Tea time: Reaching Out Tea House, Hoi An

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: Naked Espresso Bar, Melbourne

Naked Espresso Bar
390 Little Bourke St, Melbourne
http://www.nakedespressoco.com.au/

Another Friday, another week down (almost). Come Friday, I feel like I’ve really earnt my lunch time break, and love heading down Little Bourke Street or Hardware Lane for a pot of tea and some reading and writing and people watching. Sometimes, if I’ve got a bit of extra cash (because eating in Melbourne costs a bloody fortune), I might even treat myself to lunch, like I did on this visit to Naked Espresso.

They’re one of my favourite go-to places to a good lunch time pot of tea, mostly because they’re lovely and friendly, play great tunes, and give me a chocolate dipped Tiny Teddy with my tea. How can you not love a place that does that?!  Thanks, guys, you make long work weeks so much better  : )

Food is also top notch, particularly the toastie menu for which they’re so well known. Is there anything better than a really well made ham, cheese and tomato toastie? Really? Good bread, well filled (not stingy on the ham, yay) and  a nice little pot of tomato relish on the side. Also, at $8.00, it’s a pretty good Friday lunch option if you don’t want to spend a small fortune and save your cash for after work drinks.

While I’m not a coffee drinker, I do know that they make a damn fine brew; one can only assume as much when you see the absurd amount of Naked Espresso take away coffee cups walking up and down Little Bourke Street first thing in the morning/at lunch time, as well as the constant line at the front door for them. And Melbournians are pretty fussy about their coffee, so if they’re happy to wait in line for a cup, it must be good! And one of my favourite mid week time out spots in the city  : )

Sunday morning in Collingwood… Eat here: Donut Shop Donuts & Coffee

Guys, I’m so excited… it’s Friday, which means it’s almost time for OKTOBERFEST!!!! If you’ve been playing along for a while, you might remember last year’s backyard Oktoberfest, complete with pretzels and mustard, cookies and beer, and most essential of all, good friends to enjoy the night with! We had so much fun, we decided to do it again over the weekend, which you’ll no doubt hear all about in a few days…

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But before the good times roll, we had to venture out last weekend for a few more supplies with which to complete the man cave’s transition to beer hall; we ended up in my favourite ‘hood, the Fitzroy/Collingwood district that I love oh so much. After leaving the car off Smith St and grabbing a quick cuppa at Harry Monty Flavour, we walked up to Gertrude St so I could pick up some of my favourite ETS English Breakfast tea from Aunt Maggie’s on Gertrude St, and, filled with nostalgia, we decided to keep walking.

See, husband and I went to university just behind Gertrude St, at ACU. That’s where we met. That’s where we studied. That’s where we earned our degrees. That’s even where we had some of our wedding photos taken! That area was our home away from home for three years, and it was nothing like it is today! We walked slowly up towards Brunswick St, thinking back to our uni days, marveling at how much nicer, fancier, cleaner it is now compared to our residency back around 2005; the broken bottles, angry homeless drunks, dirty graffiti and smashed store front windows have been replaced with detailed street art, one-off local designer scarves and shiny new hipster eateries. “Imagine if it had been like this when we were studying here,” he said to me. “Yeah… we’d have been getting fat off fried chicken and donuts instead of watching drug raids* and dodging the angry guy with the long neck in the brown paper bag!”

* Yes, there were a lot of drug raids around there when we were at uni. I personally saw two, one of which came complete with two fully armoured police squads carrying battering rams. Great excuse to miss another boring nutrition lecture.

 

Good and bad, it’s a suburb that’ll always feel like home to me…


As it usually does in a city as abundant in offerings as Melbourne, our wanderings led us to good food, this time in the form of donuts.

Donut Shop Donuts & Coffee
130 Gertrude St, Fitzroy
https://instagram.com/donutshopfitzroy/

Since Big Lou‘s left the area earlier this year, there’s been a need for a new donutery. Donut Shop stepped up to the plate, opening only a few weeks ago, and they’re doing beautiful things with dough…

Like most other donut shops I’ve visited (both here and in America, actually), it’s only a little space with a few seats inside. They do, as promised, donuts and coffee, along with a few other beverages like the PB milkshake and a matcha latte. But we were just there for the donuts, and it’s Friday morning, so let’s cut to the chase.

There are some pretty good looking donuts to choose from, but we were instantly for the pina colada brulee (pineapple + coconut = sunshiney happiness) and the matcha white chocolate (since coming home from Japan with a whole lot of matcha cookies, husband’s now just as obsessed with matcha treats as me, which, seeing as we usually share, means I can order them now when we go out!).

Pina colada brulee up first – the most amazing crackle and crunch when I cut it in half, so top marks for the brulee side, and an extra point for it not being bitter. The coconut pineapple custard inside was some of the best stuff I’ve ever eaten – it was unbelievable silky, full of flavor without tasting fake, and I’d have happily eaten a full tub of a stuff with a spoon, fructose intolerance be damned! Also, really loved the cherry and grilled pineapple on top – cute touches that only added to the taste.

The matcha white chocolate was possibly even better, if you can believe that – again, creamy smooth filling, with the most incredible matcha flavor. The crumbles on top were SO GOOD, nice to have a bit of crunchiness with the super smooth filling. I could have done with a little more white chocolate (because I’m a pig), but other than that, it was faultless.

And it wasn’t just the fillings; the dough itself was textbook light, fluffy, amazing. I’m really glad food this good wasn’t around while we were studying; with these guys, Archie’s All Day, Belle’s, De Clieu and so many more amazing places now calling Gertrude St home, we’d have possibly been the most obese exercise science graduates ever…

But right now, I’m going to let you guys plan your visit (they’re open all weekend) while I get myself to work, and then head home to bake what feels like another 5000 pretzels for this weekend’s Oktoberfest…  : D

Donut Shop Donuts & Coffee Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

8 places to enjoy a cuppa in Melbourne this week 

Ohh Sunday arvo – that means the fun and freedom of the weekend is almost over, and we’re back to the offices tomorrow! Us Melbournians also faces an additionally fun start to the weekend when our public transport system once again went to shit and train staff went on strike; I was one of the lucky ones who got to work from home and avoid the debacle completely, but I know not everyone was quite so fortunate. What made me giggle the most, watching Sunrise on Friday morning, was the reporter who seemed a little baffled by the fact that there were hardly any people around Flinders Street Station and that the people who were around and spoken to were pretty calm. Wanna know why? We’re used to public transport being inefficient and frequently cancelled. We’re now masters of making alternate arrangements. It’s just a fact of life here – like you know not to trust the tap water in Fiji, you also know not to rely on Melbourne’s public transport. It’s just known.

Anyway, regardless of whether you were caught up in it or not, whether you had a fabulously relaxing weekend or a crappy, stressful one, Monday is still Monday. If you’re a city-working lemming like me, by the time you hit your lunch break tomorrow, chances are you really need that break. So you may as well head somewhere with a good book to read, away from all the other Monday grumps – here are my favourite eight places in the CBD where you can actually enjoy that time out with a good cup of tea. Or coffee. And by enjoy, I mean enjoy – in peace, all alone, with your book or newspaper or notebook and pen, or Instagram feed or whatever else you need to get you through those last few Monday hours!

1. Naked Espresso
390 Little Bourke St, Melbourne CBD
For: Tea Drop tea and their own blend of coffee, breakfast, jaffles, and a sexy pastry and cake cabinet

2. Manchester Press
8 Rankins Lane, Melbourne CBD
For: Coffee Cartel tea, 8oz house blend coffee, and bagels… oh my!

3.  Solarino
7 Howey Place, Melbourne CBD
For: tea and coffee and breaky in a cute undercover laneway location

4. Journal Canteen
253 Flinders Lane, Melbourne CBD
For: tea, coffee, simple but delicious Italian style panini in a lively atmosphere.

5. Good Ovening
200 Queen St, Melbourne CBD
For: crazy cute astro-turf and 70’s lawn furniture, kitschy decor and really good English Breakfast Tea

6.  Brunetti
214 Flinders Lane, Melbourne CBD
For: that feeling of sitting out in an Italian piazza while you’re on your break. And amazing Italian biscotti to go with your hot beverage.

7. Berto’s
180 William St, Melborune CBD
For: A proper Italian lunch in a beautiful, classy, but friendly space before your afternoon macchiato kick.

8. Little Cupcakes
Degraves St, 4/118 Queen St, and 181 William St, Melbourne CBD
For: Best till last – these are, hands down, the BEST cupcakes in the city. If the idea of a hot cup of tea and a red velvet, peanut butter cookie crumb and/or cherry ripe cupcake doesn’t appeal to you, you’re beyond help.

Eat here: Tartine Bakery, San Francisco

Tartine Bakery
600 Guerrero St, San Francisco
http://www.tartinebakery.com/

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There actually weren’t a heap of food places I had on my “to eat” list in San Francisco, but Tartine was number 1. As a sugar fiend, I’d heard all about it; it topped just about every “sweets to eat in America” list I’d seen online, it appeared in the guide books, on travel TV shows, and peppered my social media feeds.

We rolled up not too long after opening time on a very overcast and rainy weekend morning, hoping that we wouldn’t be in for much of a fight for seating – we half swam there it was raining so hard!! Anyway, much like Melbourne, the rain doesn’t put anyone off a good coffee and pastry at their favourite café; the place was packed to the rafters! I guess we got lucky – as we walked in, a small table for two vacated, and I dove on it! Once we were settled, I left husband to hold the fort while I joined the line. It was long, like out the door long, but it actually moved pretty quickly!

One of the things I noticed that really impressed me were the number of people placing large orders (I’m talking a few cakes, loaves of bread, cases of croissants) being told they’d be ready in an hour or so – “no worries, I’ve got a few other things to do, I’ll be back!” No frustration at the wait, apparently the food was good enough to warrant it!

As I edged closer to the counter, I was still a little undecided about what I wanted to try, but it seemed every second person at least was walking away with a croissant, so I took a frangipane almond cream croissant (USD$5.00), tea for me, coffee for husband.

I was pretty stoked to see that I had options of both soy AND almond milk rather than the coffee and lactose laden full cream stuff everywhere else offered, so the tea was great! Husband’s coffee came out in a “cup” the size of a small fish bowl, which had him buzzing all afternoon, but he said it was amazing – if it wasn’t, I don’t think he’d have finished it all! The croissant was worth the wait, the walk in the rain and the sardine-tin seating situation. It was perfect – golden and buttery, light and flaky, and the almond frangipane business was incredible… best croissant I’ve ever had, easily!

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If you’re in San Francisco, it’s worth the trip out to the Mission District – aim for earlier in the morning near opening time when you have the best chance of getting a seat and your pick of the fresh pastries. It’s a gorgeous café, I loved the wooden floorboards and furniture, and the staff were actually super friendly considering how under the pump they were. I’d also recommend taking something home with you – wish I’d thought of that when I’d ordered, the line was wayyyy too long (out the door and onto the sidewalk) by the time we’d finished!

 

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