Archive for January, 2010

2009 – time to reminisce or glad it’s over?

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

2009 has probably been one of the more challenging years for Steenbergs. Not because of the economic climate particularly but because the normally healthy fighting fit 9 people who currently make up Steenbergs went through rather more medical problems than we are all used to. As a relatively small team we are more like family so the problems of manpower cover have been compounded by concern over the relative staff illnesses. However, the two things we had in our favour were a general positiveness and sense of humour – which all the staff managed to retain throughout.

Our medical knowledge (and pronounciation and spelling) expanded with not one but two cases of labyrinthitus. The most amazing thing about this was the discovery by one of the affected members of staff that brain excersises proved more effective than medicine.

Next in the litany of illnesses was thyroid cancer. We now know what the thyroid is and does and I’m delighted to say this was another one cured – although six weeks of voicelessness was just one of the many challenges to overcome with this.

Finally just when we thought we were through it all and a complete team at last – just before November –  another member of staff tripped in the centre of Ripon and broke a finger and fractured an elbow. Everyone pulled together amazingly ably assisted by two friends of Steenbergs and we still managed to send out three pallets in the first week (one to Finland, one to Sweden and one to Portugal) – on time – on top of all the other orders.

So it’s been a hard but strangely satisfying year – hopefully 2010 will revert to the more normal healthy Steenbergs. Fingers crossed. Whatever happens I know that the team wi’ll rise to the challenge.

Many thanks to everyone who helped and to all our staff for coping with all the challenges and who managed to keep their sense of humour and politeness (mostly) throughout.  I’m delighted to report that everyone is now fully recovered which is great news all round. We’re not quite at our full complement but that’s for a much nicer reason as one of the team is travelling for a month in Laos (one of Axel and I’s favourite place), Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.

Happy new year to everyone – hope this one is a healthy one for us all.

Recipe For Luxuriant Chocolate Chai Latte

Friday, January 1st, 2010

The snow is still here and it’s a white and cold Christmas and New Year period.  We’ve travelled to Northumberland, my home county, where we have observed the traditional first footing in a harshly, cold and rural climate – I love it. 

First footing is a Northumbrian superstition, where the first person to cross your threshold in the New Year must be a dark-haired man (and absolutely not fair or red haired or a woman), and he must bring gifts of bread, coal and money if the family is to be lucky for the year and have food, heat and wealth during the coming year.

But we needed a way to cheer ourselves up this morning after a short walk out in the snow, and this is what I came up with.


2tbsp organic Fairtrade strong black tea – Assam or South Indian would be good*
350ml/ 12½ fl oz freshly drawn water, brought to the boil
120ml/ ½ fl oz  full/ whole milk
½tsp organic cinnamon powder
¼tsp organic allspice powder
¼tsp organic cloves powder
1tbsp organic cocoa powder + some extra for dusting
Whipped cream (optional)

Boil the freshly drawn water in a pan on the hob.  Then switch off and add the strong black tea – allow this to stew away for 5 or so minutes.

Add the milk, chai spices and cocoa and simmer gently for 3 minutes.

Pour straight into mugs or large tea cups.  If you’re feeling decadent, you can add a dollop of freshly whipped cream and sprinkle some cocoa or cinnamon over the top.

Relax, enjoy and smile.  We enjoyed our chai latte with some orange biscuits and some lemon biscuits that we had made earlier in the day.

* I used a high grown South Indian from the POABS Estates – it was a FBOPF, ie some small fannings from a traditionally processed tea.  Fannings are great for this sort of tea as they get the colour and flavour through quickly, while the sweetness of the chai tones down the slight bitterness of the leaf.