Nothing beats a nice cup of tea, whatever the coffee chains may concoct | Matthew Adams

Avoiding the hysterical eruptions of coffee is something of an art. But tea belongs to a richer, more contemplative side of lifeMost news from the high street does not make for inspiring reading. Businesses, everywhere, seem to be closing or struggling. Yet figures released by Whitbread, the owner of coffee chain Costa, suggest that our supposed love of coffee is one still indulged in these straitened times. In fact, profits are up. We are a nation of coffee lovers, we are told, and the figures are there to prove it. Perhaps so. Avoiding coffee these days is something close to an art. Why are we devoting so much time and money to this most smug and irritating of drinks (and habits)? Why aren't we all celebrating something that really deserves our attention and love? Why aren't we talking about tea?My love of tea began when I was at school. It started as an affectation, and as with many affectations it was adopted to attract a girl. I knew hardly anything about her, but what I knew I cherished. My file ran thus: she was in the year above me; she sang; she smoked; and at lunchtimes she would repair to the local shopping precinct to drink what I discovered, after a little additional fieldwork, to be tea. The dark hair; the Converse; the spent three-quarters of a cigarette; the pensive exhalations; the styrofoam cup it all seemed so sophisticated. Before long, my lunchtimes would mirror her lunchtimes ("I haven't seen you here before," she once chillingly said), and although our relationship (as I grandly thought of it) never developed...

Green apps and gadgets: Conscious Me

It's a growing interactive website on every subject you can think of, but how eco-conscious and useful has it become so far?One thing the internet has given us thats truly life-changing is crowdsourcing (and funny cat videos, obviously but for the purposes of this weeks column Ill focus on the crowdsourcing). Unless youre religious, the collective knowledge of people is the closest thing we have to omniscience at our fingertips. Its also a reminder of the helpfulness of folk Im always amazed and pleased that people bother to answer questions on forums, on anything from How do I resize a photo? to Is it OK to boil headphones? (a real question asked on Yahoo answers, and the responses were more thoughtful than you might imagine). Continue...

Cronuts, duffins and now the waffogato

The latest double-whammy of a dessert is the waffogato a combination of waffle-shaped ice-cream with maple syrup espresso. Is there no end to this crossover creativity?Dominique Ansel is at it again. The Heston Blumenthal of the New York bakery scene, who previously brought us the cronut half-croissant, half-doughnut has unveiled his latest hybrid: the waffogato.A cross between a waffle and affogato (an Italian dessert of ice-cream with an espresso poured over it), it comprises a waffle-shaped block of ice-cream to which a hot maple syrup espresso is added, so that the ice-cream melts, liberating pieces of Belgian waffle and, erm, tapioca. Continue...

I ate my wife’s placenta raw in a smoothie and cooked in a taco

Placentophagy is becoming popular, thanks to health claims and celebrity advocates. And afterbirth is a surprisingly versatile ingredient would you give it a go?It is mere moments after the birth of my son and, still basking in the euphoria of parenthood, I make the request. The mood changes, the smiles of the midwives melt into looks of bewilderment, then repulsion. It has, however, interested the surgeon who is busy stitching my wife up after her C-section. "How are you going to cook it?" he asks. "With spices?"Since my wife and I first discussed having a child, the thought of this one-time opportunity to eat human placenta had been rolling around my mind. Being inquisitively omnivorous, I wanted to know how it would taste; in the face of a fresh, still-warm placenta, I was less enthusiastic. The wobbly, knotted mass of fibrous, clot-like flesh was bigger than I expected and somewhat intimidating. While I wavered, a more open-minded midwife suggested taking "just a few cheeky steaks". And so I left the hospital with my wife, our newborn son and a doggy bag. Continue...

‘Cow will make your baby fat’: breaking food taboos in west Africa

Development and humanitarian organisations need to better understand the cultural beliefs that damage maternal and child health"A pregnant woman should not eat cow. The child will be fat," said one respondent during research carried out on nutritional taboos among the Fulla people in the Upper River region of the Gambia. In comparison to the rest of western Africa, WHO classifies the Gambia's malnutrition rates as moderate. Nevertheless, the World Food Programme (WFP) is currently providing assistance to 12,500 pregnant and nursing mothers and 50,500 children in the Upper River region by distributing cereal (rice and millet) each month.Nutritional taboos can hamper NGOs' hunger and malnutrition relief efforts. The issue is even more of a concern during humanitarian crises, when food supplies are at a critically low level and people are likely to lack nutrients and be more susceptible to disease. Continue...