I was emailed at the start of April by a lady called Alison who teaches English to foreign students visiting Cambridge and she had been asked to help with a special request by a student she was currently teaching.
The lovely lady she’d been helping was a Japanese student visiting Cambridge for just 4 weeks, wanting to learn to bake her very own traditional Afternoon Tea.
How could I resist?
The only problem was that Mai, the girl in question has quite the following in Japan, as she is in fact a pop & R&B star back in Japan and she is a very big name indeed.
It turns out that Alison had initially suggested going for Tea at The Ritz, however, she would not be able to enjoy it to its full, as she would have been followed & papped. Blimey, I got straight onto Google to find out what I was letting myself in for hehe.
Mai Kuraki has been a star for over a decade and now, in her early 30’s she’s making a come back and she is one of the most friendly people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting – she’s a huge star it seems, so I got even more nervous!
Mai arrived at our agreed venue with Alison (to help her with her English) and Asuka, a good friend of Mai’s who knew England well having stayed here before. The three of them together were an absolute delight to teach and spend an afternoon chatting away with.
We had agreed to make fruit scones and vanilla cupcakes, both of which Mai had so much fun making, she even had most of the lesson filmed to watch back later, so I had to get used to a video camera in my face very quickly hehe. I had a ball, all three of the lovely ladies got involved, making & shaping the scones and swapping recipes and tips whilst discussing the ingredients available in Japan – it was as much of an education for me as it was for them, I loved hearing all about their culture, it was fascinating.
Once we had moved onto the cupcakes, passers by would have wondered what on earth was going on as the ladies giggled away, piping the cakes and making pretty patterns, even animal faces out of the decorations, it was the perfect rainy afternoon.
Between each recipe, Mai insisted on washing up the equipment, making me completely redundant after each recipe hehe. As it turned out, there’s a very different way even to wash the dishes in Japan, so this was a fantastic lesson in etiquette and Japanese culture for me as well – she’s welcome to do my dishes any time!
I had set up an afternoon tea table for us to place the treats onto afterwards, complete with Redbush Tea and finger sandwiches for Mai to enjoy. The girls wanted to know how to eat their Afternoon Tea correctly, so I gave them a mini etiquette lesson and this helped with Mai’s English conversation as well.
We had been talking about favourite music throughout our baking lesson (Mai is a fellow David Bowie fan so we rocked out whilst baking to his music ; ) and also films. We are a similar age, so it was interesting to learn that she loved “Labyrinth” as a child too, but hadn’t seen it in years. I put it on for her in the background whilst we ate and I think she was one very happy girl that afternoon : )
After our Afternoon Tea and etiquette discussion, we had a lesson from Mai in Napkin origami and she taught us how to make a penguin with our Afternoon Tea napkins, such fun! – it was the perfect end to a fab day.
It was a pleasure to meet all 3 of these ladies and I’m so glad to have met Mai Kuraki, she was down to earth, great fun to teach and dine with and she is hopefully now making Miss Sue Flay’s scones & cupcakes for her family back in Japan…
You now can also book a private baking lesson or Afternoon Tea etiquette workshop here.
You can see the full photo album of all the fun & treats from this superb afternoon here.
Miss Sue Flay