Sunday, 30 November 2014

Tea time...pass the Dilmah please...

I thought I knew tea. Until the elegant Dilmah event happened at the Queen Victoria boutique hotel at the V&A Waterfront last week. Before that, tea was quite ordinary to me, nothing too special. Now however, I've been enlightened, thanks to what I'll refer to as Tea 101 - a pretty intense loose leaf tea tasting ceremony, hosted by one of Dilmah's uber tea experts, Gero Olbeter. New tea names I learnt >  Hyson, Nuwara Eliya Pekoe, Lapsang Souchong....impressive right? 

The Dilmah brand was founded by Merrill J. Fernando in Sri Lanka in 1988. He and his family are passionate about tea and committed to producing the finest product, "from the tea nursery right to your teacup"...traditional, single origin tea (unblended), packed garden fresh. On an Eco note, Dilmah is very particular about sustainability, being conscious about water quality, waste management, bio diversity, renewable energy, and reforestation. This shows amazing business integrity and is a strong incentive for me when selecting Dilmah over other brands. And of course there's the gorgeous packaging that's so easy on the eye... Dilmah simply stands out in the crowd. 

Tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world after water. It has more character and personality if the production process is orthodox and follows techniques perfected over many, many years. This is the Dilmah way. Tea is a complex and sensitive little leaf, and Dilmah have perfected the art of tea making and have captured the full spectrum of its flavours and textures, and unique tastes to suit every mood. 

Tea is different things to different people - from the afficianodos in traditional tea houses, to the posh cucumber sandwich set, to the monk in a retreat or the worker on the street. Whatever your fancy, and however it is prepared -loose or in a bag - tea refreshes, heals and soothes. After my experience though, I'd say the best results come when tea is given time to brew, and savoured. A quick cuppa loses something in the falls flat, for me anyway.

Tea time is not to be rushed if one can help it. Serve it in fine glassware or bone china and sip it slowly, savouring the moment. Pinkies up, people! 

"If man has no tea in him, he is incapable of understanding truth and beauty" ~ Japanese proverb

* High Tea with an exceptional menu (delectables like goats cheese & beetroot miniature apples, freshly shucked oysters with caviar, chocolate truffles, smoked scones with clotted cream etc etc) is now available at Dash Restaurant at the Queen Victoria boutique hotel (Portswood Ridge), 021 418 1466 - too fabulous! 

Thank you to Laborie for the bubbly - the MCC Blanc de Blanc (2010), infused with Dilmah's rose and French vanilla tea and garnished with a pink rose petal...a beautiful touch*

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Friday, 28 November 2014

Akasha Mountain Retreat...a place to be soothed...

I'll say it again - the Western Cape is one of the most beautiful destinations in the world. Every time I think I've seen the best there is, I come across another place that AMAZING and totally blows my hair back. Such is the Akasha Mountain Retreat, 3 hours from Cape Town and 12kms outside of Heidelberg in the Western Cape.

The first sight of Akasha as you arrive is an event in itself. the panoramic views over the valley, the Duivenshok Dam and the Langeberg Mountains are spectacular and as soon as you step out of your car, know you’re in your own piece of secluded heaven. Space and silence. The best. Akaska is all about disconnecting to reconnect and getting your innermost being de-stressed, good and proper, by Mother Nature. 

Of course there are activities – kayaking, horse riding, fishing, art and music classes, meditation and hikes that include a trek to 250,000 year old San rock art sites. All this happens in and around the surrounding Boosmansbos and Kopberg World Heritage Sites, practically untouched by people and still largely undiscovered by tourists, although with all the Twitpics and Instagram uploads that went out during my visit, the cat is now out the bag! These sorts of environments tend to bring out the sloth in me so instead of getting too physical, I morph into go-slow mode, drifting in and out of day naps, disappearing into books and mags, taking slow walks through the fynbos, eating - a lot - and stargazing over a glass or three of excellent red wine.

The house itself, designed in a Cape Maroc style, is self catering (the upside is that you can order meals too - see the website), solar powered, and beautifully appointed with a dash of understated luxury. It sleeps 6 comfortably and there’s an additional cottage on the hill above the main house that can accommodate two. Chris van der Walt and his wife Elana are the two wonderfully hospitable owners. For anyone who is keen, Chris takes first time visitors on a ride in his quiet motor boat in the very early morning along the river, explaining some of the history of the area over rye sandwiches with cream cheese and jam, and cups of hot coffee from his flask - this gent is a host of note I must add. 

It's been forever since I've done a dawn outing and what a spectacular moment it wassuch a magical time of day. The river was like glass, not a ripple, with the scenery perfectly mirrored on the surface of the water. I saw sugarbirds, hawks, swallows and geese flying low over the dam as the boat glided quietly along past rockfaces crammed with wild aloes and succulents. I felt like I was in a painting...

One of my highlights was being visited at the house by the 6 horses that the van der Walts have adopted, that now roam free on their land. It was incredible to be sitting sipping tea and have the herd casually walk through the patio archway and onto the lawns, where they proceeded to graze for ages. All in all, I left Akasha rejuvenatedget yourself there for some R&Ryou deserve it to be soothed.

For more info > Phone: +27 (0) 82 090 1741 / Email: /
Go via Route 62 part of the way then  through the picturesque town of Swellendam and on through Heidelberg...

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Monday, 17 November 2014

Ah, the Spa....

I'm not big on spa treatments. Who knows why...maybe I'm too antsy to lie having endless facials, massages and such, or maybe I just haven't had a really cool spa experience. My recent weekend at the Gingko Spa at the Steenberg Hotel in Constantia made me rethink the whole spa experience...I turned off my phone (yes, really), lay back and let my tiredness seep into soft fluffy towels while the therapist worked her magic.