Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Wishing You All A Very Happy New Year

I would just like to wish everybody a really happy 2015!

I hope you all have a wonderful evening seeing the new year in and I hope that 2015 is everything you hope for.

Here's to a new year with lots of tea drinking!

It's going to be really exciting seeing what the new year holds and what new tea's make an appearance.

I'll see you all in the new year!

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Why New Year Always Seems To Be Green Tea's Time To Shine

Today, needing some fresh air, I decided to  dodge the huge patches of ice on the pavements and walk to Morrisons to get something for my tea tonight. As normal, whenever I enter any supermarket, I gravitate naturally to the tea aisle in the vague hope that they may have something new and spectacular to purchase.

Sadly, this morning there wasn't much that interesting on the shelves, but, what was staggering was the green tea section of the shop had been, viking like, savaged. It looked a total mess with boxes everywhere. It has, I smiled, begun. The 'IT' being the post Christmas health boost and green tea seems to be the thing of favour during this time of year.

I will readily admit that last year, I too, started to drink green tea. But not because I felt it was the healthy thing to have done, rather, I had started my blog and the lovely Lorraine from Kensington Tea Company kindly agreed to send me some samples and from that moment, I was hooked on green tea.

But I do not blame people at all for opting for green tea as a healthy drink. There are many benefits to drinking green tea. But also, it's just really nice. So if you can take something that is healthy and just a joy to drink then who can refuse?

However, I have discovered through my tea journey the past year, that it really does pay to drink as best quality green tea as you possibly can - and learning to brew it properly will only enhance the experience.

As I've said here before, I first tried green tea in St Bart's Hospital in London in 2008. My late father was being treated there for cancer, and whilst he was having his radiotherapy to try and control his brain tumour, mum and I went to the cafe to get a much deserved cup of tea. Whilst mum opted for her favourite black tea, I thought I would try the exotic looking green tea. It was a mistake. The poor lady running the cafe was so busy she left the tea to stew, and all green tea lovers will know that using boiling water and leaving the tea in too long will not make a great cup of tea. I was, fairly, I think, put off green tea.

So, I will admit that I was more then a little bit apprehensive when Kensington Tea Company sent their samples. I had read a lot the previous year about green tea and was a little bit unsure how to brew it and had the bad memories of awful tea etched into my memory.

But, I followed the brewing instructions to the letter. I let the kettle cool and timed the bewing process, and without a doubt, I fell absolutely in love.  This instant attraction opened up the doors to a really wonderful world of green tea.

And what a adventure it's been. There are so many options out there. Green tea doesn't have to taste of grass or stale vegetables. It can be utterly beautiful. The options for flavours vary. You can get Christmas tea's, fruity green tea's, and pure green tea.

If I can only offer one bit of advice with regards to green tea it is to go on the internet and explore! There are two amazing companies that I can recommend. Kensington Tea Company have a wide range of green tea's in various flavours and sold in various different weights. It's just a fantastic company who I've had the pleasure to know now for nearly a year and I still purchase regularly from them. Without a doubt they are my "go to" company for green tea and I purchased my trusty Flotea infuser from them. I can recommend several tea's from KTC, Christmas Spice is marvelous and I have a cup of the blend sat next to me now. Also, if you like fruity tea's they do a marvelous Summer Strawberry tea and for pure indulgence I treat myself to their Jasmine Pearl Superior which is out of this world.

Another company I will recommend is TeaVivre. Their green tea, which comes straight from China, is perfectly fresh and is more of a grass roots company. With Teavivre you get pure green tea's. They are totally wonderful, fresh, healthy and delicious. However, they don't come flavoured, so I would advise to get to grips with green tea in it's pure form before ordering from Teavivire. Once you know you like green tea for sure, then, perhaps, place a order. If you live within the UK your order will arrive within 6-10 days. Honestly, they are just fantastic and tasty.

However, green tea from supermarkets, from standard brands is a slightly tetchy area for me, as there are some really lovely blends out there and some wretched ones, too. The quality swings widely from one end of the spectrum to the other. But, in all reality, I know that these are the most accessible - and affordable - tea's for those who want to get healthy in the new year kick.

I will honestly say that Twinings are the best brand of green tea available in supermarkets. From their nicely fruity Apple and Pear green tea to their indulgent Gingerbread Indulgence they produce a varied amount of green tea's. Though, my personal favourite is their Orange and Lotus Flower.

Tetley's Peach and Apricot is also very pleasant but it's certainly very hard to source recently.

There is a whole world of green tea out there waiting to be explored. And believe me, from someone who hated it and who has come to love it, it's worth sticking with the tea because once you have found a blend or brand that you love, it makes for a hugely satisfying cup of tea.

Nowadays, I drink black and green tea in equal measure. I can go week's gobbling up every black tea I can find, then suddenly, I will crave the lightness and refreshing qualities of green tea and spend a couple of months drinking that. I'm fortunate that I love both tea's!

I really hope that you discover your love of green tea, be it through a New Year health kick or just out of interest. I know you won't regret it and it will simply expand your love for tea further.

Enjoy the adventure. I know I am!

Monday, 29 December 2014

As We Head Towards 2015 ... What Are Your New Year (Tea) Resolutions?

As we head towards the new year, what are your new year's resolutions?

On a personal, non tea level, I am going to try to stop biting my nails (disgusting habit, I know!), I want to read more and travel more, even if it's just within the UK. There will be others I'll think of I'm sure. Some I'll stick to, some I may not, but we have to start the new year on a positive footing!

On the subject of tea though there is so much I want to do and experience that life has never felt more exciting for me.

My first aim is to carry on learning as much about tea as I possibly can. I'm sure no one can doubt my love - in fact passionate obsession - with camellia sinensis, but, sometimes love is not enough. I'm very much looking forward to reading, discussing and learning about tea throughout the year. I would love to be elegantly knowledgeable about tea. That way I can improve my writing and make this blog something extra special.

One New Years resolution that I have thought of today is to make sure I drink at least one cup of green tea a day. I love green tea so it shouldn't be so difficult but I do feel healthier, calmer and slightly more composed when I'm drinking green tea. Beside's it's awfully nice, so actually it's not strictly a serious resolution!

I've also made it a resolution to try Lapsang Souchong. Again. I tried it a few years ago, and took an instant dislike to it, in fact I'd admit I'm a wee bit scared of it. However, not one to give up, I may, if I can get a small sample size somewhere, try it again. If I'm honest I hated green tea when I first tried it,(in 2008) and I'm the sort of person whose tastes can change, so I think 2015 is the year that I give the little fella a second chance. And if I find out that I don't like it, then at least I've tried.

Finally, I am determined to save enough to purchase the much coveted Sage Teamaker! I really do love the look of that machine and it's very much wanted so maybe 2015 is the year I'll find one sitting on my worktop!

What is most important to me though is to spread, throughout 2015, the good word about tea. In this coffee obsessed world we live in, tea needs advocates. It's simply too beautiful a thing to be ignored and one of the myriad of reason's why I love this blog is that I get to talk to people who love it in equal measure.

As I sit here now, writing this, tucked up in bed with a green tea by my side, I am very grateful that I love tea.

Here's to 2015 and all it can possibly bring!

Sunday, 28 December 2014

English Tea Shop: Honey Melon

As I sit here, feeling a little like a beached whale after a few days of indulgence, I can't help but reflect, as I normally do, on tea.

Just like turkey, mince pies and chocolate, some Christmas spiced tea's can sit a little heavily on the stomach, especially after a full meal, and after several days of drinking a black tea laden with spices, I desperately needed a slightly lighter tea,something that offered a break from the tea I've been drinking over the last few days.

My friend, Rebecca, kindly sent me some samples of tea from the English Tea Shop. They come in a selection pack and are known as Pyramid Prism's. There is a large variety of flavours, from Spiced Pumpkin to Spicy Anaise.

Today, desperate for something light, I opted for Honey Melon. A flavour that I have not experienced in any shape or form. I was extremely interested in this tea.

Honey Melon has a base of black Chinese tea. It has honey and melon flavouring added.

I did not know what to expect with this tea at all and went into it totally blind.

I was washing up some lunch dishes whilst the tea was brewing and the aroma of honey filled the kitchen. It's very strong indeed, but I found it nicely so. I am not a huge honey lover, but have tried it in several tea's and it works really well.

I left the tea to brew for four minutes then settled down in front of the History Channel (was Queen Elizabeth 1st a killer??? I wonder .... ) and took a sip.

With regards to the melon flavour, I wasn't convinced. How could it possibly make itself known through the strong honey flavour. Melon, as we know, is much more subtle a taste then honey. Was this going to work?

Quite frankly, the answer is yes! I was truly amazed that despite the very present flavour of the honey, the melon was easily detectable too. And it's utterly gorgeous.

The melon adds a refreshing, fruity twist to the tea and it's much appreciated on a day like today when you can feel slightly sluggish. More surprisingly though, the honey and melon, despite being two flavours that could be odds with one another, work really well.

The tea, a black Chinese tea, is very light and makes a good base for the strong honey flavour. 

Honey Melon is a incredible tea and one that I enjoyed very drinking very much. I had deliberately kept it back till well after Christmas because, knowing myself very well, I knew that I'd be desperate for something different, something that will make a massive change from what I would be drinking all over Christmas.

I was really pleased that Rebecca sent me a sample of this tea. It's gorgeous. 

I'm A Very Lucky Tea Lover

Last month I wrote a totally tongue in cheek post about what gifts would be in my fantasy Christmas stocking.

Alas, I did not get the much wanted Sage Teamaker. I did get a letter from Santa explaining that he and his elves couldn't lay their hands on one, sadly.

However, I did get this little beauty! Yes, indeed, I am the now proud owner of the Yellow Submarine tea infuser. In fact this item actually was number 2 on the list.

It's utterly, fantastically, brilliant. As a Beatles nut and tea lover, this is just THE perfect item. It's just so great. It's so cute, you fill the infuser with your favourite tea and it kind of bobs around in the water, just like a real submarine!

One cannot but help to  sing along as you're making the tea. "In a town, where I was born ....".
Well, I don't actually sing, rather, croak along to the song, my singing isn't the best, but that does provide my mum with much mirth everytime I make a brew!

So a massive thank you to my friend, Rebecca, who very kindly gave me the Yellow Submarine for a Christmas present. It's much loved and much appreciated.

In addition, though not strictly a "tea" gift, I received this from my brother and sister-in-law.

Isn't it just fab? A gorgeous hot chocolate kit that comes with chocolate drops, marshmallows and a mini-whisk. Tonight, I am going to treat myself to a lovely cup whilst watching the festive edition of Top Gear.

I was very lucky to have received some really lovely gifts this year. I can't thank people enough. And these are just two of them!

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Happy Christmas, Everyone!

Today I'd like to take the chance to wish everyone a very happy Christmas. Hopefully (fingers crossed) I may get one or two tea related Christmas gifts (if I'm lucky!) so there will be plenty of blogging to be done over the festive period.

However, today will be the last pre-Christmas blog I'll have the chance to write.

I want to offer sincere thanks to all the readers of this blog. You send very kind words to me through this page and your enjoyment of my posts make it all worthwhile. Laura's Tea Room will be a year old in January  and I'm eager and excited to see what 2015 brings to the tea world!

Also, to those companies who have kindly helped me through the year by sending samples and given advice. It is hugely appreciated. In particular Kensington Tea Company, Northern Tea Merchants and Wise Owl Tea who helped me so much in the early days and continue to show a lot of kindness to Laura's Tea Room.

I hope you all have a wonderful, peaceful and restful Christmas and a fantastic New Year.

Here's to 2015 and even more tea adventures! :-)

Monday, 22 December 2014

How To Choose And Enjoy Good Quality Tea

There is no doubt that at we sit here today there has never been more choice available to you with regards to tea. You can buy flavoured black tea's, green tea's, white and yellow tea's. Fruit tea's are coming in ever more exotic combination's, and the rise of the "dessert" tea has been extremely popular this year also.

In addition, sales of tea accessories are on the rise, from the humble infuser through to tea sticks, the Sage teamaker through to fancy kettles that click off when it reaches the optimum temperature for whatever setting you've chosen.

There is a utterly fantastic and completely exciting tea world out there.

However, if you put aside the fantastic products, what is most important to the tea drinker is the actual quality of the tea. And this varies. There are some completely fantastic tea's out there, and, at the other end of the spectrum there are some awful ones.

I will admit, if you are a beginner, it's hard to work your way through and distinguish the good from the bad. It's so easy to take good packaging and branding and consider it the best of the best when in fact there could be far better options out there.

Sometimes, and I've learned this through my tea blogging year, that on the surface some tea's can look outlandishly overpriced and that alone is enough to put you off purchasing. However, I've also discovered, to my benefit, that sometimes it's better to have a little less of a good tea, but have a far more enriching tea drinking experience then to have lots of something of inferior quality. But that is my own opinion.

Here are some hints and tips that I've come across in my tea journey (so far) that you may find helpful with regards to spotting, purchasing, preparing and enjoying good quality tea.

1. Look at size options

If there is a tea that you quite like the look of but are unsure about the actual taste, most tea shops are brilliant at giving you a selection of tea quantities. For instance you could perhaps buy a sampler pack which is enough for say, 10 or 15 cups of tea. Other stores may sell a tea in a smaller quantity of,  50g's up to 150g's and even tea that comes in a tin. So if you quite fancy that exotic looking green tea but are a bit concerned that you may not actually like it, then there are plenty of options where you can buy smaller amounts. If you like it, treat yourself to larger quantity. If it's not your thing, you've not lost too much. 

2. Don't judge the tea by the packaging

I have fallen into this trap on more then one occasion. As a consumer I'm quite easy to fool as I'm drawn to bright branding and sleek and trendy packaging. Surely that tea that comes in elaborate packaging tastes better then the tea sold on a small online shop in plain brown packaging? On some occasions it may do, others it doesn't. But don't be put off by the little tea company that sends your tea out in plain packaging. I have found some of the loveliest tea's served up in plastic packaging. Judge the tea by the actual contents and don't not treat yourself to a tea because the company do not have a fortune to spend on marketing. You don't know what you may be missing out on.

3. How to spot if a tea is good quality or not.

One of the easiest ways to spot if the tea you are drinking is of a good quality or not is to simply look into your cup. The picture below is my cup after I had ONE cup of a cheaper tea product (I was at a friends house) that is available in supermarkets. It's pretty gross isn't it?

 Yes, I will admit, I am a black tea drinker, however, I can drink a tea like Northern Tea Merchants Apple Tea all day with virtually no staining. So if you drink your tea black and it stains easily, you may not be drinking the best quality tea.

When purchasing tea's on online websites don't feel bad about contacting the company, and when it comes to a tea like darjeeling, ask what flush (first flush, second flush) the tea is. They should be able to tell you when it was harvested and even what estate it's from. Most companies are passionate about tea and will be happy to tell you about the tea if you want to ask.

4. Tea doesn't have to be daunting.

Ask for advice. I have met some really great people through my tea blog and everyone has willingly and happily given me the time to answer my questions and explain how tea works. We all share the same love and passion for tea, and people normally are happy to share their experience with you. It can be daunting when you are sat at the computer screen. Things can sometimes seem technical. But there are some great vendors out there and some fantastic websites who will be happy to help you.

5. Brew tea properly.

Learn how to brew tea properly. Learn about the type of tea you like, be it black, green, white or yellow and the best way to prepare it. Brewing tea for too long can make it taste stewed, and in the case of green tea, it can go bitter, the taste can go flat and it will be a huge let down for you. If you've splashed out on a good quality tea you don't want to spoil it by mucking it up at the preparation stage. Follow the instructions on the packet - they are there for a reason!

6. Taste

A good quality tea will taste nice it's as simple as that. If it's a flavoured tea then it should be blended well and the fragrance should be subtle, not overpowering. Earl Grey is a perfect example of this. The better quality Earl Grey's should have a natural, citrus flavour to it, with the fragrance being strong enough to enjoy it but not overpowering. If it tastes oily, acrylic or "fake" then the chances are the ingredients are cheaper and you will not get such a satisfying cup of tea.

7. Enjoy tea and be experimental

It's been four years since I started my tea journey and nearly a year since I started blogging.  I never thought when I started to drink tea that I'd experience such lovely blends of tea. I remember quite vividly having a sample of Earl Grey sent to me in the post and standing in my kitchen almost too scared to try it in case it tasted awful. It didn't and there started my journey.

If you are shopping online and see a blend that interests you but seems a bit too exotic, my advice would be to give it a whirl. What's the worst that can happen? You brew it up and realise it's not for you, but hey, at least you've tried. If you had told me four years ago that I would be a fan of Keemun, Yunnan or even Russian Caravan I would of laughed. Now, they are tea's that I absolutely adore and enjoy so much.

Put your foot in the water and experiment. Your bound to to come across blends you are not so keen on, but also, I can guarantee you'll come across blends you'll absolutely love.

8. Trust me, loose is best

I have always felt, and still feel, that loose tea is the absolute best. Popular brands such as Tetley, PG Tips, Twinings and Yorshire Tea all have loose or bagged options. With the rising popularity of infusers and teapots that contain infusers it's never been easier to enjoy loose tea.

Also, many brands now are releasing tea in bags called "tea temples" or "silky pyramids". These contain superior, loose leaved tea, so don't settle for less. Loose tea is so easy to enjoy now. The days of having to empty teapots which is a messy, time consuming job is over. Invest in silky pyramids or a decent infuser and enjoy the wonders of loose tea.

Bog standard tea bags, I feel, simply don't contain the same sort of quality tea. Don't mess out. The world of loose tea is exciting. Get out and explore it!

9. Enjoy!

In my opinion, tea is a gift from the gods. It's a wonderful nectar to be loved and celebrated. Whatever your choice of tea, from supermarket best sellers to exclusive loose tea, love it, drink plenty of it and spoil yourself to the types you fancy.

To me it's something so magical that the thing that is so vital to our existence and survival - water - can be transformed into something so extraordinary.

I love tea ... as you've probably guessed ...

Bluebird: Strawberry Lemonade

A year ago I was fairly enamoured with fruit tea's. I'd, with huge amounts of excitement, go and buy a couple of boxes a week, trying out any new flavour's I could get my hands on.

Sadly, that passionate stage seemed to melt away. There is nothing more lovely then a premium green tea that has fruit flavours added. But sincerely, a high quality black tea with a fruity edge is out of this world.

Yet, standard fruit tea's leave me flat. Sometimes they have a weird texture, sometimes the taste is a bit "off", but generally I find most lack any sort of oomph.

However, there are some exceptions to the fruit tea rule. If you pay a little bit more then you would normally you can, occasionally, find something really special.

I have heard from a very good friend about Bluebird Tea's Strawberry Lemonade fruit tea. My friend was highly positive about the tea. Having popped onto the internet I looked it up and the reviews highly recommended the tea, and Bluebird's own website said it sold well so I was more then tempted to buy some just to try.

I have ordered small amounts of tea from Bluebird tea previously. The tea is of exceptional quality and the orders always arrive speedily, so it didn't take much persuasion to purchase a small Strawberry Lemonade.

Strawberry Lemonade is truly very pretty indeed to look at. It contains, amongst other things, lemon, orange, sunflower petals and rosehip. But what catches your eye when looking at the tea, is the massive (and they really are MASSIVE) pieces of dried strawberry. And you get a lot of strawberry for your money as well.

I said in a previous post, when writing about Northern Tea Merchants Strawberry tea that I struggle with fresh strawberries because they make my lips swell. Having experienced dried strawberry in a cereal not so long ago, I knew I'd be okay because dried strawberries do not tend to cause me any trouble at all.

When measuring the tea to put into the infuser I was quite pleased to see that a little goes a long way! As the strawberry pieces are so large you only use small amounts of tea which is good as this, as I discovered later on, isn't a tea that can be re-infused.

This tea was really pretty to watch brew. It went from a pale pink colour, through to red and then, after the recommended time of four minutes was up, it was a dark scarlet colour. Whilst the tea was infusing there was a lovely fruity aroma too. Quite gorgeous, and that was even before I tried it.

Flavoursome is the only way I can describe this tea. The strawberry is so full and rich of flavour that it has dessert like qualities. The size of the strawberry pieces obviously enhanced the flavour. It is light, and summery and perfect for warm evenings.

Underneath the strawberry flavour there is a distinct taste of very sweet lemon, which obviously makes up the "lemonade" part of the tea. It's sweetness is balanced extremely well by the slight tartness of the strawberry. Sweet and sharp working together to make a perfect blend. Somehow, it does almost feel a bit "fizzy" so to speak. But if you want a totally refreshing, tasty and fun tea, Strawberry Lemonade is the one for you.

I really enjoyed every sup of this tea, and to my friend, Rebecca, you did not let me down in your recommendation. It's really fab!

As I said earlier in the blog, I am used to being able to re-infuse most tea's that I own, so I tried to re-infuse this tea, but it didn't work. It turned slightly pale pink and had no flavour so this is a one use only tea, however, I did not let that bother me. The tea is reasonably priced, and you have several options for the amount of tea you can buy, from sample sizes the give enough for 10 cups to 150g's (you even have a option to purchase in a tin). This tea is also available in tea temples too, so it's very convenient. I love how you can buy a sample size to try first, giving you the option then to purchase larger amounts, or, if you find this tea isn't for you you haven't lost too much!

I would fully agree with all of the recommendations and reviews that have positively praised this tea. For someone who doesn't naturally gravitate to fruit tea's I was hugely impressed by it. It's just so tasty and perfect for a light drink. I'm positive you'd like this tea, especially if strawberries are your thing.

Bluebird Tea's are available through their online shop and they have a physical shop in Brighton. So if you are in the area, pop in and have a look around. I'm sure you will not be disappointed with what they have for sale.

And do head for the Strawberry Lemonade. The many positive reviews can't be wrong!

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Bluebird Tea: Pumpkin Spice

I have wanted to try Pumpkin Spice tea for quite some time. Sadly, whenever autumn hits and the online tea stores are selling this tea for a limited time, I never seem to be able to afford to buy it. When I have researched pumpkin spice tea on Amazon it's quite costly and can only be purchased in large quantities, so when I received a box of Christmas presents from my friend, Rebecca, from The Hot Cuppa blog I was told not to touch the presents but there were some tea samples I could try before the big day. I was delighted to find out that she had, rather nicely, included a sample of Bluebirds Pumpkin Spice tea.

As you can see the tea is perfect for autumn due to it's brown and orange hues. It's so pretty to look at.

Bluebird Tea is a company that I've tried several tea's from and whom I've recently ordered a few things from and they are fab. They are based in Brighton where they have a shop and also sell online from their website, too.

So, as the wind rattled the windows and the rain fell heavily I decided to brew a cup. As I didn't have any brewing instructions, I filled up the infuser and let the tea infuse for just over three minutes. I thought that would be a safe bet.

I have only tried pumpkin once in a cheese cake and that was years ago so I had no idea what the tea would taste like. As I stood in the kitchen I gingerly took my first sip.

I'm not too sure what to think about this tea. I loved the mixture of spices that were used, it was certainly a spicy tea. Although pumpkins are rightly associated with autumn and the festivities of Halloween, this could, just about, be used as a Christmas tea so nicely are the spices blended.

But what of the pumpkin? Well, this is what left me a little flat about the tea. I felt that it was a little bit bland, like it lacked flavour - and this is no criticism of Bluebird rather of pumpkins in general.

In a strange way this tea is almost like a savoury tea. I always thought pumpkins were sweet and they are, from what I can gather from this tea, not as sweet as I imagined them to be.  This maybe isn't the sort of tea that would be good for those who have a sweet tooth! It definitely would suit the savoury lovers amongst us.

Over all I feel a little let down by pumpkin tea (pumpkin tea in general, not Bluebird's specifically). It's like when you imagine something to be so wonderful and when you sit down and actually try it, it's a bit ... lacking. It seemed to be missing something, which I cannot put my finger on.

For me, this just didn't hit the spot. But I do know several people who love pumpkin tea so it's all down to personal preference.

Just like any tea, I would encourage readers to try the tea themselves, it's the only way you'll make your own mind up.  In all fairness, I think I was expecting a little bit too much and the expectations were too high.

But, we can't like everything we try, can we? But I'm very thankful that I finally did have the chance to try this very out of the ordinary tea!

Friday, 19 December 2014

Northern Tea Merchants: Strawberry Tea

Firstly, I'd like to apologise for the lack of photos of Northern Tea Merchants Strawberry Tea. After an evening of camera and tea mishaps, I gave up the ghost and decided to use a photograph of Northern Tea's lovely shop instead!

I've long been a fan of Northern Tea Merchants. The quality of the tea is marvelous (and quality means EVERYTHING) and there is no doubt that Northern Tea are passionate about tea.  From their superb Keemun tea, which is a plain black tea but which is so beautifully pure, to their Apple Keemun, Northern Tea oozes quality and good value for money.

I really did like their Apple Keemun. Even my mum, whose taste in tea is - simple - really liked it. After her saying for the hundredth time "that smells nice" I actually made her a cup and it went down really well! My mum tends to like the idea of fancy tea's, but when it comes to the actual drinking quite often said tea's are not a hit, so it was with reluctance that I used some of the precious tea to make a brew and mum loved it.

So, one evening, I decided to do what I love doing the most, browsing for more tea's, and I stumbled upon Northern Tea's lovely looking strawberry tea and decided to, without much hesitation I must add, to treat myself to some.

There is nothing nicer then receiving a parcel from Northern Tea. Their packing is made from a wonderful gold material and you feel like Charlie Bucket when he won the final golden ticket in Charlie And The Chocolate Factory. But not only is the packaging made to look nice but it really does keep your loose tea nice and fresh if you don't have a spare caddy lying around.

(Example of Northern Tea's packaging, though not actually containing strawberry tea!).

I have a strange relationship with strawberries. I cannot eat real strawberries, they make my lips swell, but I love anything strawberry flavoured, so knew this tea would be exactly my thing. 

I will freely admit that it didn't take much time from delivery to the tea brewing in the infuser. Upon opening the packet the gorgeous smell of strawberry wafted from the packaging and it's mouth watering. In fact it really reminds me of the strawberry creme chocolate that you get from a box of Roses. Utterly wonderful and I couldn't wait to drink it.

The strawberry tea contains a large leaf Chinese tea as the base and it's a wonderful, solid tea, which brews to a lovely coppery colour. In addition the tea also contains strawberry blossom and strawberry oil as the flavouring.

I left this tea to brew for around three minutes and there is nothing else quite like the luxurious strawberry aroma. It makes the infusion time almost agony as the minutes slowly ticked by.

This tea is very unique because I will admit that I've not come across many strawberry black tea's. Mostly strawberry comes as a fruit tea, and quite often mixed with other fruits such as mango or raspberry. As I much prefer the robustness of black tea rather then fruit tea it's quite nice to be able to enjoy both the flavour of strawberry and the strength of a black tea.

I was not disappointed with this tea in anyway. First of all it warmed me up after being in the cold and I was grateful for that, but the taste of the tea is just out of this world.

The strawberry flavouring is delicate and tasty. It's subtle and could easily be overpowered by the tea but the two work hand in hand, which says a lot for the blending of the tea. I love how the strawberry leaves a wonderful aftertaste when you've finished the tea. It's really hard to describe. Scrummy would be one world, luscious could be another. But it's certainly indulgent and is a great replacement for chocolate or biscuits if you're cutting back. It has a satisfying sweetness to it which is brilliant at hitting the spot when you just need something sweet - this tea feels like a treat.

Aside from the flavouring, the actual base tea is smooth and has a chocolatey taste to it which works so well with the strawberry. It's a refreshing tea to drink so would be perfect to take in summer time too.

And, the tea is a real thirst quencher, too. I was speaking to someone only recently and they said that tea can't be a thirst quencher unlike, say, water or coke. I disagree. It really is.

Addictive could be another word used to describe this tea. Within a few minutes the kettle was boiling ready for the second cup.

I re-infused the tea three times and it held it's flavour really well. Naturally, by the third infusion the tea was far weaker but you could still taste the strawberry and it was still enjoyable.

This is an ideal tea if you like fruity flavours but prefer the oomph of a black tea. Much like the apple tea, the balance of tea and flavouring is perfect, and I'm sad to say but you just don't get that in tea's produced for supermarkets.

It's with tea's like strawberry tea and apple tea that Northern Tea come into their own because they just seem to get the blending right every time.

I would highly recommend this tea. It's gorgeous, satisfying and just perfect.

And whilst you're at it, why not try their equally indulgent Chocolate tea. It is nearly Christmas after all ....

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Williamson Tea: Purple Blush

This afternoon (whilst watching Teen Wolf) I am partaking in a really rather wonderful cup of tea. A very light and airy but tasty brew. This afternoon I'm drinking Williamson Tea's Purple Blush.

Purple Blush is a Kenyan tea grown on Williamson's Tea's own Changoi Estate. The tea is rich in anti-oxidants which makes you feel extremely healthy when you drink it!

This tea though has a lovely little secret. I guess you're probably wondering why it's called Purple Blush, well I was. Upon looking at the leaves in the tea their isn't anything remotely purple about this tea! However, something rather magical happens when preparing your tea.

The advice is to add a couple of drops of lemon but I just cut a thin slice and added it to the tea for a few moments, and when I took the lemon out of the tea there was a very slight purple hue to the tea! It's not obvious when you look down onto the tea but looking from the side of the cup you can definitely see the purple colouring.

I will admit at first that trying two teabags I could not see the change in colour so I emailed the lovely Jade who works for Williamson and she said "it's rather subtle". Well, Laura doesn't really do subtle if I'm honest. Physically I'm clumsy and in other aspects of my life I need things spelt out rather clearly. I was expecting the whole cup of tea to turn a light purple colour. This does not happen, but if you're patient, and look closely, the tea really does take on a hint of purple. It's really pretty, but ever so hard for my phone to pick up on this element of the tea, sadly. But it's something really different.

Before I review the taste of Purple Blush I'd like to say that the mini cru set, which this tea comes from, comes in a metal caddy. What I really like though, as you can see in the picture below, the caddy comes with a inner lid that helps keep your tea nice and fresh!

With the colour changes aside, what does this tea actually taste like?

It's a really rather glorious tea. It's a light, refreshing, thirst quenching type of tea. It's like a slightly maltier version of Twining's Afternoon tea and reminds me of a fabulous tea I had once at Hever Castle in Kent.

Purple Blush is a soft tea. Gentle and easy to drink. Exceptionally delicate and almost lady like. This is a perfect summery type of tea because of it's lightness. Whilst being delicate, at the same time it's completely satisfying and incredibly moreish. Like several other blends that I enjoy the kettle is rarely even cool when I'm drinking this, and rather greedily, I have almost consumed the 15 teabags within a few days of regular drinking!

Due to the element of it slightly changing colour the drinker is advised to add lemon. I find it a far easier way was to cut a thin slice of lemon and add it to the drink rather then adding drops of lemon juice as advised on the tin. I left the lemon in only for a short while.

The added lemon adds a slight tartness to the tea. Once I saw the colour change I did try a cup without the lemon and it was lovely but I do feel that the added lemon adds something a bit extra to the cup so I would advise adding lemon to every cup that you drink.

As this is a light and delicate tea this would be a PERFECT blend to serve with afternoon tea.

There is no need to add any milk with this tea, it will only impair the tea and it's perfect without.

I was more the pleasantly surprised with Purple Blush tea. Not that I thought it was horrible because I've tried other tea's from Williamson and they were both lovely, rather, I was surprised that a Kenyan tea, which tend to be very robust, could be quite so charmingly delicate.

On a superficial level, Williamson's Tea are beautiful to look at as they come in the most gorgeous of caddies. However, beyond that, the tea is fantastic.

Purple Blush is almost addictive. I'm sure if you buy some, you'll find how true that statement is.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Positive Tea Blogging

There are two things that regular readers will probably know about me. The first, and most vital thing, is my profound, unadulterated love of tea. Tea run's in my veins, is firmly established in my heart and is a vital lifeline, a comfort giver and is absolutely divine. The enthusiasm I have is genuine and from the heart and is shared by a great many people around the world.

The second thing is that I love to blog. I love to write full stop, but writing about tea gives me so much pleasure. And I'd like to say that by the positive comments that come through into my inbox people like to read, thankfully. With blogging I can forget the world for ten, twenty minutes, or even a hour or more. It's a joy for me and even if I had no readers, I'd still write these blogs!

If this blog were a person, I'd say it was like Lady Diana in her early days. A bit gauche, innocent, yet to be the beautiful swan I hope it will become. Laura's Tea Room is almost a year old and I hope that as it approaches it's second year it will go from strength to strength.

And, quite innocently maybe, I like the blog to be happy, fun to read and enjoyable. So, with that in mind I was asked this morning by a regular (and supportive reader)  a set of rather pertinent questions.

Why are your blogs always positive? Are you frightened of what  tea company may say if you're negative? 

So, I thought this blog may well be the perfect opportunity to answer these questions.

Well, firstly, I think my blogs are always positive mainly because I'm positive about tea as a whole, and find most of what comes through my letter box appealing and enjoyable.  As long as the tea is of a good quality, blended well, then I'll like it.

I'm not swayed by pretty packaging. Because, I think, we all know that no matter how nice the packaging is, if the contents are foul then you won't purchase the tea again. Recently I blogged about Twinings   Mango Tango and quite clearly stated how I didn't think the tea worked. Yes, it was a new line, yes it was packaged really nicely, but still, it just didn't hit the spot like I hoped it would.

With regards to new tea's I'm rather like a little puppy, full of boundless energy, willing to give each and every tea that I true a fair crack of the whip. But, I'm also honest too and if I don't like it or think that particular blend or infusion doesn't work - I'll say so.

Am I worried about what tea companies may say to me if I write a negative review? Interesting question but the answer would have to be a rather firm NO! To protect both myself and the tea company, if I approach a company, or (and this is happening more regularly)the company approaches me, I now have the confidence to say I will blog honestly and if I find there is something I don't like I'll say it. Every company I've said this to have been more then happy with the arrangement.

Blogging, especially if you are blogging a item or product rather then say, your thoughts on the world, is hard sometimes. If you appear positive on every product you can, I appreciate, appear insincere.  But, I suppose, it's my positive attitude that wins over every time and I wont be deliberately dishonest about a product just because I may of reached a quota of positive blogs!

To summarise: tea is fast becoming the true love of my life, and blogging isn't far behind. When you blend together tea and blogging I am one happy lady. And positivity does win over most times.

But, every review is written from my heart and is considered before pen is put to paper.

I may not have the language to talk about the technical side of tea, but, I hope that my love of it comes through in every post.

And once again, thank you to all my readers who contact me with such positive comments. They are, heartwarming.

Rosy Lee Tea: (P)earl(y) Grey

Today's review is Rosy Lee Tea's  Pearly Grey. For those readers from abroad, Rosy Lee is Cockney rhyming slang for tea!

The flavour of choice today is Pearly Grey, a brilliant play on words. Essentially, the blend is Earl Grey. As Rosy Lee is a East London tea company Pearly Grey is referring to the pearly Kings and Queens that are well known around East London.

Rosy Lee are based in Bow in East London and I was told about them from a friend of mine, strangely from the other side of the world. Funnily enough I'm just about ten minutes on the tube from Bow. I checked out the website and found their Pearly Grey tea which, if I'm honest, really made me smile. I love clever play on words like that.

As you can see above, the tea comes in brilliant little caddies and I absolutely love my Pearly Grey caddie. I'm really taken with it! However, I did chat with a lovely lady from Rosy Lee who said they are currently rebranding their tea packaging, so I may be fortunate to just about get my hands on one!

Reading their website, I was interested to see that their tea is stocked in Selfridge's and in various places from the National Portrait Gallery to the fabulous Museum of London (a personal favourite haunt of mine) so if you are in either of these places you'll find their tea on sale. If you check out Rosy Lee's stockists page you'll be able to access a full list of where their tea is available.

I was very kindly sent a tin of their Pearly Grey tea and their Everyday tea. As a Earl Grey lover I was keen to try that first. I adore Earl Grey because it's a good, solid, reliable tea and on cold days like today it's exactly what the soul needs.

As I drink tea black it's quite easy to brew this tea. I popped the teabag in the mug and left it to brew for a few minutes.

This tea brews to a lovely gorgeous ebony colour and the aroma of lovely citrus comes through very strongly. It really has a pleasant smell to it and it even now I can still smell it in the kitchen!

Pearly Grey is a solid, strong tea. It's really like a posh version of builders tea because it has that amazing strength that you get from builders tea. It's very robust and perhaps is one of the strongest black tea's I've ever tried.

The bergamot is lovely and fragrant and this has the pleasantness that you get with Earl Grey. It's a evenly balanced tea, with the bergamot oil not too overpowering but tasty none the less. It has a lovely richness to it, as well.

I was really impressed with this tea. I've said before that although Earl Grey seems a simple tea to produce, if it's done well it's gorgeous, if it's done badly it's awful. And this was really lovely.

The only bit of caution I'd say is if you take it black don't let it brew too long as it does tend to go slightly bitter if overbrewed. I'd say two minutes will do the job perfectly!

I liked Pearly Grey. It's really nice and a extra special treat as Earl Grey is one of my all time favourites!

Friday, 5 December 2014

Williamson Tea: Pure Green Earl Grey

This week I was really excited to receive a parcel from Williamson Tea. As I explained in a earlier post I was contacted by the lovely Jade asking if I'd like to review their new Mini Cru range. I jumped at the chance. And I am so glad to have been asked.

The first tea I am reviewing in the range is their Pure Green Earl Grey. As you'll know I'm mad about green tea and I'm equally as mad about Earl Grey, so it's perfect to bring the two together. I have tried other Earl Grey tea's in green form. They were lovely but green Earl Grey is not a common tea, so when I do stumble across them I'm very eager to try them.

I am already on my third cup of the day, and have experimented with the tea. The first thing I'd like to say is that this tea has the most delicious aroma ever. The tea comes in a stainless steel (I think!) metal tin, and it has a special inner plug under the lid to keep the tea fresh. When I removed the plug the smell was just gorgeous. It had that very welcoming (and comforting, I must say) aroma of bergamot which any Earl Grey lover will be more then familiar with.

The tea comes in pyramid shaped teabags. I love these sort because you can watch the tea brewing and it's great fun. Each tin contains fifteen teabags.

Now, I've had three cups of this tea already today. It's a extremely delicate green tea (some green tea's are delicate, some are a little more robust) and I think it's vital with this tea that you use the two golden rules of green tea.

Firstly, once boiled, do let the water cool a little. Green tea is far more partial to scorching. Secondly, this tea needs no more then ONE MINUTE infusion time. Actually, I will confidently say it could with under a minute infusion. I appreciate that this doesn't seem very long, and when making black tea under a minute would leave you with a weak brew. However, this is green tea, and I left the tea to infuse for over a minute on the first cup and it had started to go slightly bitter, which tends to happen with green tea.

I'd say perfect brewing time is 30 seconds to a minute. A minute being perfect. You'll still get that wonderful Earl Grey flavour  but without the base green tea becoming bitter and undrinkable.

This green tea is light and delicate, just like a perfectly made cupcake. It's one of those tea's that is perfect all year round. It's refreshing and easy to drink so perfect for summer months, but with the addition of the Earl Grey element, it's warming and comforting for the winter months too.

It brews to a light, almost clear, amber colour.

When I took my first sip I thoroughly enjoyed it. The green tea is of a lovely quality. The Earl Grey flavouring is evenly balanced with the tea. It's quite crisp and is instantly detectable and this tea is perfect for Earl Grey lovers to get their fix whilst at the same time having a tea with a lower caffeine content. It's the best of both worlds.

Another lovely thing about this tea is that it's a real difference from the normal green tea with lemon that you mostly get in supermarkets.

I was really thrilled with this tea, and halfway through writing this blog made my fourth cup. That's a real compliment to Williamson's Tea because they have sent me a blend that is actually proving to be quite addictive!

If you want to try a green tea with a little extra something then do try Pure Green with Earl Grey . The green tea is different but the Earl Grey is familiar. I'm certain you'll enjoy it as much as I do.

Christmas Has Come Early At Laura's Tea Room Courtesy Of Williamson's Tea

Earlier this week I was sat on the computer, minding my own business, and in popped a message on Twitter. It contained a message from a lady named Jade. She asked about a tea review. Initially, I was slightly worried. Had I said something wrong on a blog? Had I offended a tea company? I provided my email and waited for a message to pop into the inbox.

I didn't have to wait long and was somewhat relieved at the content of the message.  Jade turned out to be a lovely lady, who wanted to ask if I'd like to try a set of Williamson's new range of tea. Of course I replied with a very excited 'yes, please'.

The very next day the package arrived. It contained a set of their new Mini Cru range. And it was a set that really excited me. The range consists of four tea's: Purple Blush, Zinga Black, Pure Green with Earl Grey and Earl Grey with Blue Flowers. 

They are such an attractive set of tea's. They come in stainless steel tins that are etched with different designs for each tea. Each tin contains 15 pyramid shaped teabags. 

Williamson's are a family owned business who have been established for 140 years. They grow their tea in Kenya and use only sustainable farming methods.

Earlier this year I reviewed a Williamson's tea that is called Lifeboat Tea and which is sold to raise funds for the RNLI. Their tea's are strong and satisfying. 

My first tea will be reviewed very shortly ....

Monday, 1 December 2014

Controversy On Laura's Tea Room? Indeed! Who knew Teasmaids Would Spark Such Debate!

 Yesterday, I blogged about my fantasy Christmas present wish list.  It was a tongue-in-cheek, lighthearted blog about the wonderful tea accessories that are out there, and basically, how much I'd like to own, pretty much, all of them.

But what I wasn't prepared for was the debate that one item on the list would provoke. The simple teasmaid.

What I discovered is there is no middle ground with the humble teasmaid.  People (and I have to admit this is the minority) either love them or (the majority) hate them. I am in the minority and I will stand up and admit that I love the machines and would kill to own one. 

So it makes me wonder why people hate them. 

Firstly I think it's probably because they are fairly "old fashioned". In fact, whilst watching George and Mildred the other day I noticed that Mildred had one on her bedside cabinet. I winced. I think they are considered old hat, kitsch and, dare I say it, just a little bit naff. I'll be honest, my old nan used to have one, and I expect most people's nan's did, too!

I also think they just look cumbersome, they are not sleek, not shiny, not chic like the modern coffee making machines that are out there. I recently spend a hour browsing the kitchen appliances in Curry's and to be fair, though not a coffee lover, the machines do look fab. The poor teasmaid, no matter how it's been re-designed do not look so hip.

But I think there is something quaintly endearing about the teasmaid, despite it's rather old hat style. 

I just think it's brilliant that you could have a cup of tea brewed without even having to get out of bed! How awesome is that! You can be snoozing one minute, then sitting up drinking a mug of keemun (or whatever you favourite tea is) the next minute without even having to leave the comfort of your snug duvet.

What is possibly wrong with a invention that allows you to do that?

However, I do think that there are some changes in the design that could be made which could possibly improve the appeal to the tea drinker. Instead of being a weird rounded shape, why not make it upright like most coffee machines? And changing it from white plastic to stainless steel would certainly work. 

But what the heck! I will stand up and admit that I love teasmaid's and the conventional design does not put me off. 

Would I have one? Yes, I certainly would. Will I ever have one? Hopefully. And not in the too distant future, either!