Thursday, August 26, 2010

Afternoon Tea, Biku Tea Room, Seminyak Bali

Fresh Jar of Flowers

The area of Seminyak, just north of Kuta in South Bali is a bit less chaotic and a bit more refined. It is in this area along Jalan Petitenget that you will find a beautiful tea room, Biku. It was a terribly hot Balinese afternoon and my parents and I had been walking around the southern part of Seminyak, trying to find this place. I kept asking the locals in Indonesian and they all sent me in different directions. When I finally spotted the storefront, we all rejoiced and hurried inside. Part bookstore, all tea room, Biku is a wonderful respite. The Teak Joglo, native to East Java, that houses Biku is 150 years old and all charm. East truly meets West in the best way possible here. British afternoon tea in a traditional Indonesian environment? Can it get much better than that? I don't think so.

Front Tea Bar and Cake Stand

And of course, I had just that: A traditional afternoon tea. My mother ordered a salad and the Biku Blend over ice "served with mint, star fruit, and fresh wild ginger flower". The iced tea was presented beautifully and my mother said it was so refreshing and flavorful. My afternoon tea for one did not skimp out on anything.

Biku Blend Over Ice

I went with my favorite black blend, and ordered the Assam Seasonal. Perhaps being closer to the actual fertile tea lands of India's Northeast gave this particular blend of Assam one of the most vibrant flavors I have tasted yet. Full of body and complexity, only a touch of milk and sugar was needed, and the color was such a vibrant golden-brown.

Yes, There was Even a Tea Cosy

Unmistakably Royal Albert

The China used at Biku is all Royal Albert, as I could tell even before mine arrived. It's just nicer to drink and eat off of such nice China. Something makes the experience just that much more elegant. The savouries plate included salmon and cream cheese, cucumber, and ham and mustard sandwiches along with mini quiches. All sandwiches were cut finely and delicately. The taste was equal if not better to tea sandwiches I have sampled in London.

Elegant, yet Refined Presentation

Fresh Ingredients

The scones were big and fluffy, still warm upon arrival and served up with fresh jam and cream. The sweets were almost too cute to eat, particularly the mini gingerbread man. But they were all too delicious to pass up. Aside from the mini gingerbread man, the sweets sampler offered up a butter cookie, a mini chocolate cupcake, and a petite fruit tart. I was too full to finish everything, let alone touch the strawberries and cream dish that accompanied the whole meal. Nonetheless, I was very content. Make sure to browse the cake stand in the back to see what's on offer. If I hadn't gone for the afternoon tea, there was a carrot cake over there calling my name!

Sweets and Scones

Homemade Jam and Cream

Oh, and did I mention the price...? 65,000 Rupiah, which translates just barely into 7 U.S. Dollars. The small baguette sandwich I ate for lunch in Manhattan today cost more than that! Quality for such a small price...only in the East! The next time you are in Bali, make your way over to Biku for an afternoon you won't soon forget!

What was Left Unfinished...

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Scone Shoppe, Point Pleasant, NJ

British Breakfast-My Tea of Choice Here.

I already have two posts on The Scone Shoppe. I can't say enough nice things about this wonderful establishment. Please read the full reviews from earlier posts. Here is a feast for the eyes from a Sconelady Tea from TSS this past week. More Indonesia posts to come soon!

Tea Sandwiches of Egg Salad, Tomato and Mozzarella, and Mini Quiches

Chocolate Delight Scone

Desserts du Jour: Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies and Chocolate Frosted Cupcake

The Scone Shoppe
2401 Bridge Ave
Point Pleasant, New Jersey

Monday, August 9, 2010

Puncak Tea Plantation, Puncak, West Java, Indonesia

On the morning of Sunday, June 20th, at 4 AM, I left Jalan Thamrin in central Jakarta with a group of 8 friends. In one hour we were in Puncak, the gorgeous tea plantations outside of Jakarta. Getting home in the afternoon took something closer to 4.5 hours, but we won't discuss Jakarta's traffic here, just tea.

Sunrise over the plantation and mountainous area was beautiful. After the sun rose we took our first tea walk of the day, making our way through the area, enjoying good company. Our hike led us to the Walini Tea Parlor, where the tea comes straight from the source. We had a delicious breakfast of strong black tea and pisang goreng (fried banana).

After breakfast, we went on to explore another tea trail. At this point, the Western Java sun was in full force. It was hot, but it was also beautiful. And up in that area, it isn't as bad, climatewise, as the city. I highly recommend Puncak. It was a beautiful morning and afternoon. However, make sure you have the time, because you aren't going to get back to Jakarta very quickly. Unless you have a motorbike...

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Tea Addict, Jakarta, Indonesia

This outing took place of Saturday, June 19, 2010 at around 4 PM

Tea Addict is a cozy tea cafe located in the Kemang district of South Jakarta. The shop blends a variety of in-house teas and also has a snack menu. After a day of adventure around Jakarta, Vero, Widya and I were more than happy to pop into Tea Addict for a much needed rest.

Nice Interior

The room itself is modern, yet relaxed, with an earthy feel from the tree branches that sprout out around the interior. And don't get me started on the couches. They are some of the most comfortable seating arrangements I came across in Indonesia, maybe in the world. You can sink into them for hours, enjoying conversation and tea with friends, or simply a solo respite from the hustle and bustle of the big city. Oh, and Tea Addict comes complete with an assortment of magazines to tantalize your brain (or to fry it) as you wait for your pot of tea.

The Most Comfortable Couches!

The tea menu is extensive, but I wanted to go for a Tea Addict in house blend, and seeing as I love anything vanilla in my tea, I opted for the Sweet Vanilla. I am quite glad I did. The tea was presented in a simple, yet nice white porcelain pot, alongside a glass tea cup. On a side note, before I left for this trip I really hated drinking tea out of any type of see-through glass. However in Indonesia, mostly all tea is served in regular drinking glasses or miniature beer mugs, and I quickly became accustomed, even endeared by this. My Sweet Vanilla tea was spot-on. The black tea was strong and full-bodied, with a naturally sweet but not overly sweet kick from the vanilla. It almost had the taste of bourbon vanilla, however it wasn't too heavy of a flavor. Just a little bit of sugar brought it out fully.

Sweet Vanilla Tea

Vero had English Breakfast and she was quite happy with her order. Widya, on the other hand, decided to order a Cappuccino. Although I don't endorse the ordering of coffee at a tea lounge (hehehe), I respect and appreciate Tea Addict's versatility, serving not just tea fans, but their coffee counterparts as well.

Vero and Widya at Tea Addict

If you find yourself in Southern Jakarta's Kemang area any time soon, do yourself a favor and check out Tea Addict. You will be glad you did.

The Tea Bar

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Afternoon Tea @ The Social House, Jakarta, Indonesia

This Afternoon Tea took place at around 4 PM on Friday, June 18, 2010

I went to Jakarta the weekend of June 18-20, for a weekend of art and tea with friends who live over there. I was very lucky to have a group of friends awaiting my arrival, as I feel that to get around Jakarta and really see things in the city, you need to know insiders. If not, you will be trapped mostly wandering the massive sitting, and inevitably sitting in traffic.

After getting off my short plane ride from Jogja to Jakarta, friend and tea-partner-in-crime, Vero, picked me up from the bus station in Central Jakarta. After I dropped off my bags, our first destination was The Social House. The Social House restaurant, located within the Harvey Nichols at Grand Indonesia on Jalan Thamrin, is considered the "it" place to be in Jakarta these days. My attention was piqued by reading about their afternoon tea special. The wood walls and forested atmosphere make the environment comfortable and luxurious. And, the views are simply incredible! About half way into our tea, as the light was changing outside, the massive windows completely opened, making the restaurant into almost a full balcony! Gorgeous!

The tea set is so reasonably priced, as is everything in Indonesia by American standards. Vero and I decided to share one full afternoon tea (later, our friend Widya joined us and ordered a fancy latte...even with this added, the bill came out to under US$10!). I was a little put off initially when they brought out the tea pot...I saw a tea bag string hanging from the side...and then furthermore it was Lipton!!! If you've read my previous posts, you know how I feel about Lipton. I was shocked that such an elegant and "it" place was serving Lipton with their afternoon tea sets. But it was marked "Yellow Label", which means it is of a higher grade. So I grudgingly poured myself a cup and mixed in some gula (sugar). I was SO pleasantly surprised. I'm almost embarrassed to say it, but the tea was aromatic and light. Very refreshing. I guess the Lipton in Asia is working a little harder to meet the standards of Asian teas. This was a simple black, Chinese tea, but the flavor was spot on. Don't get me wrong, I'm not about to start promoting Lipton, but this was a nice surprise.

After some laughs and conversation between Vero and I, our three tiered server appeared. It was quite beautiful to look at! A rather modern set-up with all the appropriate, traditional servings. The light greens of the sweets really stood out.

The tea sandwiches included mozzarella and tomato on white tea bread, ham and cheese on focaccia, and a third that I cannot for the life of me recall! They encompassed a handful of upscale potato chips. All were delicious.

The scone serving was presented beautifully. Two sugar-dusted raisin scones were presented with pistachio cookies, raspberry thumbprint cookies, and cocoa-walnut cookies. There was also a generous portion of mock clotted cream and strawberry preserves. All of the mini cookies were delicious, my favorite being the cocoa-walnut. However, as I bit into the scone, something I highly anticipate in all of my tea times, I was sorely disappointed. The texture was fine, crumbly and delicate, however there was a strong tinge of lemony flavour, that I sorely disliked. The scones were too sweet and too sour, and the combination of those extremes did not satisfy.

The sweets course scored high points in all categories. The pistachio eclairs were to die for. The pistachio icing still remains in my thoughts. Very light and delicious. The mini tarts and banana cakes were sure to satisfy. And with a simple black tea, the combination of tea and treats all paired quite nicely. Vero, Widya and I took our time enjoying each other's company and the delectable tea set before us. It was a great way to arrive in Jakarta. It was particularly a nice change after a couple of weeks of solely Indonesian food from kaki lima (street vendors) and warungs (small shop/restaurants).

As the evening sun began to set, I looked out into the lights of Jakarta and felt quite content. "I don't ever want to leave Indonesia", I thought to myself. And I will be back. Certainly. Sooner, than later, that is for sure.

Thanks for reading!