Tea time: Reaching Out Tea House, Hoi An, Vietnam

Reaching Out Tea House
131 Tran Phu Street, Hoi An, Vietnam
http://reachingoutvietnam.com/

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We stumbled upon quite a few tea houses in Hoi An, but my favourite was the Reaching Out Tea House. Reaching Out Vietnam started up back in 2010, with the goal of providing opportunities to learn skills and fain employment for people with disabilities.

In Hoi An, they have an arts & crafts shop, where every beautiful piece (and I do mean beautiful) has been created by an artisan with a disability. They also have the tea house, which is the ultimate sanctuary in such a bright and busy city.
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The beautiful space is serene and calm, made even more so by the request that guests communicate in whispers. The staff are all speech and hearing impaired, which makes not the smallest bit of difference in their service. If anything, it’s better than any other tea house I’ve ever visited; they were all so gracious, elegant and accommodating.
Communication really isn’t an issue; once seated, we were given paper menus and pencils so that we could mark our orders and hand them back. That was the easy part – the menu is huge! We also had some spare sheets of blank paper and blocks (see below) which made it even easier – they’ve thought of everything to make both the staff and guests as comfortable as possible.
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In the end, husband settled on a Good Day Coffee (made from specialty-grade Arabica beans grown in Cau Dat, with notes of toffee and cashews). It came out on a beautiful tray in an even more stunning coffee cup, with detailed golden lotus leaves and flowers crawling up its sides. The dainty little gold Vietnamese coffee filter was beautiful, too – if I drank coffee, I’d have gone home with a set! But I don’t, so I left the tasting to husband, and it got a big tick of approval.
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I chose a pot of private production Oolong tea (an organic tea from the Central Highlands with a pale colour and light, floral taste). Again I was blown away by the magnificent tea set, and took a moment to be a dork and just admire it. The tea was fantastic, too – such an easy drinking tea in that climate.
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We also ordered some sweets – husband chose the black sesame cookies (verrryyyy moorish), and I didn’t bother reading past the pandan green tea coconut, which (to my joy) turned out to be thick green tea & pandan flavoured strips of dried coconut. Actual edible heaven!
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My only regret was that we found this too late in the trip to make a return visit – they did tea and coffee tasting trays, which I’d have loved to have gotten involved in! But otherwise, it was perfect. We arrived at dusk, and sitting in this calm, dimly lit haven after a long, chaotic day was exactly what we needed. I can’t recommend it highly enough if you find yourself in Hoi An; good tea and coffee, great people and a wonderful cause to support 🙂
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Eat here: Vincent The Dog, Melbourne (brunch/café)

Vincent The Dog
348 Drummond St, Carlton
https://www.instagram.com/vincentthedogcafe/

Another weekend, another brunch date. And guys, it’s Monday morning; the best way to get through the week is to start preparing for weekend brunch now!

Last weekend, I finally got around to Vincent The Dog, an unassuming little hole-in-the-wall in Carlton, which is pretty easy to miss if you’re not paying attention.

Inside, it’s teeny tiny, with one big communal dining table and a few bench seats, so prepare to get to know your fellow diners. Looking at the shelving displaying oh so much pretty coffee-ware, you get the impression that these guys take their coffee pretty seriously; you’d be both right and wrong.

Waiting on my friend’s arrival, I had a read through the menu, and found it to be pretty “this is what we think;” in little notes around the menu, they let you know just how their coffee making differs from everyone else, and make no apologies for it. I’m not a coffee drinker, but I respect anyone willing to back their methods. Instead, I ordered a jasmine/green tea blend, and am absolutely stoked when it comes out properly brewed and at the right temperature (when I’m served green tea leaves in a pot of boiling water, I know I’m dealing with amateurs – if not steeped for only a few minutes at a lower-than-boiling temperature, it goes bitter and yuk, and that’s disappointing). Beautiful tea, perfect start to the morning!

Breakfast. That was actually a pretty simple decision for me because
a) they’re kind enough to label the menu items with anything that may upset people with food allergies, so I knew exactly what to skip if I wanted to avoid onion and garlic – thank you!
b) I like sweet breakfasts.

So I went with the sweet waffle option: coconut waffles with fresh & freeze dried strawberries,  cherries, kiwi, coconut jelly, green tea jelly, fresh mint & pistachios… wow. The waffles were right on point for me – thick and fluffy, with heaps of shredded coconut through them. The jellies were easily the other highlight – I’ve found that a lot of places who promise jellies like this tend to end up with quite watered down flavours to the point that it could just be green-tinged jelly, but you could really taste the coconut and green tea in these. Thank goodness!

It’s a pity the place isn’t a little bit bigger so people could relax and sprawl out a little more rather than being so squished in, because it’s a really cute little café, and my waffles were great – everything else rolling out of the kitchen looked amazing, too. Another delicious addition to Carlton 🙂

 
Vincent the Dog Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tea time: The Village Larder, Woodend, VIC 

The Village Larder
81 High St, Woodend
http://www.thevillagelarder.com.au/

Going back in time today because it’s cold and I’d rather be sitting in front of a fireplace with tea and scones. Unfortunately, I’m fairly stationary today, but when you’re taking a road trip and it’s freezing cold and raining a little bit and you’re not quite there yet, you gotta stop for hot tea and coffee. On our way from Melbourne to Bunjil Farm, we passed through the sweet little town of Woodend, and The Village Larder looked like the perfect place to stop off and warm up.

If I lived here, this would be my regular tea house. It was perfect; warm and cosy, owing mostly to the fire place (heaven!), cute random fabric curtains, the most gorgeous old wooden counter and plenty of space to sit and read and relax.

Tea and coffee were both delicious, and so was the sultana scone, warmed up and served with delicious berry jam and cream. I also really loved the two drawings stuck to the coffee machine; one a beautiful pen sketch done by someone who was clearly a talented artist, and another done by a child, signed with their name. They both looked perfect there. It’s the simple stuff 🙂

The breakfast menu looked great, too – shakshuka, fig date & raisin toast, bacon + egg + avo + chipotle ciabatta and freshly squeezed juices… next time, I think I’ll want to leave a little earlier so I can have breaky instead of just morning tea!

 

The Village Larder Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Melbourne Tea Festival 2016 (and all the teas you should be drinking!)

The Melbourne Tea Festival. Or, according to my husband, “Tea Palooza.” Whatever you wanna call it, it happened on Sunday, and it was awesome!

Held for the first time at the Melbourne Conference and Exhibition Centre,

The Melbourne Tea Festival is an interactive experience designed to help people discover and experience specialty tea; encourage and grow passion for tea through education; and showcase quality specialty tea providers. The festival day has two elements, a tea market and a program of ticketed workshops.

If you bought your tickets online before the event, they were only $12, and entry included a little tea cup to carry around for the day so you could taste as much as you wanted. Workshops cost a little extra, so we didn’t participate in any of them, and instead just went to sample and shop. Ok, I went to sample and shop; husband came along because there were food trucks, and his favourite ones, at that.

Included in the food truck line up were Sliders on Tyres, Nem N Nem Vietnamese street food and Kurbside Kravings, but the ones we were there for were the Don Lopez El Cubano Food Truck, doling out the most incredible roast pork Cuban sandwiches, and Ghost Kitchen, purveyors of my husband’s all-time favourite food truck fare – their popcorn chicken is spectacular.

Delicious sweet food was abundant, too (yay for my, the sweet tooth), and I absolutely couldn’t go past the rich, fudgy chocolate whoopie cookies stuffed with matcha.lab matcha cream from Alpen Delicious’ The Whoopies Range.

I also absolutely loved the salted caramel chocolate tart, and the matcha red bean strawberry stuffed daifuku from Chocolette Patisserie.

But enough of the food for now – let’s talk tea! I came home with a pretty decent haul, and sampled quite a few more. Here’s what I tried and what I took home….

What I tried:
– Larsen & Thompson: Lemongrass & Ginger Tea
Light and delicious and great to settle an upset stomach

– the art of tea: Tasmanian Breakfast Tea
I actually tried this one back at Salamanca Market in Hobart a few weeks ago, and it’s a really lovely black tea – a blend of Chinese grown large leaf Yunnan & Keemun

– T2: all of the tea
I’ve been a big fan of T2 for years now; favourites include Melbourne Breakfast Tea, Madagascan Vanilla, Pumping Pomegranate, French Early Grey, Strawberries & Cream and Geisha Getaway.

 

What I took home:

– matcha.lab: matcha pack – 60g pack of organic matcha + bamboo chashaku + bamboo chasen whisk for AUD$45.00
I really enjoyed the matcha I tasted from matcha.lab, and obviously their association with the aforementioned whoopie cookies didn’t hurt, and I needed a whisk and I figured why the hell not go the whole nine yards?! Great purchase!
* WHY MATCHA.LAB? They promise superior organic stone ground matcha from the tea fields of the city of Nishio in the Aichi Prefecture, Japan’s leading producer of matcha, and crafted to ensure the highest concentration of nutrients and antioxidants. They also use small tea leaves, resulting in a higher concentration of antioxidants compared to other brands.

– RicoCoco’s Chocolate Tea: 40g packet for AUD$12.00
This magic little formula actually tasted like a cup of chocolate. Not imitation hot chocolate, but like your actually drinking smooth, liquefied chocolate… wow.
* WHY RICOCOCO? It’s made from shell of the cacao bean, and thats it! It is not a flavour infused tea, nor a processed tea. This is 100% organic, free from GMO pesticides and Freetrade.

– Faraaz Tea: Hibiscus Tea 30g gift pack for AUD$7.00
It was actually the husband who spied this one, remembering the amazing hibiscus tea we drank in Egypt back in 2013. The massive crowd around their stall told us that they had the good stuff, and so they did!
* WHY FARAAZ? They believe in contributing positively to society on a global scale and promoting a healthy lifestyle. Their goal is to make sure you get the best tasting herbal and fruit tea, to feel great after drinking it, to provide exceptionally high quality products and services that are competitive in the global market, and to dedicate themselves to ensuring customer satisfaction world-wide.

– Storm in a Teacup: Breakfast Tea 50g pack for AUD$7.00
I love this tea – it’s a good, strong, old faithful, served at quite a few cafes these days. As much as I love fancy flavoured black teas, I also like to have a good, trusty breakfast tea handy.
* WHY STORM IN A TEACUP? They know their tea inside out, have great respect for the tea rituals of the world, embrace the precocious elevation of tea’s place in our culinary society. Basically, they’re all about tea.

– Zen Wonders: Taishiro Matcha 50g packet for AUD$20.00
Last but not least, a packet of culinary grade matcha – I loved the taste of the ceremonial grade, but didn’t have the extra money to spend on it. That said, this culinary grade is still fantastic as a tea, and an exceptional matcha latte addition.

* WHY ZEN WONDERS? They believe that nourishing both mind and body is a simple, yet powerful discipline to embrace a meaningful and happy journey through life. They source their matcha from the Uji Region of Japan, known to be the best area for production of superior matcha green tea because of the lack of pollution, rich soil, and wide range of temperature between day and night.

 

What I want to try next:
– Travelling Samovar Tea House
Their range looked incredible, and they have Gyokuro tea, my absolute favourite green tea varietal!

– Impala & Peacock Tea Room
They do high tea – if there’s anything I love more than tea, it’s tea with scones!

 

In the mean time, though, I think I’ll make myself another cup of tea and dream about those whoopie cookies… I hope this festival is back again next year!!

Make this: Easy DIY matcha latte

Happy Friday! I’m going to make this a short and sweet post, because I’m actually jetting off to Queensland this morning for a quick little family vacay! But before I fly, I like to get to the airport super early so I have no reason to be rushed and stressed and anxious, then settle in with a hot cup of tea and a book. Usually; this morning, I’m in hunt of a matcha latte. I’ve very much liked matcha for quite a while now, and started really enjoying a good matcha latte a few months ago; I’ve now fallen even more in love with them since realising I can make them at home instead of paying $5 of $6 at a cafe every time I want one!

I wanted to write this quick little “recipe” up so that other people can realise it doesn’t have to be an expensive beverage to enjoy. I buy my matcha from ARC Asian Grocery at Preston Market because they offer the best prices by far of anywhere I’ve seen. It also doesn’t have to be complicated – you need a bowl, a small whisk, a sieve or tea strainer and a small saucepan. If you have a matcha whisk, that’s great, but if you don’t, any little whisk will do.

I based this recipe on Namiko’s from Just One Cookbook (I love her blog and recipes!), it’s super easy, so get matcha-ing!

Ingredients (serves 2):
– 1.5 cups milk (I like using an almond/coconut milk from Almond Breeze)
– 1.5 tsp matcha powder
– 2 tbsp very hot water (not quite boiling)
– pinch of caster sugar (optional)

Method:
1. Pour the milk into a small saucepan and set over low heat to slowly warm up – you do not want it to boil, though, so keep an eye on it.

2. While the milk warms up, sift the matcha into a bowl using a small sieve or tea strainer. Add the hot water and whisk quickly in a zig zag pattern to form a thick, green paste.

3.  Once the milk has warmed up to a good drinking temperature, whisk in the matcha pasta, again in a quick, zig zag (not circular) pattern – it should start to form little bubbles if you’re whisking quickly enough. If you have a milk frother and want to get a bit of fancy cafe styling to it, go ahead and get that going, too. I don’t, because I want this done quickly and easily. You can also add a little sugar, if you want it a bit sweeter (the earthy, bitter taste isn’t for everyone, I use a tiny pinch of sugar in mine because I find the almond/coconut milk adds a bit of sweetness, anyway).

4. And that’s about it! Pour it into your mugs and drink away; I did my best to get creative on Wednesday Morning Breakfast Club this week and went all out Japan inspired with my Gudetama mugs and attempted Gudetama-faced eggs… much tricky, so fun!

Skip the expensive cafe version and DIY this weekend! Unless, like me, you’re at an airport and don’t have any other choice to feed your addiction!

Port Arthur Lavender, Tasmania (to shop, eat & tea at)

Port Arthur Lavender
6555 Port Arthur Hwy, Port Arthur, Tasmania
http://portarthurlavender.com.au/

From one delicious food and drinkery to another, I’m crossing the ditch today and throwing it back to the Tassie trip we took a few weeks ago. How the husband and I ended up at a Lavender farm is a story that pretty much sums up our whole relationship; we were driving to Port Arthur from Hobart, and husband saw a large sign on the side of the road that read “DISTILLERY.” His eyes lit up, knowing the Tasmania does some good whisky, but said nothing. Do you want to turn around and go back to check it out? Cue quick U-turn and large grin.

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At this point, I’m wondering what the hell kind of a sweet little lavender farm and cafe has a distillery on site… then I saw the sign pointing the way to the lavender oil distillery. Cue disappointment and angry tirade at the signage clearly designed by a woman to trap distinguished gentlemen wanting a civilized glass of whisky. I’d already spied the scones flying out of the kitchen, but thought better than to push my luck. Two days later, on the way back to Hobart, we went on back to the lavender farm, and I got my scones.

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The Port Arthur lavender farm is a family owned business, where over 16,000 lavender plants are grown, harvested and processed each year over their two plants. There’s a gift shop on site where everything is scented, flavoured and/or coloured lavender, the beautiful fields you can stroll around, and a tiny little “distillery” education shed, where you can learn about how the oil is actually made.

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They also operate as a cafe, serving incredibly lavender-inspired and infused cuisine and drinks. Lavender infused fudge and ice creams, lavender panna cotta and pancakes, oysters with lavendar dukkah and lavender relish as a side to the savouries. Drinks, too; I (naturally) ordered a lavender grey for my afternoon tea. They even served it in a lavender coloured tea pot, bless! Also full of gorgeous, bright lavender buds, and the flavour wasn’t anywhere near as overpowering as you might expect.

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We’d stopped off for afternoon tea, so we by-passed the breakfast and lunch offerings, and shared a plate of scones instead. Fresh, soft, fluffy scones. With a side of house-made jam (wow – THAT good!) and lavender infused cream. Everything about it was perfect – the scones were massive and fresh, the cream had the most amazing lavender flavour without being over powering, and it was easy to see why the jams they make win all those awards!

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Isn’t it funny how a stuff up can often lead to a brilliant discovery, if you’re willing to let go of your preconceptions and roll with it?! Couldn’t be happier we found this place! And don’t worry, we got him to the Sullivans Cove Whisky Distillery where he thoroughly enjoyed a whiskey tasting session and left with a bottle of the good stuff 😉

Port Arther Lavender Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Eat here: Honey Badger, Hobart (dessert)

Honey Badger
7 Salamanca Square, Hobart, Tasmania
http://honeybadgercafe.com

Home, sweet home…
I always returning home to be so bittersweet, whether it’s a few weeks away or just a few days. This little break was exactly what I needed, and I absolutely loved spending time in Hobart 🙂 hopefully you guys will enjoy seeing a bit more of this beautiful part of the world with the upcoming blog posts on it, but given that it is Friday (or FriYay), I thought I’d get back into it with a sweet little post and recommendation for anyone who finds themselves in Hobart and looking for a little treat this weekend.

Our first night in Hobart inevitably saw us end up around Salamanca Place, which is where we noticed an A-frame with the words “dessert bar” on them. That was a no brainier. It had been a long day, I needed a cup of tea and desser is never a bad idea when you’re on vacation!

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Enter Honey Badger; gorgeous, hipster, and very welcoming, it wouldn’t have been at all out of place in one of Melbourne’s hot spots. The menu is a sugar fiend’s dream, with things like panookies (skillet cookies) and waffles, with a pretty great tea and coffee menu to go with it all. Husband really enjoyed his coffee, but we both REALLY loved my matcha latte – it was magic! Husband is now into matcha lattes now, happy days for me!

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We also got a serve of the Kyoto Holiday waffles, that came with green tea custard, sweet red bean paste, pistachios, cream and green tea ice cream. Absolutely completely delicious… It was really hard to narrow down the menu to this one, and I have no regrets! I’d highly recommend it!

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And the best part is that they’re open until late, so if you have a hankering for a big chocolate brownie and a matcha latte at 9.30pm, you’re well and truly covered! Happy weekend, friends 🙂

Honey Badger Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato