Sunday, 24 May 2015

Confessions of a tea addict.


I'm super excited to announce that I'm one of Clipper Tea's new healthy living bloggers! This is a version of my first post for them, which you can find on their website here. It's part of a fabulous section full of all sorts of interesting articles to help you become healthier and happier. Hope you like it!

I was hooked. My family knew it, most of my twitter followers knew it, and even I myself knew it.

Hi, I'm Rachel, and I have a drinking problem. My tipple of choice? A milky builder’s brew.


Like many heavy drinkers, my addiction grew gradually without my even realising.

It's strange to think now, but I actually had to force myself to get into tea. I know. I only did so to limit my hot chocolate intake over the chilly winter months, and initially I added spoonfuls of sugar (which I'm sure we all agree is tea sacrilege) just to make it bearable.


As I weaned myself of the sweet stuff, my tea consumption increased. On an average day I'd drink at least six cups of milky breakfast tea, and no day felt right without it.

Flatmates learnt not to talk to me before I'd had my first cup of the day, and friends learnt that offering me a cuppa was a stupid question: the answer was always yes.


Whilst living in Germany, I despaired at the lack of fresh milk and the weakness of the generic "black tea." I would declare that the fruity brews drunk by my German flatmates were not "proper tea", and insisted on having my own tea stocks replenished with deliveries from home. *insert sassy girl emoji here*

My Belgian and French housemates told me my tea looked like chocolate milk. I don't even know what to say about that.

Some drink ludicrous quantities of beer, others plump for tea
I never felt like tea really gave me energy as one would expect from a caffeinated beverage, it was just comforting, warming and delicious.

So when I decided to switch to an alkaline diet (eschewing dairy and caffeine amongst other pleasures in life... 80% of the time at least) come January 1st 2015, I knew I was in for a challenge. Me? Give up regular tea?! Surely not!


I told friends of my plans and they simply looked at me in shock, aghast and disbelieving.

And OK, I’ll be honest, I haven’t 100% given it up. But when you’re walking past Waitrose and a free cuppa is calling, what’s a girl to do? Plus, I've decided I really like normal tea with soya milk. Almond milk in tea is gross though. Take my word for it and save yourself the horror.

The headaches during my first few days off the milky stuff were not fun. A few months down the line however, and I only drink a regular cuppa a few times a week, I feel fab and my eyes have been opened to a whole new world of tea.


Whilst I’d only ever tried the free green teas in Wagamama previously (I realise a trend is emerging, but I’m a student, don’t judge!), it turns out there are tons of far yummier flavoured versions for the drinking. Pear and honey? Yes please. Ginseng? I don't know what ginseng is but it turns out I like it! Nettle? Who knew nettles were so nice?!

My uni coursemates and I have recently discovered a secret boiling water tap in uni, and I am not exaggerating when I say it has revolutionised my life. I never used to stay in uni to work due to the lack of tea. Now I simply make sure I've always got my flask and emergency tea bag stash with me and I'm all set for the day.

Until I decide I want to go home and change into my onesie and slippers, that is...


And yes, I still drink at least six cups a day. But hey, there are worse addictions to have.

Do you share my tea addiction? Let me know!

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

4 of London's best themed afternoon teas and an 'Into The Woods' DVD giveaway!


My list of "things I love" is somewhat extensive, but two things that feature pretty high up are afternoon tea and musicals. One such musical the film adaptation of which I absolutely love is Into The Woods. Did you see it?

With Emily Blunt (my girl crush), James Corden, Anna Kendrick, Meryl Streep, the cute boy who played Gavroche in Les Mis and a whole host of other talented stars?


Well it's precisely my type of film: romance, comedy, catchy songs, surprise twists, pretty dresses, handsome princes and a fairytale setting. (The song 'Agony' is particularly hilarious. I was singing it for weeks too.)

So when the wonderful PR people working with Sketch in London (remember Sketch? With the salted caramel macarons?) got in touch to tell me about their Into The Woods-themed afternoon tea, 'Tea in the Woods', to celebrate the release of the film on DVD I was super interested.



How awesome does this sound:
"With a menu consisting of assorted “sand-witches” with fillings ranging from quail egg and caviar to cucumber and ricotta, the menu is sure to please even the most scrutinizing prince or princesses.  Also included in the re-vamped tea is Little Red Riding Hood’s Choux, Jack’s Beanstalk Tart, all complemented by the Baker and his Wife’s selection of Sketch Pastries – all fit for a basket to take to grandma’s house!"
The tragic thing is that I'm not actually going to be able to make it to London in time to try the Into The Woods tea myself because of my finals (grrr), but if you do go, have an extra pastry for me and let me know how it is.

It's £39 per person (so probably a special treat for most of us) and runs from 18th May – 7th June 2015.

And if you can't make it either, fear not! You can still get a slice of the Into The Woods charm because I've got three copies of the DVD to give away, yay! This is the type of film you can happily watch over and over again, so a great one to add to your collection.

Why not watch the film with a slice of Vic Sponge and a mug of the finest builders' brew? It'll be just like being at Sketch. Ahem.

All you have to do is enter the giveaway below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Luckily for me, Sketch often do amazing themed afternoon teas, so I'll have to go another time. And if that's the kinda thing you're into, I've been finding out about some of London's other themed afternoon teas to add to your list.


Behold, three more of London's finest themed afternoon teas:


Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Afternoon Tea, The Lobby Bar in One Aldwych


We're talking decadent golden eggs, blueberry brioche, homemade candy floss and heritage tomato tarts - the menu is surprisingly varied and features less chocolate than you'd imagine. I'm loving the look of those chocolate milks with their stripey straws!

£34.50 per person for afternoon tea or £45 per person for afternoon tea with a glass of Lallier Grande Réserve Champagne or a smoking Cocktail Charlie and £37.50 for under 12s.


Prêt-à-Portea, The Berkeley


Probably one of the best-known afternoon teas in London, Prêt-à-Portea is inspired by the themes and colours of the fashion world, and the menu changes every six months. The pastry chefs create sweet treats taken from each season’s collections at London Fashion Week (how cool is that?), and everything is served on the finest bespoke Paul Smith china.

£45 per person for afternoon tea or £52 per person for afternoon tea with a glass of Laurent-Perrier.


Mad Hatter's Afternoon Tea, The Sanderson Hotel


Now this one does sound fun: Upon being seated, guests receive a menu hidden inside a vintage book and linen napkins wrapped with a riddle. Teapots adorned with kings and queens, sugar cubes in musical boxes, carousels and ticking clocks all complement the yummy, traditional afternoon tea treats.

£38 per person and £30 for under 11s.


Afternoon teas like these are such an occasion and a really special treat, in my opinion. I absolutely love them. But tell me, which one tempts you the most?

Sunday, 17 May 2015

RECIPE: Chocolate chunk nutty raw brownies (gluten free, vegan, refined sugar free).


Man, I looooove these!



And I know – FINALLY, a recipe post! Well I think the wait has been worth it, chums, as this recipe is an absolute dream, if I do say so myself.

These are just so very very tasty. 

It was one of those things that I didn’t mean to make. I was revising for my exams, I really was. Then this happened. I don’t even know how, but I’m jolly glad it did.



I was inspired by Deliciously Ella’s raw brownie recipe, but then I decided to take it up a notch or five. And I’m pretty darn pleased with my creation, it has to be said.

These brownies are super rich and chocolatey, with the most fabulous, squidgy, gorge texture thanks to the nuts and dates. And then when you get that little crunch of chocolate chunk - oof, that's the stuff.



I should probably point out that although I call them brownies, they’re not like traditional brownies. Traditional brownies are wonderful, I don’t deny that. But these babies are different. Equally wonderful, if not MORE wonderful thanks to their health benefits, but different.

They’re also gosh darn simple to make. I promise.


You can vary the Choc Shot you use (I went for coconut) as well as the nuts, which will result in slightly different flavours, but that’s all part of the fun, am I right? I used a mix of nuts that was predominantly cashews and peanuts which worked a treat, but I reckon almonds, hazelnuts and pecans would be just as good. Go wild!


And if you don’t have Sweet Freedom, substitute agave syrup or honey.

These brownies are vegan, gluten-free and refined sugar-free (depending on the chocolate you use). Yup, genuinely nourishing, full of natural goodness.

And oh my days, want to take these babies to another level? Spread them with chocolate-hazelnutty goodness! Because chocolate and nuts on top of chocolate and nuts has got to be a good thing, am I right? SO DELISH!




OK, they may be slightly less healthy as a result, but the texture combo here is insaaaanely good. Use Nutella if ya like. I went for Jimjam’s chocolate hazelnut spread which has no added sugar, don'tcha know. Beyond tasty.

Also: generously drizzling with peanut butter is a seriously good way to take these brownies from awesome to awesomer.


I made my brownies in my mini food-chopper (basically a mini food processor, and such a barg) which I absolutely adore, but a normal food processor would be fine, or you could try in a powerful blender.

Oh, and do use medjool dates rather than standard ones – the latter really are nothing like the former. Trust. And if you can't find raw cacao powder (I got mine at a local independent health food store), you can sub cocoa powder but the quantity won't be the same so I suggest adding 1 tbsp at a time and having a little taste.


These quantities make six lovely brownie squares, but you could easily scale up the recipe. My pictures show you what a ½ cup looks like, but don’t worry if you don’t have the right measuring cups – it doesn’t need to be too precise with this recipe.



Hope you love them as much as I do!



Ingredients

½ cup mixed nuts of you choice
½ cup medjool dates, pitted and halved (I used 5)
1 tbsp Choc Shot of your choice (I used coconut)
3 tbsp raw cacao powder
1 tbsp Sweet Freedom/honey/agave
4 squares good quality dark chocolate, roughly chopped


Method

1. Line a small baking tin with foil.

2. Pulse the nuts in a food processor until they turn into a fine powder. 


3. Add the other ingredients except the chocolate one at a time and pulse after each one to combine until a very sticky dough forms.


4. Dollop the mixture into the tin and use your fingers to spread it out evenly, pressing down as you go – this gets a bit messy, but it’s the best way. Press the chocolate chunks on to the top of the brownies and pop the whole thing in the freezer for an hour to firm up.

Don't worry if you don't fill a whole tin - the mix won't spread.
5. Remove the tray from the freezer and lift out the brownies by the foil. Cut into squares and enjoy! (Oh, and keep them in the fridge to stay firm.)

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Me-time in Munich {in photos}


Alrighty then, let’s head on to the final stop of my recent trip back to Germany: Munich. (OK, so I realise said trip really wasn’t very recent anymore, but, finals.)

Those of you who caught my review of TRYP Hotel in Munich (remember, the one with the shamazing breakfast?) may have been wondering what I was doing there by myself.

Well the answer is: not much. And that was the joy of it. Having only managed to visit Munich once properly on my year abroad (and even then during the madness that is Oktoberfest), I figured I’d like to get to know the Bavarian capital a little better. Well, as well as one can in a day or two.

So I simply wandered round the city, caught up with a lovely German friend over tea and coffee (coffee for him, tea for me, obvs), and shopped. Yeah, there are some gooood shops in Munich. And being by myself meant I could be utterly selfish and go exactly where I wanted. (Friends are over-rated, right?)

I’m a big fan of the whole city to be honest – it’s got that traditional Bavarian architecture which I adore but also the exciting buzz of a big city. I’d have loved to have stayed longer and done more exploring, but I guess I’ll just have to go back… (Soon please!)