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Brew > Have a cocktail with your cuppa March 14, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Cyprus Nicosia, Food Cyprus, Greek Taste Local.
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An evening spent in a bar that specialises in cups of tea may not sound like your idea of a good night out, but, banish any thoughts of PG Tips and the blue-rinse brigade and, if you’ve not been already, be sure to put the wonderful Brew on your list of bars to visit.

Yes, it has an extraordinary variety of teas (hence the name), but it also has an extensive range of expertly made cocktails, an intriguing selection of light bites and a warm and welcoming ambience that other bars could only wish to have.

Set in Laiki Yitonia, a little gem in the heart of the city, the rabbits’ warren of outside and internal bar areas make Brew one of Nicosia’s prettiest nightspots. During the warm evenings the lovely, intimate tea-lit courtyard is an ideal haven for romantic trysts whilst all year round the inside bar is a perfect place to gather with friends and explore the large variety of drinks and try the tasty salads, sandwiches and soups, such as the exotic sounding carrot, honey and ginger soup, whilst listening to an eclectic mixture of current R&B, dance and indie tracks peppered with a few classics.

The decor is simple but stylish. Aside from a vibrant red wall behind the long glass-topped bar in the main bar area, the rest of the interior is painted white with some floral artwork here and there, with sofas and kafenion style wooden chairs scattered around candle lit tables.

The place is decidedly unpretentious – an increasingly rare attribute for bars in Nicosia. As far as dress is concerned, anything goes – be it sequins, jeans, heels or trainers, it doesn’t matter. And although Brew is the venue for Mixed Olives nights – popular singles events – it lacks that predatory feel of so many other places, instead exuding a relaxed and chilled out atmosphere.

You could spend most of the night perusing the dizzying array of drinks on offer. Whilst tea may not seem initially enticing, one look at the menu, which includes such delights as ‘Octopussy’ – a blend of black teas with vanilla, citrus and lavender, may have you change your mind. There are even teas to combat migraines, menstrual cramps and the flu so there is no excuse for a tummy ache or cold to prevent you from going out.

As tempting as the tea menu was however, I made a beeline for the cocktail list and enjoyed a particularly spicy and zingy Bloody Mary. Some gentle persuasion from Nas, one of the owners, steered me away from ordering a second and opting instead for an interesting sounding mandarin margarita. It was probably one of the best cocktails I’ve ever tasted. Made with freshly squeezed mandarin juice and with just the right balance of sweet and sour, it was quite simply, delicious.

On a roll, I decided to go out with a bang and ordered as my third and final cocktail of the night, the classic choice of 1980s chavs, a Pink Panther. Imagine. The humble Pink Panther has been promoted from student union rocket fuel to a bona fide cocktail. The mind boggles! The sickly flavour of blackcurrant mixed with cider and lager – inexplicably tasty – brought back recollections of precariously balancing plastic tumblers filled with the potent mixture whilst dancing disastrously to Martha and the Muffins. Before attempting to recreate these embarrassing memories I wisely decided I had had enough and should leave whilst my dignity remained more or less in tact. This was around midnight and the bar was getting lively and filling up with a mixed crowd who were drinking teas, cocktails, beers, wine and whatever took their fancy.

‘Something for everyone’ is a much used and often abused description but in the case of Brew, it really could not be more apt.

Brew, 30b Hippocrates Street, Nicosia, Cyprus, tel 22 100133. Opening hours: 11.30am – 2.00am weekdays, 11.30am – 3.00am weekends.

For further reading > https://grhomeboy.wordpress.com/2007/11/03/a-passion-for-tea-tea-for-one/

A passion for tea > Tea for one November 3, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Cyprus Nicosia, Food Cyprus, Greek Taste Local.
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While most of us make it from a teabag, for one Nicosia woman, the quest for a perfect cuppa has become a lifetime’s adventure

Cyprus is a country renowned for its coffee culture, so the idea of a tea bar may seem somewhat strange. That hasn’t put off Gabrielle Duval though, who has recently opened Brew Lounge and Tea Bar in old Nicosia, which serves more than 24 types of tea.

“Cypriots associate drinking tea with being ill but I’m convinced that Brew will show that drinking tea is an entire lifestyle,” the 30-year-old said. “We have an amazing variety on offer, including classic teas from Sri Lanka, India, China and Japan to name a few, as well as herbal, scented and iced teas.”

She added that she is confident that Cypriots, “will embrace this new lifestyle that they’re not currently familiar with, much like they have done over the last decade with wine, with which we can draw similar analogies.” Duval explained that she has been a tea lover since the age of 18, “when I had to stop drinking coffee for medical reasons and needed to find an alternative.”

While studying in Toulouse, France, Duval discovered a quaint creperie, where the owner initiated her to tea. “This was the beginning of a journey which has been expanding ever since.” She said that she took the decision to open a tea bar in Nicosia, “to follow my passion, indulge in it and share it with others. This became urgent when I couldn’t find any decent tea to drink on the island.” When asked what her favourite is, she hesitated. “That is an impossible question as the variety is so great, with each tea having its own separate character. A different time of day and mood will dictate my choice.”

A teabag is how most of us will take the drink, but Duval said that the contents are the lowest grade of the leaf. “When the leaves are gathered and stored at source, all the leaves that don’t pass the quality requirements of the tea houses are ground together with the rest of the sediment to produce tea bags. Tea has been popularised and made available to the masses through a teabag, but it’s worth noting that it was considered a luxury item until just after WWII.”

So, how does one make the perfect cuppa? “There are certain basic rules and each type of tea has its own way of being brewed,” she noted. “For example, a black tea should be brewed with water of 95 degrees celcius for about five minutes, while green tea should be brewed at 70 degrees and should not infuse for longer than three minutes.”

A true connoisseur will not add milk or sugar, nor will they eat or smoke during a tasting. “The choice of tea pot is also important,” Duval stated. “For example, earthenware pots are ideal for many of the fragrant Chinese black teas as the tannin, the chemical compound, is absorbed by the pot, thus enhancing the next pot to be drunk.”

She also spoke of the drink’s health benefits. “Tea contains anti-oxidants, some are high in vitamin C, while most are diuretic. Some even have properties that lower the body’s temperature, which is great during Cyprus’ hot summers and highly beneficial when running a fever.

Brew also sells rooibos, which, according to Duval, is not technically a tea as it comes from the red bush plant grown in South Africa. “This contains no theine [caffeine] whatsoever and has become popular around the world with those who must eliminate all caffeine from their diet.”

Brew Lounge and Tea Bar, 30b Hippocrates Street, Nicosia, tel 22 100133.

Sampling a tea > We couldn’t leave without a tasting so Duval proceeded to make us an ‘Au Revoir’. The Chinese green tea is blended with traditional Moroccan nanah mint and naturally scented bergamot from Calabria and pepper from Madagascar.

Brew uses a water purifier as the water on the island can be very hard, Duval explained. She poured hot water over the loose leaves, which clearly unravelled and expanded as they absorbed the water, “which releases the flavour.” The contents were left to infuse for three minutes in a glass teapot. The taste and smell was quite minty, while I could also clearly detect the black pepper. I had never before tasted such an unusual tea but it definitely got the thumbs up. Delicious!

One of the Cyprus top wineries uses most varieties available October 7, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Food Cyprus, Wine And Spirits.
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Aes Ambelis Winery > It was always obvious that the Aes Ambelis winery would progress. Since the late eighties, when it was founded, the aim was set: unique wines of premium quality.

George Tripatsas, the Director, said that the winery’s whites and reds were the house wines at many od the leading hotels in Cyprus since late 90’s. The Xynisteri-based dry white had a refreshing tropical fruit taste and the Chardonnay a strong, pink grapefruit flavour. Cretan Savvas Fakoukakis, partner and winemaker, puts emphasis on achieving aromatic complexity and rich, full flavours. For the reds in particular, ageing in fine, new, French oak barrels and cellaring the bottles in their underground cellars contributes extensively to the rich and unique character of his wines.

This modern winery is distinct in architectural style, and the estate is located on the slopes of Kalo Chorio Orinis in the Nicosia district, just 28 km from the capital. Vineyard management is the key phrase that George repeats time after time. And he has actually confessed that he believes the status his wines have achieved is down to this practice.

The winery uses most of the grape varieties available on the island, a combination of local and international varieties. Xynisteri and Semillon are used for the Aes Ambelis dry white, while the red Aes Ambelis is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Mourvadre and Maratheftiko. The cosmopolitan Chardonnay, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon form the elite of the varietals. Recently, Aes Ambelis launched Liastos, a dessert wine made with Muscat of Alexandria and the Grand Gold Medalist medium dry rose.

Talking about medals, Aes Ambelis has won awards for wines other than the rose: three gold medals and a silver medal at the Cyprus Wine Competition, a competition that only began last year. No wonder I call this winery the “awards winner”.

2006 Aes Ambelis Chardonnay, Paphos Regional, Alcohol Volume 13.5% > The batonage method was applied, a technique where the wine while ageing on the lees is hand stirred weekly to promote depth and longevity, using new oak barrels for maturing the wine for at least six months. Clear light gold colour, the hue has a bright gold colour on the rim. The wine opens with a touch of creamy aromas of citrus, orange blossoms, ripe peach and red apples on a tropical background and vanilla. The medium body mouthfeel features sweet citrus, ripe peach, lemon/lime and a touch creamy on the finish. Balanced acidity and fruit and toast. Serve not too cold at 11 degrC enjoyed with salad and grilled chicken, scallops in white wine and spinach, pastas with salmon in creamy sauce.

2003 Aes Ambelis Cabernet Sauvignon, Limassol Regional, Alcohol Volume 14% > A silver medal winner at both the International Thessaloniki Wine Competition and the 2006 Cyprus Wine Contest. This wine aged for twelve months in new French oak barrels, and subsequently in the bottle. What we have is probably one of the best Cabs on the island, with a robust, deep red colour. Layers of scent and flavour escape on take off, blackcurrant, cherry, black pepper, tobacco and cedar. A velvety feel seduces your mouth with ripe fruit character and chocolate, leading right to a slightly rustic herbaceous landing. Surprisingly the tannins are smooth in this full-bodied wine. Pair it with rich meats like lamb, grilled steak or salmon or with strong cheese like cheddar at 18 degrC.

2006 Aes Ambelis Shiraz, Limassol Regional, Alcohol Volume 14% > Yet another medal winner, silver in Thessaloniki and gold last year in Cyprus. This Shiraz is aged for 14 months in new, French oak barrels. It is a dense, red-purple wine. The nose reeks of sweet, over-ripe, warm climate Shiraz fruit of black plums and blueberries in particular along with white pepper, dried date and hints of oak. A big, soft, sweet, cloying wine on the palate loaded with herby plum fruit and with very appealing ripe, slightly spicy tannins and fairly soft acidity. Oven roasted leg of lamb, rare roast beef, barbecue steak and mature cheese at 17 degrC. Limited.

A toast to late King Otto October 4, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Wine And Spirits.
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In keeping with the Greek theme, what better for the beer of the week than Alpha Beer.

It’s brewed by the Athenian Brewery in Athens, which also brews the Dutch Amstel brand under licence.

Beer is a relatively new drink in Greece, having been first brewed in 1850 for the first Greek King, Otto, a Bavarian Prince appointed to the throne after Greece obtained independence from the Ottoman Empire.

A refreshing, bitter lager at 5 per cent, is the perfect accompaniment to the myriad things Greeks seem to pop on their ubiquitous charcoal grills. The great thing about Greek beer is that you can buy it almost anywhere, even at the many newspaper kiosks that dot the footpaths.

So here’s a grateful toast to King Otto.

Related Links > http://www.athenianbrewery.gr