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September 18, 2013

Sponsored post: A flavour-packed afternoon tea

Lipton Tea Masterchef

I was recently invited to the pop-up Masterchef Dining and Bar in Sydney to experience ‘High Tea Brewed by Lipton’ with master tea blender, Kurush Bharucha. As a self-appointed aficionado of tea and cake, I was excited to check out the new pop-up and explore the new range of Lipton‘s Pyramid teas. And I was also eager to sample some of the sweet treats that have featured in Australian Masterchef over the past few years. My date for the afternoon was my mum, the original aficionado of all things tea and cake.

Lipton Tea Tasting via WeeBirdy.com

First surprise? The magnificent set-up of the Masterchef Dining and Bar, which was a much grander verision of your usual wooden-crates-and-make-do nature of a pop-up. This was pop-up deluxe, with marble benchtops, magnificent lighting installations and Masterchef’s signature mezzanine, where our afternoon tea was taking place.

Lipton Afternoon tea via WeeBirdy.com

Lipton Tea Tasting via WeeBirdy.com

Our table was set with an intriguing line-up of bell jars housing samples of tea leaves, with another row of glass tea cups and a third row of Lipton Pyramid tea bags. After our glasses were filled with hot water, we were introduced to Lipton master tea blender, Kurush Bharucha, who is a man who knows a wee bit about tea. So much, in fact, at one point in his career he was tasting 1,000 cups of tea a day. Blimey!

Kurush guided us through each tea, explaining the finer points of each blend as we infused our hot water with the new pyramid tea bags. It was an experience for all the senses, and represented a departure from your usual automatic-robot-tea-bag dunking, as we could observe the tiny leaves, flowers and pieces of fruit within each pyramid swirl and burst into colour and fragrance.

Second surprise? The Russian Earl Grey tea pyramid came to life in the hot water. The pretty sky blue cornflower petals swirled amongst pieces of orange and lemon peel and the gentle aroma of bergamot and citrus wafted up from the cup. I’m not generally a fan of Earl Grey but this one had a subtle flavour that was gently warming.

So what’s the big deal about the pyramid shape? Kurush explained that it allows them to use longer tea leaves and bigger pieces of ingredients such as lemon peel, cinnamon bark and jasmine petals – which is responsible for the swirling visual treat in my cup! Also, the roomier teabag means that all the goodness in the tea bag can dance about and release more flavour. It’s a bit like having a mini teapot with loose leaf tea in your tea bag. Nice!

Lipton High Tea via WeeBirdy.com

Third surprise? We were also introduced to the new range of the delightful Lipton tisanes, with blends including Forest Fruits, Raspberry Passion and Peach Mango. Most of you will know that I generally like a good old cup of builder’s tea – English Breakfast is my blend of choice, but I really loved exploring the new fruit tisanes. Anything with a flavour punch of passionfruit gets a big tick from me. I usually fill my tea with milk and sugar, but there was no need for anything else with these cupfuls of rich flavour.

Lipton High Tea via WeeBirdy.com

We were also introduced to last year’s Masterchef runner-up, the lovely Julia Taylor, who took us through the tasty afternoon tea menu featuring Waldorf finger sandwiches, friands with tea-infused raisons, Zumbarons, Adriano Zumbo passionfruit tart and her signature Vegemite caramel chocolate cups.

Lipton’s Forest Fruits tea went down a treat with the zumbarons! The stand-out sweet morsels of the afternoon were the incredible friands, the flavour-packed passionfruit tart and the Vegemite caramel chocolate cups, which were the absolute highlight. Sweet and salty and incredibly moreish, we sat in reverent silence as we consumed the heavenly mouthful of the most surprising ganash.

Lipton High Tea via WeeBirdy.com

The best surprise of the afternoon? Discovering that Lipton’s pyramid tea is indeed a clever and innovative way to enjoy your favourite brew, and the 16 new flavours provide a real treat for your senses.

Who knew a tea bag could provide so much entertainment?

WIN! Lipton Pyramid Tea

To enter the giveaway, simply leave a comment below telling me in 25 words or less which Lipton Pyramid tea flavour would you pair with your favourite sweet treat? The giveaway is open to all Australian residents 14 years and older, and ends at 5pm Friday, 27 September 2013.

The five most creative responses will win a sample pack containing eight different flavours from the Lipton Pyramid range. Click here for the full competition terms and conditions. Please don’t forget to leave your email address in the space provided in the comments section – it will only be visible to me.

This post is sponsored by Nuffnang.


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July 27, 2013

12 more beautiful baby presents, from £2.72

I’m on a bit of a roll with baby presents right now, and I thought you might like to see the rest of my pastel-hued favourites. Most of these presents I’ve sourced from Etsy, which is actually one of the best online shopping destinations for baby gifts.

Prices start at £2.72 – if you knit the nappy cover yourself! I’ve thrown in the odd bright present because pastels mixed with brights is bang on-trend right now. So if you’re after a contemporary nursery, add a splash of yellow or red to your pastel mix.

My favourite present? Definitely the hand-knitted personalised dolly rattles (no. 2) by Chickabiddy, via Etsy. I’ve given many a sock doll rattle to my friends’ new babies. They make such a sweet little present and a nice little keepsake.

12 best baby presents via WeeBirdy.com

1. Hot air balloon wall stickers, £18 from Belle & Boo.
2. Lil sock baby rattle, £13.59 from Chickabiddy Baby Boutique’s Etsy shop.
3. Rubber duck diaper cover knitting pattern, £2.72 for an instant downloadable PDF from Easy Care Knits’ Etsy shop.
4. Baby bird mobile in gender-neutral hues, £66.58 from Baby Jives Co’s Etsy shop.
5. Knitted wrap cardigan, now AU$27.48 by Pure Baby.
6. Maple crochet teething rings, £11.55 from Apple n Amos’s Etsy shop.
7. Baby blue diaper covers, £14.95 from Mabel’s Etsy shop.
8. Personalised alphabet block print, £25 from Ruka-Ruka.
9. Ducky tee, AU$24.95 from Seed.
10. Sea breeze bonnet, US$48 from Misha and Puff
11. Pink forest ballet slippers, £29.21 from Evie Lala’s Etsy shop.
12. Boo and friends boys mug, £6 from Belle & Boo.

It’s a week of babies and kids on Wee Birdy! Make sure you haven’t missed:
A wee tour: My modern vintage baby’s room
Top 12 affordable art prints for children’s rooms
Wee find: Laikonik once-a-year baby record books
19 clever ways to transform a kid’s room with wallpaper
The 12 best presents for baby girls
A wee historic royal baby exhibition
The 12 best presents for baby boys


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January 24, 2013

Sponsored post: A Very Aussie Arvo Tea

A vintage Aussie afternoon tea via WeeBirdy.com

You should all know by now that I don’t need much of an excuse for a good old-fashioned tea party, so when Twinings sent me a box of their limited edition Australian Afternoon Tea it didn’t take long before I had (a) cracked open a packet of Iced Vo-Vos; (b) whipped up a batch of wattleseed cupcakes; and (c) dug out some of my choicest vintage Australiana china and linen. Add half a dozen lamingtons, a knitted cockie teapot handle cosy and a pot of Twinings full-bodied Australian Afternoon Tea and I was set: a very Aussie arvo tea. Heaven!

A vintage Aussie afternoon tea via WeeBirdy.com

A vintage Aussie afternoon tea via WeeBirdy.com

A vintage Aussie afternoon tea via WeeBirdy.com

A vintage Aussie afternoon tea via WeeBirdy.com

I used this recipe for the Wattleseed cupcakes, and I decorated them with handmade sprigs of marzipan wattle.

A vintage Aussie afternoon tea via WeeBirdy.com

They’re dead-easy to make: just grab a packet of marzipan, dye three-quarters of it yellow with food colouring, and roll tiny balls with your hands (about 7mm wide). Then add some yellow food colouring to a bowl of caster sugar, and roll the balls in the sugar for a fluffy wattle-like coating.

For the leaves, add a drop or two of green food colouring to the rest of your marzipan, and roll it out to 2mm thickness. Use a sharp knife to cut out leaves and use a bread and butter knife to imprint veins. Arrange your little wattles on top of your cupcakes and you have a rather sweet tribute to Australia’s indigenous national flower.

A vintage Aussie afternoon tea via WeeBirdy.com

A vintage Aussie afternoon tea via WeeBirdy.com

As for the tea itself – well, let’s just say it was the little Aussie hero of the party. I like it. I like it a lot – it’s a brisk pick-me-up blend created by Kevin Rudd, of all people, and funnily enough it’s a feisty little character. Kevin won Twinings’ challenge last year to come up with an original brew that best reflected the taste of Australia. The top five blends were put to a public vote and Kevin come up trumps with a blend that stands up against the most languid of Aussie arvos.

A vintage Aussie afternoon tea via WeeBirdy.com

A vintage Aussie afternoon tea via WeeBirdy.com

A vintage Aussie afternoon tea via WeeBirdy.com

Twinings has raised over $120,000 to date for the former Prime Minister’s chosen charity, the RSPCA, through on-pack donations. It’s a timely cause as the RSPCA needs extra support at this time of the year with poor wee injured animals from bushfires.

A vintage Aussie afternoon tea via WeeBirdy.com

Limited edition Twinings Australian Afternoon Tea is available in Coles stores now, while stocks last. So best be quick! You can purchase it in a splendid keepsake tin (as pictured above), or in a twin pack with either English Breakfast or Early Grey. The lovely Twinings people are also increasing donations to the RSPCA, with 50c from every tin and $1 from every twin-pack going to the charity. Tea-riffic! (sorry, couldn’t resist.)

A vintage Aussie afternoon tea via WeeBirdy.com

WIN! Twinings Australian Tea
I have five tins of this lovely limited-edition Twinings Australian Afternoon Tea tins to give away. To enter the giveaway, simply leave a comment below telling me in 25 words or less what you would serve with a pot of Australian Afternoon Tea. The giveaway is open to all Australian residents 14 years and older, and it ends at 5pm AEDST on Feburary 1, 2013.

Entries will be judged by Nuffnang and the winners will be the ones deemed most creative. There will be five winners, all of whom will receive a limited-edition tin of Twinings Australian Afternoon Tea. Click here for the full competition terms and conditions. Please don’t forget to leave your email address in the space provided in the comments section – it will only be visible to me.

This post is sponsored by Nuffnang.


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October 9, 2012

Sponsored post: A very Twinings tea party

Back in the early days of Wee Birdy I was living in London and happily living out my obsession with tea. Whether it was having afternoon tea at the Dorchester (yes, that’s afternoon tea, not high tea, people – but that’s another post/rant altogether), visiting the original Twinings store on the Strand or running a ‘Week of Tea’ on Wee Birdy, I was pretty much in tea leaf heaven. So I naturally leapt at the opportunity to host a Twinings ‘tasting’ morning tea with my friends.

Now for someone who likes a good cuppa, I’m surprisingly boring and predictable with my blends. Apart from a brief flirtation with Irish Breakfast during my university days, I’m a strictly English Breakfast bird. The only other tea I’ve ever fancied was the exquisite flowering tea I tried at Liberty, but it was more ‘performance art’ than a really good cuppa.

I’ve had some pretty memorable tea experiences. There was time I was at the Dorchester and Dita Von Teese was having tea at the next table; and the decadent birthday afternoon teas I shared with my birthday twin in London at the likes of Fortnum’s, Claridges, The Ritz and The Berkeley (the Pret-a-Portea was particularly fabulous). Then there was the time I went to a serious tea café and attempted to have a rather intimate conversation with a friend while the proprietor sniffed deeply from the soggy leaf dregs at the bottom of cups.



But I can now add my morning tea to my ‘memorable tea moments’ list – if not for my terribly acidic lemon bars that set everyone’s teeth on edge, but for the chance to properly sit down, without a bunch of toddlers demanding our attention, and have a proper catch-up with my friends. Pure joy!

It was such a good day for a morning tea outdoors – I dug out my vintage table linen and threw it over the table in the backyard, and decorated it with my collection of teapots filled with flowers from the garden (wisteria, lavender, roses, gardenias, daisies and sprigs of may bush). It was also the perfect opportunity to use all my ‘fancy’ tea cups, vintage spoons and the vintage hand-embroidered napkin holders I found at a shop on Columbia Road in London.

I briefly ran through the tea selection, ranging from lighter teas like Lady Grey to stronger blends like Twinings new Assam Bold, which is actually Twinings’ strongest tea in Australia. It’s a smooth and full-flavoured blend that certainly packs a punch, and if you’ve ever resorted to using double tea-bags to make your brew extra-strong, you’ll definitely get your tea fix with Assam Bold. It’s got a rich biscuity taste and I was tempted to hunt down a packet of Milk Arrowroots – purely for dunking purposes, of course. Predictably I sampled the English Breakfast and Irish Breakfast, but rather daringly tried the Australian Afternoon Tea blend, which was a bit of a revelation – it’s my new favourite post-dinner, pre-blogging cuppa!

To accompany our tea tasting, I baked two batches of scones and served them with strawberry jam and double cream, as well as a plate of meringues, which I topped with cream and lavender. The unfortunate lemon bars were banished from the table, but luckily I had my ‘back-up’ Bourke Street Bakery flourless chocolate cake – which was also a hit. (I always have a lovely store-bought ‘back-up’ when I’m baking, just in case things go wrong… and they often do.) It was such a lovely morning, sitting under the trees in the dappled light and enjoying each other’s company. It was all too simple, really, and we all wondered why didn’t do it more often.

Here is my trusty scone recipe – it’s never let me down:

2 ½ cups self-raising flour
1 tablespoon caster sugar
30g butter
1 ¼ cups of full-fat milk

  • Preheat oven to 220 degrees celcius and lightly grease a baking tray.
  • Sift flour and sugar into bowl and rub in butter.
  • Add milk – use a knife to cut thorugh the flour mixture until it just comes together as a soft and sticky dough. Whatever you do, don’t over-work the dough. Turn dough out onto floured surface and knead lightly.
  • Press dough gently to around 2cm thickness and cut out rounds with a scone cutter (or a glass tumbler). Place scones on the tray and brush with a little extra milk.
  • Bake for around 15 minutes or until risen and golden brown. Don’t go opening up the oven and poking and peeking before then! Pop them on your prettiest plate and serve immediately with lashings of jam and double cream (or if you’re in the UK, a good dollop of clotted cream).
  • Eat up, buttercup!

WIN! Twinings wooden tea chest (filled with tea, valued at $75).
I’ve got one Twinings wooden tea chest (as seen in the top picture) to give away to one Wee Birdy reader. To enter, simply leave a comment below telling me what’s your favourite accompaniment to a good cup of tea. Entries will be judged on  creativity. Entries close 5:00 pm AEDST October 19, 2012. Sorry, competition open only to Australian residents. Click here for full terms and conditions.

This post is sponsored by Nuffnang.


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December 18, 2009

Welcome new Wee Birdy sponsors

A big warm festive welcome to One Boutique, Bbel, Makers Online and Scribble House who are joining the Wee Birdy nest this month.

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One Boutique
A relatively new addition to the online shopping landscape, One Boutique allows you to shop for clothes and accessories from some of the UK’s best independent boutiques, like Mya Rosa in Somerset, Prettyful Things in Norton and Chameleon in Carlisle. Keep an eye out for quirky finds by small designers, as well as pieces by the likes of Alex Monroe, Vivienne Westwood for Melissa and By Marlene Birger.

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Bbel
Every single element of UK-based independent jewellery label Bbel is made by hand, right down to the hand-formed clasps. Inspired by the natural world, there’s an abundance of flora and fauna and in the current collection, including a charming ‘fox stole’ necklace and delicate lily necklace. The prices are also very good, with a silver personalised heart necklace with 14kt gold for £39.

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Scribble House
Boasting
a wide collection of luxe leather gifts and stationery, UK-based
Scribble House is a family-run business – and a great place to shop for
gifts. Look out for their luxury leather-bound notebooks that come in a myriad shades (and start at a very reasonable £24), as well as the London A-Z books, which features an underground map insert. Perfect gift for London newcomers and visitors.

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Makers Online
Bringing
together a raft of small designer-makers in the UK, Makers Online is a
new online boutique for hand-crafted products. Unique contemporary
jewellery is its forte, with a wide range of bracelets, brooches,
earrings and necklaces. Keep an eye out for the very affordable
delicate silver jewellery, like these sweet silver daisy earrings for £8.99 and oxidised sterling flower studs for £39.


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November 13, 2009

Welcome new Wee Birdy sponsors

A big warm welcome to Caroline Gardner, Hunkydory Home and Sugalily, who are joining the Wee Birdy nest this month. Here are my top picks of the bunch from my lovely new sponsors…

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Caroline Gardner
Using traditional printing techniques such as letter press and die stamping, Caroline’s distinctive and quirky designs have attracted a strong and loyal following in the UK. As well as greeting cards, notebooks, ribbon and wrapping paper, she also specialises in high-quality personalised stationery. Look out for her new-season Christmas collection, which features a rather lovely line-up of Advent calendars, wrapping paper and gift tags.

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Hunkydory Home
Launched in 2005, Hunky Dory Home is the antidote to boring beige interiors, with a vibrant range of own-brand lampshades and cushions. All pieces are hand-made, and they also offer a made-to-order service if you’re after something completely unique. They also stock a handpicked range of design-led products to accompany their own designs. I love the hand-silk-screened sausage dog and Brit-themed cushions (1 and 4), crown teapot (2), and Brown Owl lampshade.

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Sugalily
A very sweet one-stop design boutique, Sugalily specialises in luxe hand-finished, vintage-inspired stationery, greeting cards and wedding invitations. This is no cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all operation, with each product featuring a signature vintage embellishment, like cream daisy-lace edging, diamante buttons and ribbons. Sugalily also offers a bespoke design service for everything from business cards and logos to re-branding and social stationery.


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