Congratulation to John Lock for winning this prize, which has been sent to him. Many thanks to all who entered.
Congratulation to John Lock for winning this prize, which has been sent to him. Many thanks to all who entered.
Started 27 years ago, with the vision of supplying ethically sourced, high quality food and drink to people who care about the provenance of what they eat, Abel & Cole has gone from strength to strength. It now delivers boxes of fruit and veg as well as organic milk, bread, eggs and meat to many parts of the country. They deliver as far north as York, but just use the postcode finder on their website to check whether they deliver to your door: http://www.abelandcole.co.uk/help/faq
“It all started with a chap named Keith and a bag of spuds in 1988. He realised the huge benefits of going organic and never looked back. In fact, we still get veg from the farm where Keith’s first organic spuds came from”, say Abel & Cole.
Steenbergs and Abel & Cole share a common passion for all things organic. Both believe that organic farming is best for the environment, the wildlife and ultimately our own diets. Abel & Cole’s mantra is ‘grow slow’, which is an ethos shared by Steenbergs and the small independent producers that they use all around the world.
Steenbergs has been organic since it was founded in 2003 by husband and wife team Axel & Sophie Steenberg. Their vision of supplying organic herbs and spices also led to them becoming Fairtrade for tea in 2004 and ultimately being the pioneers for the first Fairtrade spices into the UK in 2005.
“We’ve been working with Abel & Cole for over a decade,” says Axel. “We started off supplying small amounts of organic spices, but have recently added mini organic spice jars to their recipe boxes, and are now supplying our regular spice jars, vanilla extract and pods for sale in Abel & Cole’s Grocery Pantry.” http://www.abelandcole.co.uk/groceries/pantry/dried-herbs-spices
Abel & Cole use Steenbergs spice jars in the recipe boxes to add flavour and excitement to their recipes. To make the most of the flavoursome seasonal lettuces available at the moment, why not try Abel & Cole’s recipes for courgette falafel with peanut dip, spiced up with Steenbergs garam masala and coriander seeds? http://www.abelandcole.co.uk/recipes/courgette-falafels-peanut-dip
Look out for our Abel & Cole competition coming up this month, with the chance for one lucky winner to win a month’s worth of veg boxes (a total of 4 of any size). A great way to make sure you have your 5-a-day!
It’s Fairtrade fortnight. As part of this, I thought I would share some photos of our Iranian saffron being harvested. Steenbergs Fairtrade saffron comes from the Arghavan Dasht Paeezan co-operative in Iran, and is picked and processed by hand.
The saffron is harvested in autumn, when the weather is cold and humid enough for the flowers to bloom. The farmers and farmhands have to go early in the morning to pick the crocuses when they open with the rising sun. Farmhands are usually from extended rural families or groups from nearby villages. As the day heats up, the picked crocuses become much harder to clean because the petals lose their freshness and rigidity.
The harvesting continues for a fortnight or a month, depending on the crop. Every day new flowers bloom, and each day the farmers labour from before sunrise and leave in the late afternoon.
The temperature is close to freezing, and often an autumn breeze also blows strongly, making the saffron harvest very difficult. The workers are given breakfast, lunch and hot drinks during the harvesting to keep them warm.
After then, the stamens need to be picked out of the crocuses by hand, and then dried, before getting the final deep orange-red spice filaments.
Our tea taster panel had a delicious choice of teas this time, with a delicate organic Fairtrade Earl Grey and one of our new herbal tea blends, Morning Brew. We had some great comments on both teas, although 63% of you did prefer the Earl Grey. Read on to find out more…
STEENBERGS MORNING BREW HERBAL TEA
About Morning Brew:
Steenbergs Organic Morning Brew Herbal tea is an organic caffeine-free herbal blend created for Sophie as a decaff morning herbal brew. It is hand crafted and packed by us to Axel’s special recipe from organic redbush, organic oatstraw, organic ginger, organic cardamom, organic cinnamon and organic orange peel. The redbush provides the body, the oatstraw is uplifting and the spices add a zing and a spring to your step.
“I start every day with a mug of this tasty morning brew without milk – it starts my day perfectly,” says Sophie.
Since we sent out the samples to our lovely tea taste panel, we have made a couple of changes to our Morning Brew. Firstly we have managed to find organic oatstraw so we can make Morning Brew completely organic – hooray! Secondly, we have relaunched our herbal teas in brand new practical packaging to make it easier to see the delicious blends. We’d love to know what you think…
What did you think of Morning Brew?
Given the name ‘Morning’ Brew and the blend of uplifting herbs, it was interesting to see that only 29% would drink it just in the morning, with the majority happy to drink it at any time of the day (56%) and 9% in the evening. Only a tiny minority didn’t like the blend.
The vast majority of our tea tasters enjoy herbal tea on a regular basis (88%), with 77% rating it excellent or good. When asked to describe how it made you feel we were delighted to find that ‘refreshed’, ‘invigorating’ and ‘energised’ were frequent words, as though was ‘relaxed’ – how good to feel both at the same time!
Although very positive about the tea, it wouldn’t be the majority of our panel’s first drink of the day, many of you preferring a caffeinated drink such as coffee or black tea to give you that much-needed kick start. Maybe it doesn’t go well with toast which it what the majority of our panel have for breakfast. We particularly liked the sound of ‘toast with a savoury topping – goats cheese & honey or peanut butter & black pepper’ – delicious!
STEENBERGS ORGANIC FAIRTRADE EARL GREY
About Steenbergs Earl Grey:
Steenbergs Organic Fairtrade Earl Grey Tea is a deliciously light and fragrant classically scented organic black tea. It comes from the Greenfield organic Tea Estate which lies between 5000ft and 6000ft above sea level in the Uva Highlands in central Sri Lanka. We pay a premium for the social welfare of the 770 people on this Greenfield Tea Estate. Visit our About FAIRTRADE page for more information.
Sri Lanka is a jewel of a tropical island, located just above the equator with perfect growing conditions for organic Fairtrade tea, the climate is temperate, but rainy. Uva tea is regarded by the Japanese as the best of all Ceylon teas and we tend to agree. It produces a pale liquor with a slightly astringent taste that works very well with the flowery Bergamot flavour.
We use Greenfield organic Fairtrade Orange Pekoe grade tea leaves as its base, which compliments the sweet, citrus flavour of bergamot oil. We only use 100% organic bergamot oil for flavouring. The story is that in 1830 the second Earl Grey was presented with the recipe for this tea during a diplomatic mission to China.
What did you think of our Earl Grey?
With 78% of our panel rating the tea either Excellent or Good, here were some of the lovely comments you gave us on our Earl Grey:
“Earl grey is a winner in my books, again down to the taste but I loved it!
“Even the last cup from the pot is lovely.” “It hits the spot.”
“Rarely drink Earl Grey – but this is amazing! Love the large tea leaves.”
However some of you were less enamoured and felt that the tea was not as intense or flavoursome as you would have liked.
Here are some of the flavour and aroma descriptions that you came up with. It’s interesting to see that both ‘strong’ and ‘mild’ featured heavily, although ‘delicate’, ‘light’ and ‘citrus’ were definitely the main adjectives used.
Of our taster panel, 59% were already regular Earl Grey drinkers, enjoying Steenbergs but also several other brands. Over half of our panel drank the Earl Grey without milk and of those, 26% drank their black tea with lemon, with a small handful added sugar or honey to their tea. If milk was added is was most likely to be cows milk (76%) although a variety of other milks were drunk including soya, almond & goat’s; although of those who drank both, several preferred cow’s milk in their tea but non dairy on cereal.
It was interesting to see that the vast majority of our panel enjoy their tea from a tea pot, with 72% feeling it is a ‘must’ for an enjoyable tea experience. A tea bag versus loose leaf tea was another interesting debate and really boiled down to time. 54% definitely prefer loose leaf, with 20% preferring bags and 26% using either depending no how much time they had.
58% of our panel also enjoyed tea as their evening drink of choice, although 76% of those chose a decaffeinated herbal tea to wind down. 14% though felt that a glass of wine or a G&T was a much better way to spend an evening and 12% chose a soothing milky drink.
In conclusion, loose leaf tea in a lovely tea pot at the weekend with friends, or whilst reading or watching TV, was agreed to be a very relaxing way to enjoy a cuppa!
Many thanks to our tea taster panel who this month had the delights of tasting Steenbergs English Breakfast Tea: a strong, aromatic blend of organic Fairtrade teas from Sri Lanka and Assam, Kerala and Darjeeling in India; and Steenbergs Green Tea with Jasmine: a delicately flavoured green flower tea from China. Two very different teas with unique flavours and we loved hearing how, when and why you enjoy drinking them.
Steenbergs organic Jasmine Green Tea
We asked you to describe the flavour and aroma of the tea and the predominant descriptions were floral, sweet, light, fresh, delicate and (luckily!) jasmine. Interestingly one of you who wasn’t keen on the flavour of scented teas still loved the aroma! We did love the fact that one of our panel likened the tea to ‘coming home – similar to a pair of cashmere bedsocks!’
We were also fascinated to find out how it made you feel, with many of you saying relaxed, refreshed and healthy – what more could you want from a tea! Other notable quote included: ‘both myself and my 2 year old give a big thumbs up to the Jasmine Green Tea'; ‘much nicer than jasmine flowers which I find too heady or sickly’; ‘warm climes with jasmine abundant on every corner’; ‘evokes holiday & summer memories’; and ‘floral with perfect level of bitterness’.
Around half of our tea panel were already green tea drinkers with a wide scope of brands and varieties regularly enjoyed, including long jing and gunpowder. Brewing of the tea averaged 4-5 minutes but again it was often down to personal preference.
When assessing the overall preference for teas, the Jasmine was more popular than the English Breakfast. However, other interesting teas were mentioned such as Silver Needles, Gingerbread Chai, Redbush, Rose & Bergamot & Happy Hippy, all making it into your top tea choice. It shows the great range and variety of teas available to us now, with green, white and herbal teas vying for position with our traditional black teas to be your favourite. We certainly had an expert panel though, with 76% of you championing tea as your favourite daytime drink.
Steenbergs organic Fairtrade English Breakfast Tea
With comments such as: ‘good balance of high & low tones’, ‘good subtle flavour’ and the ultimate accolade of being ‘better than PG’, many of you enjoyed the flavoursome qualities of this black tea, although a few of you did feel that it could be more intense and fuller in flavour.
Our tea tasters were evenly split in their desire to try it with or without milk, with 63% preferring to drink it in the morning than any other time of day.
Half of our tea tasters use a pot to brew their tea, with 27% preferring a mug and the rest going with the flow. The majority of our panel do have a favourite mug from which to drink their tea with all sorts of shapes and sizes to choose from. Porcelain was popular as were some personal favourites: an Emma Bridgewater mug saying ‘Best Friend’; a tall thin Disney Princess mug or a big wide green stoneware mug. On average the tea was brewed for 3-4 minutes, although anywhere between 1 and 8 minutes was noted.
For that first drink of the morning, many of you always go for tea (60%) with hot or cold water (24%) being increasingly popular than coffee (12%). A luxury for some, a newspaper is only standard with your cuppa for 40% of you, with The Times and The Guardian featuring as the most popular reads.
Have a look at some of the words used to describe Steenbergs English Breakfast Tea – the larger the word the more times it was mentioned. Do you agree?
Although a rather unfair comparison with two distinct teas, 70% of you did prefer the Green Jasmine to the English Breakfast. Are we becoming more international with our flavours? More health conscious? Or, as with many things, is it just down to our own personal preference.
Time for Tea – our monthly chat with someone who cares about tea. This time from Helen Wilson whose blog is www.lotsofnicethings.com
1. What is your favourite tea to set you up for the day first thing in the morning?
Traditional tea with soya milk
2. What is your favourite tea to relax you in the afternoon?
3. What do you like best about Steenbergs teas?
All the unusual varieties and the fact they are fairtrade and organic
4. Which Steenbergs tea would you most like to try and why?
Redbush Chai – because I love chai flavours but am trying to cut down on the caffeine.
5. Who would you most like to have a cup of tea with and why?
Jamie Oliver. I’d like to talk to him about food and convince him to go vegan!
Your contact details
Preheat the oven to 220C/Gas Mark 7/428F. Halve, core and deseed the peppers, then cut into broad strips. Put the peppers and olive oil in a roasting tin or shallow ovenproof dish with a little salt (not too much as some will leach out of the chicken), and turn to coat the peppers lightly in oil.
Serve with rice.
Weren’t we all brought up on the luxury of After Eights or Elizabeth Shaw Mint Crisps or Matchmakers, those quintessentially 1970s pieces of sophistication? Or was it just me? So using our new mintier Organic Peppermint Extract, I decided to create these Mint Choc Cupcakes that bring together the luxury of chocolate cupcakes with a 1970s feel of mintiness coming from the peppermint flavours in the cake, chocolate topping and then sprinkled Matchmakers over the top.
Simple, delicious and so retro.
Mint Choc Cupcakes
80g / 2¾oz organic butter (at room temperature)
175g / 1 cup / 6oz Fairtrade caster sugar
1 large free range egg (at room temperature)
170g / 1 cup / 6oz organic self raising flour
1tbsp Fairtrade organic cocoa powder
100ml / ⅓ cup full fat milk
1tsp Steenbergs organic peppermint extract
150g / 5¼oz Fairtrade milk chocolate
50ml / ¼ cup double cream
¼tsp Steenbergs organic peppermint extract
Some Matchmakers or other crispy mint chocolate
1. Preheat the oven to 160C / 320F. Line a cupcake pan with 12 cupcake papers.
2. Using an electric hand whisk cream together the butter and caster sugar until light. Add the large egg and mix well.
3. Add the self raising flour and cocoa in two halves and mix in thoroughly. Add the milk and Steenbergs Organic Peppermint Extract until well mixed in.
4. Divide the batter evenly between the cupcake papers. Bake for 15 – 20 minutes until firm to touch. Allow to cool for a couple of minutes then cool on a wire rack. They must be totally cool before putting on the topping.
5. Over a pan of boiling water, melt the milk chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Allow to cool a little, then thoroughly mix in the cream, the Steenbergs organic peppermint extract and allow to cool and thicken.
6. Spread the chocolate frosting neatly over the cupcakes, then decorate with broken Matchmakers or other peppermint crisp.
Continuing with our vegetarian fest after a successful week during National Vegetarian Week, I was craving a spicy curry that the kids would enjoy but would also be vegetarian – they are beginning to want some meat, but are just about hanging in there. I came up with this quick and simple recipe for Tofu & Coconut Milk Curry, which we ate with plain boiled rice and red lentil dhal, plus poppadoms. It is versatile so you can change the tofu for other vegetarian ingredients like Quorn or, if you are a pescatarian, white fish like cod or coley.
Axel’s Vegan Tofu & Coconut Curry
1 medium onion, chopped finely
3 garlic cloves, chopped finely
1cm / ½ inch cube of fresh ginger, grated finely
1 mild green chilli, sliced lengthways (optional)
2 tbsp organic sunflower oil
1tsp organic vegetable curry powder, or other mild/medium curry powder
¼tsp organic Fairtrade turmeric powder
10 curry leaves, or bay leaf
400ml coconut milk
4 cherry tomatoes, chopped in half
1tbsp organic white wine vinegar (or cider vinegar)
1tbsp organic lemon juice
1tsp organic garam masala
1tbsp organic sunflower oil
300g tofu, drained then chopped into 1cm / ½ inch cubes
1tbsp chopped fresh coriander leaves
Firstly, we prepare the tofu, by draining it, then placing it between two plates or wooden boards with a weight placed on top to remove the excess water. This is worth doing as it removes extra water and gives a firmer texture for later. After 1 hour, pour off excess water and chop into 1cm (½ inch) cubes.
Next, we make the coconut milk curry sauce. Heat the sunflower oil in a heavy bottomed pan. Add the onion, garlic and grated ginger and sauté on a low heat until translucent – this should take about 5 minutes, but make sure they do not crisp and brown at the edges.
Add the green chilli (if you are after some extra heat, but this is not necessary), curry powder, turmeric and curry leaves and stir in. Fry gently for 1 minute. Add the coconut milk and stir in. Bring to the boil, then turn down to a gentle simmer. Add the chopped tomatoes and simmer for 5 minutes.
Add the vinegar, lemon juice and garam masala, stir and simmer for another 1-2 minutes. then take off the heat.
Add the sunflower oil to a wok, or frying pan. Heat until really hot, then add the tofu pieces and turn down the heat. Fry until golden brown, turning over as they fry to make sure all edges get a nice crispy texture.
Add to the curry sauce and reheat to a boil. Simmer for 5 minutes until thoroughly cooked through. Add the chopped coriander leaves about 1 minute before the end. Serve with plain boiled rice and dhal.