Monday, 25 August 2014

Darjeeling, Oh Darjeeling ...

This weekend I was staying at my parents-in-law. I usually take my own tea with me, not because their tea is horrible, but my own tea reminds me of home, a little bit of comfort I guess. This time I decided to take some Teapigs Mao Feng green tea. I never take loose tea away because I can be quite messy with tea leaves, particularly in the dispatch of said leaves (I find them everywhere in my kitchen!).

Quite often the body yearns for something it cannot have. And that was the position I was in this weekend. I craved darjeeling. It was almost as though nothing else could quite satisfy the need for a cup of, what is considered, the champagne of tea.

I have to admit my journey with darjeeling started off as a little slow burner. I had brought some standard darjeeling teabags from the supermarket a few years ago and was quite excited as the tea brewed, thinking I was going to experience a tea that was truly special. Oh, how I was let down. Although I followed the brewing instructions to the letter, it tasted stale, dull and was the biggest let down ever.

I never really fussed much about darjeeling after that. I brought a small caddy of loose tea, thinking somehow I would fare much better, but again I was disappointed. I resealed the caddy and shoved it to the back of Twinings corner, only bringing it out when guests requested it.

A couple of months back the lovely James from Northern Tea Merchants very kindly sent me some samples of darjeeling which were, quite frankly, gorgeous. (Reviews coming shortly ...).

The difference between the glorious samples that were sent to me and the tea that I had brought was huge. Actually, it was staggering.

The samples I received were harvested in April this year, so they were fresh, fragrant, tasty and glorious. The taste was smooth with a slightly roasted taste, the colour was a lovely shade of caramel. And it's seriously addictive too, quite often the kettle is boiling before the cup has even been finished. It is truly both satisfying and heartwarming. Glorious and tasty. The perfect cup of tea, and even better, it's brilliant for those who do not take milk or sugar.

In comparison the tea that I brought from the supermarket was dried up, tasteless and bland. In fact it resembled a very well know brand of tobacco that my father used to smoke. When trying to detect it's aroma, I found there was none. I decided to brew a cup to see what it tasted like in comparison. I could not finish the cup and binned the rest of the tea.

Sometimes, it's better, I've realised to have less of a really good product then more of something that is of a lower standard.

Twinings, for instance, are selling their darjeeling first flush from the 2014 season at £88.00 for 250g. For me, (and I think a great many people) that is simply unaffordable.  Many people could not or would not be prepared to spend nearly £90 on tea.

But, there are some great, affordable tea's out there that are of a superb quality. For instance, I recently reviewed Canton's First Flush Ruby Darjeeling and that is really lovely. And of course Northern Tea have some fantastic darjeeling in stock at very affordable prices.

I honestly believe, with all my heart, that supermarket darjeeling just doesn't do the blend justice, so my advice would be to purchase darjeeling from tea specialists. Honestly you will not regret it.

There is nothing nicer then curling up on the sofa with a cup of lovely, freshly brewed darjeeling. It's a soul soother when distressed and will add a touch of loveliness to a afternoon tea.

So, go on and treat yourself to a lovely darjeeling. Allow yourself a few minutes of utter bliss, a chance to unwind and forget the world. 

Thursday, 14 August 2014

I Dream Of A River Of Tea ... Am I Obsessed?

(Photo sourced from google)

Quite recently, I've been struggling to sleep. The heat, coupled with a busy  mind has meant that I've spent hours awake during the night with not much to do but to lay in the darkness and think. Last night though, I managed to fall fast asleep and boy, did I dream!

I quite often have had a similar dream, but last nights was very vivid, full of colour and interest.

In this dream I float lazily on a river of tea, my boat being a china teacup that bobs up and down on the water. I remember vividly the lemon scent in the air, the gentle, warm breeze on my face, the sun sat high in the sky. On the banks of the river stood trees which had fingers of shortbread rather then branches.

In a odd way, the dream was a mixture of Alice in Wonderland and Willy Wonka. Describing it now it reads as more then a little odd, but whilst in progress the dream was something so beautiful that I did not want it to end.

Of course when things, events or people make such a impact in our lives that can often transcend into our dreams.

And, I guess, this is a good example of how much I love tea and the impact it has had on my life. 

For me, it's more then a drink. It's a friend, a support and a joy giver. So, that's why I love tea!

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Canton Tea: Organic Arya Ruby First Flush Darjeeling

On Sunday, rather out of the blue, I had a knock on the door from a lovely friend of mine who had a treat for me. In a lovely little hand decorated bag there were two presents wrapped up. One present was Canton's Organic Arya Ruby First Flush Darjeeling and the second was this mug below, a little present reminding me of my home town.

It was really kind of her to think of me in such a considerate way. I have met a lot of friendly, generous people, and I'm still not totally sure why I deserve the sorts of gifts and samples that I receive but I surely do appreciate them!

I have reviewed other tea's from Canton, including their Classic Earl Grey and Green Jade Tips and I really liked them so was interested to try the Darjeeling considering I have really fallen in love with Darjeeling.

Organic Arya Ruby First Flush Darjeeling is a large leaved tea from India. When fully infused the tea takes on a gorgeous coppery tone. 

I brewed the tea for four minutes and the aroma was really lovely. It is freshly scented and has a lovely grassy aroma to it which I have found in other tea and which I fully enjoyed. 

Upon tasting I was really surprised. It is mellow and flavoursome, light and refreshing. This tea has different layers of flavours. 

Firstly it has the usual, reliable feel good factor of a really nice quality black tea. It gives you the satisfaction that you can only really get from a high quality tea. It's nice, totally not bitter and leaves a lovely refreshing feeling in your mouth. But, in addition, and this is hard to explain, it also has the lightness that you get from green tea. It feels as though you have the best of both worlds.

Alongside the fabulous flavour of the tea, there is a dark chocolate tone to this tea which is more readily picked up when the tea has cooled a little. It's very indulgent! I have to admit I didn't pick up the caramel tones that some have stated online, but for me that doesn't really matter. There is more then enough in this cup to keep you going!

There is another wonderful aspect to this tea, too. It leaves a sweet aftertaste in your mouth after you've finished the tea and it's gorgeous. 

I felt totally relaxed and spoiled rotten after drinking this tea. 

You can reuse the leaves up to three times. I will admit that I've not tried to as I'm frightened that the leaves will go slightly bitter but will be trying to reuse the leaves shortly. It's worth a try!

I'm really impressed with this tea from Canton. It's luxurious, you feel as though you've had a a real treat. It's moreish, creamy and perfect to serve up to guests after dinner. 

I would give this tea a go. I'm positive you wouldn't regret it. 

And why not go and treat yourself now? It's on special offer so bag yourself a bargain!

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Wise Owl Tea: Corsican Olive Leaf

(Photo taken from Wise Owl Tea).

Earlier this evening I wrote on this blog about Wise Owl's achievement of gaining three Great Taste awards for their tea. It's even more extraordinary because Wise Owl is only about a year old. In that short time they have established themselves and gained awards. A fantastic reflection of their ability as a company.

Wise Owl and myself came into contact when I rather cheekily asked them if they had any samples, and indeed they kindly sent me some out. So, I was really thrilled when last week they sent me out a sample of their Corsican Olive Leaf tea. I have had my eye on this tea for some time, as it's name appeals to me!

Corsican Olive contains:

  • Olive Leaf
  • Apple
  • Pineapple
The tea comes in silky pyramids which I always love because they feel so silky and marvelous to hold. There is a substantial amount of tea in each pyramid. The pieces of apple and pineapple are readily visible and within the colour of the fruit, there is a dark, lush greeness which I assume comes from the olive leaf.

Corsican Olive is a nice tea that is easy to brew. You can use boiling water (some choose not to but I feel that in no way is the tea affected!) and leave the tea to brew for up to five minutes. As this is a nice fruity type tea then five  minutes is perfect. I have brewed it for less but it doesn't really represent the flavour, so five minutes is exactly right.

The tea brews to a wonderful dark amber colour which is really appealing, and the aroma the tea gives off during it's infusion time is something really special. It's lush and fruity, but with a slightly herbal tone to it too. It smelt absolutely yummy.

What I really like about Wise Owl tea is that their teas taste really different. Flavour wise, they are a little bit "out there" but not so that they are hard to drink and enjoy. They are exciting and inventinve with their flavours, but still remain appealing enough to thoroughly enjoy.

Their tea's also vary too. For instance their Bali Bamboo is subtly sublime, rich and silky, whereas their Antiguan Cinnamon Spice is spicy and inviting.

Corsican Olive tea is subtle and delicious. The pineapple and apple flavours add a nice fruity depth to the tea and taste absolutely natural unlike some brands which use flavouring as opposed to natural pieces.

Underneath the fruity flavours, there is a slightly grassy flavour which rather reminds me of green tea. I've never tried an olive leaf tea before so I can only assume that the herbal taste comes from the olive leaf.

The flavours are blended really well, it's an even tea which compliment one another as opposed to the flavours trying to jostle for position.

Texture wise, it's a smooth, mellow tea. Totally gorgeous to drink, and already, the kettle is boiling for cup number two! (What you will find with Wise Owl tea is once you have finished one cup, you're desperate for another).

There are said to be many health benefits to drinking olive leaf, too, so not only is it tasty but it's good for you, too!

I would give this a 5/5. It's a really rather fantastic tea and something quite unique. 

Congratulations Wise Owl Tea!

Earlier this year I wrote a company profile on a relatively new tea company called  Wise Owl Tea and I have also reviewed their Bali Bamboo Organic tea, Tahitian Night Night and Antiguan Cinnamon Spice teas. 

They are a fantastic, friendly company with really thoughtful, kind staff.

So it's with great pleasure that I can write that they have received a Great Taste award for each of the tea's I've mentioned above. I'm really proud of them and thrilled, too!

It's really lovely to see a company that works hard succeed in the tea world. 

A big congratulations to the Wise Owl team. Here's to the next year of success!

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

What Does Tea Mean To You?

Recently, I was making a cup of tea and whilst I was waiting for the water to cool a little my thoughts focused on my late father, who was a tea addict. I recall one day over the Christmas period, when we were all off work and I can honestly say that the kettle was never cold that day. When I asked him (as a non tea drinker at the time) why he drunk so much of the "stuff" he just smiled and said 'it's like a friend. And I'd miss it if I could never drink it again".

(My Dad - a committed tea drinker)

Now, I can totally understand what he meant. Making tea is the first thing I do when I get up in the morning, it's the first thing I do when I get in after a day out and nothing is more precious then curling up with a good film and a steaming hot cup of tea or when you cup your hands around a warm mug after you've been out in the cold.

But for me, in strange way, tea has healing qualities that go beyond the physical. Yes, we all know that tea contains anti-oxidants which can help your body is so many ways, but the emotional benefits far outweigh anything else. Nothing is nicer then sitting, chatting with a friend whilst you sup on your favourite blend, no matter what the blend is.

Making tea takes time. You need to boil the kettle, let it infuse and it gives you a very valuable few minutes to relax and take stock of the day. In those stressful moments the very act of making tea, let alone the drinking of it, is a calming factor for me. It's routine and routine is something I find important.

Physically though, I love the warming effect tea has. It's comforting and it feels just like you're being hugged.

There is also something really lovely when you have high tea, serving cakes and freshly infused tea in a lovely teapot - carrying on a traditional that has been set for hundreds of years, and I hope it's a art that never dies out. But, through writing this blog I've spoken to so many tea lovers and am positive and hopeful that it will continue.

I can honestly say now, I would be lost without tea. Like my Dad said it's like a friend, like a hug in a mug. It can cheer me up when I'm feeling low, it's a great way to have lots of laughs with people I love, it intrigues me, draws me in and has opened up a world where I've met some really lovely, kind people.

Before I started to drink tea I would guzzle Cherry Coke by the bucket load. When I look back I think how horrible  a habit that used to be. I will never regret taking that first sip and stepping into the tea world.

I've gained lots of friends through tea and tasted some totally exquisite tea's. And for that, I consider myself a very blessed tea drinker.

Monday, 4 August 2014

Teavivre: Bi Luo Chun Green Tea

This evening I am going to be reviewing another tea from the fabulous Teavivre, Bi Luo Chun green tea.

Teavivre is a wonderful tea company who approached me a few months back kindly offering to send me some samples. I've really enjoyed the tea's I've already tried, which include Lu Shan Yun Wu and Organic Superfine Dragon Well Long Jing. They are tasty and of an exceptionally high quality.

Bi Luo Chun Green Tea is a fairly small leaved tea. As you can see in the photograph below it has a curly shape to it. In this picture it's sat nicely cosy within the infuser.

I've made several cups of this tea and I will say for the offset you really NEED to leave the kettle to cool a little before you pour the water on the tea. I know I say this with virtually every green tea that I review, however, with some tea's you can get away with pouring boiling water if you're in a rush but with this tea you really do need to let the kettle cool. If you pour boiling water on this tea it really will go bitter. 

I boiled the water and let it cool for five or so minutes and let the tea brew for six minutes as stated on the packaging. I watched as it brewed and it developed into a really nice light amber colour. 

Bi Luo Chun Green tea is perhaps the tea that resembles most closely how I would picture traditional green tea (or, how I thought all green tea's would taste before I started to drink it!). 

Bi Luo Chun has a wonderful strong aroma which is very organic and has a slight tone of chocolate to it which is very interesting indeed.

Upon tasting I realised it's a basic green tea with the familiar grassy taste to it that one would expect with green tea. It has a rich flavour that has depth and I think the longer you brew this tea the richer and more tasty this tea will become. It's very refreshing and perfect for that moment when you start to unwind in the evening.

Green tea without added flavouring can be hard for some people to drink but I enjoy it hugely. It's an acquired taste and one almost has to learn to like it but once you get past that hurdle there is a very exciting world out there.

I thoroughly enjoy the flavoured green tea's. Jasmine Pearls being my favourite but sometimes it's nice to get back to basics and enjoy the tea in it's purest form. However, just to experience the simple taste of a very high quality tea is a luxury that I treasure. 

When buying green tea in it's pure form you have to buy as best quality as you can afford. This may sound snobby, however, there is nothing worse then drinking a poor quality green tea. I would much rather have a little less of something nice then a poor quality tea in huge amounts.

I really appreciated trying Bi Luo Chun Green tea. It's tasty, of a high quality and very moreish. 

If you pop over to Teavivre's website this evening, they have a sale (which sadly ends on August 5th) to celebrate Teavivre's 3rd birthday. They have up to 40% off selected teas so why not go and have a look and treat yourself to something tasty!