Friday, 1 August 2014

Yao Yao Cha - Bubble Tea and Shaved Ice


Earlier today I had the pleasure of visiting Yao Yao Cha, a bubble tea shop in Earlham Street, in the heart of Seven Dials near Covent Garden, who have just launched a range of delicious Shaved Ice treats. There are quite a few bubble tea shops springing up in London but Yao Yao Cha pride themselves on their authentic Taiwanese flavours and toppings, aswell as popular fruity flavours and a range of Frappés. I got to meet their lovely staff and sample a few of their products, including a gorgeous seasonal special edition that's only available for the next four days!


Firstly their new Shaved Ice! Yao Yao Cha offers two Shaved Ice options. For fruit lovers there are three varieties; Mango Shaved Ice with slices of mango, Strawberry Shaved Ice with strawberries, and Peach and Passion - passion fruit ice with peach pieces. For more adventurous types there is the option to build your own Shaved Ice experience by combining flavoured ice with three toppings. First choose the Shaved Ice flavour from mango, passion fruit, blueberry or brown sugar syrup (which is very popular in Asia). Then add three topping options from a choice of Fruit Pops, Jellies, Crème Brûlée or more traditional Asian choices - Azuki red beans, green mung beans, Aiyu, Taro or condensed Milk. 


Since I had already tried some fruity flavours of Shaved Ice at Hyper Japan last weekend (see here) the staff at Yao Yao Cha made me a wonderful, and more traditionally Taiwanese, Shaved Ice concoction. It consisted of brown sugar flavoured Shaved Ice with three toppings; Créme Brûlée, Aiyu Jelly, and Azuki red beans. The combination is a really gorgeous one, consisting of a simple sweet ice base, with the lovely refreshing jellies and the more earthy and delicious red beans. I also got to try an extra side helping of Taro, an unusual sweet vegetable that tastes surprisingly good with the shaved ice. It's a lovely, light and refreshing treat and definitely worth stopping by to try out. It's available at both an eat-in or take away option. Next time I'd love to try the Peach and Passion Shaved Ice! 


This gorgeous Bubble Tea above is a special edition which is only available until 4th August. It's been specifically created to celebrate Chinese Valentine's Day (Double Seventh Festival on August 2nd) and consists of a black tea base, Azuki red beans, and of course, lots of tapioca pearls. It was very refreshing and delicious, without being as sweet as other Bubble Teas I've tried. Bubble Tea originates from Taiwan, and is usually a combination of the distinctive chewy tapioca pearls and a milk tea or fruit tea base. Yao Yao Cha use smaller and less chewy tapioca pearls and regularly make fresh tea to ensure there are no bitter flavours. I really loved this Bubble Tea and I will definitely be back for more. Take a look at the full range of flavours on the Yao Yao Cha website HERE. There is a core menu of 24 drinks which range from familiar fruity flavours, such as Mango Green Tea to the much more adventurous, like Matcha Red Bean Tea. 


We also tried one of their Frappé drinks, opting for a fruity mango one this time. The Frappés are a great choice for anyone who doesn't want a tea based drink or the tapioca pearls. Instead they are essentially a blended ice drink with a twist! All  the Frappés come with a portion of "fruit pops" as standard, which are the jelly like balls you can see on top of the drink. Unlike the tapioca pearls these fruit pops are not chewy at all, they're quite light and delicate and they literally burst with fruity flavour as you drink. My kids absolutely loved this drink! It was so fruity and flavourful and the fruit pops on top are really fun. It's a bit like an extra special slushie drink and definitely one I would recommend! I really want to try the Blueberry one next time.


Yao Yao Cha also have a cute competition running for Chinese Valentine's Day this weekend. Take a selfie with your Yao Yao Cha drink and you could win free Bubble Tea for a whole month. I could definitely do with some of that over the summer! :)

More Info: www.yaoyaocha.com
Twitter: @YaoYaoCha

I was invited to Yao Yao Cha to try out their new Shaved Ice for an honest review.

Degustabox July - Foodie Surprise Box & Discount Code!


I've been receiving a Degustabox for a few months now and I'm still as excited as ever when it comes to opening up the large box filled with foodie surprises. As I'm sure many of you will know already, Degustabox is a monthly subscription service, with no fixed contract, that sends a large parcel filled with an exciting selection of foodie products. The delivery system is excellent and well organised, they always send a text giving you the exact hour that your parcel will be arriving, and the option to rearrange the delivery for the next day. 

Discount Code0QNP5

Each Degustabox cost £12.99 a month, which includes delivery, with no fixed contract involved. As always Degustabox have kindly provided my readers with a Discount Code for £3.00 off next months' Degustabox, bringing the cost to £9.99 delivered. Enter the code - 0QNP5


This month was slightly different for Degustabox as they had two separate boxes, one with alcoholic drinks and one without. I have the products from both boxes to show you so here's a look at all the new goodies inside the July Degustabox:


ZEO Drinks: I love that Degustabox included all three varieties of ZEO; peach and grapefruit Burst, citrus Crush, and Lime Zest. These drinks have a love them or hate them type of flavour. They certainly make a change from the usual sugary fizzy drinks as these are not very sweet at all. They have a tingly, dry edge and light fruity, almost botanical, flavours that I found quite refreshing. 


Portlebay Popcorn: I've been wanting to try the Portlebay Popcorn range for ages so I was delighted to find three different flavours in the Degustabox; the original sweet and salty Kracklecorn, Chilli & Lime, and Crispy Bacon & Maple Syrup.  The individual snack sizes are very useful and I can't wait to give them a taste test this weekend!


Dr Oetker Eton Mess & Violet Crystals: These are edible decorations which not only add extra colour to bakes but extra flavour too! I'm especially looking forward to making some Eton Mess inspired cupcakes using the Eton Mess flavoured sprinkles. Degustabox have definitely got something going on with Dr. Oetker because the last two boxes have also included new items from the Dr. Oetker range - great for anyone who's into baking - like me! Anyone else looking forward to GBBO returning next week as much as me? 


The Berry Company: I hadn't heard of The Berry Company before but apparently they are one of Europe's fastest growing drinks brands with a range of nutritious fruit juices and fruit flavoured teas. I love trying out new brands and this White Tea with Peach drink sounds like an interesting mix.


Frank Honest Snacking: This Blueberry & Chocolate Snack Bar sounds so good. The range is made with 100% natural ingredients and all their bars are free from gluten, wheat, nut, dairy and refined sugar. They're available in lots of delicious sounding flavours; Orange, Oat & Double Chocolate, Strawberry & Chocolate,  and Blueberry & Chocolate.


Maggi So Juicy: I've tried the Maggi range before (see review here and here) and they always give great results for family meals. I like having a few sachets in the cupboard for those days when I'm pushed for time. This So Juicy Oriental Soy & Garlic Chicken is a new flavour to me and comes with a special cooking bag that helps lock in all the juices whilst cooking. 


Maggi So Baked: I also received further sachets from the Maggi So Baked range. These are designed to make baked recipes and come in a variety of options. I received Chicken & Leek Potato Bake, Piri Piri Chicken, and Beef & Ale Casserole. These will all come in very useful for me and I'll definitely be using them for midweek meals. 


Green & Black's Organic Dark Chocolate Lemon: You can't really go wrong with chocolate and luckily Degustabox always include a sweet treat in their boxes. I've reviewed this Green & Black's chocolate bar before (see here) and it's a lovely combination of tangy lemon flavour with a sweetly rich dark chocolate. 


Hornsby's Blueberry Cider: These were included in the alcoholic version of this month's Degustabox. Hornsby's cider bottles were also included in the May Degustabox (in different flavours), and even though I don't drink cider I'm really intrigued by this blueberry flavoured version. 


Overall, I was extremely happy with this months Degustabox, it had a good mix of new products, with quite a few new brands to me too (Zeo, Frank, The Berry Company, Portlebay), aswell as the more well established brands (Dr. Oetker, Maggi). If you received the July Degustabox then I'd love to know what you thought of it in the comments below! 

For more details:
Degustabox website: www.degustabox.com
I received a Degustabox in order to provide an honest review.

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Creative Nature Superfood Snack Bars


I was recently sent a selection of Creative Nature Superfood Snack Bars to review. The range is available at Tesco (free-from section), Holland & Barrett, and selected health food stores. These snack bars all contain nutrient dense ingredients that are 100% natural and raw. They're gluten-free and certified suitable for vegetarians and vegans. I'm always looking for healthier snacking choices so I was delighted to give these four flavours a try; Tropical Treat, Blissful Berry, Heavenly Cacoa, and Sublime Seed. 

Tropical Treat
The whole range is extremely tasty but I especially loved the wonderfully moist texture in each bar. This is due to the cold pressing technique used which retains all the lovely vitamins and minerals and gives these bars such a great consistency. 

Tropical Treat: This combination of ginger, coconut, pineapple and papaya was my favourite of the bunch (although it was very hard to pick an overall favourite!). The ginger is quite strong here, with a zingy flavour that I really enjoyed. The pieces of pineapple feel really moist and are packed full of flavour too. 

Blissful Berry:  This bar contains goji berries and cranberries, amongst other dried fruits, that gives it a super fruity and delicious flavour. There was something almost jam like and dense about the flavours, but I mean that in a good way!

Heavenly Cacao
Heavenly Cacao: This is a divine combination of raw cacao and dried fruits. It smells like a deliciously indulgent chocolate treat but has none of the nasty ingredients. The fruity base of sultanas, dates and goji berries, gives this bar a lovely moist texture and sweet flavour, whilst the cacao nibs and cacao powder add an extra richness and depth. 

Sublime Seed: This was the least sweet of the four bars, with a base of roasted peanuts, sunflower seeds, dates and hemp protein powder. The sunflower seeds are initially the strongest flavour which marries well with the sweetness provided by the dates, but then the peanut flavour kicks in too and gives these a real nutty edge. 

All four bars were really delicious and I have to admit that I much prefer the flavours here to other more well known brands of cold pressed fruit bars. My top picks are the Heavenly Cacao for a healthy chocolate tasting snack, and the Tropical Treat for it's zingy fresh flavours. 

Grocery Gems Verdict: Creative Nature Superfood Snack Bars

Rating: 9 out of 10
Purchased: Available at Tesco, health food stores and online HERE.
Price: £0.99p each (currently on a 4 for 3 offer at Tesco).

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Hyper Japan 2014 & my mini haul!


This weekend I visited Hyper Japan for the second year in a row. I had a great time last year with my eldest son and this time my youngest wanted to come along too. Once again the Tofu Cute store (above) was one of the highlights for me, but we also enjoyed meeting the various characters around the event (Mario & Luigi for example), and trying out Shaved Ice for the first time!


Lots of Hello Kitty cuteness to be found - I was good and resisted buying anything Hello Kitty related.


There's always so much adorable stationary, including a vast array of stickers.


I'm not sure what the fascination is with poop shaped stationary though! There were poo erasers, sharpeners, pens, in lots of pastel colours...


My boys are both big Nintendo fans so unsurprisingly we spent a lot of time in the large gaming zones. They even got to play a game that was only recently announced for release - Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker. It looked really good. I didn't take too many photos in the gaming area as it was always so busy and very crowded. The nearby Nintendo Store had loads of fun merchandise (above), all quite expensive though.


I wish I could have spent more looking at the beautiful kitchenware, unfortunately this was the closest I got! Maybe next time. 


We tried Shaved Ice for the first time and it was totally delicious and refreshing, perfect on a hot and humid afternoon. The ice is shaved so thin it's melts in the mouth instantly and the added fresh fruit and syrups were gorgeously flavoured. We also ate Chicken Katsu Curry and a chicken noodle dish from one of the food stalls, but I found this type of food to be very over priced and disappointing in taste. I had the same experience last year so maybe I'm just unlucky with the stalls I picked. 


And of course there was lots of cool Japanese candy and chocolate to look at. A new Snoopy Pocky!


I could spend days just looking at this stuff but here's what I bought in the end - my Hyper Japan mini haul:


There was lots of Pocky to choose from but in the end I went for this Berry Carnival flavour as it seemed the most unusual and is certainly one I've never seen before. I could have bought lots of different Kit Kat flavours but after lots of indecision I eventually chose this Raspberry flavour from their "adult sweetness" range. I was also very excited to finally get my hands on the Meiji Rich Banana 70% bar. This is one I've been wanting to try for ages and I can confirm it's extremely tasty!


I couldn't resist picking up a few sweets too. The Puccho Cola and Soda flavours are ones I've tried before but the Puccho Pyramid Blue Soda Candy Balls are new (top of the photo above). They have awesome triangular shaped packaging.


In the end I did buy a little bit of stationery too, there was just so much temptation. The syringe pens are filled with colourful liquid and are very odd I admit, but funny at the same time. I figured I can't have too many notepads and these mushroom ones are just so bright and fun. 


My Hyper Japan round up seems quite shopping obsessed but there were lots of other cool Japanese events that we enjoyed. There were wrestling fights, singers, dancers, karaoke, cosplayers everywhere, kawaii dress up, and lots more :)


Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Lidl Sol & Mar Range - Chorizo Pizza... and Churros!


I often get lured to visit Lidl when I hear about their latest themed special offers, and I certainly couldn't resist when I saw that this week features Spanish & Portuguese products. From several varieties of chorizo to Spanish Manchego cheese, I was quite impressed by the range, but surprisingly enough it was in the frozen section that I picked up the most. I don't usually buy ready made pizzas, having a bread maker at home it's easy enough to make my own, but this Chorizo Pizza looked interesting and for only 99p it's a real bargain too.

Before Cooking
I was impressed by the amount of toppings on the pizza, it's not overloaded, but it's a generous enough amount for a pizza of this medium size. 

After Cooking
Usually I wouldn't bother blogging about a 99p pizza that I happened to pick up, but this one was so delicious that I really had to feature it here. The base is very thin but extremely tasty. The combinations of toppings might seem fairly simple; chorizo, olives, onions, green peppers, but the whole thing is packed with gorgeous Spanish flavours. Even my kids, who are usually fussy about pizza toppings, ate everything without even picking off a single onion. I'll definitely be heading back to Lidl to stock up on a few more!


Here's a few of the other items that I picked up from the Sol & Mar frozen section, although I haven't tried these yet (all were 99p). Patatas Bravas - fried potatoes in a seasoned breadcrumb coating.


Caprichos Ibéricos - mini Spanish Croquettes with Iberian Ham and these are actually made in Spain too.


Of course I was most excited about this large bag of ready made Churros! The ingredients list here is wonderfully simple; water, wheat flour and salt. These need to be fried or deep fried, so not the healthiest, but we're saving them for a family birthday next week. I can't wait to give them a try with extra cinnamon sugar and a dark chocolate dip!

Grocery Gems Verdict: Lidl Chorizo Pizza

Rating: 8 out of 10
Purchased: Lidl
Price: £0.99p

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