Eteaket(Edinburgh)

So I actually graduated last week! And to celebrate, we went to check out another tea room.

Eteaket is a well established brand of its own, it even featured at the Baftas 2015. Even so, I had never heard of it and so had no preconceived ideas about the place clouding my judgements at all.

 

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If you run by fast you might just escape the temptation

Upon entering you are immediately struck by the loud, loud colours and the delicious scents coming from the kitchen. There are some dangerously seductive sweets on the counter, and like Anteaques the front of the tea room is also a shop. There’s a large assortment of tea bags you could buy here, as well as cups and pots.

The actual seats are a bit further back in the room, so you can sit in private peace and not be bothered by an active shop counter.

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The interior

I have to admit, the interior is not quite my cup of tea.
Sure, it is clean and colourful, and actually the teacups and pots are very cute, but I somehow felt like I was at a “young” and “hip” school’s art department. This may be because the wackiness of the decor is obviously planned out to the t: there is not really an authentically casual feel about the place. This is probably because the aim of Eteaket is to revamp the image of tea, shake of its stuffy old image, and to make it more popular with the youth.

My family disagreed with my dislike though, and I was soon proved wrong by the astonishing quality of the afternoon tea.

Eteaket Afternoon Tea
So much food!

We ordered the “Famous Afternoon Tea”, which is very good value for money. It includes a massive scone, 4 sandwiches per person, a free choice of their teas, and a couple of sweets. Sure, the clotted cream was just butter, but overall we were all greatly impressed by the quality, and quantity, of the food and tea.

I chose the Rose Flower Blossom tea, because I had actually never tried a Treasure Tea before and I wanted something light and refreshing to go with the afternoon. Although this is kind of an expensive tea, it is included in the afternoon tea package.

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Rose Flower Blossom

Rose Flower Blossom is a tea of handsewn green tea leaves and flower petals, in this case roses and, I suspect, golden marigold.
The bundle is put into a glass teapot so you can see it open and “blossom”, as it were. When the flowers are completely opened the tea is ready for drinking.

This is such an elegant, light tea. Absolutely perfect for a refreshing afternoon tea.

All in all, I had a wonderful time at Eteaket, which was definitely not at all coloured by the festivities of graduation and the bubbles that come with that. Sure, the look of the place is not what I would have gone for, but I get why they went for this style and honestly, the quality and pricing is so right that it really does not matter at all.

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The Sleeper and the Spindle

She wondered how she would feel to be a married woman. It would be the end of her life, she decided, if life was a time of choices. In a week from now, she would have no choices. She would reign over her people. She would have children. Perhaps she would die in childbirth, perhaps she would die as an old woman, or in battle. But the path to her death, heartbeat by heartbeat, would be inevitable.

In this rather unconventional storybook by Neil Gaiman, we get an answer to questions some inquisitive (and tiring) kids may ask after the fairytale: whatever happened after Prince Charming kissed Snow White awake and they rode off to their happily ever after?

We are introduced to Snow White, referred to only as “the queen”. Her ‘ever after’ coincides with Sleeping Beauty’s story, as the sleeping curse starts to spread to the queen’s land. Without second thoughts the queen rides to the Sleeper’s land to try and lift the curse and save her people, all the while trying to figure out what it is she wants to do with her life.

To avoid disappointment, don’t read the next bit if you don’t want any spoilers! The picture marks the next safe non spoiler spot.


 

Sleeping Beauty’s tale got subverted too: when she pricked the spindle she swapped places with the witch, who has been sleeping together with her people, while the aged princess can never sleep again. No man has been able to save her for 80 years, and only the queen and the dwarfs ever made it into the castle.

The queen kisses the Sleeper awake and reckognises her for what she is, the witch, and after the witch tries to bargain with her she breaks the curse and the witch is killed. The princess can finally sleep and the queen is left to decide what she wants out of life; to marry and rule her kingdom, or to live life in freedom.

Switching the ugly old witch and the sleeping beauty leads to a very unexpected twist, as beautiful / young equals good and ugly / old equals evil in pretty much all children’s stories.

But mostly it’s so, so very cool to see Snow White choose her own path. Sure, we’re happy for her when Prince Charming lifts her curse and takes her away to get married, but we don’t stop to think if this is actually what she wants. This tale shows us that no, it isn’t. She wants to live a life of her own, making her own choices, and she is willing to risk it all just to be happy.

There are choices, she thought, when she had sat long enough. There are always choices.
She made one.
The queen began to walk, and the dwarfs followed her.
[…]
They walked to the east, all four of them, away from the sunset and the lands they knew, and into the night.


 

The Queen Embarks

This is an adventure story, a modern retelling of a classic fairytale, a book about a kick-ass woman and the choices she must make.

The book is graced by many beautiful black ink drawings and gold highlights, which is reminiscent of classic tales and picture books. The style, however, is quite gothic. Not that there is anything gory or scary, but the detailing and atmosphere has a slight touch of the macabre.

The writing style is gorgeous. None of the characters have a name, and somehow that creates the feel of an epic, mixed with a bedtime story. The sentences and scenes flow beautifully into each other, which unfortunately makes this a short read. Although the ending is very satisfying, it also hurts that it’s over so soon: the sad hallmark of a brilliant novel.

Who is this book for, you may ask? Honestly, I cannot imagine anybody who wouldn’t like it. For readers of all ages and all levels it is an engaging story, for those who like pictures more than words there is wonderful artwork, and for those who love the classics but want more, here is a story that fits with the original but is like nothing you would ever expect.

On top of that, it bears an important and empowering message: no matter the situation, there are always choices.


 

Because this is such a subversive and exciting book, it would be wrong to drink a calming tea with it. The artstyle is too gothic and detailed, and the story too adventurous and unusual. Therefore, I would recommend combining this read with a tea that is quite something else: a Bohea Lapsang. This tea can be a bit hard to find, however, and I ordered mine from the online shop Jing.

Bohea Lapsang is a Chinese tea from the Fujian province, smoked with pine logs. Unlike the Lapsang Souchong, however, the tea is not directly on the fire. Because of this, the smoky flavour stays gentle and the tea easy to drink, not unlike a single malt whisky. It’s very smooth, and the taste evokes the sensation of walking through a pine forest on a golden autumn day and smelling nearby chimneys smoking.

So brace yourself with a steaming cuppa smoky Bohea, and embark on an adventure that will surprise you at every turn with The Sleeper and the Spindle.

Jing Bohea Lapsang

Anteaques (Edinburgh)

Last Saturday my partner and I went to Anteaques, a small tea room and antiques store in the centre of Edinburgh.

First thing that hits you when entering are that it’s really tiny; there’s only space for 4 in the front room, and 8 in the back. Make sure to book a table if you want to go!
What doesn’t help with the size of the shop is that the store is positively packed with both an incredible amount of teas, and of course the antiques store.

Both of these factors, result in just how cute the whole thing is. There’s a real old school feeling to the shop, as if you’ve stepped through the door into the 1950’s (only better because it, in fact, isn’t the 1950’s). The colour scheme is very pleasant and easy on the eye, classic brown in the front and delicate pastel pink in the backroom. The staff are friendly, very knowledgeable, and look gentlemanly.

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They are specialised in “a wide selection of fine loose teas”, which you see is overwhelmingly true as soon as you take a good look around you: the front shop’s walls are filled with many, many different types of tea.
For those like me who get confused easily by so much choice there’s always “tasters” available that you can smell, or you can ask the staff to help.

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As it was a particularly cold day here up north, we went for wintery teas: Almond/marzipan and hazelnut black teas, with a scone and a lemon tart.
The presentation is both adorable and, in the case of the tea, practical, as it comes in glass pots so you can see the leaves infusing the water to your taste.
The teas were quite nice, and both very nutty. The almond tea had a strong marzipan smell but none of that sugary sweetness (that I am not a fan of), and both teas were very easy to drink. Adding a drop of milk to the hazelnut tea gave it more of a Christmas pie flavour, which was a pleasant surprise and very satisfying.
The lemon tart, which had a white chocolate layer on the crispy base, was absolutely delicious. So was the scone, I was told.

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I love this shop.
The style of it hits all the right spots for me, and I could spend entire days there just browsing, trying all their teas, exploring all of the decor (which is also the wares), and chatting with friends whilst enjoying the tasty pastries.
And it seems I am not alone in these sentiments, as the shop was fully booked when we were there, and there was a constant flux of people coming in to see when a table would open up.
It’s not for everyone though, as my partner told me that he found the size and filling of the shop a bit intense and too busy, and I can see that.

That said, I will most definitely come back and spend many a lazy afternoon enjoying the expertise and selection of Anteaques .

The Tales of Beedle the Bard

In J. K. Rowling’s little book The Tales of Beedle the Bard we are presented with a collection of 5 fairytales set in the Harry Potter universe, each with comments made by Professor Dumbledore. These comments spell out the moral lessons of the tale and provide some “historical” information (all within the HP world). As there are only 5 tales, probably the best way to look at this little bundle is tale by tale.

The Wizard and the Hopping Pot

In this tale a young wizard’s father, who spent his life helping the Muggles in their community with his “magic” pot as a front to his spells, dies and leaves the pot and a single slipper to his son. The son does not want to help Muggles and turns everyone away, causing the pot to take on the ails of the people ignored. The pot follows and torments the son relentlessly, untill he finally helps everyone like his father did, after which the pot puts a slipper on its single foot and walks silently behind him.

In Dumbledore’s notes we are provided with a brief history of shifting attitudes towards Muggles, and it is made clear that in the end of the tale, the young wizard’s conscience awakes and he is changed on a fundamental personal level. This message is undone, however, by the final line of the tale:

But from that day forward, the wizard helped the villagers like his father before him, lest the pot cast off its slipper, and begin to hop once more.

This implies that the wizard only does his good things for fear of punishment, not because he feels it is right to do so.
Although this does negate the intended message, it does provide us with a more interesting question: do our intentions matter when it results in us doing good?

The Fountain of Fair Fortune

In this tale, every year 1 person is selected to fight their way to an enchanted fountain which will bless whoever bathes in it with eternal luck. 3 witches make a pact of going together, and when 1 of them gets selected she drags the other 2 along with her, as well as an accidental knight. There are 3 obstacles on their way, which they must clear with their tears (proof of their dispair), sweat (proof of their labours), and memories (treasure of the past). On their way to the top the witches find their issues resolved, letting the knight bathe in the fountain. Promptly the knight and one of the witches fall in love, and all live happily ever after.

The three witches and the knight set off down the hill together, arm in arm, and all four led long and happy lives, and none of them ever knew or suspected that the Fountain’s waters carried no enchantment at all.

This story is so classic that it is easy to forget that it is set in the HP universe (the same counts for The Three Brothers). The protagonists overcome their struggles of ill health, poverty, and broken heartedness by their struggle to get better: their tears, sweat, and memories of their grief they must offer up in order to move on. This is probably the most important tale in the collection, as it teaches the reader that without any miracle, any magic, you can overcome it: it does get better.

The Warlock’s Hairy Heart

The titular warlock of this tale decides to separate his heart from his body, so as to never be weakened by feelings of love. Eventually he decides he must marry and starts to court a maiden who tells him that he is cold. He shows her his heart, shrivelled and hairy, and she begs him to put it back in. The heart had gone mad as a result of his beastly decision, he kills the maiden for her perfect heart, and dies in the process of replacing his with hers.

The maiden lay dead upon the floor, her breast cut open, and beside her crouched the mad warlock, holding in one bloody hand a great, smooth, shining scarlet heart, which he licked and stroked, vowing to exchange it for his own.

What marks this tale as the weakest one of the collection is the language used. The style Rowling was going for was archaic and courtly, but unfortunately we ended up with a tale using words like “gambolling”, “preening”, “mien”, “mewling”, etc. Most readers will not know what these words mean, which makes it hard to get invested in a tale of only 9 pages long. The tale is also very gruesome and gory, and I would not reccomend it for a young reader anymore than I would Bluebeard.

Babbitty Rabbitty and her Cackling Stump

The tale of Babbity Rabbitty is very reminiscent of The Emperor’s New Clothes: a king decides he should be the only one with magical powers and prosecutes all witches and wizards, whilst also searching for a private magic tutor. A charlatan with no powers shows up and cons the king, until the king decides that he must prove his powers. In a panic, the charlatan forces a witch, a washerwoman named Babbitty, to help him by performing the spells the king attempts – which she does, until he attempts to raise the dead. The charlatan and the king are exposed, and they attempt to kill the witch in the form of a tree. They fail, and to avoid a curse they attempt to appease the witch:

Babbitty hopped out of the grounds and far away, and ever after a golden statue of the washerwoman stood upon the tree stump, and no witch or wizard was ever persecuted in the kingdom again.

This is a sweet and simple story. It is quite interesting to read The Emperor’s New Clothes from what is essentially the charlatan’s perspective, and seeing Babbitty outwit everyone and save her people is very satisfying. In the given context of the story we also get a bit of history of Muggle-witches/wizards conflict, which is a nice bonus, especially if you skip Dumbledore’s notes.
Overall this quick read is a nice little tale that quickly quenches my HP thirst.

The Tale of the Three Brothers

This is the most famous tale of the lot, having featured in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and it is arguably the best.
3 brothers cheat Death by creating a bridge over a river that was meant to kill them. To “congratulate” them, Death offers each a gift. The first wishes for the most powerful wand in the world (the Elder Wand), the second the power to bring loved ones back from the dead (the Resurrection Stone), and the third something to let him leave unfollowed by Death (the Cloak of Invisibility). The elder 2 brothers perish as a result of their arrogant wishes, but the youngest evades Death until he chooses to pass with him.

And then he greeted Death as an old friend, and went with him gladly, and, equals, they departed this life.

The reason this is the best tale, in my opinion, is because it is the most consistent in style with other fairytales. Its flow is superb, and besides some jading word repetition here and there, the language touches where any other fairytale does. It is written like a classic, which it is supposed to be in the HP universe anyways, and it is deeply intruiging.
The moral is simple: humans cannot escape from Death.


Although this is not a perfect novel, the tales themselves are very charming. I would, however, suggest to either completely remove Dumbledore’s notes, or to edit them down significantly, as they disrupt the flow of the reading. The stories vary a bit in quality, but put together it does feel like I’m reading classic tales from the HP universe, which has been such a significant part of my childhood. And quite frankly, I’m just not ready to let that go.

Collections like these work the best when read before bed, either aloud or to yourself, on a rainy November evening. And lucky us, this November has been quite wet up here in Scotland, so we get to enjoy it to its fullest.
A bedtime read like this calls for a calming tea. Nothing crazy, not too heavy, with a little hint of cardamom and ginger, and a dash of vanilla. Because of this I would recommend Anteaques’ Vanilla Chai. This is a black tea they describe as a traditional masala chai. If you’re up for it, add both milk and sugar for the full chai experience. It is soothing, warming, and perfect for a cold, rainy wintery night.

So curl up on the couch or your bed with a nice warm cup of Vanilla Chai, and once more pretend that our Hogwarts letter got lost in the mail.

Vanilla Chai

The Secret Garden

One of the strange things about living in the world is that it is only now and then one is quite sure one is going to live forever and ever and ever. One knows it sometimes when one gets up at the tender solemn dawn-time and goes out and stands alone and throws one’s head far back and looks up and up and watches the pale sky slowly changing and flushing and marvelous unknown things happening until the East almost makes one cry out and one’s heart stands still at the strange unchanging majesty of the rising of the sun—which has been happening every morning for thousands and thousands and thousands of years.


It is inevitable that at some point each year, I find myself with this book in my hands. Whenever I need a pick-me-up for some undefinable reason, or I find myself dulled to my surroundings, this wonderful book is sure to make me glow and feel good for weeks on end. Every time I finish it (which is always too soon), I get filled with the urging need to go outside and breathe, to play and be merry in ways that I wrote off when I “grew up”.

Frances Burnett’s The Secret Garden tells the simple story of an ugly child, both in and out, who reconnects with both her family and nature and becomes whole again. It chronicles the development of Mary, born and raised in colonial India, whose parents and servants die after a cholera outbreak. She is moved to her reclusive hunchback uncle Mr. Craven in Yorkshire, where she is left alone to learn how to dress herself and to play. She discovers a hidden rose garden, shut off after Mr. Craven’s wife passed away, and makes it her mission to make it bloom once again. On her road to health she makes friends for the first time in her life: Dickon, a peasant boy with almost magical green fingers, and her hidden cousin Colin, a hypochondriac with tyrannical streaks.
Together these three set to bringing the garden back to life, which also reignites their dulled down flames. Both Mary and Colin form their first friendships ever through the secret project of the garden, and are reunited with their family by the end.

It is an interesting one, this book.
At the first glance, not much is happening that would normally draw a reader in nowadays. The pace is quite slow, and the stakes are not very high: never is anybody in any more danger than to be reprimanded by an adult. The setting is very small: although we first see glimpses of India, very soon we are restricted to the manor and its gardens. The adventure, likewise, is limited to Mary exploring her new home and the garden, and the children playfully keeping their secret from the adults.

But still I find myself inextricably pulled into the narrative. The beautiful descriptions of nature’s changes throughout the seasons, the scenes of the children playing together and fooling the adults are so pleasant and almost hypnotising. Although this is not a high fantasy novel by any means, as the children point out there seems to be a kind of magic linked to these simpler parts of life. The nature described is as normal as it is in real life, but it is experienced more intensely, more wonderfully. Placing the “ordinary” of a rose garden in bloom into the extraordinary of childhood imagination.

And when I think about it more, I do believe I have found the magic of the novel: it is just so nice. It is a light read, with language and style fit for both a younger and a more mature reader, with stakes that are no higher than those of real life children, and with enchanting descriptions of nature that spur you to go out and smell the grass and the dirt, touch the flowers and see them grow. Seeing Mistress Mary Quite Contrary gradually loosen up and start to genuinely care about other people, who love her in return, is a nice and non-dramatic way to show that people do change and care, and that even if you have been nasty before, your chances at friendship and happiness are not gone just yet.

Another refreshing note to this novel is that the children are not Dickensian pinnacles of innocence, speaking as adults would about love and acceptance – far from it! Mary is a snooty, arrogant little brat at the start of the story, and even towards the end she is stubborn and headstrong. Colin, a whiney tyrant, takes a while to let go of his hysterical tendencies – but always takes control and speaks for others.
The ways in which these traits are represented, however, change as the characters do. Mary’s contrariness becomes less, sure, but what remains of it is endearing and admirable: she stands her ground and does not suffer fools. Colin is a natural leader, and learns that being obeyed from respect comes from a different and better place than from fear.

Overall, this is a light and refreshing story of change. Beautifully described, you can practically smell the moorlands, the freshly baked bread, the freshly turned earth, the roses coming into bloom. To match this charming little novel, I would recommend a charming light tea. To go with the slightly romantic tone, and the beautiful descriptions of spring, summer, and the rose garden, I have selected Whittard’s Oriental Fruits. This is a black, loose leaf tea, with strawberry, cranberry, bergamot and peach – it even has rose petals!
Even though this is a black tea, the colour and the flavour are very light and gentle.

Whittard’s Oriental Fruits and Burnett’s The Secret Garden will pick you up on a dreary November day, and make you remember – sooner or later, Spring is coming.

Oriental Fruits

The First Step

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

This is a fresh start, a new leaf.

Like a fairy tale hero, I have found that to be happy I need to go home. I need to turn back to the books and stories I loved, and welcome the new ones that gathered in my absence with open arms. But to return, I will have to go on a journey. One that I hope you will join me for.

Every week I will look at a new book or story and write my thoughts and feelings on this blog. I will look at classics and new books, adventure books, school stories, romances, YA – I will read it all.
And what is a good book without a nice cup of tea? The right tea brings out the flavour of a book, and I will hunt down the best matches for each text I discuss, to share with you here!

Because children’s books are so much more than “just” entertainment. They are your friends, your family. They move you, make you cry and laugh. They introduce you to whole new worlds. They take you on journeys, to roads you could never imagine before but are suddenly a logical and fundamental part of you.

So I will not keep my feet.

I want to see where I will be swept off to.

Join me, will you?