traitor, Judas Iscariot.

I’m a bit late to be wishing anyone a Happy Easter, but I hope that wherever you spent it there were tasty treats involved.

 

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Malteaster Bunny

One of the nice things about January is that this is the month when Easter treats pop up on shop shelves here in the UK.

Cadbury’s Creme Eggs are one of my favourite Easter snacks, but I’ve waxed lyrical about these before (here), so instead I would like to introduce a relative newcomer to the Easter treat market, the Malteaster Bunny:

Malteaster Bunny

I don’t know exactly when the Malteaster Bunny hopped into production, but I’ve been aware of them bouncing about for the past two Easters.

When it first came out, as far as I’m aware, the Bunny was available in one size only – the 29g pack pictured above. This year, however, I’ve noticed for the first time that there is a smaller treat called the Malteaster Minibunny, which weighs in at a teeny wee 11.6g, less than half the weight of the original Bunny.

From what I’ve seen of them, Minibunnies only come in packs of five. Here is a single original sized Malteaster Bunny next to a warren of 5 Minibunnies:

Original Bunny with a warren of Minibunnies

And here is the warren, with the Bunny and then one Minibunny:

Warren, Bunny and Minibunny

Here’s a full complement of 5 Minibunnies:

5 Minibunnies

The original Bunny and the Minibunny are a little bit different from each other in shape, as well as size. Here’s a Bunny on the left with a Minibunny nextdoor:

Malteaster Bunny with Minibunny

Where the Minibunny is pretty svelte, the larger Bunny has an agreeably expansive paunch:

Fat Bunny and Minibunny

The Minibunny is just over 5cm tall and the Bunny is very nearly 9cm:

Bunny heights

Both the Bunny and the Minibunny are made of the same stuff, a thick and creamy chocolate coating round a Malteser-based centre. The centre is made up of the honeycomb crunchiness you find in Maltesers, encased in an almost fudge-like matrix. The chocolate on the ears of the Bunny, in particular, is quite glossy:

Inside the Bunny

In an attempt to find out if there was any difference in taste between the Bunny and the Minibunny, I did a blind taste test. The only discernible difference was that the Minibunny seemed to have a creamier taste, but I think this was due to me biting a bit that had thicker chocolate and less honeycomb centre than that of the Bunny.

I’m not sure what the recommended retail prices are, but when I bought them they were all on special offer and the Bunny worked out cheaper than the Minibunnies per gram.

As you would expect with any sort of chocolate, Malteaster Bunnies slip down perfectly with a cup of tea or coffee (and a piece of marmalade cake if you happen to have it):

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABunny with bunnies:

Bunny with bunnies

Easter bunnies

I’m glad that rabbits are such a big part of Easter because it gives me an excuse to dedicate a post to them.

I’ve always been fond of rabbits. I used to draw them all the time as a child, and they’re still one of my favourite doodles.

Earlier this year I received a beautiful birthday card from my dear parents:

I also got a calendar for Christmas which is full of rabbits. These two little gems appeared in March and fairly brightened up my month:

Along with my drawings of rabbits as a child, I used to write stories about them. According to the date on the back of this piece of paper (my parents are very good at putting dates on things), it was done in spring 1977, when I was 5. The translation is: “I saw a rabbit in the forest, it was jumping, it was furry, it was very nice”:

He’s now retired, but in his working life my dad was an astronomer and worked at the Royal Observatory in Edinburgh.  He used to bring box-loads of what we called ‘computer paper’ home with him from the office for us to draw on. It came in perforated sheets with holes along the top and green stripes on the back.

In June 1977 I made use of some of this paper to write the following story, and draw a one-eyed rabbit filled with flowers to illustrate it. The translation would appear to be: “I saw a rabbit in my garden. I like the rabbit, it was furry, it was running all over the place. I want it as a pet, mummy said that I could have it. I had it for a pet.”:

On the other side of the paper I drew a jolly little dancing rabbit:

Yesterday there were three small Lindt bunnies playing round this wooden drawered ornament:

This morning they were outside having a serious discussion in the grass:

Very fittingly for Easter, my April calendar page depicts this delightful little rabbit with two eggs that are not that much smaller than the bunny itself:

Happy Easter!