With an increasing trend towards cafes and restaurants offering tea-specific menus you have to wonder whether the bean will soon be a has-been. Drinking tea is fast becoming the new cool and you'd better get to know your single estates versus your blends and start to take careful note of the temperature of your hot water as it's all key to making the perfect cuppa.

Now the The Langham Auckland is taking the trendy tradition of afternoon tea to new heights by announcing the introduction of its new elegant afternoon tea, Tiffin. There is a dedicated tea sommelier on hand to assist guests with choosing from an extensive and exclusive menu of Tea Maker's Private Reserve teas. The tea sommelier then prepares the tea using the exact water temperature and steep duration for each of the different tea types, to ensure the brew is perfect in every way. The Langham in Auckland is the only hotel in the world currently offering these exquisite single estate tea varieties - from the artful elegance of Ceylon Single Estate Silver Tips from the Imboolpitiya Estate, to the pungent, smoky Ceylon Souchong tea from the Rilhena Estate, the range includes a total of 17 black, white, green, flavoured and herbal teas.

The leaves are presented to the guest so that they can see for themselves and, much like sniffing the cork of a wine, can breathe in the distinct aroma of their chosen tea.

The Langham Auckland has long been considered the home of afternoon tea in New Zealand but the tradition began a long time ago.


It was reputedly started in the 1840s by Anna, 7th Duchess of Bedford, who, to stave off the "sinking feeling" she would experience mid-afternoon, began to invite her friends to her rooms at the Belvoir Castle for tea and a small afternoon meal of cakes, sandwiches and savoury treats. Then in 1865, Langham London was the first of the grand hotels to begin offering an afternoon tea to guests and visitors and since then, despite other hotels following suit, it has long been recognised as the original home of afternoon tea.

Sink into the sofas of The Winery at The Langham, any day of the week, and enjoy tiered trays and trolleys of sensational bite-sized nibbles accompanied by a reviving cup of tea.

To book ph (09) 300 2924. Mon-Fri $36 per adult, Sat & Sun $39.50. Champagne tiffin Mon-Fri $61 per adult, Sat & Sun $64.50.

Top shelf

Fans of Al Brown will want to get their hands on his latest book Stoked: Cooking With Fire ($70: Random House). Not only is it full of delicious recipes and stunning scenic photos (shot by Kieran Scott) but the overlying message is that what makes food interesting is "embracing imperfection" and not being afraid to push the boundaries and try new things. Along with how to light a fire, what cuts of meat to use and how to use a smoker, he also visits Wanganui River's Matahiwi marae to learn about a hangi, visits Indian grocer Sanjay Dayal to see how to cook tandoori, and puts a pig in a pipe with third generation Chinese New Zealander Rodney Wong.

Check it out

Catroux on West End Rd is a fabulous edition to the Westmere shops and we love that they make their little cakes on site. We can highly recommend the raspberry lamingtons with freshly whipped cream - they'll remind you of yesteryear with their full, home-made flavour and almost crunchy red icing, coated in coconut. The coffee is fabulous too - they use Peoples Coffee which is 100 per cent fair trade and organic; expertly made by the lovely barista Rosa, it's a great way to start the day. Open from 6.45am weekdays and 8am weekends.

Honey, honey

Last week's story on top Melbourne chef Ben Shewry of Attica mentioned that he uses a special artisan honey from the South Island for one of his desserts. We are pleased to announce that the producers (well not strictly speaking because that would be the bees) of this product, J. Friend & Co, have just launched a late harvest pohutukawa Christmas honey we can all use to give our menus that extra edge. With floral notes and a butterscotch underscore it is irresistible. Available at select cafes, food stores, Smith & Caughey and New World Victoria Park.

Wine time

Over a rather delicious lunch at TriBeCa in Parnell, Stoneleigh winemaker Jamie Marfell launched the label's new range, Stoneleigh Latitude. The grapes for the range are grown on Marlborough's "Golden Mile" the region's most exclusive real estate due to the fertile land and smooth riverbed stones which soak up the sunshine and then radiate heat at night to help ripen the grapes. The range retails at around $26.99 a bottle. The other exciting news is that Stoneleigh is the official port sponsor for the Auckland stopover of the 2012 Volvo Ocean Race in March. So we can all look forward to more fun at the Viaduct.