The nice people at Cocoa Boutique are looking for 25 chocolate tasters! Simply click on this link for details of how you can apply – closing date 30.9.2012.
I was recently lucky enough to try a box of these little beauties, my top 5 favourites are the Dark Chocolate Coffee Bean (absolutely amazing, I thought they’d be horrible but they were just sensational), the Pink Champagne Truffle (the raspberry bits on the outside were zingy, just delish), the Pamela, the Milk Chocolate Almond Praline and the Cocoa Dusted Salted Caramels.
Yum yum yum!
The packaging felt like very good quality too, box had a good weighty feel to it and the chocolates were loving wrapped inside black tissue paper, the whole thing was accompanied by a tasting guide giving more information about each chocolate and the chocolatier who made it.
This is part of the Photo A Day challenge for July.
Number 8. Lunch.
Leave me alone with a latte and I always draw on it!
See my self portrait and the full list of prompts here.
Bank Holiday Monday in the UK and 4 boys to entertain…..
We took a quick peak at the tide times and drove to Mersea Island. You have to check the tide before setting off as to get to Mersea Island you have to cross a road that connects the Island to the main land and it floods at high tide.
According to Wikipedia: “Mersea Island (formerly Mersey Island) is the most easterly inhabited island in the United Kingdom, located marginally off the coast of Essex, England, 9 miles (14 km) to the southeast of Colchester. It is situated in the estuary area of the Blackwater and Colne rivers and has an area of around 7 square miles (18 km2). The name ‘Mersea’ is derived from the Old English meresig meaning ‘island of the pool’.“
We parked at one of the many free car parks near the beach and popped to the handy cafe/shop to buy 2 coffees and 2 bucket & spade sets.
The boys were split into pairs and given the buckets & spades. We hunkered down on a picnic blanket and supped our coffee to keep warm!
Although as a family we do enjoy the excitement of a more ‘touristy’ sea side, we often come to Mersea Island because the beach is so quiet. I have never been unable to park, or unable to find a nice space on the beach – far from it! We often find that we have an entire stretch of beach to ourselves.
Mersea also boasts a country park where kite flying is virtually compulsory, for some reason it always seems to be windy there! Further inland there are some unique shops and quirky cafes that are well worth exploring and the Marina is a must for boat lovers.
In case you don’t know, Mersea Island is famous for it’s Oysters. If you come along at the right time, the beach is littered with Oysters just waiting to be collected.
The beach is lined by a really cute row of beach huts. People do amazing things with their beach huts, I’ve seen some that are no more than storage sheds, some that are a beach base complete with table and chairs and even one that had a complete bar at the back and a BBQ out front!
We had to leave after a couple of hours as the great British weather got the last laugh and it poured with rain! Just before we left I managed to take a cheeky photo of an elderly couple who had gingerly picked their way across the pebbles to have a paddle in the sea. They had bare legs and feet and held hands all the way down the beach
For more UK travel blogs visit @smittnbybritain
10th Secret Post Club
Arrived today and what a lovely surprise all the way from the US of A!
As you can see it contains a bag stuffed full of ‘bold’ starbucks coffee (which is brewing in my cafetier as we speak) a bag of traditional ‘fall’ sweets and a beautiful hand-made book mark – along with a lovely note from the sender! Thank you @moneypenny_usa for my lovely gift x
9th Secret Post Club
I didn’t receive anything, boo! And the person I sent to didn’t acknowledge receipt of theirs either
8th Secret Post Club
Not sure what happened to the 7th, I forgot to blog it! Sorry.
But the 8th arrived today:
I’m so excited by the notebook. I’ll probably never write in it because it’s new, and perfect and lovely and therefore anything I write in it will sully it….however I will keep it and love it! The book mark is brilliant and is already tucked into the book that I’m reading – you can’t beat an evil penguin!
It was accompanied by a lovely little note, well it looked lovely until I read the back and realised it was made from recycled sheep poo!
Many, many thanks to Charlotte for my lovely gift.
And to Heather for creating the Secret Post Club
6th Secret Post Club
I got my secret post club parcel really early this month! What a lovely surprise
What’s extra lovely is that the book was bought in America (I think) it has that lovely rough cut feel to the pages that I simply adore.
I love this gift, cherish books as a rule anyway and I’m really looking forward to reading this one (with it’s lovely rough uncut pages…..) – I never buy magazines so it will be a real indulgence when I settle down with this one and my LARGE bar of chocolate!
BIG thanks to www.mumof4.wordpress.com for my lovely gift.
BIG thanks to @notefromlapland for the Secret Post Club.
5th Secret Post Club
I was getting a little petulently put this as October ticked on by and I didn’t receive my secret post club parcel – so it was extra lovely to come home on Friday to find not one, but two lovely slices of @thecakenest chocolate cake waiting for me!
Thank you @arcticmummy
4th Secret Post Club!
A HUGE thank you to @carolinemathews for my 4th secret post club parcel – packed to the brim with loveliness! A cutesy notepad, a gorgeous cupcake note, a KitKat dark (which is now in the fridge for later!), a girly sparkly headband and a FAB Olay Total effects radiance enchancing cream wash!
I feel spoiled rotten today – this is like a little birthday!
Thank you Caroline and thank you @notefromlapland for the #secretpostclub
3rd Secret Post Club
Huge thanks today to ‘Laura’ for my secret post club parcel.
I got 2 packages in the post today – the 1st filled the room the the aroma of fresh coffee as soon as I opened it! It was wonderful and it contained a beautifully quilled (I think that is what it is called, although I may need to look that up…) card which said that this was part 1 of my secret post club gift and that I needed to fill the kettle, make the coffee and enjoy it with part 2….
Fortunately, part 2 was delivered at the same time (well done royal mail!) so I got to enjoy my lovely coffee with a slice of @thecakenest gorgeous double chocolate cake!
Thank you Laura – although you didn’t include your twitter name so I don’t know who you are to say thank you properly
And big thanks to Heather for the Secret Post Club.
2nd Secret Post Club
It was my son’s 9th birthday yesterday so when a brown box was delivered I assumed it was for him….. but no, MY name was on the top! Childish excitement then ensued as I sat down to open the box – inside I found:
First thing I noticed was the lovely smell! Which was confusing to start with as the first thing I found was a box of 3 different types of coffee (I can’t wait to try these in my cafetiere!), then I found an envelope with a note to me enclosed from the lovely @elainescott77 of elainescott77.blogspot.com who sent my parcel. Further down in some bubble wrap was a massive cat cup and saucer and then finally towards the bottom I found the source of the lovely smell…. not illict drugs as it looks in the photo but a packet of delicious smelling bath fizz!
x x x x x
ps I would love to add a secret post club badge to my wordpress blog – does anyone have the code?
It was with a ridiculous amount of excitement that I received my first Secret Post Club parcel!
I literally ripped it open to find:
A tin of mints in a lovely art deco case, a gorgeous little heart shaped sign saying ‘sunshine follows the rain’, a sweet little note pad, some chocolate and a tiny silver globe with a note saying ‘the little world is for you to keep in your pocket so that you remember the world is yours you just have to believe’ how cute is that!
Heartfelt thanks to Sara for my gift and note – I really appreciate it!
And heartfelt thanks to Heather @notefromlapland for the whole Secret Post Club!
H is for… Handbag meme
A long time ago, @linsay1978 tagged me in the Handbag meme, the rules of which are:
* Put the Logo on your sidebar, or within a post.
* Pass the award onto 12 Bloggers.
* Link the nominees within your post.
* Let the nominees know they have received this award by commenting on their blog.
* Share the love and link to the person from whom you received this award.
So, what’s in my handbag?
I warn you, my handbag is a bit of a bottomless pit…. Mary Poppins has got nothing on me!
Medicines and make-up, all essential of course
The spoils from Starbucks…
Purse (including new york subway tickets, obviously) passport, bank books, nspcc sticker, 2 x external hard drives, keys, diary, phone, 4 different colour pens, home banking device and an umbrella
And, erm, everything else! I did throw some of this away after taking this photo – for which my bag is both grateful and lighter!
Now, to tag 12 other bloggers – ladies it is over to YOU!
Blimey O’reily my name has popped up in the MADs list!
I wonder if it was my rants about coffee and customer service?
My frustration over my son’s battle with eczema?
My honest account of my recovery after the breakdown of my marriage?
Maybe it was learning that Dermot O’leary used to lay on my desk?
My tale of a random act of kindness?
Maybe someone liked reading about my cats Elvis and Maisy?
I doubt it was my infinite playlist….
Whatever it was I am very grateful to Twitter and the blogging world because it is really fun to share experiences with people, I’ve been reduced to tears (both of sadness and laughter) from other peoples blogs and I know I don’t stand a hope of winning with my 7 posts, but it is still pretty cool to take part!
If you would like to vote for me – I’d be delighted! Just click here and then enter my blog name www.coffeecurls.wordpress.com into the areas where you’d like to nominate.
GOOD LUCK EVERYONE
Anyone who has kindly read C is for… Coffee, Cats and Caffe Nero will know that I have recently expressed my views about the differing levels of customer service that I have experienced in Caffe Nero and Starbucks.
A million years ago when I used to work in customer service I was taught to invite feedback, whether positive or negative as then you get the opportunity to: ‘turn every complaint into a compliment’
For this reason, I feel strongly about bad service and if I ever experience it, then I do like to the let the company in question know. Equally if I feel that I have received exceptionally good service I also like to let the company know – it does a person good to know that they are appreciated.
So I wrote C is for… Coffee, Cats and Caffe Nero as a way of acknowledging the great service I’d received at my local Caffe Nero. But then as I had made some less than complimentary comments about Starbucks I thought it only fair that I offer Starbucks the chance to see what I’d said.
I think it is true to say that I wasn’t really prepared for the events that followed!
After exchanging a couple of tweets, the Starbucks UK MD (nice American man called Darcy) rang me and said that he would arrange for the district manager to call me and arrange a meeting.
The meeting was set up for Tuesday 20th April and I duly went along to Starbucks, not really too sure what to expect.
OK – The Good Points
I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by how seriously they took my concerns.
I was in Starbucks for about an hour and a half, which means that the district manager and the branch manager both gave up an hour and a half of their time just to speak to me.
I asked them all the questions that I had been given by the good people of twitter, they listened, made notes and answered them all.
They gave me a coffee at the start of the meeting (latte – with an extra shot of course) and about half way through a barista delivered a caffetiere with some different coffee in for us to ‘taste’. What was nice about that was that the branch manager had specifically selected the blend of coffee as it was one of their ‘bolder’ coffees because he had noted from my blog that I prefer strong coffee.
They were both very knowledgeable about Starbucks. After listening to the DM at length, I am also now very knowledgeable about Starbucks! The branch manager, in particular, came across as being genuinely concerned that he had an unhappy customer, which was quite touching.
They have a display of ‘local art’ on the wall, they see this as being of benefit to the community. I thought that was quite a nice touch.
And – The Bad Points
On Sunday 18th April I did a ‘secret squirrel’ visit to Starbucks with my family as I suddenly felt conscious that I hadn’t been in for a while and maybe it was lovely now…. However, we were served cold coffee, we weren’t offered any cutlery with our food, there was a broken plate on the floor and the staff were quite unattentive even though the place was very quiet. Also the upstairs was roped off, leaving only the downstairs tables and just one toilet available to customers.
I’m left a little confused as I felt a real sense of Starbucks being a ‘corporate’ enterprise and I wonder if that is why they are lacking the personal touch.
1. Myself and people from various different towns on twitter feel that Starbucks is lacking cleanliness, especially in it’s toilets. They made a note of that and said they would feed it back to HO.
2. Is there a problem with your wifi as people have mentioned that they’ve found it very frustrating to buy a coffee, then sit down with their laptop only to find they can’t connect. The district manager did admit that this was a problem that Starbucks were currently experiencing, he said they are currently changing their service provider which will hopefully alleviate the problem.
3. Why are your drinks sometimes cold? Apparently the ‘flat white’ is meant to be served at an immediately drinkable temperature – in one gulp.
4. I have had cold latte before – is that because your milk isn’t hot enough, if so, could there be a risk of bacteria? They said the only way that could happen would be if a barista had steamed some milk for one customer and then let it sit and used it again for a subsequent customer rather than steaming more milk. The branch manager said he would speak to his staff to make sure this wasn’t happening.
5. Why don’t you have a full range of merchandise in all stores.Apparently merchandise is only available in larger or newly renovated stores. The district manager told me that Starbucks merchandise is quite collectable.
6. Why don’t you offer a loyalty scheme – like the Caffe Nero buy 10 coffees get 1 free scheme. The DM said categorically that Starbucks would never do a scheme like that.I said I thought that was a little short sighted and that the reward card is very popular and I couldn’t believe that it didn’t lose them customers. He did say that it was potentially a problem for them in the London branches.I have to say I felt he spoke quite derisively of the Caffe Nero loyalty scheme which surprised me.
7. Will your ‘proudly brew’ concessions ever do frappuccinos? The DM said that Starbucks will very soon be bringing out a massively extended range of products across the board including ice creams, shots in a can and many take away items.
8. On behalf of @nudieprincess I asked why in the Brighton store they often serve a latte with half a cup of froth. The DM told me that a latte should have no more than a quarter inch of froth. The BM said that if you are served a latte with much more froth than that then you should return it to the counter as ask for a fresh one. They also said you need to ask for a ‘wet’ one if you want no froth.
I massively appreciate how much effort they took to listen to me. I am after all just one disgruntled customer in a sea of happy ones. When I left they gave me a couple of coffee samples from the Via range and a preloaded starbucks card (which I haven’t decided yet whether or not to use – I’m not sure if it would be hypocritical of me to use it?). This was nice of them but certainly not what I went there for.
What meant more to me was that the BM wrote down both his email address and mobile number and asked me to keep in touch. The DM asked me to ‘work with the BM’ and feedback after future visits to say whether I felt there had been improvements in the branch.
I went there thinking they would tolerate me, that they would listen for 10 mins, give me a coffee and then send me on my way. But they didn’t, and whether I like their coffee or not, whether I feel their branches could be cleaner or not, I cannot fault Mike and Carl for the way they handled my complaint and the fact that they both made me feel that they valued my opinion and had all the time in the world to listen.
I can’t say right now that I’m ready to ditch Caffe Nero, but I can say that Starbucks have an impressive reaction to customer complaints which is clearly led from the top – and the branch manager of my local Starbucks is a real asset to their company.