Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Northern Tea Merchants: Wa-Koucha Black Tea

(Photo sourced from www.northern-tea.com - sorry had camera issues!)

I have long been a black tea lover, as regular readers will know. I love it pure, flavoured, Earl Grey being a particular favourite, as I often say.

Today though, I have experienced a black tea that, in all honesty, I believe, is the finest example of black tea I've ever tasted. It was love at first sip.

And it's a tea I'm really serious about.

The little treasure that I write about today is Wa-Koucha Black tea from Northern Tea Merchants.

From the moment I snipped open the packet of this Japanese black tea, I knew this was going to be a tea that I'd really enjoy and when I actually tasted it I knew this was something special. And I loved it so much I'm on the third pot already.

The tea has a wonderful aroma that is gentle and fruity and is instantly alluring. The first thing I do when opening a new tea is to inhale the aroma of the tea when dried and again after brewing. Sometimes they can smell quite differently after infusion.

I was very cautious regarding the brewing process as advised on Northern Tea's page for the Wa-Koucha tea. I decided on the first infusion to brew for two minutes and increased it to three on the second. Personally, I preferred it after the three minute infusion, but was careful not to go over the three minutes.

The tea brews to a lovely dark mahogany colour, with a vibrant copper tinge which is very attractive indeed. The tea comes from the second 2012 harvest.

Without a doubt Wa-Koucha is extremely flavoursome, whilst at the same time, retaining a delicateness that is a pleasure to taste. It is very unique as it's a black tea that has some of the qualities of green tea that I love most, a slight grassy flavour, a ever so slightly astringent but pleasant aftertaste that dances merrily on your taste buds.

In addition this tea does have fruity tones, too, which makes this tea. It reminds me ever so slightly of a plummy flavour which adds another layer of taste to a tea that is just wonderful to drink.

And the smoothness of the tea, and it's texture is perhaps one of the elements that I love most about it. It is as smooth as honey, easy to drink - a delight for every one of our senses.

This morning I was on the sofa really struggling to get warm and in a fair bit of discomfort due to my bones which are thinning due to a medical complaint - I was feeling pretty gloomy I don't mind admitting, and tired too after a long shift at work last night, but as I took my first sip of the tea, experiencing it's wonderful texture and glorious taste, this really lifted my spirits, boosted my energy levels and after a couple of cups, really started to feel more like Laura then I have in a couple of days.

Wa-Koucha is just about a perfect tea as you can possibly get. The aroma is gorgeous (both dried and after infusion), the texture is smooth and mellow, the flavour is full and enjoyable but retaining a charming delicateness, it's after taste a little stronger but pleasant. This tea has all the elements of a tea that is about as close to perfect that I have yet to experience.

It's safe to say this is a tea that I, unknowingly, have been searching for for a long, long time.

But the only downside is Wa-Koucha tea is extremely rare. As James from Northern Tea Merchants explains that he has only been able to acquire 750g's. That's all. He has divided it into 15 packs of 50g's so if you want to try this gorgeous tea, then get in quickly (this morning, a Twitter friend of mine brought a pack, so there is one less available!!!!).

I know that I almost always write positively about tea, but this blend exceeds expectations. It's special because it tastes exquisite, in addition the value available is very low so if you want to try this wonderful tea I'd do so now!

As regular readers know I am incredibly fond of Northern Tea because they never let me down on the most important thing as a serious tea drinker - quality. And with Wa-Koucha I continue to be impressed.

If you really, really want to be impressed then you HAVE to try this tea. Do not let this gorgeous, superb blend slip away. And at £4.99 for 50g's it's an affordable piece of luxury.

Once you have tried this tea you will never look back. One experienced you will never forget it. And somehow the tea you always thought was your favourite will never quite seem the same again. This tea creates a impression and as someone who has tried many different tea's, that is hard to do.

Thanks to James for introducing me to this glorious tea!

Friday, 16 October 2015

Tea From Vietnam: Fish Hook Green Tea

Quite recently, I've been enjoying a lot of green tea. I always enjoy green tea of course but I've been making far more of it recently. And I love all sorts of green tea. There are so many flavours out there to choose from but when I received a recent package of samples very kindly sent to me from Tea From Vietnam I have gotten excited about drinking it pure and without added flavour, which I haven't done in some time.

I received plenty of samples in the packet so essentially just closed my eyes and picked out the first tea. It so happened to be a very vibrant and interesting green tea called Fish Hook.

It's named Fish Hook simply because that is what it looks like - the hooks you use when fishing! The leaves are small and curled tightly!

Unsure about this tea having never tried the blend, I brewed this tea for just a minute. The packet said between 30 seconds and two minutes so I thought the mid-way point would be best.

This tea brews to a glorious, shimmering light green colour, which is a joy to look at, and the aroma of the unbrewed tea is very woody and grassy.

I will say that this tea, due to it's unique taste, is a green tea that would be enjoyed more by the green tea connoisseur rather then the tea drinker who is experimenting and trying green tea for the first time. It's a really unique tea that has wonderful qualities but is also very different too. Far different to the green tea you'd find on the supermarket shelves.

Fish Hook is a very earthy, natural tea. This reminds me very much of Yunnan black tea, as it has a lovely, nutty element to it, with a rich, smooth flavour to it. It is also ever so slightly grassy, the element of green tea that is very famous.

It's very light green, watery appearance hides a very strong, flavoursome tea, and you really cannot judge this tea by appearances. It's easily one of the strongest green tea's I've ever tried!

Though I brewed this tea correctly, this tea does have a natural astringent quality, which again is why I think a newbie green tea drinker would struggle with this particular blend, but for an experienced green tea drinker as I, I really do like the slight bitter edge this tea has.

And Fish Hook has a awesome, strong and unforgettable aftertaste.

On this very wet, gloomy and miserable Friday afternoon, and trying to get over a chest infection, this tea has given me a much needed and exceptionally tasty boost!

Once tasted, this tea is extremely memorable. It's a good quality, pure green tea and it's nice to experience that once in a while. I love green tea with added flavours, such as lemon or blueberry, but to experience it pure is lovely, too!

This is a high quality, delicious tea and I certainly cannot wait to try the other flavours that Tea From Vietnam has sent me. 

Do check out their website. They have lots of wonderful tea to try - they do black tea and oolong, too!

And there will (happily) be more reviews coming soon from Tea From Vietnam!

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Piacha Tea: Rhubarb Rooibos

It's fair to say that you won't find many reviews of rooibos tea on this blog. It's not a tea that I will ever drink on a frequent basis, there is something about it's natural sweetness that I find off putting (probably as I don't seem to have much of a sweet tooth lately). But it does have it's qualities, and one of them is it takes to flavours extremely well!

It's also fair to say that I have a huge (tea) crush on Piacha tea at the moment! They are a fun, vibrant company who make gorgeous tea. And their fabulous Apple Tea is easily my favourite new tea of the year, so far.

Recently they very kindly sent me out some samples and included was this Rhubarb Rooibos tea.

This tea is a wonderful cornucopia of flavours and ingredients. Not only does this tea contain rhubarb, but, amongst other wonderfully delicious things there is: hazlenut pieces, strawberry pieces, pineapple, vanilla, elderberries, apple and caramel.

The picture doesn't do this tea any justice - the tea is brightly coloured and is a gorgeous copper colour. A very real treat.

When I opened the packet there was a definite sweetness. In fact it reminded me of my favourite boiled sweets - rhubarb and custard. Mouthwatering and very interesting. I closed my eyes, inhaled it's aroma and looked forward to trying this very busy tea!

Whilst the tea was infusing, the lovely aroma of the tea was rich and creamy and I could smell it from upstairs, it seemed to waft around the whole house which was lovely, rather like a tea version of a gorgeous Yankee Candle!

There is so many elements to this tea that it's really rather hard to know where to start, so I think, I'll just dive in.

This is a VERY sweet tea, so for those of you who like your tea sweet, this is a nice way to enjoy a sweet tea without adding sugar, so it's totally guilt free. It's also caffeine free, so for those of you who want to cut back on caffeine, or, for instance, who are pregnant and want a great caffeine free alternative this is the tea for you!

Rhubarb is, naturally, the most prominent flavour. It's rich and fruity, but there is a slight sharpness too which is a brilliant alternative to the sweetness that is the base for this tea.

There is a smooth element to this tea which I found to be soothing on my throat which has recently been really croaky as I've had a chesty cough and that smoothness comes from the vanilla and caramel which has also been included into the tea. The vanilla is rich and full flavoured, the caramel is more present in the aroma of the tea rather then the actual taste but you do get hints of caramel weaving through the tea, usually as a slight aftertaste.

What I really enjoyed is the added fruit. I have to admit the strawberry was a little bit in the background but I certainly could detect the sharpness of the pineapple. The addition of quite sharp fruits really does balance out well with the sweetness of the caramel and vanilla. Without these fruits this tea could be heavy with it's sweetness but actually is light, easy to digest and comforting.

As we are now in autumn there are a couple of outdoor events coming up, Halloween and Fireworks Night. This would be a really great tea to serve up at your fireworks party. It's warming and makes your entire body feel as though it's glowing. I think making up a huge pot and handing this out to your friends and family on firework night would go down a real treat! It's actually almost like a desert in a cup. And because you don't add milk to rooibos and certainly don't need sugar, it couldn't be easier to keep your family and friends warm on November 5th!

I was genuinely impressed with this tea. I will admit that I don't feel as though I'll ever be the greatest fan of rooibos tea, however, I certainly enjoyed this wonderful Rhubarb Rooibos and am actually enjoying my third cup today!

It is a charming tea.

And to Francesca at Piacha, I have been really impressed with everything I've tried so far. Thank you for the samples. I'm really enjoying them!

Friday, 2 October 2015

Forleaves Tea Company: Russian Caravan

Today's tea review is a Russian Caravan from Forleaves Tea Company.

Russian Caravan is a really special blend of black tea, but I will admit that it's a blend that I have a up and down relationship with. To purchase a cheap blend of Russian Caravan is a nightmare, it tends to be a smoky mess and not very enjoyable to me, at least. But when you get a very special blend, or a high quality blend it's a real treat for the tea lover.

Russian Caravan is a blend that is named after the special camel caravans that transported the tea from China to Europe via Russia. The journey would take a year and through the journey the tea would take on a subtle smokey taste.

When you buy a cheaper blend, the tea is quite often flavoured with a artificial smoky flavour which is often too overpowering, leading to the tea taking on a bizarre orange hue,  that is oily and unpleasant.  A good Russian Caravan will have a subtle smoky taste that is detectable but not overpowering.

Forleaves Tea Company's take on Russian Caravan is amazing. It is strong and robust but especially tasty and gorgeous to the taste buds. It's gorgeous, fruity aroma is just mouthwatering and I am thoroughly enjoying my pot of the blend this morning.

This tea infuses to a gorgeous, coppery colour, so it's a tea that is beautiful for all of the senses.

Though it is a strong tea, and those who love their tea especially strong will adore this tea, it's flavoursome and extremely pleasant to take black, without milk and it certainly has it's delicate qualities, too!

I don't find this blend a particularly smoky blend, which I am thankful for. I am no great lover of lapsang souchong, or any of those smoky tea's and so this is a brilliant way to enjoy Russian Caravan without the negative aspects.

There is a rich, fruity flavour to this tea which I was really, really surprised about and it's not something I have experienced before with Russian Caravan - but, I LOVE IT! There is a plummy element to this tea, and it's slightly reminiscent of Twinings Plummy Earl Grey blend, which is a blend I really enjoy.

Probably due to the fruity element there is a nice sweet aftertaste too, it's just really gorgeous and perfect if you like your tea sweet but don't like to add sugar or artificial sweeteners.

This is a tea that is strong and satisfying but has wonderful soft, almost feminine elements, too.

I liked this tea, and I really think it has charming qualities. You do get a strong, satisfying brew from the tea, but it's just nice to experience from it's fruity and ever so slightly woody aroma to it's rich, robust taste. As a black tea lover I am really quite taken with this fabulous blend.

In a nutshell, this tea is wonderfully fruity, but that fruitiness does not detract from the superb quality of the tea. It's warming and a great autumnal tea. I'm nice and snug as I sit here and sip on my second cup of the day.

Forleaves has produced a wonderful blend of tea. Do have a look around their brilliant site and see what else catches your attention - they do some wonderful flavours! Why not treat yourself?

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Shibui Tea: White Peony

With one or two exceptions, I pretty much love all tea. I have my favourites, but I am incredibly lucky in as much as I see each tea individually and every tea, be it green, black or white has it's own qualities.

I like black tea because it's punchy, strong and can take pretty much any flavour, whether it be floral or fruity. Green tea is soothing and nice to relax to, and I love white tea because it's both delicate and, at the same time, somewhat earthy and tastes very natural.

But, white tea is hard to handle due to it's delicate nature. And I somewhat strayed from using it frequently until I got the tea maker which is excellent as it boils water to the perfect temperature and infuses for the perfect amount of time.

However, it's worth the effort, especially when you come across a fabulous white tea like Shibui's  wonderful White Peony.

White tea is produced from the buds and young leaves of the tea plant, and get's it's name from the silvery hairs that are found on the unopened bud, giving the plant a white hue. It only needs infusing for a couple of minutes at most as it tends to go bitter very quickly.

This afternoon, on my day off from work, I decided to try Shibui's White Peony. I have been drinking lots of green tea so thought it would make for a wonderful change.

As the tea infused I really enjoyed the lovely, earthy aroma that you get from this tea. It's tea in it's purest form and I was interested to see what it tasted like.

White Peony is a smooth and mellow tea and is a very fine example of  a white tea.

It is incredibly light and refreshing, whilst retaining a great deal of flavour, so you can enjoy a unflavoured tea but still come away with plenty of taste and flavour. What I really love is you take a sip of this tea and there is a almost vanilla like sweetness to it, and this only enhances the attractiveness of this tea.

White Peony comes in a silky pyramid which is made from a smooth but strong material meaning no tea leaks out of the bag, or it's attached tag rips off. It's lovely to the touch and is filled with a generous quantity of tea.

If you pop over to the white peony page on the company website you will see that the tea is available in a really attractive caddy and is available in pyramids of 15 or 60.  Honestly - I'd go for the 60 as this is a really enjoyable tea and I'm positive you'd love it.

This is ideal for those who are starting out taking their tea without milk as it's so gentle and fragrant and will help you get used to tea without milk in a easy and enjoyable way. It's incredibly refreshing too, especially on those warm days!

As I said earlier, this is a fine example of white tea and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was a pleasure to drink this tea!

If you've not tried white tea, why not get it a go. You won't be disappointed. If you fancy a little bit of luxury then look no further. I was extremely pleased to have gotten the chance to experience this wonderful tea.

Friday, 25 September 2015

Marks And Spencers: Empress Grey

It's no secret here on this blog that one of my favourite blends is Lady Grey, the feminine and fruity sister to Earl Grey.

Twinings developed Lady Grey fairly recently, in the 1990's I think, so it's certainly not as old as Earl Grey but is so established in their line that many think it's as old as the popular blend. However, recently money has been tight and, if I'm quite honest, the price of Lady Grey, which is now hitting around the £4 mark for 50 teabags, has been out of my range.

So, I've had to start hunting for tea's that may be similar but slightly  more affordable.

Occasionally I chat to a chap called Colin on Twitter about tea. And he gave me the heads up on Marks and Spencers Empress Grey blend. So, I thought I'd give it a try!

I popped down to my local branch of Marks and Spencers and was delighted to see the tea on offer. The tea is priced at £1.50 for 50 teabags. At the time of purchase it was on three boxes for two - a real bargain.

Firstly, I would say that Empress Grey does lack the richness that Lady Grey has. It's certainly more fruity and a lot stronger then the Twinings blend, but, aside from that, I really, really enjoyed the tea and is a good alternative to the popular Twinings blend.

Marks and Spencers Empress Grey is a thirst quenching, stress relieving drink. Last week I was working and came out of work really, really thirsty. My body craved this blend for some reason and when I got home drunk almost a whole pot in a sitting. It really relieved my thirst which is a good sign.

I love the lightness of this tea and it's citrus flavour, mainly lemon, comes through nice and strong. It really leaves your mouth feeling refreshed and clean, it serves as a very good palate cleanser! Even after you finish the cup of tea, you can taste it for some time and it's a flavoursome, full bodied taste.

The Chinese tea is light and tasty and the tea infuses to a wonderful honey colour.

It's flavours of bergamot, orange and lemon are blended well. I was reminded of a nice fruity punch type drink as none of the flavours outdid one another, they worked well, hand in hand and combined made for a really tasty cup of tea. In some blends you can get a lot of lemon flavour and can barely taste the orange. This works so well together and I was hugely impressed.

Upon tasting this tea you soon realise that it's totally addictive and on more than one occasion have been making two to three pots of this a day. It's brilliant on those sorts of days when you fancy something nice and fruity and refreshing.

As this is a black tea you don't have to be too particular how long you infuse it for, but I would advise no more than around four minutes. If you brew this for much longer it does tend to take on more of the lemon flavour and can start to resemble a lemsip, so for a evenly balanced, nicely tasty brew, I would suggest brewing for around four minutes.

Last year I was really impressed by Marks and Spencer's Christmas tea, Mulled Fruit Tea but to my shame I've not really investigated any more of their tea's, it's just not a shop I'd think of to head to the tea aisle but I will certainly now have a look to see what they have in. I'd quite like (naturally for me) to taste their Earl Grey and a couple of their fruity tea's.  And I'm interested to see what they produce this Christmas!

I have heard good things about Empress Grey on the internet after doing some research and I can say it makes for a great cup of tea. I'm not sure if it will ever replace Lady Grey in my affections but it's still lovely, and most importantly for the moment, affordable.

So if you do pop into M&S to do your Christmas shopping do give this tea a try. I'm pretty sure you will like it and, actually, it doesn't stain your teacups, so overall it's a brilliant tea!

Piacha Tea: Earl Grey Vanilla

There has been a distinct lack of posts lately, for which I apologise! However, I've just started a new job and, apart from the terrible nerves I suffered from, the shifts have been long, with me on my feet all day, and I've just been slightly tired at the end of the day. However, I'm hoping that things will shortly settle down and normal blogging can resume.

When my feet are aching and I still have some time left on my shift my mind wonders to two things, tea and music. My mouth can literally be watering at the prospect of a tasty mug of a favourite blend and the bus trip home can't go by quickly enough!

Today is my day off so I have decided to try a new tea that was kindly sent to me but the lovely Francesca from Piacha Tea. 

The tea of choice is Earl Grey Vanilla, a tea that has been sat on a shelf staring down at me, tempting me for quite some time. But when I try a new tea, I like to really try it, not guzzle it down. One of life's pleasures is to sit and sip, taking in every part of the tea's flavour so have reserved this fine blend for my day off.

And what a fine blend it is. Just to look at the tea is wonderful, it has a lovely dark colour to it, and it is lovely to the touch.

The aroma of this tea is magical. When I cut the packet open the first thing I noticed was the lovely and oh so familiar scent of fruity bergamot. A very welcome aroma for a woman who has Earl Grey pumping through her veins! But in addition there is the ever so slight, sweet smell of vanilla which adds a gentleness to the very powerful aroma of bergamot. The vanilla is so delicate but you can instantly detect it amongst the other scents.

Earl Grey Vanilla is the sort of tea that you only need a little of to make a decent cup. I use the Sage tea maker daily and I have experimented with this tea, and know that a little goes a very long way indeed. If you use too much and the tea is strong it can be overpowering, as any Earl Grey can be, so a little restraint is used when loading up the infuser basket!

This tea brews to a gorgeous copper colour. It really is an attractive tea in every sense and as a fanatic of Earl Grey I could not wait to try this tea.

Now, I have tried tea's that contain vanilla with varying degrees of success. Some of them have been wonderful, others have been sickly and too overpowering, but this is the first time that I've tried vanilla tea in the context of Earl Grey so it was an exciting prospect to try this tea.

This tea is delightful. And it truly is the best of both worlds. First of all there is absolutely no doubt at all that this tea is a Earl Grey. You have the familiar fruity flavour that you always get with a good Earl Grey. It's rich and refreshing and on a chilly day like today warms you up from the inside.

The addition of vanilla though, is clever. You can certainly taste the vanilla but it is not rich, sickly or overly sweet. It is a perfect addition to the tea and it compliments the traditional elements of Earl Grey. Somehow, and I do not know how Piacha do it, but they manage to add enough vanilla to allow you to taste it, but it doesn't overpower the other flavours, nor is it too sweet, either.

Earl Grey Vanilla is so well blended it is ideal for those who like their tea to be different, but I also believe that those lovers of Earl Grey will find this a charming and satisfying blend too. It's a different spin on Earl Grey but at the same time retains the familiar qualities that we all love.

It's also a very indulgent blend that makes you feel like you having a luxurious treat and that can't be bad after a long day at work can it? It's smooth, mellow and just wonderful. This is the second tea I've tried from Piacha and I'm as impressed with this tea as I was with their gorgeous Apple Green Tea.

This tea would be ideal to serve at afternoon tea with some lovely creamy cakes, or as a after dinner drink. At the same time though, it's great to enjoy any time of day. But I would advise you to enjoy this blend when you have the time to truly experience all of it's lovely flavours. To drink this quickly as you run off to work, school or whilst you are busy would do this tea a huge injustice. This tea deserves to be enjoyed at leisure!

I was so impressed, and it's hard to impress me when it comes to Earl Grey.

Well done to Piacha tea, you've created a fantastic blend and one that I certainly will not forget in a hurry!

Friday, 11 September 2015

Piacha: Apple Green Tea ... (with a soothing hint of cinnamon!)

For those of us in the UK it is pretty evident that autumn is here. We have chilly mornings and evenings, dew on the grass and frost on the car windows. After a balmy summer of high temperatures, cool breezes and heavy downpours, we are now entering into my favourite season of them all.

I love autumn because I can't quite deal with the high temperatures. I love the fresh crispness of the air, the low autumnal sun and the fact that we now see a huge collection of autumn (and in a few months, Christmas!) tea's in the shops and online. Sadly though, the most common autumn tea, Pumpkin Spice, isn't a real hit for me. There is something about it that I just don't like.  But, now, thanks to Piacha I have just tried a wonderful, warming tea that I think is perfect for the season. 

In my humble opinion, their Apple Green Tea is THE thing to drink this autumn. 

But, first a little bit about Piacha. 

I was contacted by a lovely lady called Francesca who kindly sent me some samples and a little bit of history on the company. Piacha is based in Islington, London. You can buy their tea and drink it in their cafe, order it to take away or, if you want to drink it at home, you can buy it in loose form and prepare it at home. Or, if you're reading this from a little further away you can buy the tea online, too!

Not only do Piacha use tea in drinks. They also add it to their food too! You can buy Lapsang infused ham sandwiches and muesli with added Rooibos! It certainly seems that this is a company that truly does love it's tea.

And it's proving a hit with customers too - in just eight months they are featured highly on Tripadvisor. They are number 6 out of 619 best coffee and tea places in London - a huge and impressive achievement.

I will be visiting Piacha in the near future (as soon as I find a job!) and will, naturally, put a review up as soon as I can! I'm excited and cannot wait to visit the shop and meet the team.

Anyway, back to the tea. I have kindly been sent a great selection of tea, but, as a apple tea lover I picked their Apple Green Tea to review first. 

I love apple flavoured tea. Whether it be added to black tea, as a fruit infusion or, as with the case of today's tea, added to green tea. But, it's a very hard tea to get right. A lot of the cheaper blends of tea add a flavouring to the tea and it can sometimes be very oily and uneasy to drink. This tea, however, is fantastically natural, thirst quenching, tasty and incredibly moreish.

This morning I was at a job interview and nerves took over. Unable to eat or drink anything, by the time I got home I was desperate for a drink and because of it's marvelous qualities this was the tea I decided to choose. I filled the tea maker tea basket with an ample amount of tea. As you can see it's a gorgeous looking tea. The tea is lovely and green, the pieces of apple bring a lovely contrasting colour and you can even see bits of cinnamon in there, too!

Naturally, with this being a green tea, I was careful to set the right temperature and infusion time and sat back and enjoyed the lovely apple scent as the tea infused. It just smells very fresh and it truly is a mouthwatering tea.

And now we get to why this tea is just so perfect for this time of year. It is incredibly warming and inviting and works well in the morning with a bowl of cereal, or, in the afternoon with a huge wedge of your favourite cake. It's a versatile tea and I'd be proud to serve this up to my friends for afternoon tea.

There is also something very comforting about it too. With it's juicy, sweet apple pieces and pieces of slightly spicy cinnamon it's very reminiscent of your nan's home made apple pie! The apple flavour is very sweet indeed (which is perfect for me as I'm on WeightWatchers as you all know and it really does the trick when you need that hit of something sweet - a very healthy treat!) and it's balanced out by the wonderful, spicy cinnamon.

This is the tea of choice for the first cup of the morning as it just warms your up from inside, leaving you feeling brilliant, comforted and warm. Just the other day it was pouring down with rain here, very dark and gloomy and I was curled on the sofa with a cup of this amazing tea just watching the world go by.

The base tea - which is a Chinese green tea - is absolutely lovely. It's green colour is bright and vivid and you get just a hint of slightly herbal flavour from the tea. It feels lovely to the touch and is a good, solid, strong base that takes the apple and cinnamon really well.

This isn't just a tea, it's an experience. They say that we all need ten minutes of the day where we can just sit and relax and this is the perfect partnership for your relaxing moments.

I was really impressed with this tea. It's amazing how soothing this tea is. And never more, after a nerve wracking interview, have I needed a cup of tea more! Within a few minutes of drinking this tea my tension headache had gone and I started to feel like myself again.

I have some great other tea's from Piacha that I cannot wait to try and review! Earl Grey Vanilla is one, Rhubarb Rooibos another. I simply cannot wait to see what other delights are currently sat in my cupboard!

If you are in Islington you can find Piacha at 280 Upper Street. Do check them out - I know I can't wait to! In the meantime, I'll be posting more reviews over the next few days.

But as far as the Apple Green Tea goes, I'm off to enjoy my third cup of the day!

Friday, 28 August 2015

The Joy Of Jasmine Pearls

(Image sourced from Google).

This week has been manic. The job hunting continues with vigour, and a nasty fall which I suffered last week has finally caused problems to my thinning bones. So, it's been all go.

Just as exercise is good for the body (and I have been making fine use of my new bike) tea drinking and blogging is good for the spirit and after a nice bath and hair wash I am indulging in a wonderful cup of Jasmine Pearls.

Drinking Jasmine Pearls is an experience that is utterly different from other tea's. Black tea is like a lifelong friend, offering me comfort and solace when things are sad, and merrily feature in all the nice celebrations too. Green tea is the slightly lofty but exotic cousin to black tea, providing a wonderful, refreshing drink. And Jasmine Pearls is the stately head of the family, slightly towering above all others.

So what are Jasmine Pearls?

Well, Jasmine Pearls are made from a delicate green tea. This tea is usually left very close, or indeed amongst jasmine flowers so they are, infused, for want of a better word, with the scent of the jasmine flowers. They are then hand rolled into tiny balls.

This is a very delicate tea to work with, and it's tea's like these that make the Sage tea maker worth it's weight in gold. The water used to brew Jasmine Pearls should not be any higher than 80c and the brewing period should be closely timed. Some producers say it's okay to brew for up to five minutes but I tend to leave mine for a lot less than that. I love the delicateness of a tea brewed for slightly less time.

Jasmine Pearls, naturally, have a lovely, fresh and invigorating floral scent. I have tried many different Jasmine Pearl's from different sources and the tea can even sometimes take on a honeysuckle scent which reminds me of my childhood garden, when the neighbours grew honeysuckle. There was nothing nicer then going to play, around dusk, in the garden so I could enjoy the rich aroma of the honeysuckle plant.

Being a green tea you can also enjoy the health benefits too, whilst at the same time, drinking something so fabulous.

Due to it's light colour and particularly fragrant elements, this tea is ideal to take with afternoon tea. It works especially well with sponge cakes, particularly those cakes lightly infused with lemon. It brings a element of sophistication to any afternoon tea and instantly lifts the occasion from being mundane to sublime.

I suppose the only downside to Jasmine Pearls is the price. It is expensive compared to black and green tea, which can be brought cheaply anywhere. For instance, a typical Jasmine Pearl will sell for between £2 to £3 for 10g's, £10 to £15 for 50g's and even in the supermarket, a box of 15 tea temples sell for just over £5, so, it's a luxurious tea. But is it worth it? It certainly is. Though this tea isn't affordable to use daily (though loose Jasmine Pearls can be infused more then once) it's nice to have some in for a treat on those special occasion's, whether it's to cheer yourself up when you're not quite yourself or to celebrate with. For instance, I always make sure I have Jasmine Pearls in for Christmas.

Though Jasmine Pearls will probably not be as widely drunk as black or green tea, those that I know are fans are almost evangelical about this tea, and will happily pay the slightly elevated price for the joy drinking this tea brings.

Kensington Tea Company  sell a wonderful Jasmine Pearls. Likewise, Talisman Tea's also sell a wonderful Jasmine Pearls which I reviewed last weekend. You can read it here.

If you'd like to try this tea, there is a blend available in the supermarkets. Jasmine Pearls  by Teapigs is available in most major supermarkets.

For a cup of tea that is really different Jasmine Pearl's is a great one to try. It's a brilliant tea for those who would like to drink green tea but cannot drink it pure and unflavoured. It's gentle, refreshing and just glorious.

I am a huge fan of Jasmine Pearls and can never see that changing. It has a loyal base of followers and I can understand why. I'm so glad that I was given the chance to try this wonderful tea. I've never looked back, and I'm positive that once you have tried it, you'll feel exactly the same!

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Plymouth Tea: Drakes Blend

It's safe to say that Plymouth Tea's fabulous Armada blend was a huge hit in my house. I come from a family of well established tea drinkers and they like what they like. It's not easy to introduce new tea to my family. But, when I made my Mum a cup of the Armada Blend she was instantly impressed and has been occasionally hinting that she'd quite like a cup of the delicious tea!

This evening I thought I'd try another of Plymouth Tea's blends. This time it's Drakes Blend.

Plymouth Tea describe this blend as being strong, perfect for those of you who like your tea strong and meaty. And indeed it is!

Drakes Blend is a mix of Indian and African tea, both tea's are famous for their strength. I decided to first of all try this tea without milk. I was a little nervous as I'm only just getting back into drinking plain black tea (as opposed to something like Earl Grey) so wasn't too sure how I'd handle the tea, and indeed, how the strength of the tea would alter the taste.

When I took the first sip, I realised that this is REALLY strong, well it is for me!

This is a powerful, smooth, nicely blended tea. It really does pack a punch and is very strong and for me it takes a little bit of getting used to drinking it black. So if you like really strong tea then this is for you.

I loved the rich, almost slightly nutty taste of the tea. It leaves you feeling very refreshed, but the tea also has a slight bite to it too!

This is a traditional, strong tea of a very good quality.

Recently, I have been diagnosed with thinning bones and one of the pieces of advice I have been given is to reintroduce diary into my diet. I will still be drinking tea's such as Earl Grey, Lady Grey and Yunnan black as I love the flavour and the addition of milk tends to tamper the flavours, but what the re-addition of milk has done is allow me to enjoy tea's like Assam again, tea's that were a little too strong for me to take black.

So, when I had the second mug of Drakes Blend I added a drop of milk and a tiny bit of sugar, and oh my, what a wonderful cup of tea this tea makes.

The natural strength of the tea still comes through with the addition of milk and sugar - it does not take away from the tea at all. For me to have it slightly sweet and milky just makes this an adorable cup of tea. Perfect for breakfast time, as it lacks that malty element I do not like with breakfast blends, but still giving you a kick start.

Drakes Blend is perfect for those strong tea lovers. However, if you take your tea black and prefer a gentler tea, go for the Armada blend. 

But this is just wonderful with liberal dashes of milk and a tiny bit of sugar. It's also advised that this tea goes well with a slice of lemon. I haven't tried that yet, but will shortly, so I will report back to you.

Overall, I love this tea. And I'm sure you will to.

And I have to say, so far, I'm so impressed with Plymouth Tea. I cannot fault the quality of the tea, and what I did forget to say in my previous review is you get more then a generous amount of actual tea in the bag, it's almost bursting with tea. And that is certainly a huge positive.

I hope to see Plymouth Tea on the shelves of supermarkets one day. They really do the basic's very well. And I'm uber excited to see that they do Earl Grey - my personal favourite blend. I will be treating myself to a box shortly, I'm so excited to see what they do with that particular blend. And, I think I may even pop a box of green tea into the shopping trolley, too!

What I can't thank Plymouth Tea enough for is actually creating a blend of tea that is great to take with milk and sugar. There is something comforting about taking a tea in the traditional manner, and still having the strength remain.

I'm a huge fan of Plymouth Tea. And I wish them well for all they do in the future. And I will be watching with keen interest what they will create in the years to come!

Friday, 21 August 2015

Talisman Teas: Organic Jasmine Pearls

Everybody likes a little luxury in their lives every so often. Some like fine wines, others like to indulge in chocolate truffles. My luxury, of course, is tea. And the very apex of luxury in tea is Jasmine Pearls.

Jasmine Pearls is quite an expensive tea (though it's worth it's weight in gold) so it's a rare treat for me nowadays seeing that I am job hunting. When Andy from Talisman Teas kindly sent me some samples I was overjoyed at the presence of a little packet of their great taste award winning Organic Jasmine Pearls. 

It's been quite a manic week so I thought I'd earned some indulgence. Snipping open the packet of these glorious little pearls I deeply inhaled the fragrant aroma. Just beautiful.

The appearance of the tea is just perfect. It's shaped into tiny, perfectly formed balls. They are a rich green colour and I put two decent sized teaspoons into the basket.

One of the best things about owning a Sage tea maker is that the machine has easy to use general settings, but you can also customise the settings, making the perfect cup of tea. The brewing instructions said to brew to a temperature of 80c for 2 minutes so I set the machine and waited patiently.

This wonderful tea brewed to a pale amber colour which is always so pretty to look at. The aroma of the tea developed slowly and in the final twenty seconds of the infusion time, really developed into a light, sweet floral scent.

Oh, how I have missed Jasmine Pearls!

These Organic Jasmine Pearls are as smooth as silk to drink. It's gentle to the taste and feels as though you are drinking honey, it's so soothing and the perfect tea to unwind to at the end of a rather busy week.

The flavour of the tea is well balanced, with fruity, peachy tones. It leaves a ever so slight after taste which is both pleasant and refreshing.  This tea is extremely delicate and gentle to the taste and would make a perfect companion to a light cake such as Victoria sponge or lemon drizzle.

There is something emotionally soothing about this tea, it calms you and with each sip you can feel yourself relaxing and unwinding. It does not sit heavy like some tea's can do, particularly when the weather is warm and muggy as it is currently here in London.

The good thing about Jasmine Pearls is you can re-infuse the leaves too.

On the second infusion the tea retains most of it's flavour though it is a little weakened of course, but because Jasmine Pearls is a little more expensive I would recommend a second infusion as it's still lovely, fresh and flavoursome on it's second brewing.

Talisman Teas Organic Jasmine Pearls has won two Great Taste awards. One in 2013 and it's most recent award was this year in which it won a two star award. I can totally see why this tea has won two awards, it's simply delicious and well worthy of it's prize.

This is a wonderful, luxurious tea which is indulgent and essentially perfection in a cup.

This tea would make the ideal gift for a tea lover, especially those who like light tea's that have floral tones.

A huge thank you must go to Andy at Talisman Teas for sending this little packet of perfection.

I have yet to have a awful or terrible Jasmine Pearl tea, but the smoothness of this tea put's it into a slightly different league. And it's one tea that I am incredibly lucky to have been able to try.

Friday, 14 August 2015

Congratulations To TG Green Tea For Their Great Taste Award

I would like to take the opportunity to say a huge congratulations to TG Green Teas on the occasion of their wonderful green tea being granted a Great Taste Award!

TG Green Tea's are a brilliant company who I have had the honour of working with this year. They produce truly fabulous tea bags and iced green tea. All very flavoursome and healthy and bursting with flavour.

For me, the star of their show, is the wonderful Mandarin Iced Green Tea. The iced tea range have also won a Healthy Living award this year!

The story and belief behind TG Green Tea's is truly inspirational. You can read all about them here. 

From the contact I have had with Hua and Sophia I know how much hard work these two ladies put into the business and are truly dedicated to bringing you excellent green tea, and of course, mouthwatering iced green tea.

Congratulations to you both and I hope that you go from strength to strength!

Friday, 7 August 2015

Plymouth Tea: Armada Blend

I love being a tea blogger. Firstly, there isn't anything nicer then being able to write about something you love very much. Secondly, you get to try some great tea's and through that have contact with really nice, like minded people.

Plymouth Tea kindly approached me one afternoon asking if I'd like to try some tea to sample, which of course, I would never refuse. The email pinged into my inbox whilst I was away for a few days and made the getaway even more pleasant.

There is something really nice about a family run business and that is exactly what Plymouth Tea is. It's aim's are relatively simple but extremely effective - they want to provide tea drinkers with a luxury tea that is of a high quality, and, can be served at a afternoon tea or taken alone at home, whilst at the same time providing the best tea drinking experience that the tea lover can possibly have.

I am proud to support new, independent and family run tea businesses. It is vital to offer tea drinkers something other then the most well known brands that saturate every supermarket. And I'm proud to be able to review their Armada Blend.

For those from abroad who may not be familiar with British geography and history, Plymouth is a city on the South Coast of England. It has a strong naval heritage. Sir Francis Drake, for instance, who was second in command during the Spanish Armada, when Spanish and French ships tried to invade British waters, was said to have played bowls on Plymouth Hoe before the ships arrived. In September 1620 the Mayflower departed from Plymouth, taking the first pioneers to the new world, heading for New England.

On a personal level, my grandfather was in the Royal Navy and my own father spent part of his childhood in Plymouth, and I have visited several times.

So, this was a tea that touched my heart. But would it make the same impression on my taste buds?

I was kindly sent three tea's to sample. Not sure what to try first. I simply closed my eyes, reached into the box and pulled out the first one. That was the Armada blend! (My techniques when it comes to tea is sophisticated!)

The Armada Blend is a tea lover's delight, and for me, it's extra special as I'm making a very enthusiastic return to Assam tea. For a long time I found Assam tea very strong (I normally take my tea unsweetened and black - as you all know!) but as I get older my tastes change and after recently drinking a cup of Assam I really appreciated it strength and flavour.

Armada Blend is a medium strength tea. It's not as full on as Breakfast tea but is slightly stronger, and more robust then the typical afternoon tea. It's a good balance of the two.

The tea can be purchased loose but I was sent some samples in bagged form. I excitedly popped the kettle on this evening, eager to try.

I LOVED THIS TEA! And to write that in capitals means I really loved it!

As I said just earlier, my relationship with Assam tea has been up and down. I loved it in the old days when I had milk and sugar in my tea, then found it unpalatable when I took my tea black. But, after years of taking tea without milk, it seems my tastes have changed and I am now falling back in love with Assam.

What I love about this tea is that it does lack the strange malty type elements that you can get with some blends of Assam tea. It's very smooth, it has strength but not overpoweringly so, but does linger for a while in your mouth which is something I really love.

I found this a wonderful tea to relax with in front of the television. It has a lovely depth of flavour, strong enough to give you a feeling of oomph without being difficult to drink. I found after the first couple of sips that it was a tea that was both refreshing and comforting.

Regular readers will know how much I love Earl Grey - the best of the blends - but sometimes it's nice to get back to basics with tea, unflavoured and pure, and this is simply one of the nicest Assam tea's I think I've had.

It's just so evenly balanced and wonderfully blended that it's incredibly moreish. I found it warming. It's of a very high quality and lacks the bitterness some Assam's can  have. It's just a brilliant cup of tea. I cannot wait to try the other blends.

Last year I was advised by my doctor to look after my bones after being diagnosed with a condition that could affect them in the future, and I have been advised to add a bit of diary back into my diet. So, I have started to have a couple of cups a tea a day where I add milk. And if I add milk, I add a bit of sugar, too! A nice treat.

The second cup of tea I brewed I decided to try this with a dash of milk and a tiny bit of sugar. And it really was a wonderful treat. It is strong enough not to be diluted by the addition of milk and sugar and was very indulgent and just a bit naughty .. but, we all deserve a treat once or twice don't we?

Personally, I prefer to take this tea black, but, a couple of cups a day with milk added makes this tea change into a slightly different tea. So it's good to take anyway you like it. There is a suggestion to add lemon to this tea so I may just try that too this weekend. Variety, as they say, is the spice of life!

I simply cannot wait to try the other blends I've been sent. Reviews coming soon!

It's companies like Plymouth Tea that make me really excited. This is a really wonderful tea, and I sense, from the contact I've had so far, it's a wonderful company too.

Yesterday I saw a report on the news that tea drinking is taking a downturn. Well, I'm sure that wouldn't be the case if people could try Plymouth Tea.  

I must send out my thanks to the team for sending out these samples. I am very privileged to have been able to try this tea. And here's to the other two blends! 

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Shibui Tea: Tropical Green ... And DIY Teabags!

A little white ago, John from Shibui Tea very kindly sent me some wonderful samples from their range of tea. I will apologise to John and everyone at Shibui Tea for the time it's taken to appear but it's been a rather hectic month. However, I'm back on the blogging track and today fancied green tea.

Within the packets of samples, came these brilliant DIY teabags, which are officially called Tea Filters. I decided it would be fun to give them a go, and opted for Green Tropical as I fancied something fruity today.

Firstly, I filled the tea filters with a good quantity of tea. I will admit I probably slightly overloaded the bag, but, can you ever really have too much tea? I don't think so!

After I filled the filter, I simply pulled the string and it sealed it rather like a little money pouch!

Then, I simply popped the filter into the hot water and let it infuse for a couple of minutes.

I really enjoyed using these filters, it made loose tea even easier to use, so if you don't want the hassle of using a infuser or haven't the time to have a pot of tea, then this is a nice, quick and easy way to have good quality loose tea with the convenience of it being in a bag. In fact they are so easy to use, why not make up a few pouches so if you are out and about, and perhaps heading to a cafe, all you need to ask for is a pot of hot water and you can have brilliant tea on the move! (Well, that's what I'd do anyway ....).

I really, really do love these filters. They are a fantastic invention!

The first tea I decided to make was Tropical Green. 

Tropical Green is a wonderful, richly flavoured green tea. I am going through an incredible tropical phase right now, which started when I had a recent sore throat and bad chest and decided I needed some Vitamin C so have been solely drinking Tetley's Boost range, which includes a tropical flavour.

Shibui's Tropical Green is available loose, with the option of purchasing in a caddy, and also in their pyramid range too, so you have an incredible choice as to how you purchase your tea. Personally, so smitten am I, I'd get it loose and get a box of their filters!

This is a perfect day to unwind with. I'm still feeling run down, not quite myself and trying to shake off a troublesome cough, so to be able to enjoy a nice cup of tea that soothes you, makes you feel relaxed and is tasty is a treat.

The flavour is very smooth and the strongest flavour for me is pineapple, which I just happen to love. It's nicely sweet and lacks any sort of sharpness or bitterness.

Following the pineapple there is a very sweet flavour that comes through which comes from the peach flavour. It's mouthwatering and just luscious. And incredibly moreish. And for afters, there is a quick, sharp, snappy after bite of ginger which just makes this tea perfect.

Tropical Green is a ideal blend of sweet and snappy. The green tea is a wonderful, strong base that compliments the added flavour. Overall, this tea has a richness to it, without sitting heavily on the stomach, and is ideal for making as a cold tea in the warm summer months.

I'm really impressed so far with Shibui Tea. Thankfully, I have several samples which I can't wait to sample.

As for Tropical Green, I think this is a ideal tea for those who are stepping into the green tea world. It can be quite daunting, quite hard to brew and can taste slightly strange for the new tasters. But, this is sweet and tasty enough to be a great tea introduction to the wonderful world of green tea!

Monday, 3 August 2015

Twinings: Apple, Cinnamon & Raisin Tea

I have to admit that when I think of tea, fruit tea isn't in the forefront of my mind. I do like fruit tea, but it tends to have to be of a very good quality (Bluebirds Strawberry Lemonade is my favourite, and one not to be missed!) and normally I just tend to avoid it as it usually lacks any type of oomph.

But, on a recent tea shopping trip in London I stumbled on a tea that I've wanted to try for ages and simply not been able to get my hands on. This tea was Twinings Apple, Cinnamon & Raisin Tea.

This is a tea that in the UK isn't readily available. It's actually part of Twinings International range and in the UK is only available in their shop on the Strand or online, though abroad it could be a bit more easily available.

This evening I decided to make a cup in a new mug. This mug was purchased during my recent visit to London's Her Majesty's Theatre to see Phantom Of The Opera. It's a magic mug, when hot water is added the Phantom's mask appears, when the tea cools or when the cup is empty his mask disappears!

Apple, Cinnamon and Raisin Tea is a wonderfully aromatic tea. It fills the air with a simple sweetness, and instantly reminds me of apple pie. For a weight watcher this is brilliant. It's like having a traditional, nanna baked dessert without any of the naughty points! The aroma swirls around the kitchen, it's simply delightfully scented.

Each individual flavour makes this tea special. It reminds me of building bricks, the flavours have a foundation, a middle layer and a top layer. And each flavour develops with each sip.

Firstly, you get the very strong flavour of the apple. It's extremely refreshing and though this could possibly be considered a autumnal tea, as my friend Julie just pointed out, it's equally brilliant for summer time. The apple is mouthwatering, very fragrant and I will happily admit that one thing Twinings do very well is apple based tea. It tastes very natural indeed.

The raisin is the second flavour that comes through for me. It's very rich and warming and it's as if there are acutal plump, tasty raisins in your cup. It's a very well balanced flavour that compliments the apple perfectly. The sweetness of the raisin balances out the slightly sharp apple flavour, making for a nicely satisfying tea.

And after the sweet flavours of the apple and raisin you get a slightly sharp aftertaste of cinnamon that packs a punch.

All the flavours happily compliment each other.

But the star of the show has to be the apple flavour and even after the cup of tea has long been demonished (and you're thinking of making a second!) the apple flavour remains, fruity and inviting.

This tea could be considered seasonal. It's perfect for those autumn nights, and I could just imagine handing cups of this around on Bonfire Night or Halloween. But, strangely, it's great for this time of year, too. It's light and refreshing and incredibly moreish. It's just delicious.

I will never be the worlds biggest fruit tea fan. I like my tea to be a bit more full bodied. But this tea is one of the exceptions. I can't say how lovely it is, how well the flavours are blended, and how comforting this tea is. I was really, really impressed and when I'm next on the Strand I will certainly be buying a box, or two, or maybe even six or seven!

Hello Everyone!

Hello Readers!

I have just noticed that it's been an awfully long time since I updated this page. And for that, I'm sorry.

Most of this summer has been taken up with medical issues which has meant I've been running to and from hospital. That, coupled with the extreme heat we've seen in London this summer, has meant energy levels were running low and it's meant there hasn't been much chance to blog.

But, thankfully, all tests are done with and life is returning to normal.

Of course, it hasn't all been hard work. A personal dream of mine came true - I finally got to see Phantom Of The Opera. My brother kindly brought me a ticket for my recent birthday.

And I have lots of tea to try!

So do come and check in, there will be reviews coming up soon!

Thanks for your patience!

Laura x.

Friday, 26 June 2015

Whittards: Afternoon Earl Grey

Today is a first for Laura's Tea Room - I am writing my first review of a Whittard's tea!

Recently, I found myself in London and after visiting Twinings, we walked up to Covent Garden and I popped into the Whittards shop which can be found in the center of Covent Garden. On the surface level it looks tiny, but there is a extensive downstairs part of the shop.

On the top level there are lovely gift sets and biscuits, but it's downstairs where it get's interesting - they have tea's in huge caddies that can be brought loose and also a wide selection of boxed tea too. Not having much money left to spend I decided to try at least one tea and I opted for their Afternoon Earl Grey tea.

The tea comes in a box of fifty standard round bags. Inside there is a secure silver foil packet. The outer box is attractively designed. It's pretty and traditional.

You may be wondering why Whittard's haven't appeared on here before. There is a reason of course! Many years ago, when I first started drinking tea black, I went out for the day and purchased a tin of their Christmas tea. I was new to tea and a baby when it came to drinking tea without milk. I brewed up a pot of the Christmas tea, took a sip and was almost sick. It was not Whittard's fault it was mine. Christmas tea's, as you may know, are full of spices and things like cloves. It was way too strong and shamefully, I was put off from trying Whittards. It was a error on my part and now I'm wondering what lovely tea's have I missed in the interim!

So, I was stood in the basement of Whittards a couple of weeks ago wondering what to try first, and my eye was caught by this lovely, delicate tea.

The tea consists of a black tea from Indonesia with a light bergamot flavouring.

I couldn't wait to fire up the tea maker and get going with this tea. I put three bags into the pot and brewed for three minutes, however, I soon discovered this wasn't enough, so have changed the process slightly and now use four teabags and brew for four minutes.

Afternoon Earl Grey is not the kind of Earl Grey to knock you out with it's strength so if you like a hearty Earl Grey this may not be the Earl Grey for you, but, even though I love Earl Grey very strong, I appreciate this is a afternoon tea, so it's intended to be lighter version. After all, afternoon tea's are intended to be taken with cakes and all things delicate and this tea reflects that very well.

First of all, I enjoyed the depth of flavour I had with the black tea. It's delicate but tasty and is not at all bitter or overpowering. It's a very refreshing tea, light and airy but with a solid base.

The bergamot flavouring is very delicate and is very evenly balanced.  It not in your face like some bergamot flavourings can be, but it certainly makes it's presence known. I do think that perhaps it could be a little bit stronger, but it enjoyable none the less.

I have thoroughly enjoyed this tea. It's almost a more feminine spin on Earl Grey. It's very refreshing and it's lightness is very enjoyable. In a odd way you feel as though you are not overburdened with bergamot which I can feel like sometimes when I drink a lot of Earl Grey.

Obviously, this is perfect for afternoon tea, to serve up to your friends in your best china! But it's just as nice to take in your old battered mug as well!

This is ideal if you like your tea a little weaker, or if you find many of the standard Earl Grey's too strong. It's also a great starter tea if you are stepping into the world of taking tea without milk, as many black tea's and many flavoured tea's can me quite overpowering when you first ditch the milk.

After a bumpy start with Whittards I am now more than impressed and I certainly look forward to trying more of their wonderful tea's.

And, there are quite a few branches here in London so I'll be spoiled for choice.

Friday, 19 June 2015

Shibui Tea: Earl Grey Pyramids

A couple of weeks ago, I was approached by a lovely chap called John from Shibui Tea.

Shibui Tea is a small family business that can be found in Edinburgh, Scotland, and John kindly asked if I'd like some samples of his new ranges, and I, of course, said yes.

I was kindly sent several samples of all sorts of tea, from red tea, to green tea to the more traditional black tea's. This evening, I decided to pop on some music (some great fare from The Small Faces. "Wouldn't it be nice to get on with me neighbours?" Steve Marriott is currently asking!) and try one of the generous samples that John sent to me.

In a  post I wrote this afternoon I was bemoaning the chopping and changing in established Earl Grey recipes so I thought it was timely to review a Earl Grey. And as readers know, my heart does rather belong to the Earl!

Shibui Tea's wonderful Earl Grey comes in a pyramid teabag. I really liked the texture of the teabag. It was smooth and silky and contained a generous amount of tea. I love the idea of pyramids, I find there is nothing nicer to feel the fabric of the teabag and just feel the tea, too! Tea is such a wonderful thing that we should not restrict ourselves to the taste and smell, it's also nice to feel too!

I infused the teabag for about four minutes and enjoyed the citrus flavour that the tea emitted. Very fresh, very summery and delicious.

Once I was settled on my comfy bed, I took my first sip and instantly knew that this was a Earl Grey that I was going to enjoy very much. 

I know that I often say this when reviewing a Earl Grey, but although it looks a simplistic tea on the surface it's one of the hardest tea's to get right. Often it's either totally devoid of flavour, or, it's overly perfumed and artificial making your cup of tea turn into a bitter mess that is undrinkable. There are very few tea's that get it right, let alone give you a wonderful, perfect cup of Earl Grey. So far, the only company who have got it right is Northern Tea. And now, happily, I can add Shibui to the list too!

This Earl Grey is evenly balanced. Firstly, it brews to a gorgeous mahogany colour. Rich, dark and inviting. It does not have that strange oily skin on the top that I have encountered in some Earl Grey's, obviously from the use of cheap bergamot oil. It's smooth and robust.

This strikes the right balance between having the traditional flavour of Earl Grey whilst retaining the actual flavour of the tea. Many brands over compensate with the bergamot and other flavours but this allows you to experience the nice flavour of the tea behind the flavouring. And the tea is of a lovely quality too.

So what of the flavouring? It's evenly balanced, present yet delicate, you know you're drinking Earl Grey but it feels totally natural, not at all artificial. It doesn't resemble the perfume department of Debenhams which Earl Grey can tend to do.

The bergamot brings a light, fresh citrusey tone, it's not at all heavy or hard to drink. It has a comforting element about it, making it a versatile, all year round tea. Brilliant for warm summer days, but equally as comforting when the nights draw in.

After finishing the tea it left my mouth feeling refreshed. I thoroughly enjoyed this Earl Grey.

In the eighteen months since I established this blog I have tried lots of Earl Grey's, which swing from absolutely glorious to absolutely foul. There doesn't seem to be many in the middle tea's. Earl Grey, for me at least, is a tea of extremes. One or the other!

I loved this tea and it certainly is one of the best I've had. You simply do get the best of both worlds in this tea. A lovely flavour coupled with a rich black tea which is strong and holds it's own against the bergamot flavouring.

It is quite fashionable for Earl Grey's to come with cornflowers in, but I find, at times this makes it a bit too strong. This tea doesn't have cornflowers or anything else except bergamot and that is what makes it so nice. It's simple but effective.

If you are hunting for a really good tea, and especially if you prefer your tea in bags, I'd highly recommend this wonderful Earl Grey from Shibui

Personally, I can't wait to dip in my box of treats to try some of the other marvelous tea's John kindly sent me.

In the meantime, if you are hunting down for the perfect Earl Grey do visit their website. Don't miss out on a great tea!

And So The Earl Grey Saga Continues ....

Yesterday I visited London for an appointment. Afterwards, being in the local area, decided to pop into two teashops. One, Twinings, the other Whittards at Covent Garden.

I was quite excited by the prospect of visiting Twinings - I hadn't done so in ages. I found some great tea's. Intensely Tropical one was one fabulous purchase. I also managed to get some of the Earl Grey Classic blend and one or two other ones I liked the look of. All will be reviewed on here in time.

As much as I enjoyed the visit, I felt it lacked the sparkle of previous visits. There was something different in the shop, it had changed. I think it was because there were less of the individual, unique tea's that they used to stock, instead rows and rows of tea that is available in most commercial supermarkets and shops filled the shelves.

In the shop I was chatting to the female sales assistant, who was really friendly and who knew her stuff. Then, I will admit, down to me, I raised the thorny issue of THE Earl Grey.

Readers may not be aware of the Earl Grey issue so I'll give you a run down.

About five (could be more!) years ago, Twinings changed the recipe of their Earl Grey. They changed the recipe, the packaging and the name, it's now called "The Earl Grey". This massive change caused such a do in the tea world. I was just stepping into the tea world around the time the change occurred and I was hugely surprised at the fuss and anger the changes incurred.

The Earl Grey was described by some of the readers of this blog, in emails to me, as 'weak as water', 'tasteless' and 'bland'. So, instead of buying "The" Earl Grey, readers admitted to me that they brought the international range, known as "Classic Earl Grey" (you'll know it, it's in a yellow box) from Twinings website. Yes, it was an expensive way of buying Earl Grey, but, it was tasty and flavoursome, and identical to the previous Earl Grey sold in the UK.

I happen to agree. So, it was with excitement that I headed to Twinings to stock up on the Classic range. But, to my horror (and surprise) it's not longer sold in bags, just in small caddies. Online the tea is only available in a decaff version.

So, it seems, Classic is being restricted, at least in the UK. I'm not sure if it's being phased out totally, or if it's just an availability issue. Either way, I was disappointed.

Upon chatting to the friendly shop assistant about the thorny issue of Earl Grey, I confided in her that I relied upon the Classic version as I didn't enjoy what I could get in the UK. She replied that they had acted in response to consumer feedback. I get that, brands are always asking customers to participate in surveys and market research to help keep them on top of their game. But what has gone terribly wrong?

The issue of Twinings Earl Grey is indeed the issue I receive most emails about. Some offering genuine ways to improve the tea, other's just wanting to rant to a sympathetic ear. So I have to question have they truly listened to their customers or did Twinings simply decide to modernise the recipe and the brand?

I hear again and again of people's lack of interest in Earl Grey. Many, myself included, have found wonderful Earl Grey's else where, quite often in loose form, that are fully flavoured and affordable in price. I have heard stories of  one reader who goes on holiday to America each year and stocks up on the classic range whilst out there.

On the other side of the arguement, of course, is that whatever supermarket I go in, Twinings Earl Grey is always at least half empty, so it does sell. Is it then a case that us tea obsessives (or lovers, if you prefer that term) are just simply too picky?

I don't believe we are. Earl Grey is a blend that is very hard to get right. Too weak it's awful, too high a amount of bergamot and flavours leaves it unpleasantly perfumed. But The Earl Grey is so pale in comparison that I often have to use two bags to get a decent brew.

There is ground though to keep everyone happy.

Please, Twinings, bring back the non-decaff International Classic Earl Grey. At least give us Earl Grey lovers the option of either buying Classic or the new The Earl Grey. If you are limiting the classic range I feel you are making a mistake as so many tea lovers rely on your little yellow box of Earl Grey to keep them happy.

I know times - and trends  - change. However, I feel with Earl Grey it's such a traditional tea that there is room for every kind you can imagine.

Twinings: Intensely Tropical

I have to admit that Twinings and I have had a bit of a rocky relationship this past year or so. The amount of emails I receive regarding the changing of their Earl Grey recipe (yes, it was some time ago but it still is subject of consternation amongst tea lovers!) is quite high. Their attempt to create interesting flavours, such as their Intensely Beetroot Burst fell flat for me.

But yesterday, whilst up in London, I happened to go past the Twining shop and couldn't help but pop in and treat myself to a few goodies (I also visited Whittard and will review their tea shortly!) and I am so glad I have because I have found a wonderful little gem: Intensely Tropical. Sadly, this glorious tea isn't yet listed on their website so I can't provide a link to it yet, but will edit this post accordingly when it does appear.

Intensely Tropical is a fruit tea that is rich in flavour. The taste is a combination of pineapple, blood orange and lime. It is a perfect tea for a hot day and I enjoyed several cups of tea after I returned home from my trip to London. The weather had been hot, muggy and unpleasant, so this tea is a perfect tea to relax and cool down with.

From the moment I poured the hot water on the tea bag I knew that this was going to be a special drink, and that Twinings have really come up with something marvelous. It's fruity, exciting, and just ideal for this time of year.

The tea brews to a wonderful orange colour. The fruity, tropical aroma is very strong during the brewing process. With fruit tea's I tend to let them steep for ages, and even leave the bag in the cup, but this tea does brew to a lovely strong flavour so on this occasion I felt confident to remove the bag.

This tea had three very distinct flavours, making for a cup of tea that is a real experience from when you start your sip till the time you've swallowed your tea. It goes in stages with each flavour taking their turn to make an appearance.

Blood orange is the first component of this wonderful tea that you really taste. It has a rich, rounded flavour, packing a interesting and refreshing punch. It's slightly sharp, but not at all bitter. I personally love blood orange in a tea but it could be sharp for some on it's own. It's the brilliance of the three flavours blended together that make this tea work.

The rich sweetness of pineapple appears next. It makes your mouth water and the texture of the pineapple is as if you were eating it fresh. For me it's the pineapple flavour that makes this such a gorgeous, moreish drink. It adds a sweetness that perfectly evens out the sharpness of the blood orange.

And finally the lime. The lime adds that powerful kick right at the end, making your tongue dance for joy. You can really taste the lime as a aftertaste, leaving you tasting this tea for sometime after you have finished. I really loved the way the lime acted like ginger does in tea, giving your cup of tea a sharp, snazzy afterbite.

I am so impressed with Twinings for the creation of this lovely cup of tea. Fruit tea is never the first tea I turn to. However, feeling rather hot and flustered whilst in the shop yesterday it bounced off the shelf, catching my attention immediately. And I am really happy it did.

For the time of year it works really well. With one or two exceptions, I tend to like the Intensely range and this is a really fabulous addition. It's just so cooling and refreshing whilst at the same time satisfying and enjoyable.

And, this is the perfect candidate for iced tea, too!

My only complaint is you only have 20 envelopes in a box. I have almost got through half the pack in a single day - it's that good!

A massive thumbs up to Twining's tea blender for coming up with a truly scrumptious, summery tea.

I'm not sure where this tea is available yet, I've not checked my local supermarkets. But do keep an eye out for the lovely little orange box. It really is the best  of the Intensely range. You won't be disappointed. I can promise you that!

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

TG Green Tea: Iced Green Tea With Jujube & Ginseng

TG Iced Green Tea with jujube and ginseng is like a gift from heaven on a hot day!

There is no doubting at all that over the last week or so London has been hot. It's been that thick, dry, stormy heat that leaves you with a headache, lacking energy and for me, at least, feeling nauseous and icky. The sort of weather, indeed, that makes you hope and pray for an electrical storm so your head can feel clear once again.

And, as I've mentioned before, I don't "do" heat especially well. Or, at least, my soul loves it, my body less so. I get a odd feeling in my stomach and my eczema can play up a little bit. I don't tend to drink as much tea, rather ice cold water.

Last week I reviewed another of TG's wonderful iced green tea's, their stunningly refreshing Mandarin and Ginseng flavour. 

Honestly, I've never enjoyed a cold drink like it. So today I have decided to review their Jujube and Ginseng flavoured green tea. 

Iced green tea is a perfect mixture of cold drink and tea. I was a bit uncertain at the start because I wasn't sure about drinking cold tea, but, oh, on a hot day it's like a gift from the gods. Soothing, thirst quenching, delicious and healthy. You won't want to touch fizzy drinks again!

In case you are not familiar with jujube, they are a variation (I think) of dates.

After a early morning walk to the supermarket to pick up some shopping for my mum I came back slightly hot and flustered and needed a drink so opted for the jujube with ginseng ice green tea. And it provided a wonderful burst of thirst quenching loveliness.

I wasn't too sure what to expect from the taste, and to me, it does actually remind me of dates, the sort of dates my nan used to have at Christmas, sweet, sticky and moreish. The flavour of the jujube is subtle, not overpowering, but it makes for a really interesting and different flavour. I think we've probably all tried a iced tea with lemon, but this flavour is really nice and different.

As with the previous tea I've reviewed, I love the sparky flavour from the ginseng. I had an awful headache when drinking this tea, but I felt soothed and relaxed almost  as soon as I had sat down to enjoy the drink. 

There is something lovely to be able to still drink tea whilst at the same time, have a cooling drink that is superb for the hot summer months. There are many brilliant recipes floating around on the internet about how to make iced tea's but I'll be frank- I much prefer the convenience of just grabbing one ready made up from the fridge, especially since the tea is so lovely to the taste.

To Sophia and Hua - I have totally fallen in love with your Iced Green Tea's. They are made very well, lacking the teeth smacking sweetness of most commercially available iced tea's, whilst, remaining tasty and unbitter, which is amazing considering this is green tea.

I was as equally impressed with the jujube and ginseng. I will admit that the mandarin and ginseng has slightly won me over, only because I love anything that has orangey tones as everyone knows (thanks to Juliette - one reader who sends me orange tea from Canada!) but that is not to say I disliked this one. I thought it different and unique.

I'm absolutely so proud to have been asked to review these tea's. I really do hope that TG Green Tea's will soon be seen everywhere. They deserve to be.

In a different life, many years ago, I was addicted to Cherry Coke. Every now and again, on hot days, I really have to fight the temptation to go and buy a bottle and it's certainly hard to walk past the chilled drink aisle. But, I am being utterly truthful here, I would pick these iced green tea's anytime.

Please do visit the company website which can be found here. Not only can you read all about the tea, but it gives you a option to request the tea's be stocked near to you.

Give these cold tea's a go. You won't be disappointed!