Archive | November 2010

Fit for a queen: Fortnum and Masons high tea, Tokyo

If it’s good enough for the Queen, then I suppose it’s good enough for me. Fortnum and Mason is tea brand with a rich history, Fortnum and Mason being the names of the two chaps that founded it. They are actually the appointed grocers by royal warrant for the Royal Family of England, and famed for their teas, groceries and luxury hampers, and have been around since 1707 serving Victorian high society. Three centuries, and still going strong. Not too shabby, at all. Their headquarters is in London which looks super fancy. According to Wikipedia, the Fortnum and Mason tea store in Piccadily, London underwent a 24 million (British pounds) refurbishment for their 300th anniversary in 2007. Wow. There establishment is like a mini-department grocery store, and also houses 5 restaurants where you can enjoy both afternoon tea and high tea (yes, there is a difference). Would be amazing to go there. It’s almost like a royal tea gallery. Will be on my to-do list when by perchance I shall ever be in London again. Do a Google image search for Fortnum and Mason – lots of fun ogling at the pictures.

From Fortnum and Mason

The first time I came across Fortnum and Mason’s was at Yokohama. They have a tea salon at the big Lala port shopping centre. I looked up their Japanese website and saw that they had other locations. The only one in Tokyo is at Nihonbashi, with other stores in Nagoya and Sendai. Fi was visiting from Hokkaido for the weekend and wanted to partake in tea. Fi, her dad – who also joined us, and I enjoyed a nice traditional British afternoon tea at the Fortnum and Mason tea salon in Nihonbashi. Fi did not arrive empty-handed either. She gave me some Hokkaido omiyage – potatoes from Kutchan, home to the potato festival. Gotta love Hokkaidoites. Fi and her dad are from England, so it was most appropriate that I chose this particular venue (I might add, this was not by accident). The tea salon is located in the 2nd basement floor of the Mitsukoshi department store (Shin Kan) in Nihonbashi. On the odd occasion, it’s nice to not do a hotel tea.

From Fortnum and Mason

We each ordered the 3-tiered afternoon set and it did not disappoint. First of all, a cake sample platter was brought out to us. On it were about 8 different cakes. We could each select 2 cakes for our set. We each each chose 2 different cakes each, which we would share, thereby getting to try 6 different cakes. The sandwiches were plentiful here, and even the cucumber sandwich made an appearance. Simple but delicious fillings. Tasty, simple sandwiches, and some variety scones with jam and cream. Very traditional here. All the teas are, of course, Fortnum and Mason branded, and mostly a black tea variety. It was nice that on the menu, that they categorised the teas according to strength. I went the royal blend, which I did not think was so strong. I am of the opinion though, that I think a lot of their tea blends are quite similar tasting. I am a huge of English breakfast tea, so I enjoy blend variations of that tea. (Reminds me of a funny story actually, when I was in London about 7 years ago, I went to a cafe and ordered an English breakfast tea, but what I ended up being served was an English breakfast fry-up of eggs, sausages etc.)

From Fortnum and Mason
From Fortnum and Mason
From Fortnum and Mason

The afternoon tea set here is reasonably priced too at 2520yen. Your choice of only one tea though, but you are allowed hot water refills of that tea. Serving portions were very decent too. Thank you to Fi’s dad who shouted us on this occasion. My only complaint about the Nihonbashi Fortnum and Mason tea salon was the fact that it was boiling hot in there. Central heating was cranked up, and the bright lights generated a lot of heat. All of us were feeling the heat. It was like a sauna. One does not want to perspire whilst sipping tea. Apart from the (dis)comfort factor, afternoon tea at Fortnum’s is a pleasant one. After eating and drinking, be sure to check out their store which stocks a very pretty range of teas, biscuits, and other condiments (preserves and the like). Got to love their packaging!

From Fortnum and Mason
From Fortnum and Mason

Yes, they have my royal seal of approval.

From Fortnum and Mason
From Fortnum and Mason
From Fortnum and Mason

For more photos, click here. Some interesting, useful links: Read about Fortnum and Mason on Wikipedia here. Fortnum and Mason UK website here. Lots of interesting reading to be had on that site. Refer to the links at the bottom of the page eg history/timeline through the centuries, and their restaurants. Fortnum and Mason Japan website, click here. Fortnum and Mason Mitsukoshi Nihonbashi tea salon, here.

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No frills afternoon tea

Last Wednesday was Culture Day in Japan – another public holiday and day off in which to enjoy another afternoon tea. Culture Day it was, and cultured up I did, by drinking more tea.

From Courtyard Marriot tea

In a period of 11 days, this was my third partaking in afternoon tea. The request this time was for a cheap afternoon tea, and cheap it was. We went to possibly the cheapest afternoon tea establishment in Tokyo. However, it is nice to know that cheap does not necessarily mean bad. I had consulted my High Tea spreadsheet and came up with the Courtyard Marriot hotel in Ginza. Here you can partake in afternoon tea for 1680yen. Print off the offline coupon and you can score yourself an additional 10% discount.

From Courtyard Marriot tea

The lounge was nothing fancy, more like a really, really nice cafe/coffee shop in the lobby of a hotel. The three of us all ordered an afternoon tea set which consisted of sandwiches, one scone, pumpkin pie, and 2 little cakes. The food was tasty, very good. Nothing gourmet, but simple and delicious. There are only four basic teas that you can choose from – darjeeling, assam, earl grey or UVA. We all went the UVA (a Ceylon tea) which was perfect. UVA is a lighter tasting, less astringent black tea. Just what I was in the mood for. Here they tea is served in cups, and you can get as many cup refills as you like, but only of your one choice of tea. So you need to choose one tea and stick with it for the whole session. No tea sampling here.

From Courtyard Marriot tea
From Courtyard Marriot tea
From Courtyard Marriot tea

Afternoon tea at the Courtyard Marriot hotel is relaxing. It’s low key and no frills and very affordable. Afternoon tea without it’s pretentiousness. Endless cups of tea, yummy food, and no time limit. A pretty delightful experience. After about 4 hours of tea, we stayed to enjoy their 300yen glasses of wine.

From Courtyard Marriot tea
From Courtyard Marriot tea

Ginza is always a buzzing, glamorous district. The lights all come on during the evening, and Christmas illuminations will soon be up. After spending over 6 hours at the hotel, I walked then from Ginza to Tokyo station (about a 25-30min walk) through the cool, crisp Autumn night, slightly buzzing from the three glasses of wine. Courtyard Marriot Hotel, Ginza – Oasis Lounge Website in Japanese is here. The discount applies to their whole menu. More photos here

Autumn afternoon tea at the Shangri-la Hotel, Tokyo

Of all the seasons to do afternoon tea, Autumn would have to be the best. The cooler weather and the changing leaves is the ideal climate to enjoy hot cups of tea and comfort foods like scones, sandwiches and sweets in a nice warm lounge room whilst sinking into plush comfortable seats. A lot of hotels take advantage of the autumn season and offer a special seasonal menu showcasing typical autumn produce like pears, chestnuts and persimmons.

From Shangri-la High Tea

It actually also occurred to me that it has been one year since I started doing high teas in Tokyo. This exact time last year (in 2009) was my first high tea in Tokyo at the Peninsula Hotel – which coincidentally has also been the best place to date, in my opinion, to do afternoon tea in Tokyo. I racked up venue number 8 over the weekend on my High tea Tokyo Project (my quest to do every high tea available in Tokyo). By the time Sunday rolled around, Saturday’s typhoon had passed, and whilst it was still overcast, at least the rain held off. This time the occasion was Tami’s birthday get-together. Inspired by the mad hatter’s tea party in Disney’s Alice in Wonderland, she wanted to have a fancy tea party for her birthday. High tea is becoming a thing peoples! Become a part of the high tea movement! She settled on the Shangri-la hotel (which is the one I had hoped she would decide on, and the one that I had suggested). The Shangri-la was offering a special Autumn Afternoon Tea set only until the end of November, so I am glad I got the chance to try it. Being an autumn afternoon set it made use of of a lot of chestnuts.

From Shangri-la High Tea

The Lobby Lounge of the Shangri-la Hotel is on the 28th floor of the Marunouchi Trust Tower building, right outside Tokyo station (North Yaesu/Nihonbashi exit). The details to decor at the Shangri-la is exquisite with an elegant oriental touch. The layout of the room reminded me a lot of the Mandarin Oriental tea lounge with it’s window seating, and counter bar.

From Shangri-la High Tea
From Shangri-la High Tea
From Shangri-la High Tea

The food here was delectable (a new adjective to my food repetoire). I was most impressed by the sandwiches which were savoury delights to the palate. These were fancy appetizers. I also loved the patterned tea set and tea cups. The food here was so rich and decadent that I didn’t even finish all of the desserts tier, a first ever for me. They also had some very interesting fancy teas. I tried the Shangri-la hotel blend which was basically an assam and darjeeling blend – can’t go wrong there. I also had the Darjeeling Blend (darjeeling is apparently know as the “champagne of teas”), and I also tried the almond chocolate tea. This was more bitter than sweet. It was like the coffee of teas. Not being a coffee drinker, I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would. Probably one of my favourite teas on the menu was the Autumn Alascian Garden tea, which I got to try a sip of, but ran out of time to order a pot of. This was a real interesting herbal tea blend consisting of mirabel, rhubarb (!), centaurea and calendula. I don’t know what half of those ingredients are but it was fine tea indeed. I am interested in getting my hands on some of that Alascian Garden tea – not sure if it’s a hotel blend, or whether it’s a real tea available on the market.

From Shangri-la High Tea
From Shangri-la High Tea

Service was good, food was excellent, decor detail stunning, views pretty good too – we could see the Sky Tree nearing construction, and live music from a pianist added a nice touch. The downside was that the tea session was limited to only 2 hours which was definitely not enough time. I felt hurried. I felt rushed to get through the tea and food without really eating slowly and savouring everything. 3 hours minimum needed to enjoy high tea. No debate about it. The tea lounge though was very busy with pretty much all seats occupied, and pending reservations after our session so they needed guests to be in and out, which was a shame.

From Shangri-la High Tea
From Shangri-la High Tea

Gourmet food and tea quality was top notch though, and so is the price tag. It was the most expensive high tea to date, at 4290yen. For that amount of money, you could have gotten a decent 3-course meal and not have been hurried out. This venue is going to be a tough one to rank. I am undecided which I liked better – the Park Hyatt or the Shangri-la’s high tea…on seconds thoughts I think I liked this one. It’s fine dining high tea, on the classy elegant side and should get the credit it deserves. Kudos to the pastry chefs at the Shangri-la. Fine job. In terms of food, tea and details, it kicked arse over the Park Hyatt. Although I thoroughly enjoyed my experience at the Park Hyatt it wasn’t on the merits of its afternoon tea.

From Shangri-la High Tea
From Shangri-la High Tea

The complete photo album can be viewed here. The Shangri-la afternoon tea information: English Japanese Read their Dining Events for up-to-date dining and seasonal afternoon tea specials. 5192692 2010-11-03 03:12:11 2010-11-03 02:12:11 open closed autumn-afternoon-tea-at-the-shangri-la-hotel-tokyo publish 0 0 post 0 food High/Afternoon Tea: Tokyo Japan Tea Tokyo Tokyo Dining _edit_last 253158 _wp_old_slug 1609 BottleLobotomy bottlelobotomy@gmail.com 118.109.101.20 2010-11-05 14:19:29 2010-11-05 13:19:29 Aleisha, My wife and I always look forward to reading your new reviews of Tokyo’s afternoon tea locations. Please keep up the great work! Have you thought of venturing into Yokohama for afternoon tea? BL 1 0 0 1611 Alei aleishariboldi@gmail.com 118.8.143.209 2010-11-08 03:08:51 2010-11-08 02:08:51 Thank you for reading, and leaving a comment. I love high teas! And yes, I am definitely interested in venturing into Yokohama for tea and cakes, time permitting. There are actually a few venues that I want to get around to in Yokohama that I’ve had my eyes on so perhaps in the New Year… 1 1609 253158 Sailing on the Nile http://memoirsofaleisha.blog.com/2010/11/04/sailing-on-the-nile/ Thu, 04 Nov 2010 02:59:17 +0000 aleishariboldi@gmail.com http://memoirsofaleisha.blog.com/?p=5192693 So one of the things that I did in Egypt was do a 3-night/4-day luxury cruise along the Nile River. I started from Aswan and sailed north to Luxor. After having spent a week on my own in Egypt, I met up with Bex from the UK for the cruise part. In Aswan we sailed on a felucca (an Egyptian sailing boat), which was most relaxing, and then we boarded our luxury cruise as we spent the next couple of days cruising down the Nile with some sightseeing stops along the way. The heat in Aswan was intense. Between 35-40 degrees celcius everyday. Cruises, generally aren’t my thing but along the Nile River it was actually really relaxing. It didn’t feel like the cruise liner was moving. Something like this I can handle. A cruise on the open high seas would be another thing altogether as I’m apt to be seasick. This cruise though was calm, and relaxing. It was nice to sit and do nothing. We spent the mornings sightseeing, and then the afternoons indulging in tea and afternoon snacks with a book, and dip on the deck pool, watching the sun set. Ah t’was the life indeed. All meals included – buffet breakfast, buffet lunch and buffet dinner. Thou shalt not go hungry on a Nile River Cruise.

From Nile Cruise Day 1
From Nile Cruise Day 1
From Nile Cruise Day 1
From Nile Cruise Day 1
From Nile Cruise Day 1
From Nile Cruise Day 1

More photos available here. 5192693 2010-11-04 03:59:17 2010-11-04 02:59:17 open closed sailing-on-the-nile publish 0 0 post 0 Egypt Travel travel _edit_last 253158 _wp_old_slug Enchanted with Enchan-thé http://memoirsofaleisha.blog.com/2010/11/08/enchanted-with-enchan-the/ Mon, 08 Nov 2010 03:06:11 +0000 aleishariboldi@gmail.com http://memoirsofaleisha.blog.com/?p=5192694 Enchan-thé – Is that not the best name for a tea store. Ever. It totally kicks arse over the name that I have in my head if I was to ever own a tea store/salon. In my blog review of the Shangri-la tea, I mentioned that I was interested in the tea that was called the Autumn Alsacian Garden Tea. I did some Internet research on it, and all I could come up with, was that Alsace is a name of a small region in France. I could find nothing in relation to tea. The description of that tea at the Shangri-la said that it was a blend of fine tea from China and Sri Lanka with mirabel, rhubarb, cantaurea and calendula from Alsacian Garden. Alsace being a region of France, I discovered.

From Shangri-la High Tea

I emailed the hotel last week asking them for any information at all on the tea, in particular, where I could buy it. I asked them whether they would either sell me some of the tea directly or if they could tell me their supplier. To my excitement I received a very well-written English response from them the very next day. This particular tea is purchased through a supplier, so not a hotel blend, and she gave me a direct link to their website. www.enchan-the.com “The Art of French Tea”. How awesome is that for a tea store name. I do love and appreciate a good pun! “Enchante” in French, an introductory meaning “a pleasure to meet you”, and then “thé” – French for ‘tea’ being added to the end. Pure genius of a name for a French tea store. This supplier specialises in French tea (フランス紅茶専門店). And the tea which I like, is actually called ‘Petite France’ through the supplier, and was renamed by Shangri-la for their tea menu. The Enchan-thé website is pretty cool – a blend of Japanese and French, and lots of interesting gourmet exotic tea blends, which can be purchased through their website. They also sell a range of coloured teapots, accessories and gifts – all tea-related of course. When one thinks of tea, they do not think of France, so this website is quite fascinating as it specialises in the Art of French Tea. I will now also be able to get my hands on some of that ‘Petite France’ (Autumn Alscian Garden tea) which is actually one of their new tea products . You can order direct online (they deliver throughout Japan), and read the staff blog, and the owner’s blog. Will be nice to actually read stuff in Japanese that I will actually enjoy reading about. (Site is not available in English). From the website, it does not sound like they have a cafe/restaurant or a shop (they mostly import and supply, rather than retail sales), but the listed business address is in Tokyo (Komagome area). Will be bookmarking their website for sure.