Busan Museum (부산시립박물관), Busan, South Korea (Gallery)

We took a 3.5hr ride on the KTX to Busan, a busy port city on the Southern coast of South Korea, where we were to spend the next 4 nights. If you were to look at the map, Busan has 3 parts of its coast that juts out a little into the ocean – that’s also where most of the attractions are concentrated. The Busan museum (부산시립박물관) in Namgu, on the middle jutter-outer, has 3 levels of sprawling exhibitions from displays of artefacts – anything from bowls to tools to rust-eaten swords to life-sized mock-ups of blacksmith shops and fishmonger stalls.

I personally am not really a history buff, so these didn’t interest me at all (unless we’re talking about European palaces, which is a different story). Rather, we were there because the museum has a Cultural Experience hall at which you could try on traditional outfits like hanbokGonryongpo, Ikseongwan, Wosam, etc. And also had a Tea ceremony where we could try our hand at making tea – which, might I add, is a very intentional, delicate and lengthy process full of repetition and small hand gestures and placements, but constituted a whole lot of fun learning.

What most people might not know is that in the right season, Busan Museum has a gorgeous outdoor garden which you can slip into from the path on the right. We chanced upon it because we were killing some time before the tea ceremony at 4.30pm. I remember the scene unfolding before my eyes – cherry blossom trees in full bloom, lined up along the broad stone pathway all the way to the top of the hill, a heavy sprinkling of pale pink ‘snow’ strewn underfoot – to which I found that I could not resist staring at the ground.

948-1 Daeyeon 4(sa)-dong, Nam-gu, Busan, South Korea

Opens from 9am to 8pm daily (Closed on Mondays); Tea Ceremony Timings 10.30am, 1.30pm, 3pm and 4.30pm (Please note that you have to be there in person to book the slot).

Busan Museum Tea Making Cultural Experience 부산시립박물관 Travel Blog

Busan Museum Tea Making Cultural Experience 부산시립박물관 Travel Blog

Busan Museum Cherry Blossoms Garden 부산시립박물관 Travel Blog

Busan Museum Cherry Blossoms Garden 부산시립박물관 Travel Blog

Busan Museum Cherry Blossoms Garden 부산시립박물관 Zabrina Alexis Chew Travel Blog

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TWG Tea, Singapore

SCRIBBLES

Category: European – Tea, Afternoon Tea, Desserts

I’ve long frequented TWG Tea, simply because its ambience takes me back to Europe- and for a few minutes, I can just extract myself from the hustle and bustle that is the cosmopolitan city of Singapore, and be seated once again on one of the woven chairs lining the exterior of the cafes in Paris, sipping a beautiful tea as fashionably dressed parisians stroll past. Ahh. Although I did feel rather cheated when I found out the brand wasn’t all that it appeared to be, I bought into the entire idea simply because I wanted to, and so, it seems, did lots of people around the world, given that I’ve seen this tea presented in Hotel Suites and Paiza receptions and considering the number of TWG Tea palors spotting the globe.

ION Orchard, 2 Orchard Turn, #02-21, Singapore 238801 (Multiple Branches including at MBS)

My most frequented branch is the one on the second floor of ION Orchard, simply because of its convenience. There is another TWG on the ground floor of ION, which is actually larger and more spacious but far more open, which prevents me from immersing myself completely in my little bubble of Europe, with the operatic music soaring over my head as I enjoy my teas.

Damage: $$ – $$$

Majority of the teas range from around $14 – $24, with the top tier priced at around $30+ per pot. Cakes are about $9.50, which is expensive when compared to elsewhere, but they’re (in my opinion) well worth it. Up till recently I’d only stuck to ordering the tea because that’s what they’re known for, but the cakes (changes according to the daily selection) are truly lovely. Alternatively, there’s the TWG Afternoon Tea at $45. The food is, surprisingly, good as well.

To go: Yes, for a taste of Europe

TWG Tea has a mind-boggling array of teas, and an extremely extensive tea menu and intense book which you could request, containing information on every single tea that you might want to read up on regarding anything from its history to its characteristics. To truly experience the dilemma of choice, come to TWG Tea, although I’m definitely not complaining. I’ve trade at least two dozen teas and have never been disappointed – it’s only once or twice that I thought the tea was only “okay”.

From the day’s selection, we picked out two cakes. The first was a Caramel cake, and the second was a Chocolate Mousse Cake. The Caramel cake had a thick layer of coffee-flavoured cream sitting atop a vanilla sponge and a biscuit base, with caramel glazed over. The biscuit was too hard and we had a tough time dividing it, but the rest of the cake was a sweet tease on the tongue. The Chocolate mousse cake was thoroughly perfumed with chocolate and had a light-medium texture, and the ganache was bittersweet and rich- and totally made my day.TWG Tea Palor Singapore Global European Afternoon High Tea CakesTWG Tea Palor Singapore Global European Afternoon High Tea Cakes Chocolate

Chihuly Lounge, The Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore, Singapore

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Category: European (Varies) – Desserts

Singaporean (girls, in particular) seem to have a fairly sweet tooth and are fond of good-looking food (maybe because that’s just good for Instagram). Whether it’s because of a high demand or a trickle-down influence from a colonial age, Singapore has a fair number of places hosting Afternoon Tea, and Chihuly Lounge at The Ritz-Carlton hotel has been one of the top favorites for a long time.

The Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore, 7 Raffles Avenue, Singapore 039799

Chihuly Lounge is just in front of the Main Reception area, and right by the lobby and driveway. I came in from the Millenia Walk side, through the side entrance to the Ritz, and so had to walk most of its length to get to Chihuly. We practically “stumbled” inside without knowing because there was no front desk, and the lounge was completely open.

Damage: $$ – $$$

Chihuly changes its afternoon tea line-up seasonally. When I visited in February, they were featuring the Bernardaud Afternoon Tea at $48++ per person. Afternoon Tea in Singapore, or anywhere for that matter, tends to be a pretty pricey affair. While the value really varies depending on what you’re getting in the selection, I thought the Bernardaud Afternoon Tea was promising due to the chocolate-themed desserts which had first been introduced in December 2014 as part of their Winter Afternoon Tea.

To Go: Depending on the Seasonal menu, as an occasional treat

Chocolate is my weakness and my undying love for it means that I’m acutely critical of chocolate which have been ‘branded’ as upmarket, good-quality chocolate. I’m by no means a chocolate snob – KitKat and Ritter Sport are still totally up my alley, but when it comes to “artisan-type” chocolate, I expect to be able to taste the difference. The majority of the items (hot counters, sandwiches, etc.) were pretty average, so if anything was to turn my assessment of the Chihuly Afternoon Tea around, that would’ve had to be the parade of chocolate desserts being featured for the season. I don’t know if the other blogs I’d read were actually paid to write the reviews because they were lavishing much praise, but in my experience, they were about equal parts hits and misses. Service was inattentive, perhaps partly due to under-staffing – we spotted only about 3 staff attending to the entire lounge which was running at full-house.


A MORE DETAILED REVIEW

We lingered near the beginning of the lounge area for a bit, not quite knowing what to do with ourselves since there was no waiting area or desk, until some time had passed and finally managed to catch the eye of a staff who helped us get settled in. By day, Chihuly Lounge is a very open-concept lounge with sofa seating and a live band playing pop classics by the tall glass windows between the lounge and the main driveway. My companion told me that by night, however, the lounge would transform into a chill-out bar at which guests can enjoy cocktails and bar bites to live jazz.

After we were seated, we were left unattended for a good 10 minutes just sitting and waiting to be even offered the menu for selection. After the menu was presented, we waited another 15 minutes to try and get the hostess’s attention so we could inform her of our selection of teas.

The tea was a highlight of the session. I went with Vanilla flavoured Black Tea, while my companion went with the Wild Cherries flavoured Black Tea. Both teas were delightful, although the vanilla was the more perfumed, sweeter, and lush of the two, while the wild cherries one had fruity notes and a deep berry colour.

Chihuly Lounge The Ritz-Carlton Millenia Singapore Food Review Blog Afternoon High Tea Bernaudaud Tea

I’ll spend but a blink on the hot stations and the sandwich counter; since the offerings change all the time, it makes little sense for me to go into detail on each and every dish. The kurobuta pork in puff pastry was good, albeit too little pork in too much pastry. The scallop was fresh lacked depth, partly due to the cream beneath which was too strong and overpowering, masking the feature ingredient with a thick cheese-like lather. The tuna was sorely disappointing – it was overdone, dried-out and lacked flavor; a pity on the meaty tuna, really.

Chihuly Lounge The Ritz-Carlton Millenia Singapore Food Review Blog Afternoon High Tea Finger Food

Sandwiches were nothing special. The bread was not particularly fragrant – some were better than others, but nothing like the ones at my favorite Provence bakery – and the ingredients were scrimped on, although they did taste fresh and were, on the whole, well-seasoned. Chihuly Lounge The Ritz-Carlton Millenia Singapore Food Review Blog Afternoon High Tea SandwichesI’d dedicated much of my stomach space to the chocolate, and so approached the display with much excitement. Sadly, they weren’t half as good as they looked – I’d stopped halfway on the first, the macaron was very ordinary (2/10 on the scale of memorability) and the star atop was very hard and tasteless, and the thin eclairs were completely dried out, coarse in texture and stingy on the cream filling.

Chihuly Lounge The Ritz-Carlton Millenia Singapore Food Review Blog Afternoon High Tea Bernaudaud Tea ChocolateChihuly Lounge The Ritz-Carlton Millenia Singapore Food Review Blog Afternoon High Tea Bernaudaud Tea ChocolateChihuly Lounge The Ritz-Carlton Millenia Singapore Food Review Blog Afternoon High Tea Bernaudaud Tea ChocolateThe best of the collection were the two featured – chocolate discs were wedged into a smooth, rich and creamy chocolate dusted over in cocoa powder, whilst the other cut open to reveal a mix of hazelnut cream and chocolate sponge and reminded me of a giant ferrero roche.

Chihuly Lounge The Ritz-Carlton Millenia Singapore Food Review Blog Afternoon High Tea Bernaudaud Tea Chocolate

LeTAO (ルタオ), Otaru, Hokkaido, Japan

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Category: Dessert – Cheesecake

We made a highly-anticipated stop at LeTAO (ルタオ) in Otaru for their famous cheesecakes. I heard all about the melt-in-your-mouth creamy cheesecakes of LeTAO from friends who’d gone ahead, and I’m glad to say it didn’t disappoint.

7-16 Sakaimachi, Otaru City, Hokkaido, 047-0027

Being right at the start of the street as you turn off the main street, LeTAO is impossible to miss.

Damage: $$ – $$$

If you’re heading upstairs to the cafe, you’re not going to stop at one. And if you’re shopping on the ground floor, with the sales assistants smilingly handing out samples of everything delicious (think lots of chocolate), you’re not just going to walk out with one box either- more like a bag, or two, or three!

To go: YES! Definitely!

Needless to say, you have to try LeTAO‘s cheesecakes – A light texture, with soft, smooth, cheesecake, nestled within a bed of feathery light cake crumbs and a light cream. To me, it was as if special notes of the cheese, distilled somehow, were gently whisked and incorporated into the cake, and as it descended upon my tongue, I couldn’t help but feel a smile grace my lips.

For all the hype surrounding LeTAO‘s cheesecakes, I’m surprised no one has made much mention about their tea. The LeTAO tea is incredible! There is an amazing range of flavours, and if you just open the lids of the sample cans, the beautiful scents will hit you like a dream. We bought some to take home with us from the shelves on the second floor (where the cafe is), and we’ve rationed the teas till now because they are simply so precious in fragrance and taste.

LeTAO Otaru Hokkaido Japan 小樽洋菓子舗ルタオ Travel Diary BlogLeTAO Otaru Hokkaido Japan 小樽洋菓子舗ルタオ Travel Diary Blog Chestnut Mont Blanc DessertLeTAO Otaru Hokkaido Japan 小樽洋菓子舗ルタオ Travel Diary Blog Double Fromage CheesecakeLeTAO Otaru Hokkaido Japan 小樽洋菓子舗ルタオ Travel Diary Blog Desserts Double Fromage Cheesecake

Hazeya Cafe (はぜや珈琲), Abashiri, Hokkaido, Japan

SCRIBBLES

Category: Cafe – Coffee

We’d just wrapped up lunch at Kanigen in Abashiri, when I was presented with the new mission of finding the family a coffee fix. I scanned my list and found that I hadn’t made provisions for any cafe, and so decided to whip out my trusty Google maps, and crossing my fingers, did a “Search nearby: Coffee”. By luck, chance, or by Google’s sheer brilliance, of the few markers that came up, everything was in Japanese except “はぜや珈琲” which had “coffee” in mandarin, and so that’s where I navigated us to. Turns out, it was one of the best coffees any of us had ever had in our lives.

Komabakita 3-chome 9-7, Abashiri, Hokkaido 093-0033 / 北海道 網走市駒場北3丁目9-7

Although I’d been proven reliable in providing navigational guidance throughout the trip, everyone couldn’t help but doubt when my directions led us deep into a residential estate. After piloting through the grid of single-lane residential streets, we finally saw the little cream-coloured standalone cottage with a chocolate-coloured roof and a sign at the front with a coffee bean – it had to be it.

Damage: $

The coffee was worth way more than it’s price. An expresso was about the standard $3+; I can’t remember the prices for every item, but we definitely spent under $8 each and left as a troop of happy Energizer bunnies.

To go: YES!!! 

It was definitely a hole-in-the-wall kind of place, with artisan coffee brewed in-house and an amazing selection of beans, it’s probably a secret kept amongst the locals so thank you, Google! Thank you so much!


A MORE DETAILED REVIEW

I was busy taking photos of the cafe from the outside and was the last one in. A little bell hung on the door of the cafe and chimed as I entered. Even before I actually set foot inside, the amazing aroma of freshly brewed beans hit me like the scent of a memorable perfume, and I stood there for a split second- surprised- trying to take it all in. The only other guests in the place at this time were a Japanese couple and their little boy, who looked just as surprised to see tourists in this place. My family was excitedly flipping through the menu, eagerly anticipating the satisfaction of a good fix of caffeine on a sleepy afternoon.

The place was small and could seat barely ten people, with little round tables lined up against the full-length windows on the left, outside of which lay a bed of pastel purple flowers bathing in the afternoon sun. The counter was to the right, and upon entering, customers would be greeted with shelves of various beans roasted in-house, as well as cookies and such, while a large 2-meter high silver-coloured grinder stood in the back.

Hazeya Coffee Best Artisan Coffee Hokkaido Japan Travel Blog Review

The baristas were perfectionists in the trade. While waiting, we observed them brewing, tasting, measuring and adjusting. They even threw out the first batch which smelled fantastic to me.

It was a pretty hot afternoon and so I decided to get an affogato which I happily conclude was the best decision ever. The ice-cream was creamy and luscious, but what really hit the spot for me was the espresso shot that was poured over it. It was so intense, so deep, so mellow, and had a perfect amount of acidity which gave a kick to the senses. Even as the ice-cream melted, the espresso kept its character, and I enjoyed it slowly- scoop by scoop, enjoying the view of the garden, while everyone who didn’t order an affogato secretly (or not so secretly) wished they did.

Top coffee Hazeya Cafe Hokkaido Japan Travel Blog Review

White Flower Factory, Bangkok, Thailand

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Category: Desserts – Thai-inspired

This was another accidental discovery on our last day in Bangkok and I don’t know why, but it seems like things just always seem to come when you’re not looking for them – just like how you never seem to be able to find blue shoes when you want blue shoes – wouldn’t you agree? I really liked this place for it’s cosy and chic vibe, but above all, it was the spin that they did on otherwise ordinary desserts which made them all the more special.

Siam Square One (Opposite Siam Paragon), 4th Floor

Siam Square One opened in mid December 2014 and is just situated right across from Siam Paragon. Both malls are connected by a link bridge which cuts through the Siam metro station, so going from one to the next is a natural progression. It is a pretty oddly designed mall with long slopes and an scattering of staircases and escalators. White Flower Factory was located on the fourth floor with its glass windows supported within vertical black frames, beyond which cakes lay in a tantalising display and a crowd had gathered.

Damage: $$

This is definitely a more upmarket cafe, with prices almost comparable to the upper-mid-tier cafes in Singapore. I noticed that it really depended upon what you ordered, considering that some items such as the milkshakes were reasonably priced at 95THB (~$4) whereas other items, such as the cakes, were pricier (~$6-7).

To go: Yes, especially for the desserts with a thai twist

It was a great place to hang out and have a tea or a coffee as well as some cake, and that’s what we did. Desserts are slightly on the pricier side given the modest servings, but where else can you get a Thai Tea Mille Crepe cake?? I noticed that many of the other customers (locals) were having their meals there, and since the place was almost packed full, I gather the food must be pretty good as well. Also, the wait staff were helpful and attentive even during the busy lunch hour.


A MORE DETAILED RECOUNT

Our last day in Bangkok was a Monday. Between checking-out at 11am and our flight at 6.30pm in the evening, we had time to kill. We’d spent the previous day at Platinum mall and every other mall next to that, but they weren’t quite our cup of tea, so we decided to check out Siam Paragon since most other places (ex. shopping) are closed on Mondays. We alighted from the cab and dragged our luggage up the overhead, and decided to take a short detour into Siam Square One simply because it was on the same side of the road. The fourth floor was filled with a tonne of restaurants and cafes, many offering very good value-for-money set meals and dishes. While passing one of the floors, I also spotted Somboon Seafood (but I’ll save that nightmare story about the whole Somboon saga for another time).

Then, as we came round a corner, I first saw the modern sans-serif “White Flower Factory” lettering in white on a black square sign against one of the tall windows of the cafe some distance away. As we got closer, I noticed the warm cosy lighting and the tall shelf housing what seemed like over a dozen cakes (!). And then I noticed the crowd – the cafe was packed and there were even people standing next to the door. That sealed the deal for me, and I had to go in. I hurried the last few steps and soon, we were seated.

Cakes at White Flower Factory Siam Square One Bangkok Thailand

Looking at the menu, I really had to refrain from getting trigger happy. They had everything from the traditional stuff like affogato and milkshakes and vanilla, caramel and hazelnut lattes, to the more exciting stuff – which were really the cakes. Staring at the display of cakes, I really wanted to try Everything, but we eventually settled on two which were the Thai Tea Crepe Cake and the Coconut Cake.

Thai Tea Crepe cake and Coconut Cake White Flower Factory Bangkok Thailand

Okay, let’s just take a moment to relish those cakes with our eyes. How great do those look? I’m a huge fan of well-executed mille crepe cake so when this reached the table, I had to concentrate on remaining calm and keeping still. When the waitress said to pour the cup of creamy Thai Tea sauce over the cake before eating, man, I quickly started snapping pictures so I could get down to the actual eating, pronto.

Both cakes were delicious. The sauce on the Thai Tea Crepe Cake was like a happy pill, although I must admit the texture of the mille crepe cake wasn’t nearly as good as Lady M’s. The flavours of the milky thai tea were unmistakable though, and that was lovely. The Coconut Cake was really good – the sponge layers were extremely lightweight, and they were generous with the coconut cream which had bits of fresh coconut flesh in it. Those, together with their house blend tea and some latte – Divine.

Zabrina Alexis Chew at White Flower Factory Cafe Bangkok

Mashrabiya Lounge, Fairmont the Palm, Dubai, UAE

SCRIBBLES

Category: Arabic/Western – Afternoon Tea

Mashrabiya Lounge, Fairmont the Palm, Palm Jumeirah, Dubai

The Afternoon Tea at Mashrabiya Lounge was nothing short of amazing – they offered both a Western style Afternoon tea as well as a more traditional Arabic Inspired High tea for the more adventurous, which was really unique. The Fairmont hostesses were exceptional in making us feel relaxed, making sure everything was just right for a perfect Saturday afternoon.

Damage: $$

For the extensive range of cakes, tarts, scones and tea offered, and not to mention the wonderful staff and amazing view of the gulf, I would say it was well worth 135AED.

To go: Whenever we go to Dubai 😀

We sat Al fresco and the view of the gulf from the Mashrabiya Lounge was just fab. We went at a time of the year when it was relatively comfortable in the shade (none of that 40 degrees in other months like August), so we enjoyed the sun and breeze whilst sipping our tea. Our hostesses Lea and Eunny took such great care of us – their warmness really made the experience even more special. At the end of tea, we all became friends, offering to show each other around should they ever visit our hometown of Singapore, and them, us, around Kenya.

Arabic High Tea

Arabic High Tea

A lot of tea for us three!