Today, I’m moving away from black based teas and tying out a more fruity and floral number. Twist Teas Strawberry and Rose tea is today’s subject tea for review.
Strawberry and Rose contains a list of delicious sounding ingredients – Chinese White tea, apple pieces, rose hip, hibiscus, freeze dried strawberry, elderflower, orange blossom, rose petals and orange peel.
This is a tea to be served without milk, but can be cold brewed as well as make a hot beverage.
Out the pack, the tea has a lovely aroma, and when hot brewed develops into a beautiful pink hue. I would serve this at an afternoon tea as an alternative to black tea.
Cold brewed ‘Strawberry and Rose’ makes a light and refreshing drink, ideal for a summer time soiree. I reckon made with sparkling water, with sliced fresh strawberries and a slice of lemon, it would make a great non-alcoholic drink.
With all the wonderful ingredients, I was surprised that I couldn’t detect any rose or strawberry during the taste test. It was more of a general fruity flavour, pleasant as it was, rather than a strawberry or floral blast.
Yesterday, I tested the first of the Twist Teas tasting menu, ‘Afternoon Perks’. Today, it’s the turn of ‘Breakfast Boost’.
Like ‘Afternoon Perks’, ‘Breakfast Boost’ includes Sri Lankan black tea, as well as Indian Assam Black tea, Yerba Mate (1) and Siberian Ginseng (2). The tea can be enjoyed with or without milk.
(1) Yerba mate is used to make a beverage known as mate. When served cold, the drink is called tereré in Guaraní. It is traditionally consumed in central and southern regions of South America, primarily in Paraguay, as well as in Argentina, Uruguay, southern and central-western Brazil, the Chaco region of Bolivia and southern Chile. It is also popular in the Druze community in Syria and Lebanon, where it is imported from Argentina. Yerba mate was first cultivated and used by the indigenous Guaraní people and in some Tupí communities in southern Brazil, prior to European colonization. Yerba mate can be found in various energy drinks on the market, as well as being sold as a bottled or canned iced tea.
Yerba mate has been claimed to have various effects on human health and these effects have been attributed to the high quantity of polyphenols found in mate tea. Research has found that yerba mate may improve allergy symptoms and reduce the risk of diabetes mellitus and high blood sugar in mice.
Mate also contains compounds that act as an appetite suppressant and possible weight loss tool, increases mental energy and focus, improves mood, and promotes deeper sleep; however, sleep may be negatively affected in people who are sensitive to caffeine.
Before 2011, there were no double-blind, randomized prospective clinical trials of yerba mate consumption with respect to chronic disease. However, many studies have been conducted since then, pointing to at least some probable benefits from some claims, such as reduction of fat cells, inflammation and cholesterol, although more research is needed. Some non-blinded studies have found mate consumption to be effective in lipid lowering. Another study determined that mate reduces progression of artheriosclerosis in rabbits but did not decrease serum cholesterol or aorticTBARS and antioxidantenzymes.
(2) Some people use Siberian ginseng to improve athletic performance and the ability to do work. They also use it to treat sleep problems (insomnia) and the symptoms of infections caused by herpes simplex type 2. It is also used to boost the immune system, prevent colds, and increase appetite.
Perhaps it’s the high caffeine content, that this tea reminds me of a builder’s tea, only posher. In terms of flavour it packs a punch. The black teas provide a strong, yet pleasant taste, and is ideal, I imagine, served with a wide range of breakfast styles, from traditional full English to Swiss muesli to pancakes with fresh fruit and yogurt, or on its own to set you up for the day ahead.
Personally, I would drink this tea with milk, although if you like strong black teas, or require it for baking, the Breakfast Boost should work well.
I really enjoyed ‘Breakfast Boost’, and would be keen to conduct cooking experiments with it. I think it could add a unique flavour profile to, for instance, tea breads or cakes.
Yesterday (Sunday 21st April 2019) was Easter Sunday and National Tea Day. A double celebration for those who, like me, love tea.
Today, I kick off a new blog series, called The Tea Twist Taste Test, where I taste and review a number of teas from new and established brands. Most of the brands I will feature, I discovered, or in some cases rediscovered, at the recent FesTeaVal event run by National Tea Day. The first brand in this series is Twist Teas (love the brand name already!), which has been producing a wide range of teas for 3 years. The first tea I’m taste testing is ‘Afternoon Perks’, from their Whole Leaf Tasting Menu.
Made with Indian Darjeeling and Sri Lankan black teas and Gotu Kola, ‘Afternoon Perks’ can be drunk with for without milk.
Gotu Kola is used for fatigue, anxiety, depression, psychiatric disorders, Alzheimer’s disease, and improving memory and intelligence. Other uses include wound healing, trauma, and circulation problems (venous insufficiency) including varicose veins, and blood clots in the legs.
I found the tea refreshing in both formats, although I slightly prefer the tea black, with maybe a lemon slice. Just as the ‘twisting notes’ on the tasting menu pack claimed, the tea was energy boosting, after a busy morning in the garden.
I like the idea of including Gotu Kola in the blend, as I feel it helped with my fatigue. I wonder, with prolonged use, if it would prove to be a good memory boosting aid. Regardless, the tea tastes lovely, and is ideal as a post- noon pick me up. I will certainly be adding this to my collection.
Was the Caribbean Food Week Festival 2018 about authentic Caribbean food, or just Jamaican Jerk?
Continuing with Caribbean Food Month on Champagne Twist, last Saturday, I visited the Caribbean Food Week Festival at the new venue, Bernie Spain Gardens, on the Thames’ South Bank.
If you love Jerk Chicken, Curried Goat or Rice and Peas, the Caribbean Food Week Festival was a celebration of these 3 dishes, but if you wanted to learn about authentic Caribbean Cuisine, the menu was disappointing.
The Bernie Spain Gardens on the South Bank of the River Thames hosted the 2-day weekend food festival, just ahead of the London Carnival. Sadly, the opportunity to showcase the regions vast cuisines was missed and gave a poor overall impression of Caribbean Food.
In the age of plant-based diets, I was extremely disappointed not to see much of the fresh fruit and vegetables the Caribbean has to offer. Worse of all, the event was billed as a colourful celebration of Caribbean food, yet the main colours showcased, green, black and yellow, were that of the Jamaican flag.
It is now clear to me why so many people in the UK believe that Jamaica is the Caribbean and the Caribbean is Jamaica. The confusion is not helped when only 3 dishes from 1 island seemed to be ‘celebrated’, and the opportunity to sell fresh Caribbean fruit and veg was missed.
Officials from the Voice newspaper stall gave away an African and Caribbean restaurant guide, which was a great idea. I was also given a bag of free literature, including a newspaper from June and a magazine celebrating African heritage from October 2016. A two-year old magazine which didn’t even reference Caribbean food. I was also informed that they had run out of literature to give to patrons, shocking as the show started at 11am and before noon, they had run out. This hardly gave a positive impression.
Reading the phrase “Caribbean food’, I had expected examples of cuisine from each or at least the majority of the countries within the Caribbean. So when 95% of the available food was Jamaican based, of which 80% consisted of Jerk chicken, Curry goat and Rice and Peas, it did nothing to counteract the image of Caribbean food being limited.
There seems to be a sense of ‘protectionism’ over this cuisine, while understandable due to the historical exploitation of the region, the time has come for the Caribbean to promote its own food in an age when Western cultures are crying out for organic, pure food and drinks. Gone are the days when sugar was the cash crop. Coconut is now the superfood of choice, yet the majority of coconut products, despite the abundance, doesn’t come from the Caribbean.
I have often wondered, with its huge variety, and abundant fruit and vegetables, unique meat and world famous seafood, why Caribbean food isn’t that well known in the UK. This event goes some way to answering that question.
Referencing a tiny selection of Jamaican cuisine as representative of Caribbean cuisine not only limits people expectations of Jamaica food, it limits and potentially damages the reputation of all the countries within the region.
For vegetarians, it was almost impossible to find anything suitable to eat. I ended up with a dish consisting of Halloumi, fries and jerk sauce. While it was lovely, it was hardly a showcase of Caribbean food, especially when only 1 element of the dish, the jerk sauce, could be attributed to the region. Good luck to you if you’re a vegan! There were tofu sausages available on one stall, but not all vegetarians or vegans like or eat tofu.
I also hoped to listen to experts discussing Caribbean food and drink in relation to health, particularly in the wake of Dr Karin’s speech remarking the coconut oil is ‘pure poison’. Although, I was pleased that Grace Foods, the event’s hosts had provided a number of recipe leaflets, which included drinks and some plant-based recipes.
The cooking demonstrations were also interesting and proved to be the highlight of the festival, but again more should and could have been made of this. Over the weekend there are 2 different chefs, I attended the last day so was treated to 3 of the 4 live demos lead by Chef Solomon Smith. Unfortunately, the demos were meat or fish based and not vegetarian recipes. Samples were plentiful, but none were solely plant-based, which limited the number of people who could enjoy the samples.
The 3 picnic benches were beautifully painted, to encourage people to actually sit down and eat, but more benches should have been provided. A few large parasols wouldn’t have gone amiss, providing shade from the sun, or the rain, yet still keeping visitors in the area and providing relatively low-cost advertising.
In the middle of the space was a large grey vehicle, which many thought was a delivery van. Naturally many thought it should have been moved prior to the start of the festival. As it turns out, the van was there to help promote the Brixton Soup Kitchen, a charity which feeds and assists homeless people in the area. I am curious as to why there was no signage, or anyone standing by the van to explain the vehicle or the charity. It was only when I attended the cooking demos, that the situation was made somewhat clearer. More of this in a later post.
Travel companies missed a trick by not taking advantage of holiday seekers. There was one stall for people wishing to purchase or hire overseas property, but only for Jamaica, yet again, limiting choice.
The festival is now in its 3rd year, so still in its infancy. Previously held in Brixton, the move to the Bernie Spain Gardens was a stroke of genius, as the location is more central, making it more accessible for patrons, and taking advantage of a beautiful wide open space, flanked by the Thames, and a beautiful floral oasis, with multicultural art galleries, restaurants and shopping in the form of the OXO Tower and the Gabriel’s Wharf.
It usually takes at least 5 years or so for such events to become established, so I still have high hopes. A little fine tuning supported by the services from a good PR company, actively promoting all or least as many of the countries within the Caribbean, more emphasis on fresh produce, and celebrating the health benefits of the product, the festival could the late summer fixture, and the essential prelude to the Notting Hill Carnival.
Heck, all they need to bring on the colour is a flag display from all the countries in the region and maybe a few poster maps, establish a few fun and educational games (other than just a big Connect 4 and a few bean bags) for the kids, some fresh produce stalls and you have a true celebratory family-oriented festival. More live music wouldn’t go amiss, the obligatory steel pan band imagery is getting a little stale.
In fairness, for a free event, it’s not bad and such food festivals should be encouraged. There are a number of fundamental changes that need to be made over the next 2 years, if the festival has any chance of creating a movement that sustains and actively promotes the food of the Caribbean. Granted, the organiser of the festival is a Jamaican based company, so naturally, they are going to promote their country of origin. But that should not be at the near total expense of the other Caribbean countries, especially when the festival is called ‘Caribbean Food’. If they continue down this path, they are just shooting themselves in the foot and risk bringing down the entire region with them.
There is more to the Caribbean than Jamaica and Jerk seasoning, it’s about time people were made aware.
Traditionally enjoyed over the Christmas season in the West Indies, sorrel, fresh homemade sorrel that is, is a wonderful surprisingly fruity, spiced drink that is as refreshing as it is pretty in colour. Fill a glass with ice, pour the drink in, sit back and enjoy.
Which is why Semaj’s DIY pack version is such a disappointment. Firstly, the substitution of whole cloves, an essential ingredient in for sorrel, with fennel seeds is inexcusable. If you can’t trust the ingredients list printed on the packaging, it will be difficult to trust the end product. Fennel seeds also tend to be cheaper than cloves, so it also makes me question the ‘value’ of the value pack.
That said, the product was easy to make, and adding cloves from my own spice cupboard, as well as other flavours made a difference. But having to source the spices defeats the object of buying this product.
As a quick introduction to sorrel, this drink had potential as a mixer. However as a stand-alone product, especially with the errors in the ingredients list, this drink cannot be described as authentic and in no way compares favourably with the real sorrel drink.
As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, coconut milk lends itself to a multitude of cuisines, sweet and savoury dishes and everything in between. Following are a few simple recipe ideas featuring coconut milk.
Elle’s coconut rice
1 cup of rice
1 1/4 cups of water or coconut water
3/4 coconut milk
2 sprigs of thyme
1 bay leaf
1/4 tsp chilli flakes
1 medium sized onion, thinly sliced
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp pink Himalayan salt (optional)
After washing the rice, place it in a large saucepan, with the water or coconut water and coconut milk.
Add rest of the ingredients then bring to the boil and allow to simmer until the rice is cooked.
Serve immediately. You can also use as a base for rice salad or as a side.
For day 3 of Caribbean Food Month, it’s time for a review. Coconut milk is one of the stables when it comes to Caribbean cookery. This versatile ingredient can be used in sweet and savoury dishes and lends itself to a multitude of international culinary treats. It also serves as an alternative to dairy.
Dunn’s River Coconut Milk has a thick, smooth texture with a light coconut flavour, meaning that it will work well with tea and coffee. It doesn’t have that sometimes clawy aftertaste when sampled on its own, although it does have a tendency to separate. But a quick stir with a spoon soon resolves that issue.
As a product in its own right, I can’t find much to fault it. As the saying goes, it say’s exactly what it is on the tin. As an ingredient, it works well without any problems, responding to heat well. It’s a great product to have in your pantry.
Rating 4.5 out of 5
Tomorrow’s blog includes recipe ideas featuring Dunn’s River Coconut Milk. Please return to find out more. Thanks for reading and if you’re in the UK or Spain – try to stay cool. I adore the sun, but 38 degrees is my limit. The thought of having to work in potentially 48 degree heat, makes the mind boggle. Best of luck!
Hello, happy 1st of August and happy Caribbean Food Month here on ChampagneTwist.com!
We’re deep into summer now and the heatwave we’re currently enjoying in the UK is akin to the summers enjoyed in the Caribbean. All that’s needed is a golden sandy beach, a bowl of rum punch and a tropical music soundtrack.
Well, I can’t provide the beach or the soundtrack, but I may be able to produce a few food and drink ideas for the Champagne Twist, Caribbean Food Month.
Kicking off this month’s culinary extravaganza is Jerk Seasoned Roasted Vegetables. Jerk seasoning is fairly well known as a Jamaican herb and spice blend used to season meat, particularly chicken. But in this recipe, I thought how could vegetarians get in on the act?
This is an easy, flexible recipe staple which allows for a quick exit from the kitchen – let’s face it, who wants to spend hours in a hot kitchen in 32-degree heat? Make a large batch and portion up for healthier frozen meals or barbeque side dishes. The vegetables are cut into different shapes, of roughly the same size to provide visual interest and to ensure even cooking.
In a large mixing bowl add all the ingredients and ensure all the vegetables are completely coated with the coconut oil and jerk seasoning. Set aside for 10 minutes.
Place the contents of the bowl into a large roasting tin. Roast for about 45-60 minutes until the vegetables are roasted.
Allow to cool slightly before transferring into a serving dish. Enjoy with plain white or coconut rice. You could also create a rice salad by simply mixing the seasoned veg with the rice. Try substituting with brown rice for a nuttier flavour.
Remember with Jerk seasoning, a little goes a long way. Err on the side of caution, use a scant 1/4 tsp of Jerk seasoning if you prefer a mild flavour. Don’t be too heavy-handed, it will taste great, but it will feel like your mouth is on fire. Use the wet mix, not the dry spice blend.
August is Caribbean Food Month, on Champagne Twist
August. The 8th month of the year, the summer holidays are in full swing and the temperatures, for once, rival that of many a West Indian island.
So, in celebration of the new month, summer and the relaunch of the Champagne Twist website, August has been designated Caribbean Food Month.
Caribbean Cuisine despite its popularity amongst holidaymakers, has been omitted from the fashionable culinary radar in the UK. Elements have on occasion had it’s 15 minutes of fame, such as ‘Jerk Chicken’, ‘Jerk Pork’ and ‘Jerk just about everything else’, but it hardly matches the success of other culinary greats such as Italian, Chinese, Japanese or Indian food.
When attempts have been made to delve into the genre of Caribbean food, the results have been misleading at best. Adding coconut or pineapple to fish and chips doesn’t make a dish traditional West Indian fare. Nor does eating rice and peas with everything constitute Caribbean style.
So in an attempt to put this right, over the next few weeks there will be new recipes, product reviews and a few surprises, in celebration of this undervalued cuisine.
All starting from tomorrow, here on Champagne Twist.