“There’s something about champagne that encourages civility,” says Ed Potton in The Times. The drink is the subject of Sparkling, a new documentary by Frank Mannion. I went in search of skulduggery, the director says, but everyone in the bubbly business is wonderful. Take the champagne house Pol Roger: its cellar collapsed in 1900, wiping out three million bottles. “Rather than the other champagne producers popping open the champagne, going ‘That’s one less competitor!’, they all chipped in to help.” It was good news for Winston Churchill – our wartime PM liked Pol Roger so much, he’s thought to have drunk 42,000 bottles in his lifetime.
But which brand to buy? I’m with Churchill, who clearly knew his stuff, says Potton. Pol Roger is traditional, delicious and £43 a bottle. Rapper Jay-Z liked Armand de Brignac so much, he bought the company in 2014. Bottles cost £300 each and are “dripping in gold”. And Coco Chanel swore by Perrier-Jouët. “I only drink champagne on two occasions,” she once said. “When I am in love and when I am not.”
Spice up your tea break
Masala chai “is a healing tonic that relieves and rejuvenates”, says Anjli Raval in the FT. The drink is “omnipresent” in India, where chai wallahs have great pots of it bubbling away on every street corner. It’s made with strong black tea leaves and milk, simmered with sugar and spices such as ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and black pepper. The aromas that fill the air “have an uplifting effect long before the sweet, spicy elixir touches the lips”.
Recipes vary depending on the region, family or individual. In Punjab they add green cardamom, in southern India they add a type of basil called tulsi and in Kashmir they use green tea as a base. Recipes are “a source of pride and often carefully guarded secrets” – my friend’s 93-year-old grandmother won’t reveal hers to her own children. “In search of comfort and a lost history, I attempted to recreate my family’s forgotten formula.” Read the recipe here.
The joys of summer pudding
“We may not always appreciate our variable UK climate,” but sun-and-showers spring weather is perfect for growing berries, says Lydia Brownlow in Perspective. I remember my childhood spent picking berries in the English sunshine, enjoying them with “lashings of sugar and cream”. They’re also wonderful in summer pudding. The dessert was introduced by health spas as a low-calorie alternative to the stodgy British classics – but my version is “more luxurious and enticing”. Read the recipe here.