Taking a break

Cup of tea

We’re taking a bit of a break. The day job has been hectic lately. And the computer needs replacing because it’s getting old and slow and crippled. I’ve been putting it off all year because I’ve been lazy and squeezing every last bit of juice out of it.

We decided that it is an opportune time to have a re-think about the blog. The kids have grown up and are embracing other social media. They’ve got ideas of their own. Our family travelling habits are shifting. They want to go backpacking on their own … and so they should. But we’ll be back, perhaps in another guise. I don’t know yet what that will be. But we’ll let you know.

~ Spotted Cow

B&W Turkish coffee shops

Preparing tea

My photography friends are still in Turkey and posting pictures on Facebook. I’m envious that they’re there and I’m not with them. One of the things I loved about the trips were the coffee house breaks, which were photo opportunities in themselves. There was always coffee and tea on the brew. And there were always people playing cards or backgammon or okey (a game which looks like a cross between rummy and mahjong).




Royal Opera House


If you remember back to my Goodbye Summer post, I said I was going to do three B’s this autumn. One of them was ballet at the Royal Opera House.

In fact, I was lucky to be at the Royal Opera House twice in one week.

Earlier on, I saw the Royal Ballet’s production of Manon, which was gloriously tragic. The costumes, the set and the dancers were all very beautiful. I am not a big ballet enthusiast and don’t go often. So, the night out with my friend, the Ex-Ballerina, felt very occasion-like. She told me that the ballet dancers work through a pair of pointe shoes a week when they’re performing! I thought it would be the toe bits that break, when in fact, it’s the sturdy arch support which bites the dust.

Later in the week, I went to a birthday afternoon tea with The Girls. The Royal Opera House started doing afternoon tea in the autumn, and it is a wonderful way to appreciate the building. I love the Paul Hamlyn hall with it’s mix of Victorian and modern architecture, and the oval bar running down the middle of the room. It’s the kind of place you want to stay longer to linger. I enjoyed the tea and the catch-up. The cakes and pastries weren’t overly sweet, which is how I like it. My favourite bits were the scones and plum jam. It’s definitely somewhere to take an out-of-towner.

~ Spotted Cow

IMGP4478Afternoon tea at Royal Opera HouseIMGP4461


Teanamu Chaya Teahouse

Spring and afternoon tea with The Girls go together. We set off to the Teanamu Chaya Teahouse in Notting Hill decked out in spring florals, matching the new buds in the trees. It was afternoon tea with a twist of Chinese tea ceremony, where the focus was very much on the ritual of making and infusing tea.

We made our choices from the list of Chinese and Japanese teas. I went with the Organic Golden Monkey tea because I liked the exotic name and I was born in the year of the monkey. It turned out to be a black tea from southern China, dark with flecks of twisted gold. Our host made it for me. He warmed my tiny teapot, before he infused the tea, allowing it to steep for 40 seconds. “In the Chinese way,” he said, “we make multiple infusions, brewing the tea when we are ready to drink it. Not like the Western way where you wait for the tea to brew.” I liked that. The tea was light and aromatic, and I drank it out of the littlest doll-size Chinese tea cup.

Then came the food in succession – the dim sum rice parcels and dumplings, a plate of open face sandwiches with quirky toppings like bamboo shoots in mayonnaise, cucumber and sweet hummus jam (it sounds like a contradiction in terms), and a plate of sweets. I ate the toppings off the bread so as not to get too full, but by the time the pastries turned up I was pretty much at my limit. I needed a digestive stroll afterward on Portobello Road !

~ Spotted Cow
Tea set Teanamu Chaya TeahouseLo mai fan Teanamu Chaya TeahouseOpen faced sandwiches Teanamu Chaya TeahouseSweet platter Teanamu Chaya TeahouseKitchen Teanamu Chaya Teahouse

Tea in the Malaysian hills

The British founded Cameron Highlands as one of their colonial hill stations, a cooling respite from the Malaysian heat and humidity. They also grew tea here.  You’ll spot the odd now-retro Land Rover when you drive up the winding roads into the tea plantations.

We dropped into the BOH Tea Centre for a refreshing cuppa.  BOH is the largest Malaysian tea producer and you’ll see their tea boxes in all the local supermarkets. The cafe has a truly glorious view of the tea plantation.  When you manage to pull yourself away from it, you can go for a walk among the tea leaves or there are factory tours every half an hour, which take you through the plucking, sifting and drying processes.  I was horrified to find out that tea-bag tea is pretty much the lowest grade tea, just one notch up from the leaves they sweep off the floor !

~ Spotted Cow

BOH Tea Centre Boh Tea cafe BOH tea boxes

Turkish tea

Ahhh, there’s nothing better than a re-energising cup of chai – or çay in Turkish when you’re taking the weight off your travel-weary feet.  Tea is an essential part of Turkish culture and I indulged regularly in the atmospheric coffee houses or after a meal.

They serve it in tiny glasses on a little saucer, with a couple of sugar cubes on the side – no milk – and your tea stays hot while you sip leisurely at it.  There’s none of this lukewarm third-of-a-mug of tepid leftover milk tea business that I do here.  I also like the apple tea or elma çay, even though I know that only tourists drink it.

What tea traditions or rituals have you enjoyed ?

~ Spotted Cow


London afternoon tea at the Gilbert Scott Bar

When it’s raining in London – and even when it’s not – head for afternoon tea in the old school glamour of the Gilbert Scott Bar at the St Pancras Hotel.  When you sweep in by car into the glorious curve of the hotel driveway, you are transported into its Victorian splendour.

Eight friends convened for my birthday. The cakes are bite sized morsels of yumminess served on cake stands with birds perched on the handle. There are elements of surprise – rolled cucumber sandwiches & mini knickerbocker glories! If it’s still raining when you finish tea, the cocktail menu is inventive enough to stay on another hour or so. They cater for vegans too if you give them notice at the time of booking.


Spotted Cow