Melbourne Tea Festival 2017: all of the tea you should be drinking!

Melbourne Tea Festival 2017
http://www.melbourneteafestival.com.au/

I couldn’t have been more excited last year when one of my best friends told me Melbourne had a tea festival; this year, I didn’t need any prompting.

Off we went to Tea Palooza; we being myself (the avid tea drinker) and my husband (the food truck fanatic). He heard Ghost Kitchen were back this year and wasn’t passing up the chance for their popcorn chicken.

We arrived not long after opening, and it was noticeably smaller than last year’s. Husband worked it out almost immediately;  last year, Melbourne was in the throes of a matcha trend, while this year it seemed that chai was the in thing; apparently there are less chai dealers than matcha ones It was also a little disappointing to find that not all of the vendors on their program sheet were actually there.

But onto the tea… I did get around to trying a few, and obviously took some home with me. For those of you who didn’t make it to the tea festival (and actually care about tea!), here’s what’s worth trying!

 

TRIED:

1. UMTEA: Champagne Rose
http://www.umtea.com/
This was nicer than I expected it to be – sweet without that overpowering syrupy taste, and the rose flavour was subtle enough to be delicious  (anyone who’s had something with wayyyy too much rose flavouring in it will know what I mean). Kinda sad they didn’t have more teas brewing to try!

2. The Fitzroy Naturopath: Organic Turmeric Elixir
http://thefitzroynaturopath.com.au/
With its trendy superfood label, turmeric is “in” at the moment, so when I was offerrd a taste, I wasn’t expecting much – blended with lemongrass, it was actually really good! Husband commented that he felt like it would be the perfect thing if you were sick with a cold or flu. While I didn’t end up buying any on the day, I’m not ruling out an online purchase…

3. McIvers: Bolshie Brew, Tramtracker
https://www.mcivers.melbourne/
Both really good, strong black brews – would happily drink both of them again, but found a third option that I liked best and purchased (see below).

4. Cloud Nine Teas: Sencha, Gyokuro
http://cloudnineteas.com/
Honestly, I wasn’t impressed. I was actually pretty disappointed; I was really hoping to take some gyokuro home with me, but it didn’t taste like gyokuro (or at least not like the varieties I tried in Japan that I fell in love with) – just tasted like an odd type of sencha. The search continues…

5. Ito En: Genmaicha
http://www.itoen.com.au/
This was fantastic – really delicious, but not overpowering nutty, toasty flavour. Only reason I didn’t buy some is because I was just given a bag of genmaicha from Ippodo Tea!

6. Matcha Matcha: sweet matcha (cold)
https://www.facebook.com/matchamatchacafe/
I didn’t think I’d like this much,  and it was far too sweet to drink much of, but it was surprisingly nice!


TOOK HOME:

1
. McIvers: Vic Market Mornings
https://www.mcivers.melbourne/
This was my favourite from the McIvers range – the perfect strong, black tea to enjoy on a cold, lazy Sunday morning with a good book and a fluffy dressing gown.

2. Tea Angle: Smokey Lapsang Souchong
https://www.teaangle.com/


This was a new one for me – I’d never heard of or tried anything like it before. It tastes like a cold night sitting by an open fire. Great on its own, but I also tried it with a tiny bit of milk, and that was really good, too.

3. Faraaz Tea: Red Hibiscus
http://www.faraaztea.com.au/
I bought this last year for the first time as a reminder of the tea I drank in Egypt. I recently discovered a better way to drink it rather than just as hot tea; mixed with a little bit of T2’s Mint Mix tea, it makes the perfect iced tea to fill my water bottle with and sip on at work all day – so much better than water!

4. Rico Coco’s: Chocolate Tea
http://www.chocolatetea.com.au/
Chocolate tea. Magic. It couldn’t be more simple – just cacao husks/shells, and some cacao nibs. Add hot water and its a hot cup of drinkable chocolate. And it has no caffeine, which is why it’s my tea of choice before bedtime – it’s like drinking dessert before bed! Oh, and it’s organic (good for you) and FairTrade (good for the Peruvian plantations that supply the cacao). Everyone wins!

5. Storm In A Teacup: Breakfast Tea
http://www.storminateacup.com.au/

My favourite loose leaf breakfast tea – despite the dozens of other black teas I have at home  (yes, seriously, more than one dozen), I’m onto my third bag of this since discovering it at last year’s tea show. When I work from home, I brew a big, strong pot of this first thing in the morning, and its the perfect start to the morning. Also gets a great run on lazy weekends at home.

Oktoberfest V.3 – Cook this: Nussecken (German nut biscuits)

If this was our third annual Oktoberfest, does that mean it’s now officially a tradition? I really hope so, because a night of pretzels, meat and friends is a pretty good night!


And of course, dessert. My main department. For Oktoberfest 2014, I did black forest cookies. For Oktoberfest 2015, it was chocolate pretzels. I needed something different this year, and good old Google gave me a hand, fielding my “German desserts” queries. I finally came across Nussecken, a German biscuit that has a shortbready biscuit layer (yum), an apricot jam layer (my favourite jam, double yum), a hazelnut layer (yup), and finally dipped in dark chocolate (yes, please). It was the obvious choice.


It wasn’t as easy to find what looked like a good recipe for them, so more Google enquiries ensued, and The Frugal Chef came to the rescue with her recipe, which you can find right here. Don’t be scared by the multiple layers – it’s actually a pretty easy recipe to follow, and for this reason, I haven’t messed around with it like I usually would! I also didn’t want to bother copying and pasting the recipe I used, so I drew it up for you instead 🙂


I’ll also leave you with some photos of my Nussecken, and some of the other goodies we had…


Does anyone else do an annual Oktoberfest celebration with friends? Or any other annual party? You should, it’s really fun, especially when everyone gets dressed up and are happy to stuff themselves silly with food!

Cook this: cacao, puffed quinoa & pistachio granola

I have the most ridiculous accumulation of cookbooks at home, and at one point had started to hoard magazines, as well.

When I realised how out of control it was getting, I decided to consolidate all of my favourite recipes from my magazines into smaller collections; I went out and bought a few large spiral notebooks and went through my magazines, cutting out the recipes I actually liked and thought I’d cook. I stuck them into the notebooks, and they now sit in a nice, neat little pile on my bookshelf.


I go through them every few weeks to find inspiration and ideas I’d forgotten I’d collected, and found some new breaky inspiration in one of my books last week; a Donna Hay granola recipe, using puffed quinoa, which I’ve been wanting to try adding to my breakfast oats for a while now.

I made a few changes to suit my tastes and pantry supplies, and ended up with an incredible mix, and the perfect way to enjoy a chocolatey breakfast without the extra sugar and calories – happy!

 

Ingredients: (makes 1 large jar)
– 1/4 cup cacao powder
– 1 tbsp brown sugar
– 6 tbsp water
– 2 cups puffed quinoa
– 2 cups rolled oats
– 100g pistachios, roughly chopped
– 1/4 cup chia seeds
– 1/2 cup cacao nibs
– 1 cup shredded coconut

Method:
1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C and line a large oven tray with non-stick baking paper.

2. Heat the cacao (or cocoa) powder, sugar and water in a small saucepan over low heat, gently mixing until the sugar has dissolved, then remove from the heat to cool a little.

3. While that cools, combine all of the remaining ingredients in a large mixing bowl.

4. Pour the liquid over the dry ingredients and stir thoroughly to coat and combine.

5. Spread the mixture over the oven tray, and bake for 20 – 25 minutes, mixing it around every 5 minutes or so to ensure it cooks evenly.

6. Cool completed on the tray, and store in an airtight jar or container 2 – 3 weeks.

Cook this: Matcha & white chocolate muffins

I saw this recipe a few weeks ago on Matchaeologist’s Instagram page, and like so many others, saved it for later. I decided to make them (with a few small changes) for my turn of Wednesday Morning Breakfast Club last week, and they were delicious! I love the combination of matcha and white chocolate, and these make a nice change from the standard choc chip muffin, especially for a special breakfast with some fresh strawberries 🙂

image

Ingredients (makes 12 small muffins):
– 1¼ cups plain flour
– 1 tsp baking powder
– 2 tsp matcha powder
– ½ cup white chocolate chips
– pinch of salt
– ⅓ cup caster sugar
– ⅓ cup vegetable oil, coconut oil, or melted butter
– ¾ cup warm milk (I used almond milk, which work really well)
– 1 tbsp white vinegar

Method:
1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C and line a 12-hole muffin tray with cupcake cases.

2. Combine the flour, baking powder, matcha powder, choc chips and salt in a bowl, and set aside.

3. In a larger bowl, whisk together the sugar, oil, milk and vinegar, until completely combined.

4. Add the dry ingredients into the wet, bit by bit, gently mixing with a wooden spoon as you go until it all comes together to a smooth batter.

5. Spoon the batter into the cases and bake 20 – 25 minutes, until just browned on top/they pass the skewer test.

6. Cool in tins, and enjoy!

img_8422

As you can see, mine came out quite dark, because the matcha powder I used was a darker colour. The type of matcha you use will affect the muffin colour – it won’t taste any different, just something to be aware of!

 

Cook this: Cadbury Creme Egg Easter Brownies

Being a chocoholic, Easter is obviously my favourite holiday, and Cadbury Creme Eggs are my favourite treats of the season. The big ones are getting too sugary for me these days, but I find the little ones just right – they have a much better chocolate to filling ratio, which is important to me when we’re talking filled eggs.

I have absolutely no idea where I found this recipe; it was scrawled into one of my recipe books about 6 of 7 years ago, and I’ve always loved baking it for Easter! Given that we’re going to be away for Easter this year (and even if we weren’t, no one in my family really eats the cakes and sweets I bake anymore), I thought I’d make a batch for some friends who kindly invited us over for dinner last weekend : )

 

Ingredients:
– 250g milk chocolate
– 150g butter
– 1 cup brown sugar
– 3 eggs, lightly beaten
– 1 tsp vanilla extract
– 1 cup plain flour
– 1 packet of mini creme eggs, wrappers removed

Method:
1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C and line a rectangular cake tin with baking paper.
2. Melt the chocolate and butter in a bowl over a pot of simmering water, stirring continuously.
3. Once melted, remove the bowl from the heat and stir in the sugar.
4. Stir in the eggs and vanilla next until fully incorporated, then the flour.
5. Lastly, fold in the creme eggs and pour the mixture into the prepared tin.
6. Bake for 30 minutes and cool in the tin for 5-10 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack to finish cooking.

Cook this: chocolate & Bounty cupcakes 

Happy Hump Day! How good is it when you’re given a box of chocolates? How much better is it when they’re your favourites?! Big thanks to my sibling’s legend of a boyfriend for the box of dark chocolate Bounty bars I used to make these fudgy, chocolatey, rich pieces of heaven, adapted from a Donna Hay chocolate cake recipe. If you haven’t got someone who’ll gift you chocolate, I suggest buying some for yourself so you can get involved in some mid week chocolate cake action, anyway.

Ingredients:
– 250g butter, softened
– 1 cup brown sugar
– 2 eggs, at room temperature
– 2 tsp vanilla extract
– 1⅓ cup plain flour
-1½ tsp baking powder
– ½ cup coca powder
– ½ cup milk
– ½ cup desiccated coconut
– 3-4 king size bounty bars, chopped

Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 160°C and line 2 12-hole muffin tins with cupcake cases.
2. Place the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer for 5 minutes, until light and creamy.
3. Add in the eggs and vanilla, and beat again until completely incorporated.
4. Sift in the four, baking powder and cocoa, and fold into the mixture.
5. Stir in the milk, then the coconut and Bounty pieces.
6. Spoon the mixture into the cases and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cupcakes comes out clean.
7. Once cool enough to handle, transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling before decorating; I’ll be honest, I cheated with the frosting this time and used the pre-made Betty Crocker stuff, along with a bit more coconut and Bounty pieces on top. Amazing!

Cook this: super simple 6 ingredient cookies (gluten, lactose, egg free)

I used to hate Fridays. Back when I was working in gyms and in retail travel. I bloody hated Fridays. Because when everyone else was winding down from the week and ready to enjoy their weekend, I was just gearing up. Friday was like a Tuesday or Wednesday for me. For the first decade of my working life, I worked almost every weekend. And it sucked.

But now that I’m doing the corporate thing for work, and not stressing about whether or not I’ll actually get paid because I no longer get paid per personal training session or on commission per holiday sold, weekends are a thing of beauty. Friday is a happy day. I get to wear my jeans to work and be all “casual.” I get to visit my beloved Preston Market after work and do my groceries with the Euro-nannas. I get to take said groceries home and bake something! That’s where it can get a little tricky – Friday nights are when you want something nice to nibble on, but can’t actually be bothered putting in much of an effort, because, ya know, it’s Friday.

Enter these guys. Cookies from the heavens.
6 ingredients.
1 bowl.
1 spoon.
Highly customizable.
Gluten free.
Lactose free.
Egg free.

This is Friday night baking at its best. Now, throw these together when you get home this afternoon and prepare a glass of wine to go with that shitty movie you’re planning to unwind with after another long week at work.

Unless you work in the gym or retail sector, in which case prepare a double batch and a bottle of wine, and good luck for the weekend!!

(Based loosely on the cookie layer recipe from Eating Bird Food’s Twix Bars)

Ingredients:
– 1 cup almond meal
– ⅛ tsp sea salt
– ⅛ tsp baking soda
– 2 tbsp maple syrup
– 1.5 tbsp vegetable oil
– 1.5 tsp vanilla extract

That’s the base 6 ingredients you need, but then you can top the cookies with whatever you want. I used chocolate chips, but anything goes!

1. Throw everything into a bowl and mix it together – when it becomes too crumbly, use your hands to smoosh it all together.

2. Line an oven tray with baking paper, and take tablespoon (or teaspoon, depending on what you’re after) sized chunks of dough, roll into balls and flatten slightly, placing them on the baking tray as you go. If you want to add a little something on top, like my chocolate chips, do that now.

3. Sit the tray in the freezer for 15 minutes, and while they’re resting, preheat the oven to 160°C.

4. Take the cookies out of the freezer and into the oven for 15 minutes; once they’re baked (they won’t brown up much, and that’s ok – they’re not meant to!), take them out of the oven and let them cool on the tray to room temperature.

5. Eat all of the cookies while watching the latest episodes of The Vampire Diaries and America’s Next Top Model. Yes they are my guilty pleasures, judge away, I don’t even care. Except that tonight I won’t be in my PJs by 7pm, because I’ll be out at the first Christmas party of the season… I hope they have cookies…