Monday, August 19, 2013


On a trip to M&S in Shanghai this morning I was excited to see a packet of mini jaffa cakes with a claim on the packet of only 125 calories.   " Guilt free snacking," it claimed.
When you are away from home a visit to somewhere familiar from time to time is good. A tempting offer like this on one of my favourite sweet snacks was going to make this a great day. Price? Immaterial I now had a deep need to enjoy a jaffa treat.

As soon as I arrived home I switched on the coffee machine before even unpacking. I put the shopping away and reached for the bag of jaffas which were going to make today a real treat. Then I saw it, on the top of what was a small bag, a saying which made my heart drop. "Contains 5 packets"!! WHAT......
How small was this treat going to be?
I ripped it open and out fell 5 smaller bags, I ripped one open and out fell 5 very small, I hesitate to call the jaffa cakes, onto the worktop. Not only were they small they were not in the best condition. the chocolate had "bloomed" and had a white tinge to it and the sponge was crumbling in places.

So what had started off as a tempting treat was looking more and more disappointing by the second. When I first saw the small packets I was debating with myself whether, for one time only, I was prepared to blow 525 calories eating the whole packet! On seeing the contents of the packet I soon decided they didn't look worth it.
So last step, the taste test. 
This only affirmed that one packet was more than enough. No nice jammy centre, instead a thin watery layer of orang flavour. No nice soft cakey bottom, instead a crumbly concoction, and the chocolate, well I'm not even going there. 
Saddened by my disappointment, and having eaten one packet, I put the rest away in the cupboard. Maybe one day I will reach for them, but not while the disappointment is still strong in my memory.

One of the nasty "treats" sitting beside a coffee spoon. So now you can see why I was not a happy bunny. lol.
Seriously though, maybe my expectations were too high, I mean how good can 125 calories taste in biscuit form? Maybe I was just too desperate for a taste of home. I should have known. Next time I'll stick to the full calorie McVitie Jaffa Cake which I know and love. Sorry M&S this time you lose out.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


Have been so lucky to have an amazing trip to Yunnan to visit, amongst other things, a Tea garden. After 2 flights, one 3 hour and the other a one hour flight, we were picked up in jeeps and started a 5 hour journey to Cangyuan which is a Wa autonomous area, the Wa being an ancient Chinese tribe. It is situated next to the Myanmar border. We were extremely lucky to be able to go to the border and walk across the no man's land between China and Myanmar. We were lucky to have been introduced to a lady who worked as a border official and she escorted us there.

 The journey was challenging especially once it turned dark. But we did arrive safely to a very warm welcome. Hotel was very nice, new, huge and basically empty of people. We were also to discover hot water was not always on tap as we have become used to, and that the Chinese favour very hard beds!

Next morning we started our journey, again not an easy journey to reach the tea garden. At one point very close to the final destination we were told we had to walk the next bit. So off we went up a fairly steep and very muddy hill only to find jeeps waiting at the top. The reason for the hike? Well apparently the people of this area believe people should connect with the land to have a real experience. I love these traditions, or beliefs as they are in this part of the world. 

The scenery was amazing. Tea plants growing all over the terraced hillsides, but there was also tobacco plants, sugar cane and along the roadsides pomegranate trees and pumpkin plants. Not a spare piece of land, every piece was cultivated.

On arriving at the gardens we were of course welcomed with cups of tea. Not the cups we are used to but tiny cups all prepared by 2 young Wa girls resplendent in their traditional costumes. 
A walk around the gardens and even an opportunity to pick some leaves made us very happy. It was such an honour to be able to do this. The hard conditions made me realise that I should never complain about the price of my cuppa!

Conditions here for the workers are very good. Twinings in conjunction with Save the Children have been investing in a school and a centre for the people. It includes recreational areas and also a medical centre with a birthing facility. It was really very impressive, and the people are very happy with this facility. It is now being used as a model for the area. 

We were then treated to a delicious lunch. Simple honest food, fresh and very local. I swear I heard the chickens squeal prior to our lunch! This was foraging at it's best, and it tasted oh so good as we squatted down on low stools to enjoy what was put before us.

I was even lucky enough to get a behind the scenes look at the kitchens. All food was cooked in a home kitchen, these were not restaurants as we know them. Conditions were challenging, not great, unlike the food that came out of them.

This was a trip I will remember for a long time.

My morning cuppa has a greater meaning now. A dunk of a tea bag into a mug a thing of the past, for now at least. I will savour the leaves, allow them to brew and drink it throughout the day. 

Maybe, well no I definitely have way too many gadgets in my kitchen, and I produce food no better than I ate on this trip. Perhaps it's time to say goodbye to a few of them. 

This was an amazing trip and I feel very privileged to have been able to visit and eat and drink with these people. I look forward to a return visit from them when hopefully I can repay their kindness and hospitality. Truly a trip I will never forget.