Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

Technically, this isn’t a teahouse but a café but I’m including it within my remit as of now. Basically, another independent café has bitten the dust. This was a few months ago but I have never got round to writing about it.

What I am talking about is the 90 Day Café, based in the Great Western Arcade of Birmingham. I managed to get to know the former owners a bit more during the last few weeks before they shut up. I grew very fond of the place due it its rather retro and mix-match decor yet pleasant and charming atmosphere. Also, the fact that they employed a very friendly workforce. I visited there at least a day a week.

When it first opened I did not dare enter. As you do, you are curious yet pensive. The first time I actually entered its hallowed doors was to hand in my CV to apply to be a waiter! I, of course, was not accepted but in hindsight if I was I would be probably running the place right now: not because I had planned to but because I would have been in such a position (knowing the business and accounts more and the people who worked there) to be able to make such an informed decision. More on this later.

Now, the café is rather quirky, if one might describe it as that. The menu of drinks are rather bog standard and pedestrian (basically, you average Italiana coffees and the odd milkshake) but the food is were it really kicks in. Cupcakes can be made to order. The hot food was amazing; Thai green curry, bacon (in various finishes from a local farm) sandwiches to die for (and I would say that they were the best I have ever tasted). It is a complete shame that I never managed to eat most of that was on offer as I thought it would still remain there.

The owners, Messers Chris and Tara, originally set up the café after their studies as an experiment and was meant to open for 90 days (hence its name). There was even a countdown stuck up to show the remaining days left of business. However, even before the 90 days were up, they enjoyed it so much that they decided to extend the lease and continue the business as it became a success.

Mr Peter, Ms Tara, Mr Chris, someone I didn’t know the name of and Mr Matthew. They were all gorgeous people. And I must admit, I fancied Messrs Peter & Matthew…

However, during a drink there in near mid-September this year, an envelope was slid towards me by Ms Tara. In it contained a ticket plus one for a ‘closing lunch’ that would take place on the 23rd. It was at this point I realised that they were closing for good. Upon further enquiry, they told me that they had just received offers for university places (Mr Chris is doing a PhD and Ms Tara an MA) so had to close up in a week’s time!

In any case, I had an affection for the place. I had decided to give a farewell qin recital at the café (see previous post on this) as I had planned to do since June but now was forced to do it now. Other than this, I had another thought just pop into my mind: what if I took over the café? I proposed this to Ms Tara and she was game and a meeting was scheduled. Of course, for such a big opportunity that was thrown in front of me for once in my life, I decided to ask my family for opinions. They basically threw cold water over me and my plans. It was too risky. There was not enough time to scrutinize the paperwork and the accounts to see if the business was viable. It wasn’t a good time to go into catering, etc. These were the objects raised by my family and my peers. All this built up to the point that I had to backtrack. Without their support I could not go it alone.

Of course, I have since found out that the business was profitable and so, who knows what might have been? I’d probably not be here now trying to survive on benefits and have already paid off my debts and be in full time employment owning a successful business! It is, of course, presumptuous in the the extreme that that might have happened, for all know and tell how I am a failure in life. But alas, the story of the 90 Day Café and what could have been is the story of my life.

So we must now mourn yet another demise for another independent business in Birmingham. But there may yet be hope: they may return from their studies and like a phoenix from the flames, the 90 Day may arise again. We can only hope.

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Since the two best teahouses in town have gone belly up, I have had difficulty in finding an appropriate place to take tea. I’m still looking. I have now frequented the other independants in Birmingham: 90 Day Café and Café Blend (these I would go into further detail at a later date). However, I have discovered another rather nice place that sells proper leaf teas (from JING Tea) and serve rather splendid restaurant quality cakes. This place is located at the IKON Gallery at Brindleyplace in Birmingham and is called Café IKON.


I must admit that I have frequented the IKON before but never set foot in the café until a few weeks ago. I wasn’t insterested in the food. I decided to pop in to see what would happen. I was surprised to find they have loose tea and cake. The first time I went I had a delicious pineapple cake and it was served to me restaurant style with a pot of Assam Breakfast Tea.

I have to say that it was a revelation. The cake and the tea was amazing and I spent half and hour nibbling away at the cake trying to enjoy it as slowly as possible. Previously, I would just gobble the whole thing up in around 5 minutes.

I popped in the week after and had a cappuccino cake with Earl Grey.

Again, it was lovely. I am certainly popping in again in future. But how much does it all cost? £2.50 for the cake, £2.00 for the tea. Bargain.

I would certainly recommend you pop in for just that. The cake changes everyday so you would not get bored with the same old thing.

UPDATE: here are more cakes I had since then. Every one of them I was never disappointed with.

Cherry and almond cake.

Honey and spice cake.

Coffee and caramel cake.

Carrot cake.

Change of Café (2013)

Please note that the café is now known as Café Opushttp://www.ikon-gallery.co.uk/About/Visiting/Cafe_Opus/

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Since the Cha Cha Cha Tea Lounge died last year, I decided to look for another tea house to satisfy my tea cravings. I was recommended Hudson’s Coffee House which is a stone’s throw from the Birmingham City Council House.

Now, the term ‘coffee house’ did mislead me into thinking it was going to be all about coffee but they did actually have proper leaf tea in several varieties though not as extensive as the CCCTL. The food was, however, superb and I spend many an afternoon enjoying a read of the Torygraph whilst sipping on the Darjeeling and slicing through a Welsh Rarebit or a Leek Tart. The surroundings were pleasant and the staff were well mannered. I also took coffee there as well. The proper filtered stuff. The cream tea was probably the best in town. Victoria Sandwich was maybe too thick on the cream. The brie soup was to die for.

Then, one day they decided to branch out and took over what was the shop space of the CCCTL in the Western Arcade. This I thought odd as in such an ecomonic time, branching out was unwise I thought. Then, one day a few months back, I walked past the new shop only to discover it was closed shut. A sign saying that they were experiencing some ‘technical difficulties’ and would be open asap, etc. Okay then, so I walked to the flagship shop only to discover it too is closed shut (no notices though). I had a bad feeling about this. I continued to walk pass them. Days turned into weeks into months. After 3 months, there is no doubt about it: they must have gone bust. A few months after, the furniture and fittings have been taken away.

This notice is still there on the Western Arcade branch even today...

This was confirmed by the Facebook Petition Group. So the date of death is 1st April 2011. How ironic that it wasn’t an April Fool. If only it was. And it is sad that there are no tea shops in Brum that serve loose tea or filter coffee. There’s too much of the hoi polloi Starfuck’s and whatever multi-national crappiness in town and not enough independent tea shops.

In my search for an outlet of relief, I am now currently going to The 90 Day Café (do-called because it was initially meant to be only be open for 90 days) which doesn’t serve the same stuff as Hudson’s but it nevertheless quaint and retro.


Strangely, the notice is still stuck on the door even after all the furniture has been removed. They at least owe the Brummies an explanation rather than laugh in our faces…

NB: I have decided to print two copies of a notice and stick them up on the doors of both branches. I keep seeing people peeking inside the empty stores wondering what’s up. They deserve an explanation, even if it be unofficial.

Dear Sirs,

It is with regret that I must inform My Most Honourable Fellow Patrons of this establishment that Messrs. Hudson’s Coffee House & Co. had ceased trading since 1st April 2011 after its parent company went into ‘liquidation’.

As there has been nothing official to indicate the reasons as to why both these Houses at 122-124 Colmore Row and at the North Western Arcade have been shut up and remained closed for many moons I have seen many a Lady and Gentleman peek into the darkened windows to stare at the empty and dusty floors. Thus, I see it Fit and feel it Right and Proper for My Humble Self to inform My Most Honourable Fellow Patrons of Messrs. Hudson’s demise and share with them this revelation so they at least know what became of it.

I hope you all the best in High Tea and Cake.

I am and shall remain, Sir, your most humble servant truly,

[sign manual]

C. H. Wolfenbloode

7th July, ERII 59

NB: my notice was removed around the weekend of the 16th July or there abouts.

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The Cha Cha Cha Tea Lounge in Birmingham was my favourite place in Brum to take loose tea. Unfortunately, a few weeks back, it began to close very early in the day. Eventually, this led to it closing for whole days at a time before a 3 long week of continuous closure has led me to believe it is gone for good. The opening times sign has been taken down. The chess board is gone from view. The letters beginning to pile up.

I first encountered this place through sheer accident when I was passing through the Lesser Western Arcade (the Great Western Arcade is more prettier). I had done through that tunnel before but I never seem to give it much thought. One day, I noticed it and went in. The first experience of their teas were a delight.

They only sell loose tea. They mostly come from the Darjeeling Estate in India. You think there is only one kind of Darjeeling tea? Wrong. There’s DJL 1st flush, 2nd flush, green, black, white, etc. They also do a very good Earl Grey (like nothing Twinings offer; a fully flavour), Assam, some special Chinese ones.

You’re not served the tea in a greasy cup in a metal pot; oh no. Glass teapot so you can see the brewing tea. Specially made teacups with matching saucer and milk jug. You use a strainer to pour the tea into the cup. If that isn’t enough, you have hourglass timers to time your brewing tea!

During the several weeks, I tried various blends of tea. I eventually decided to buy a china teacup, saucer, etc so I could make my own loose tea. They said they can sell me the glass teapots as well! Well, that was the week before they went into hibernation (why didn’t they tell me?) so I could not buy the teapot!

Alas, it pains me to say that they have probably closed down for good and there are no teahouse in Brum that would satisfy my needs. My quest goes on to find the items to make my own loose tea including the elusive glass teapot (many online are not small and elegant enough for my tastes).

At least look at the website (before it gets taken down) to see at what I am missing!


Update: it’s official. They’re dead as of 23rd July 2010… *sobs*

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The reason for the Tsubasa anime’s ultimate failure is because someone thought it would be a good idea to throw the manga plot out of the window and make it up as he or she went along. And this is displayed in all its hideous and unfortunate glory in the (thankfully) last outing of the anime series (and one can easily guess why). Totally removed of aim and faithfulness to CLAMP’s original work, the last few eps scream out a “let’s call it a day” call of desperation. It is so bad it is almost cringeworthy to watch and one wonders who let such bad error of judgement slip pass the producer’s shredder unquestioned. Indeed, it could have been a lot worse. At least you get the box to house the DVDs (to protect it from the dust of the attic).

But one should not despair, for the OVA which was created after this stuck to the manga and saved the anime form, albeit in a different format and production company entirely. There is a God after all.

Published on cdjapan website: http://www.cdjapan.co.jp/detailview.html?KEY=BCBA-2634

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Today, I experienced what was the closest us Brits ever got to a ‘proper Chinese Street Festival’.

I was misinformed by my mother as to what she was getting up to. In fact, she was to take part in a BBC, Lottery funded, China Now event at Victoria Square, Birmingham. She didn’t explain entirely what it was about. So, I went to town to watch The Dark Knight. Unfortuantely, it was going to open _next_ Thursday and not last Thursday! Not wanting to have a wasted trip to twon, I decided to have a walk about and happened upon this event.

During the event, the Pak Ming Cantonese Opera made an appearance, and the musicians finally came out of hidding after 10 years absentia. After that little ‘finally!’ there came the procession. It was rather weird at first. There were these strange massive mask like thing which were meant to be Qilin, and attached to them were these 50 foot long trailing streamers which around 10 or so performers lifted together covering them to resemble something similar to a lion dance set up. There there three of these Qilin coloured red, yellow and blue.

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Now, the first time I read LOTR (which was about 10-12 years ago for my GCSE book review) I didn’t get pass beyond FOTR. After all these years, I have completely forgotten what I have read (actually, I didn’t have a clue what I read all those years ago). That was until the film came out, which reignited my interests in all things Tolkien. I returned to where I left off (Treebeard chapter) and could not get back into it so I left it for yet another few years.

A month ago, I decided to start right from the beginning and read it afresh. Indeed, it was more satisfying than I intially hoped for. More deeper in meaning than the film, there was a lot going on, and a lot of WTF?!s.


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