Top 5 Seasonal Drinks (That are Coffee!)

Top 5 Seasonal Drinks (That are Coffee!)

by Ben Banks

Due to Ruby’s weak constitution not being able to stand caffeine in high doses, we sent our roving reporter and coffee connoisseur Ben Banks on a mission to find the best Christmas coffee out there. These were the results…

christmas coffee

 

Gingerbread Latte
Starbucks

We begin our festive coffee journey at Starbucks, with a gingerbread latte. My wait was short and sweet, which was a shame because I could not say the same thing for my little coffee. The first thing I met when I took the lid off was the whipped cream and an embarrassingly shy sprinkle of gingerbread. As I started to sip my way thought the drink, my expectations for a warm and cosy mouthful of dreamy gingerbread and coffee were quickly doused, like a fire hose crushing a house of cards. The gingerbread flavours were slightly off and tasted metallic, and sadly the coffee half of the drink did nothing to excite me either.

2/5

 

Creme Brûlée Latte
Pret A Manger

As we now move onto the fancy french cuisine part of our jingly journey, I thought Pret A Manger, the most fancy french cuisine of coffee shops, would only be fitting to sample a creme brûlée latte. The drink was small, smelled very tempting, and briefly made me feel très bourgeois just holding the thing. Little did I know how fleeting these good feelings would be.

The creme brûlée latte flavours did not remind me of a real creme brûlée. Or Christmas. Or anything. My mind became totally blank and grey, and I simply consumed the rest of it as an empty, hollow person. I was left very disappointed and not wanting more, but just wanting…better.

2/5

 

Caramelised Orange Latte
Costa

This is where things began to turn around. As I ordered my drink, I watched the master barista add a small hard orange wedge into my cup before preparing the coffee, and completing the triage with whipped cream. I’ll be honest here, I was initially very unsure what to expect with this drink. As I puckered my lips ready to take my first sip, like a nervous teenager about to kiss a crush, I was washed with the warm and seductive smell. I took a sip. Then another. Followed by another. Before I could even put pencil to paper to begin to describe my feelings, I found myself holding an empty cup in my hand. The flavours were rich, romantic, and left a sweet aftertaste have introduced sweet memories of Terry’s chocolate oranges.

4/5

 

Caramelised Almond Brittle Latte
Caffe Nero

Well that was a mouth full. I’m not sure what it is about the Christmas season but coffee shops just like to caramelise everything they can get their hands on. In the next chapter of my java journey, I swung by Caffe Nero. The festive menu was a little smaller than the other cafes – there were two hot chocolate drinks and two lattes. I asked for one Caramelised Almond Brittle Latte, and with each word came a look of surprise and confusion from the Barista – I hope I pronounced all of those words right. It was served with whipped cream and a light sprinkle of crunched up almonds. This drink had a calm, comforting and familiarly nutty flavour that made me want to cuddle it in both hands. Then maybe wrap it in a scarf and make a snowman with it. Before I could make this fantasy become reality however, I was left with an empty cup and a whipped cream moustache. If you’re a fan of a sweet, but also cosy drink, this one has your name on it.

4/5

 

Flat White with Cinnamon Sprinkles
Starbucks

We finish back where we started, at the little old global franchise Starbucks. This time however for a flat white with cinnamon sprinkles. Now, I live and breathe flat whites – I usually sink two to three a day just to feel normal (admittedly where normal is a feeling of constant agitation and poor sleep quality). So I was keen to try one sprinkled with cinnamon. I might be a bit of a festive hermit but does a sprinkle of cinnamon make something Christmassy? Who knows. This drink was small, and during the first few sips I couldn’t escape the cinnamon cloud around my throat and nose from the topping. Once I was past this asphyxiation phase though, I could enjoy the hot and spicy coffee. It leaves a sweet aftertaste that reminds me of curries. I just wish they could sell larger servings.

3/5

 

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Christmas shopping for the terminally indecisive

Christmas shopping for the terminally indecisive

Molly Heath

Watching someone you care about open a Christmas present you know they will love is pure bliss. Second only to seeing someone you hate get something vile, or watching a family argument you’ve managed not to get involved in, it’s one of the greatest joys of chidiholiday season. By consequence, this should therefore make going shopping for that perfect prezzie a delightful past time, or at least if Westfield is not too much like Satan’s lair, a satisfying experience.

However, finding that particular present isn’t always easy. That difficulty worsens if, like me, you suffer from an affliction of terminal indecisiveness. A box of chocolates at work stresses me out; more than one vegetarian option at a restaurant gives me an existential crisis. Chidi from The Good Place is not so much an exaggerated caricature, but basically me. I can start as early as I like, but that just gives me more time to change my mind. Therefore, when buying a present, I’ve got so much choice that I struggle to settle on one solid, good idea.

There’s always the option of straight up asking people what they want. This if nothing else will do the job if it goes well. However, you are at risk of two things. One, there’s every chance they’re going to whip out a cold, destructive: ‘I don’t know, I’m easy.’ Well mate you’re not. I want you to channel your inner child writing to Santa, and demand I buy you Crash Bandicoot for your Playstation One. Or, two, they do tell you what they want, and you get it, but something is taken away from the fact that it’s not a surprise. Despite our best wishes, there is something more thoughtful about going out and choosing something yourself.

Faced with this challenge, I therefore have put together a few tactics that I have been executing to try and avoid these issues, borrowed from watching other people over the years. I encourage you to follow along with me, and see if this can make any improvements to coming up with ideas.

  1. Remember the number one rule of present buying: people enjoy receiving things that they would obviously like to have, but can’t justify buying for themselves. Why do you think expensive watches, chocolates, perfumes, jewellery and soaps boom at this time of year? They’re unnecessary luxuries, but god they’re nice. Therefore, when all else fails, think about something someone likes, do your research and invest in a good version of that thing. If they like gin, buy a nice gin. If they’re a writer, buy a beautiful notebook. If you’ve seen them wearing a certain kind of jewellery, guess what you should do. They’re gonna lap that right up.
  2. Go shopping somewhere with limited shops and give yourself limited time. Your problem boils down to having too many choices. Don’t make it worse for yourself. Westfield may seem like your one-stop-shop, but the truth is you could spend hours crying and lost in John Lewis alone. Make your location a place with limited but nice shops, and have a time window that’s barely comfortable. Therefore, when you see something you think is a good idea, you’re less likely to worry there’s something better elsewhere. There’s nowhere else to go, and you don’t have time to go there. Avoid a mall, and go to a medium sized town or shopping centre – if you’re London-based, Angel, Spitalfields and Ealing Broadway are great options.
  3. Listen to your loved ones for the rest of the year. I know that this is a point of general courtesy, and I’m not suggesting that my mind is completely elsewhere all of the time. I’m only occasionally zoned out and rapping in my head. It’s more that I often miss or forget when someone mentions something that could be vital at this critical moment. The best presents I’ve received always come from this; tickets to a show I said I wanted to see, or some bedsheets that I laughed at in a shop (they have little drawings of boobs on them). When you try and listen too carefully in the close run up to Christmas, you can overthink, and people are conscious of hinting at this time. However, it’s worth trying your absolute bestest to be switched on, and if you’ve failed, think back on fun conversations you’ve had for the rest of the year. Perhaps you can go off something you’ve laughed about, or something they said they enjoyed watching or reading, and see where you can spin off from that. Remember that there is no shame in looking up something you know they like, and using Amazon’s ‘people who bought this also bought’ tab. Those tabs exist because they work and they work because they’re normally right. Algorithms are your friend.
  1. Remember that most people are forgiving, and appreciate the effort regardless. If you’ve found something you think the person is going to like, you’ll have had to have gotten it quite wrong for them to absolutely hate it, and therefore you. You don’t have to get it perfect. They just have to like it. If it remembers something about their character, if they’re going to use it and enjoy doing so, you’ve brought them a bit of joy. That’s what you were aiming to do; try and remember that, and don’t be too harsh on yourself.

So, that’s how I’ll be overcoming my own existential dread this holiday season. I’d love to hear in the comments, or on Twitter @trashfiremag, your own tips for buying presents, and how to make the process enjoyable and easy.

Tattoo Stories: Sam and the Lavender

Tattoo Stories: Sam and the Lavender

 

With about one in five people having a tattoo these days, we at trashfire wanted to know what inspired people to get inked. Did all tattoos have deeper meaning or just looked sick? In this new series, we interviewed people from all over to find out.

This week, we spoke to Sam, 23, who is currently a PHD student at the University of Leeds specialising in early modern bodies, masculinity and ecologies and sports this dinky piece:

sam lavender

When did you get this tattoo?

1) I got this tattoo over the summer on my upper arm. It was the day after Cornwall Pride, and it was a stick and poke by Saskia’s friend Martha. [Stick and poke is a technique to make tattoos using a freestyle hand method rather than an electric gun]

Is this your first tattoo?

2) This is my first tattoo, and only one so far. I’d been thinking about it for a long time but the time finally seemed right to get one

Why this design?

3) Lavender has a cultural history associated with desire and queerness. And I wanted something to commemorate my own survival and power as a queer person, but not something aggressive. The style of botanical tattoos that Martha was doing just seemed to match up with these thoughts I’d been having over my desire to have this tattoo. I’ve always had a strong affinity with botany and feeling relaxed in gardens as well, spending a lot of my childhood being able to read away and fantasise, often in one of my childhood houses which had lavender bushes there. So it just felt like this is the one! Above all, I just really like the smell and look of lavender so it might not be that deep either.

 

If you would like to submit your tattoo story, send us an email at trashfiremagazine.com.

 

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Can I make mindfulness work for me?

Can I make mindfulness work for me?

Molly Heath

My mind is a whirling vortex of fun. A daydreamer from day one, I’ve never been 100% able to hack being a focused and productive member of society. I’m pretty sure the real reason I was born 10 days late was because I was thinking about what it would be like if my Dad was Elton John and forgot that I should be exiting the womb.

I joke, but it can be a real problem. I’ve always been a terrible sleeper. It was a genuine shock to me when I started sharing beds with men (aged 21 mum I swear) that people can just drop off and not wake up again for seven hours. I am poor at losing myself in a moment. At its worst, it can affect my ability to work productively, sit still, watch TV, to maintain uninteresting conversations. Although these aren’t always a curse, and my daydreaming, which is sometimes the source of my best ideas, has gotten better with age, it can really frustrate and get me down.

I know that a lot of the causes of these issues aren’t something that I can solve with a simple voyage into finding ‘inner peace’; antidepressants have made a world of difference to my attention span. If you’re reading this and think it sounds like you, I’d encourage you to seek proper health advice rather than feel like a failure because yoga isn’t solving your problems. A lack of focus can be symptomatic of several issues, as well as a legitimate problem in itself. If it’s causing you issues, you should speak to someone.

However, as much as a difference has been made, I still have some poor habits in terms of my own focus that I’m genuinely curious to see if mindfulness can help. The problem? Mindfulness, and self-care in general, is becoming an expensive industry. The expense can go as high as Gwyneth Paltrow’s infamous pillows with copper threads, sleep pods for taking a nap near your office (for a fee), or retreats and spas with no limit on the price they can charge. There is no end to how much you could spend on keeping up with these trends. There are cheaper alternatives but even these come at a cost. Mindfulness apps cost money for premium packages and recordings beyond introductions. Adult colouring books are shockingly expensive. My gym, which at the price of Not That Cheap but is still one of the cheaper ones around, runs one yoga class a week. This gets filled up quickly by people paying a premium membership cost to access the booking system early. Therefore, I’d have to go to another studio which costs, you’ve guessed it, MORE MONEY.

woman-doing-yoga
This clip art woman is very rich.

Mindfulness doesn’t require expenditure, of course. But what spending money on it does is make it a hell of a lot easier to build habits; if you pay a lot to be relaxed at a spa, the effort bit is pretty much done for you. Apps give you a guide on what to do when it comes to mediating, making it easy. Trying to achieve mindfulness on a budget seems to require a lot more effort than without it, and if you believed everything you read in magazines you would feel like you were barely doing it at all, and that you needed the ‘stuff’ to be doing it right (this would be the point to insert rant about capitalist cycle, but I can’t afford the tangent).

I have also tried and failed to do a few bits of mindfulness on a budget. I made it through all of Headspace’s first week, which was great, but then immediately fell off the meditation wagon the second I would have to pay for anything. I managed to make it to a single yoga class once ever, during which I needed help because I couldn’t breathe properly and accidentally flipped over from a backstand. I tried a mindful sleeping tape via the free bit of an app, in which a woman named Lynn makes you imagine misty mountain tops as you ‘surrender your body to your bed’. This was surprisingly effective for a while, but I was no longer able to take it seriously after, in tandem, my boyfriend found it hilarious and Lynn’s effectiveness diminished at a certain time of the month. Among her many talents, Lynn cannot soothe me through my uterus tearing itself apart.

I need to do some things that stand a chance at sticking. In true Dua Lipa style, I have new rules, that I’m hoping will be cheaper, and offer me a starting place to get into mindfulness:

  1. Meditate three times a week, and each time find a free solution to guide through it. What works will go on trashfire (what doesn’t probably will too cause funny).
  2. Gym twice a week. I know that this one isn’t for everyone, and definitely not worth putting too much pressure on yourself for, but I know myself well enough to know that the gym is one of the few places I can well and truly switch off, and I genuinely love going. Mostly because I’m focussing on how tired I am and not anything else, but it works.
  3. No more playing games on my phone while I’m watching TV. This one truly breaks my heart, because it goes against all my instincts, and I’m obsessed with a game where you make little coloured hexagons. But I’ve started lying awake at night playing it in my head and I think about it all the time. I’ve deleted it, and feel like I’ve lost a part of myself. But I’m ready for my hexagon-free life, and more importantly, to absorb myself in one activity at a time.
  4. Bed is for sleeping, and maybe watching a bit of TV. It is not for eating or working (she types under her duvet). This I think will present the biggest challenge to me, but also stands to be of the most beneficial, in particular for my poor sleeping. Recent CBT trials at the UK’s first insomnia clinics suggest that if you have trouble sleeping, you actually should spend as little time in your bedroom as possible; no more than 15 minutes of waking time, ideally. This is a lovely idea, but I live in London and a living room is an expendable luxury to me. My kitchen is about the size of me, and I can’t spend my whole life in the shower (I would if I could). There is literally nowhere else to go. So, as the most reasonable alternative, you will find me at my table, which is next to my bed but importantly, not in it.

These are the starting points, and as time goes on I am sure I can add more, knowing what works for me. These may seem like very small, boring adjustments, but once I set myself a task I have in the past been very all-or-nothing; experience tells me I need to start small. There are things that I could be doing that, for now, I’m not doing and I’m going to forgive myself for. I could meditate daily, but I don’t want to do that while I’m staying at my boyfriend’s or cram it in in-between things; setting this rule risks making it more stressful than relaxing. I’m also not going to punish myself for looking at my phone first thing in the morning. I know this will be a sin to a lot of zen yoga mums. However, I’m not good at waking up in the morning and scrolling through Twitter for 10 minutes makes it easier.  If blue screens are going to keep us awake, I may as well use that to my advantage. Otherwise, I will sleep. I must assess my net benefits here.

spiritual queen

To make sure I keep my promises, and to shamelessly spin out an idea for further content, I will be keeping a diary and posting on here, which I hope you’ll follow with me. I’ll also be trying some of the more established methods, and more out – there things that have been claimed will contribute to mindfulness. So, watch this space; hopefully I’m about to transform into a spiritual queen, but more likely, gain a small amount of insight on what does and doesn’t work.

Top Five Seasonal Drinks (That Aren’t Coffee)

Top Five Seasonal Drinks (That Aren’t Coffee)

by Ruby Martin

beverage blur candy candy cane
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

It’s officially winter now, and that means it is the season for wrapping stylish mittens around beautiful festive cups, sipping coffee and walking down the street like a true Richard Curtis-esque romantic heroine. However, if any of you are like me and cannot drink coffee to save your life/intestinal system, worry no longer. I have tasted the festive menus non-coffee options so you don’t have to!

 

5. The Gingerbread and Cream chocolate

Costa

 

Costa gets off to a good start by giving you a mini-gingerbread man which is a fun bonus, although it doesn’t seem to decide whether it wants to be crunchy or chewy, instead going for something unsatisfying in the middle. Whilst the flavour is delightful, it is much stronger than the gingerbread in the chocolate itself. Instead I notice the gingerbread in the actual drink is far subtler to the point it almost tastes orangey. It is nice however and the creamy chocolate blends quite well with it, hitting you first before the note of ginger. After a while though it did get a bit cloying and I couldn’t finish it due to it being a bit much, but overall it was enjoyable festive/

 

3/5

 

4.Hazelnut Praline Hot Chocolate

Costa

 

Costa definitely has to get a kudos for having so many non-coffee options, something which others lack (Starbucks in the meantime hasan abysmal ONE). This one I had on the way back from work on a particularly cold evening and it felt like the definition of a treat.

 

It is essentially a liquid milk chocolate Kinder Bueno, so if you like praline, you’ll love this. The nuttiness keeps it from being too sweet and it left no weird aftertaste as these flavoured syrups are often known to do. However I will say it is rather filling and if you’re anything like me, you wouldn’t need more than a small.

 

3.5/5

 

3.Winter Spiced Hot Chocolate

Caffe Nero

 

So this is one of two non-coffee options Caffe Nero has offered, the other being Belgian Truffle and I must admit that Winter Spiced intrigued me more due to its ambiguity. What exactly does Winter Spice consist of?  Nutmeg? Ground Mistletoe? The Taste of Your Families Disappointment?

 

Turns out, cinnamon. It’s just a sweet cinnamon hot chocolate. However, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The cinnamon isn’t overpowering and in fact the mild earthyness of the flavour grounds the sweetness. I will say it got more sugary as time went one so became difficult to finish but still easier than the hazelnut praline.. Also, despite being in an opaque mug and covered in whipped cream, it is for some reason glittery. Not sure why but it is just is I guess? Overall though still delightfully festive without being too much (taste-wise, visually on the other hand very secretly extra).

disappointing glitter
The disappointing glitter in case you didn’t believe me

4/5

 

2.Hot Spiced Apple

Costa

 

So this is actually an old favourite of mine which I am glad has made a return. It is essentially mulled apple juice, which I presume they left the juice off the end of the name either to charge more or so they didn’t have to legally fill some restrictions of what juice consists of. It is the first non-dairy/non-chocolate option we have been presented with, which is nice for all those lactose intolerants out there or people like me who hot chocolate makes them feel sleepy. The bonus of the juice means it is less heavy, and whilst it is pretty sweet due to its juicy nature, the spices and sharpness of the apple counteract that. It is also feels slightly more hydrating in comparison to the milkier drinks (although I am definitely not a scientist so don’t trust me in this one.)

 

The only downside is the spice mix does mean it’s slightly grainy as you get to the problem.  But at least you don’t have to worry about caffeine!

 

4.5/5

 

1.Spiced Apple Steamer

Soho Coffee

 

Whilst it has not the best name, this drink is, to put it simply, dreamy. The flavours blend beautifully together with the sweet apple being offset with the kick of the chai. It remains creamy but light thanks to the oat milk and left no weird aftertaste. It’s comforting, wintery and actually interesting.Overall this drink stood tall where others faltered, to the point that I have had this drink several times after the first tasting (including with normal milk as well where it becomes super luxurious)

 

The only downside is that if you don’t normally drink caffeine,this may take time to adjust to as this drink is still a black tea, it did give me an unexpected buzz.

 

5/5

 

Whilst I hope this helps, tastes vary so if you guys have any of your personal recommendations for your favourite festive drink, comment below or tweet us at @trashfiremag!

Donate a coffee to Shelter!

Donate a coffee to Shelter!

Hey, so we here at trashfire at trash. We know this. However we are trying to be better people, as our content may or may not suggest, and as part of that we are starting a new monthly charity initiative where we ask our beloved readers (that’s you) to donate towards a different cause each month. In particular we ask, if you can afford it, to donate approximately the amount of just one of those expensive takeaway coffees that you know you spend too much on anyway, which is about £3 or so. (we wouldn’t ask you to donate an actual cup of coffee to them, I’m not sure how useful that would be). You can also think of it as a meal deal, whatever suits you. Ultimately however, if you want to donate more or less that’s fine too!

This month’s cause is Shelter, a homing and homelessness charity which helps millions of people every year struggling with bad housing
or homelessness through advice, support and legal services as well as campaigning on these issues. This cause is close to my (Ruby) heart for two reasons:

1. When my parents separated, Shelter helped my mum find affordable housing for us where she otherwise would have been homeless.

2. So in recent news, a private landlord’s alliance has come out campaigning for people to boycott shops raising money for Shelter, due to the charity’s supposed “negative” depiction of private landlords a.k.a. #NotAllLandlords. Now I don’t know about you, but most private landlords I have encountered are on a scale of useless to vindictive so screw those guys, let’s raise more money for Shelter.

If you want to give money you can do so through our Paypal pool (which allows you to choose the amount) here

DONATE HERE

or if you can’t afford to donate, even just sharing our campaign would be valuable!

Thanks so much and we wish you all a merry Christmas!

 
(If you want to read this more on this stupid story, check it here https://inews.co.uk/news/uk/landlords-boycott-businesses-support-shelter/ )