What a great way to start a gourmet bike tour: eating home-made Anzac biscuits made by the mother-in-law of owner of Christchurch Bike Tours, Stephanie Fitts. It’s not only a quintessential kiwi biscuit, but also a typical New Zealand act of kiwi hospitality.
“Have you eaten these biscuits before? do you know how they started?” Stephanie asked us.
“During World War 1 people were concerned about the poor diet of the soldiers in their family and mothers and wives began making healthy biscuits to send to them.” Stephanie continues, “With no eggs, these biscuits could survive the long, unrefrigerated, journey and still remain edible. Made of rolled oats, coconut, butter, golden syrup and baking soda, they were first known as Soldiers’ Biscuits, but later became known as Anzac Biscuits.” She also confesses she does not make them as well as the ones we tried – which were thin, crisp, and tasty: and thanks to her mother-in-law, this historical biscuit is the gourmet start to all the food tours.
This is a new trip, by New Zealand’s only guided city bike tour, Christchurch Bike Tours, and it’s a winner. The outstanding feature for me (apart from the eating and drinking of course) was meeting the artisans and owners of the various businesses we visited – people who are passionate about their products.
With about 15 coffee roasters in Christchurch (in a city of only 375,000) its obvious coffee is an obsession for us locals, however surely no-one could be as passionate as Sam Crofsky. He not only has one of our top coffee houses C1 Espresso in the trendy High Street but he also has been growing coffee in Samoa, a Pacific Island just north of New Zealand, for about 3-years. “We’re totally committed to helping create a sustainable Pacific coffee industry” Sam tells us as we drink coffee with him. “It’s a long-term project that’s already making a difference to the two communities we’re working with”.
The ‘work’ includes hard physical labour for not only Sam and his wife, but also their barista’s who are taken to Savai’i, Samoa to see where the beans they’re working with come from. (of course they work in Samaoa too) Use of them in the café will grow to 100% within ten years.
Sam says “we’re involved in implementation and the planting of the coffee, and supporting the family farms and then the trade and marketing of Kofe Samoa.”
It’s not often a city business is the star of a rural TV programme, but Sam, C1 Espresso, and his project in Samoa recently featured on ‘Country Calender’ . Savai’i is the largest of the Samoan islands, has 40,000 people, and is an active volcano – so these organically grown coffee beans are growing on the slopes of lava fields.
The tour can change slightly depending on the day of the week as some places are either open or closed on weekends. We visited the outdoor French Market, the gorgeous Truly Scrumptious gift shop that serves Devonshire tea and sells locally made bears and naturally, our wonderful Canterbury Cheesemongers, and the very yummyCupcake Parlour where two cousins started the first cupcake shop in New Zealand. It was fun to sit, drink tea and eat cupcakes and hear these vivacious young women describe being in New York and London, and the emails that flew between them describing how they would change their corporate dress to wearing aprons on their return to New Zealand.
With all the nibbling and drinking along the way it just as well we were also cycling as more food was to come when we finished at The Curators Cottage in the wonderful Botanic Gardens – which are the third largest in the world. (After Central Park, NY and Hyde Park, London)
First, we tucked our bikes behind the hedge, then went to check out the sustainable vegetable and herb garden that’s attached to the restuarant. The kitchen likes to use fresh herbs rather than salt to enhance the flavours of the meals.
We shared a platter for lunch: Akaroa salmon, their own chorizo (sausage) and liver pate, green-lipped mussels, cheese, breads and pickles. A very tasty way to end off our gourmet bike tour. As it was Saturday, we didn’t go to the Twisted Hop brewery and bar as it’s open Monday to Friday only.
Christchurch Bike Tours have other tours, ( the original city tour, a market tour) and are also happy to create special tours for groups of locals or tourists … email or call them if you have specific interests.