Fizzy Cucumber Juice (or Qcumber as they’d rather call it)

“Fancy a drink? A nice gin perhaps? Vodka? What mixer do you want? Tonic water? Coke? I’m sorry, what was that? It sounded like you said you wanted cucumber in your gin for a second… Oh. You did. Right…”

Should such a scenario ever occur, Qcumber is there to help. An adult soft drink made with natural cucumber essence and sparkling water. Don’t run. It’s actually quite nice.

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My first sip was a hesitant one. Would this fruit (yes, it is a fruit) work as a soft drink ingredient? Would it just be like drinking fizzy salad from a bottle?

It was a refreshing experience, with the simplicity and lightness of sparkling water, but with the cliched coolness that comes from a cucumber. I was however surprised by the sweetness. A quick look at the ingredients shows they’ve added sucrose, but I felt that it dominated the taste too much. That added sugariness means it doesn’t work as well as a Pimms mixer; I don’t think you can beat Pimms with lemonade and lots of fresh fruit (and natural sugars) but if you have a sweet tooth Qcumber is for you.

Whilst I’m not a fan of Qcumber with Pimms, it is an interesting mixer with gin and a quirky alternative to a standard G&T. It is great as something different and I can see why it recently won the Outstanding New Innovation award at the International Food & Drink Event. It would be lovely during the summer (should we ever get one) as it is refreshing and cooling, but I’m not sure it would have the same effect in the darkest depths of winter.

Overall, Qcumber is an occasion drink. It is something to be drunk at a dinner party or BBQ, as a mixer or as the grown-up alternative to alcohol (should you choose it over Schloer). It could get a good foothold in the market, but what makes it different may be its downfall as people may fail to get over the novelty and only buy it once. It’s probably what I’d do.

The above products were sent to me for an independent review by Grayling PR n behalf of Qcumber. I was under no obligation to provide a positive review. You can read my review policy here.

LuLin Tea

There’s nothing more British than tea, right? Wrong. The Chinese pipped the British to the tea-introducing post by the small gap of around 3,500 years.

Therefore it would be rude of me not to take LuLin teas up on their offer to try some of their best brews.

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Hannah at LuLin sent me three of their teas to try; Posh Earl Grey loose leaf tea, as well as as the Ginseng Oolong and Lapsang Souchong tea “cubes”.

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I’m not exactly a tea connoisseur, preferring most brews as long as they’re hot and wet, but Earl Grey is the one I am most familiar with so I started there.

Loose leaf “posh” Earl Grey

Loose tea is ok. I don’t think it gives you much more than regular tea bags give you but this recipe stands out. Anything with blue bits in it (where blue bits are usually lacking) will do that. There are also orange bits. These ‘bits’ are really blue corn flowers and orange flowers which makes the tea lovely and light and flowery.

The flowers give the tea a lovely aroma which for me is the highlight. It makes you feel like you’re tucking into something a bit more than “just a cuppa” and the lightness means you can have one more, which is always a bonus as that’s just what I wanted.

Lapsang Souching

It is only in the past few years that I’ve started drinking things other than English Breakfast tea; peppermint, green, camomile, but I was yet to try a ‘Lady Orchid’ brew.

As I tried the tea I was taken aback by the savoury nature of the tea. It wasn’t sweet. It had a deep, musky, woody and smoky flavour instead which makes sense seeing as the tea has been given a treatment usually reserved for fish and meat; smoked over pine needles. I didn’t dislike it but I didn’t like it either. The closest I’ve come to describing it is smoky bacon crisps in a mug.

Ginseng Oolong

This was the tea I wasn’t looking forward to. Nothing against Mr Ginseng, I know it’s good for your health and all, but I’ve never liked it when I tried it before and it has an added hated ingredient of mine; liquorice grass.

Being the committed reviewer man I am I rolled up my sleeves and steeped that bad boy.

I was wrong. The liquorice grass isn’t there in the flavour of the tea, but slowly builds up in the aftertaste on your tongue and when you breath in (after tasting) there it is, subtly. It was nice and fresh so I happily had another cup. Of the two cubes it was easily my favourite.

Overall, LuLin make some lovely tea. The Earl Grey is the best I’ve had. I don’t think I’m converted to a savoury brew just yet, but I am liking something I didn’t in liquorice grass, so overall they are well worth a try.

The above products were sent to me for an independent review by LuLin Tea. I was under no obligation to provide a positive review. You can read my review policy here.

Epic Hot Chocolate with Orange Chantilly Cream

I know it’s not what Easter is actually about, but for lots of people it is a festival of Chocolate gluttony. Therefore it seems a good time to break out the best hot chocolate I’ve ever come across.

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Hot Chocolate
Serves 2
150g Ganache
(60g dark chocolate)
(20g milk chocolate)
(100ml whipping/double cream)
250ml whole milk (blue top)

Chantilly Cream
1/2 orange zest
1.5 tbsp caster sugar
125ml whipping cream

1. First of all you start the ganache. That word might sound too fancy and put you off, but don’t let it. It is cream and melted chocolate. That is it. Put the dark and milk chocolate pieces into a bowl. Put the cream into a saucepan and bring it to the boil. Pour it over the chocolate and stir until the chocolate has melted and is nice and smooth. Done. Impress your friends by boasting you’ve made a ganache when all you really did was melt some chocolate with hot cream.

2. Grate the orange into a large bowl. Add the sugar and cream. Whip until it makes soft peaks.

3. Put the ganache you have been telling all your friends about into a heatproof bowl. Put the milk into a saucepan (use the same pan from earlier to save on washing up if you want) and bring to the boil. Pour into the ganache and whisk until smooth. Be quick so that it doesn’t cool too much otherwise your hot chocolate won’t be very hot.

4. Pour into some snazzy-looking glasses, a bit like the one I used below, then spoon on the Chantilly cream. Be a little posher and add a few more bits of orange zest on top or just devour it. Up to you.

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As Kelly and I made this we thought that it was a huge fuss compared to a few spoonfuls of Cadbury’s instant, hot milk and some squirty cream, but once you taste it you realise that that is like comparing a Michellin-starred dinner to a Happy Meal. They both serve the same function, but they are in totally different leagues. It doesn’t take that long and is well worth the small amount of effort. Once you make it I assure you you’ll make it again and again.

This recipe was taken and altered from the Gü Chocolate Cookbook

“The Bomber” drinking receptacle

I’m under no illusions. I’m in my late 20s. I’m a dad. I just bought a family car. I’ve sprouted one or two grey hairs. I always hanker for some wine when my daughter is finally in bed. I’m getting old.

I’m not part of the audience who regularly frequents situations where alcohol can be mixed and described as a ‘bomb’ (although I have a friend who is obsessed with Skittlebombs). Nonetheless I was still interested by Ent-ice’s Bombers from a design point of view.

Bombercups are there to help make bomb shots, of which the most famous is the Jägerbomb, quick and easy to create at home.

I was sent the gift pack of 4 clear cups with neon centres by Tim from Ent-ice.

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When I went to review them, not only did I lack any Jägermeister, but I also lacked any Red Bull. I lacked anything bomb-related. I tried it with whatever I could find, which happened to be some Mauritian white rum and diet coke. Pretty much sums up how out of touch with drinking culture I am. I’m more likely to ask my wife where our chablis is rather than our Aftershock.

The design of the cup worked perfectly. The fins on the outside edge of the internal shot made sure I knew how much mixer to put in, and as I took as sip, they mixed really well, although I did get an initial strong hit of rum, but that’s the point when “drinking” a proper bomb.

Overall, Bombers are fun as well as practical. They are a novelty, but they also look good, with bright colours and intriguing design. However, I think the very singular use of the Bombers are their downfall. Think of fondue sets; they are presented eagerly on their arrival,  everyone has fun, but then they are rarely used and become the thing that is always in the way of that tupperware container you need to put in the kitchen cupboard.

They’ll make a great gift to a take along to an intoxicating-focused party, but they aren’t for long-term use. At £9.99 for 4, they’re not breaking the bank for a gift to the host, but for the people who are going to parties where bombs are the norm, they’re probably likely to spend that tenner on more alcohol.

The above products were sent to me for an independent review by Ent-ice who produce “The Bomber”. I was under no obligation to provide a positive review. You can read my review policy here