Monday, 26 January 2015

Why Tea Is Good Enough To Eat!

We all know how lovely tea is to drink, but do you know you can eat it too?

On Saturday I made this gluten free tea cake for my mum. She is a coeliac and cannot eat anything with wheat or gluten in.

Gluten free cake from supermarkets are still fairly expensive, and it either is very greasy or very dry. There is little middle ground when it comes to gluten free cakes. And, of course, we must not forget how lovely homemade cake is.

My friend, Rebecca, sent me over the recipe for Tea Cake and I decided to alter the flour so it could be eaten by mum and I have to say it's delicious. I used Northern Tea Merchants lovely Gourmet Teabags which is a black tea but there is nothing to say people can't alter it by using Lady Grey, Earl Grey or even a smokey Lapsang Souchong to give it extra flavour.

This is a lovely, spicy cake with substance and it's really light too. I think there is something really lovely about including tea within your cake. For a tea obsessive, this is really wonderful. It takes on a great tea colour too. It's just so lovely and inviting.

Here is the recipe if you'd like to give it a go. The recipe is enough to fill a 1lb loaf tin.


3 black tea teabags
60g's of seedless raisins
30g's glace cherries
60g butter
85g light brown sugar
1 egg
100g plain flour
1/4 tsp of bircarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp of mixed spice
Handful of chopped walnuts (optional - I didn't use these)


Before doing anything else brew 3 teabags in 150ml's of water for ten minutes. Remove the teabags and add the raisin's into the liquid and let soak for an hour. After the hour is up separate the raisins from the liquid and retain both raisins and liquid.

1. Heat the over to 180.
2. Cream together the butter and sugar till smooth and creamy.
3. Add the egg and beat.
4. Add in the flour, bicarbonate of soda and mixed spice. Mix well.
5. Add in the raisins and cherries and add 3 tablespoons of the reserved tea.
6. Finally, mix everything in well and add to the loaf tin.
7. Cook for 45 minutes but check at 35 minutes and then 40 minutes. You'll know the cake is cooked when fork or cake tester comes out clean. If parts of the mixture are stuck on the fork or cake tester then carry on cooking, testing regularly till fork comes out clean.

I urge anyone to try this cake. It's utterly gorgeous and a perfect compliment to, well, tea!

Thanks to Rebecca from Brunette Lifestyle  for passing on this delicious recipe.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Let Me Introduce You To ... The Sage Tea Maker

Last year, I wrote about my fantasy Christmas wishlist. The Sage Tea Maker was top of the list for many good reasons. Finally, with the tea maker on sale, I managed to get my hands on one.

Here is a quick look at the packaging that this little baby comes in.

And another view of the box with some quotes by it's co-creator, Heston Blumenthal. My tea making god right now.

So what does it do?

Well, it's essentially a wonderful tool to perfectly brew your tea. It takes into consideration white tea, green tea, oolong tea, herbal tea and, of course, black tea, adjusting temperatures and brewing times accordingly.

What features does it have?

  • It can be used as a kettle to boil water only
  • It has controls so you can alter the type of tea you are brewing, the strength you like your tea and has a  manual control button which means you can alter the settings to suit your tastes
  • It has a basket infuser that drops down and raises up from the water
  • It has a keep warm feature - you can keep your tea hot but as the basket elevates out of the water, prevents tea from stewing
  • It can be timed to start in the mornings so your tea is waiting for you when you get up.
It also comes with a Sage teaspoon to measure out the perfect quantity of tea.

How many cups can you get from it?

You can brew as little as three cups to as many as five.

I have been waiting to be able to afford this gadget for several months now. When it was first released it was priced at £199.99. However, it is now on sale for £99.99 at Lakeland. It's also available direct from Sage and is also on Amazon.

So, lets begin ....

First of all I'd like to say that I have tried brewing black, white, green and fruit tea in the machine. It also has a button for Oolong but as I do not currently own any I cannot say how it works with oolong tea.

The teas I've brewed in the Sage so far are:

Black Tea: Northern Tea Merchants Yunnan which I reviewed here.
Green Tea: Kensington Tea Company Green Christmas Spice which is reviewed here.
Fruit Tea: Bluebird Tea Company Strawberry Lemonade which is reviewed here
White Tea: Wilkinson's of Norwich Silver Tips White Tea (not yet reviewed).

So how does it work?

As I said before you can brew from 3 to 5 cups of tea. There is an instruction book included which explains the water to tea ratio but that does not mean you have to stick to it. Add more tea if you like it really strong! 

The jug of the Sage Tea Maker is made from glass so you are advised to use room temperature water. And, obviously, you have to let the tea maker cool completely before adding more water and rebrewing - you don't want the glass to crack.

Once you've worked out the water to tea ratio you fill the jug up with the desired amount of water. Then, you can fill the infuser with preferred tea.

Here you can see the infuser filled with Northern Tea Merchants lovely Yunnan blend which is a black tea.

Below you can see the infuser  attached to the metallic strip inside the machine.

This is where it gets REALLY fun!

This is where you select your desired tea. Of course, I pressed the button for black tea. The light next to the black selection will illuminate.

You can also see the Auto Start button. This is an option to preset the machine which will then automatically start at the time you've set it to. So it's kind of like a teasmade too!

The basket button allows you to manually operate the basket infuser.

As you can see on the right hand side of the panel you can select what strength you want your tea. As it's early days I opted for medium. To the top of the panel you can see the button which says Hot Water. Obviously if you just want to boil the water as a standard kettle you would pick this. On this occasion I've selected medium. Once you've done that, you press the Tea button and you're good to go.

Now, the Tea Maker is in action. As you can see from the panel here, the water has reached 100c, which is the desired temperature for black tea. Of course with green and white this will vary between 80 and 85. The brew time is registering 2 minutes which is in relation to selecting medium strength. This will alter if you opt for strong.

Once the water has boiled, the infuser will lower into the water and infuse the tea for the set amount of time. Once the brewing period is over it will automatically lift the infuser out of the water.

I did try to get action shots but they wouldn't come out as well so anyway above is a photo of the basket lowered to the bottom of the water.

Once the basket has risen out of the water the machine will bleep and you are good to go. Upon pouring your first cup of your perfectly brewed tea, you can press the Keep Warm button which will keep the tea hot for up to a hour after it's brewed. And remember - because the infuser is lifted out of the water your tea will not stew, and in the case of green or white tea, it will not go bitter or have that horrible astringent element to it.

So, that is it in a nutshell. I'm new to the machine so haven't tried to customise the settings as of yet. However, I will be playing around with it shortly.

How's the tea then?

I have tried all of the main teas in this machine. Black, white, green and fruit tea. (I don't do herbal sadly). I haven't been disappointed at all by any of the cups that I've tasted so far.

But, although the black tea's are fantastic, it's with the green and white tea's where this machine really comes into it's own. You don't have to worry about tea timers, you don't have to worry about guessing if the water is the right temperature. It's all done for you and hence you get a perfectly made cup of tea. For the first time ever I can brew green and white tea with utter confidence - no guesswork needed.

Also, what I like is if you find that the tea isn't strong enough or too strong, you can alter the infusion times or even easier, alter the strength of the tea by simply pressing the buttons on the control panel.

Although there is a suggested tea to water ratio, if you'd like to add more tea to have a stronger brew you can change it - it's up to you and its completely down to personal taste.

The machine - and it's instructions booklet - is extremely easy to understand and within a couple of hours you'll be able to operate the tea maker with your eyes closed. It's really that simple.

How do you keep it clean, though?

Because the main body of the machine is made from glass you have to be careful. You can easily wash the infuser and the tea makers lid in warm water, to clean out the actual jug I would suggest to rinse out well with water after every use and wipe out with a piece of kitchen towel to get rid of any sediments from the tea. This is useful if you're flicking between say, black and green or fruit and black tea. However, if you solely use black tea, the booklet does suggest the sediments do add to the taste of further cups of tea.

I have noticed though that if you drink black tea you do quickly see a build up of tannin. However, the booklet suggests several ways of cleaning it as to remove the tannin.This can be done by using lemon juice, white vinegar or the Sage cleaning tablet. It's down to you.

I would recommend that if you use flavoured tea then the best bet is to use lemon juice overnight and rinse thoroughly between uses.

Is it any good or just another space wasting kitchen gadget?

This machine is brilliant. And I mean seriously good. It's not a airy fairy gadget made just to impress kitchen visitors. It's practical, easy to use and should be a vital part of the tea lovers life. As a tea lover I wouldn't be without it. Yes, it looks sleek and modern, but it provides a brilliant service - that is to give you a perfect cup of tea every time. You can also use it solely as a kettle but that is a waste of it's potential if you ask me.

If you are a serious tea lover, who drinks a lot of tea, then this is the machine for you. If you only have a cup a day then I doubt it would be worth it, but for me, who can easily at the weekend drink fifteen plus cups a day this is a godsend. And, best of all, you get five cups of tea out of one boil! No having to boil the kettle every five minutes.

And it's nice, finally, for tea lovers to get the space age type machines. Why should coffee lovers have all the fun in the kitchen?

The machine boils rapidly, too. So no hanging around! And the jug cools quickly too when you remove the lid so if you want to make a fresh pot you don't have to hang around too long.

Any con's?

Not that I can tell currently. 


I've had my eye on this machine for ages and I love it. I'm dead pleased that I managed to get hold of one in the sale, too. This is an absolute must for tea lovers and really for anyone who drinks tea and needs to make large quantities at once.

This is not a waste of space gadget that will eventually gather dust. This is a practical item that can be used daily and will genuinely be a help to your life.

I'm really pleased with it.

More information

Please visit the Sage website for more information on the Tea Maker

You can also purchase it through Lakeland who have a sale on all Sage appliances, from coffee machines to toasters.

Monday, 19 January 2015

Bluebird Tea: Dozy Girl

Just before Christmas I decided to treat myself (and mum!) to a few new blends to enjoy over the festive period. I purchased from Bluebird Tea a good selection of tea's and included with my order was this sample. Dozy Girl is a herbal tea that contains chamomile, lavender and rose. It's designed to help relax you and help you sleep.

Last weekend I decided to use the sample and make a nice brew. I love tea's with floral tones so was looking forward to this with interest.

As you can see it's a gorgeous looking blend with plenty of colour: pink, green and yellow.

I brewed the tea for around three minutes. It smelt absolutely divine throughout the brewing process. The floral scent that filled the kitchen was marvelous.

I will admit that I am not keen on chamomile and cannot drink it by itself but I've had one or two infusions where it's included and I didn't mind it mixed with other ingredients so I wasn't put off. I was interested to see how lavender and rose worked together - I love them separately - but never mixed the two together.

As I've already said, this is a incredibly aromatic tea and it's pleasant to be around, let alone to taste!

The flavours in this tea are incredibly rich and soothing. I will admit I was  pleased (and if I'm honest relieved) that I couldn't taste much of the chamomile. The strongest flavour for me is the lavender, it's full and upfront and isn't at all shy.

When I took the first sip the lavender came through nicely but just underneath, and a bit slow to emerge, came the lovely rose flavour. It's very delicate and a little less easy to detect then the lavender but it's still a pretty addition to this tea. There is a very slight element of Turkish Delight to this tea.

I found though, about half way through the cup the lavender became quite strong and I was left with a lavender taste in my mouth for some time after drinking, but, that wasn't too big a problem, but this could be off putting if you took too much of this tea.

The name of the tea - Dozy Girl - so needless to say this is a herbal tea that is designed to unwind, relax and de-stress you before going to bed. Not to do things normally, I prepared this in the afternoon and I don't know if I exactly felt relaxed after drinking it, but, it was still enjoyable nonetheless. However, if I had taken this tea when wrapped up in bed, just before I wanted to sleep it probably would of helped me drift off to the land of nod!

I really liked this tea. It had the potential to be a bit perfumey like some floral tea's can be, but this really isn't. It feels, and tastes, natural. Nothing artificial about this blend.

In addition, it's really satisfying actually, more so then I thought it would be.

Would I purchase this tea in a full pack? I'm not so sure. That's not a reflection on the quality of the tea, which is wonderful, more, it's not the sort of tea I'd drink everyday. But I was really glad to have been able to try it.

I do have trouble sleeping from time to time. Would this tea help me drop off during moments of insomnia? I would say so yes. It would be worth a go, and if it doesn't work you'd still have a wonderful tea to enjoy.

I'm really glad to have been able to drink this tea. And this is certainly the tea for you if you like herbal or floral tea's. 

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Revolution Tea: Pear White Tea

(Imagine from

One of the most highly read blogs I wrote last week was for Revolution Tea's Peach Mango Green Tea. It was a really lovely, fruity delight of a tea so today I decided to review Revolution Tea's more subtle but equally lovely Pear White Tea.

I absolutely love white tea but, sadly, I don't drink nearly enough of it. In fact I'm rather ashamed to say that aside from a couple of samples I don't think I currently own any! I love the delicate nature of white tea. If tea were cup's, your black tea would be a sturdy mug, whilst white tea is the delicate bone china cup and saucer you're too scared to use!

White tea is quite hard to make in as much as you need to be really careful. When brewing black tea you can leave it to brew and if it's a bit strong then all the better but with white tea if you over brew it it becomes, like it's green cousin, quite bitter. So today I decided to brew up and followed the instructions to the letter.

Pear White Tea comes in a nylon teabag and it doesn't scrimp on content, either. As you can see below the teabag is pretty full!

I brewed the water and let it cool for quite some time before adding the teabag. I infused the tea for three minutes which, admittedly, is quite long for white tea which needs to infuse for around two minutes normally.

The tea brewed to a lovely reddish colour.

After a rather hectic morning I sat down and took a sip. It's a really lovely tea to unwind to.

The taste of pear is extraordinary and just like the Peach Mango I reviewed last week, it's just like you are eating fresh fruit it's stunning.

The pear is a delicate addition to white tea. I don't believe white tea sits well with stronger flavoured or citrus fruits. It fares far better with peach or pear flavours. The pear is so subtle that it works hand in hand with the tea rather then masking it entirely.

There is a lovely freshness to this tea and it really refreshes and revives the palate. It's really smooth to drink, and there seems to be a slightly caramel type taste to the tea as well which makes the flavour really rich and interesting.

I also love the fact that the two flavours blend well. Flavoured white tea can be slightly bitter at times, even if you do follow the brewing instructions but there was none of that with Pear White. It's well balanced and gentle.

This tea would be absolutely perfect to serve at afternoon tea with a nice fruit tart or apple and pear crumble. I think it would be a show stopper and would really impress your friends.

White tea is lovely because it's perfect for those of you who may fancy a change from black tea but who do not like green tea. It doesn't have any of the herbal, grassy elements that green tea can have and which puts most people off but it does have the lightness that green tea has.

I found Pear White tea to be charming, tasty, refreshing and moreish. Just like the Peach Mango I reviewed last weekend, it's brilliant for summer days but at the same time can be enjoyed just as much curled up on the sofa on days like today when it's grey, wet and chilly.

A big thumbs up to Revolution Tea. They really do sell some of the loveliest fruity tea's going!

Friday, 16 January 2015

Northern Tea Merchants: Yunnan

(Northern Tea Merchants Yunnan in it's own caddy)

Tonight's review is of Northern Tea Merchants rather lovely Yunnan tea which is a Chinese black tea from the Yunnan province.

I have always been partial to Yunnan tea. It's a tea that I've encounted once or twice but never in loose form so earlier this week I excitedly ordered 50g's and waited (not so) patiently for the tea to arrive. Today was my lucky day!

The first thing I did was decant the tea from it's wrapping into a spare tea caddy that I found after sorting out my tea cupboard. I was somewhat surprised at the smokiness of the aroma which is very reminiscent of Lapsang Souchong - a blend regular readers will know I'm not overly keen on.

The second thing I did was fill up the infuser with two good teaspoons of the tea and pop the hot water on top. This tea brews to a rather lovely and attractive copper colour. The aroma after brewing was somewhat smoky but far more delicate that the lapsang that I have tried.

Yunnan tea on tasting is a tea that takes you on a rather special journey.

As I've said before I drink my tea black and I have to say this is perhaps one of the strongest, most forceful tea's I've experienced since I have stopped taking milk. It has serious wow factor and makes a huge impact.

Robust is the prefect word for this tea in every sense of the word. It's really strong and full bodied and it almost knocked me for six - and I loved every single sip of it. I was hugely excited about ordering this tea and now I've tried it I'm just as excited about drinking it. It's probably the most different black tea I've tried.

When I stopped taking milk I thought Assam was a strong blend. Well Northern Tea's Yunnan leaves that in the shade, yet, even though it's smoky and had elements of lapsang to it, it's far more delicate then Lapsang Souchong. 

Yunnan is a well rounded tea. It has nutty elements to it which I really have always loved about this multi-layered blend. And in addition, one almost can taste a citrus twang to it too. It's really hard to describe in words this tea but it has many different elements to it that I'm sure readers would pick up on in different ways.

I'm not a coffee drinker. So Yunnan would be the perfect kick start, get up and go blend for the tea lover. A cup of this in the morning would really get you up and going. It's just fantastic. If I were lucky enough to own a teamade then this is the blend I'd use for my wake up cuppa.

What amazed me about this tea is how long the flavour lingered in your mouth. It was almost like it doesn't want to leave you, but not in a unpleasant way. It's incredibly  moreish too.

I infused this tea three times (I always limit re-infusions to three times!) and it packed a punch for the first two infusions. On the third it was slightly mellower, and the nutty element came out for me even stronger on the third infusion. It was almost a different drink but still extremely pleasant.

So how should you take this tea? Well, for me, as a black tea drinker, it was possibly the strongest tea I've ever tried. If you are not keen on taking tea black or if you are unsure about the strength, I don't think adding a little bit of milk to Yunnan affect's the tea at all. But .. if you like your tea strong and sturdy then it's black all the way for this blend.

Over the next couple of months I'm going to be taking a couple of rather long train journeys. I can honestly say that Yunnan will be my companion (in my Bodum travel mug). It is just the blend to keep you going on the long trip. It's just marvelous.

Since I started drinking tea I was always a bit afraid of strong tea's. But my tastes are changing and I'm grateful for that. For now I can really appreciate Yunnan in all it's perfect glory.

The big question is though, how long will 50g's last? Not very long I suspect!


Thursday, 15 January 2015

Is Britain's Taste In Tea Changing?

(Northern Tea's Keemun black tea brewing nicely)

There are many things that the British are well known for. Our love for dogs is one.  Another is our love of talking - and complaining about - the weather. And then there is our love, adoration even, of tea.  We are a nation of tea drinkers.  And I believe we always will be.

But is our relationship with tea changing? Are we satisfied with the beautifully simple black tea, Or are we looking towards new horizons? And indeed have we lost the precious art of using loose tea, instead opting for the ease of using teabags?

In the weeks since New Year my inbox has been inundated with emails from tea companies all over the world, all with tea to sell. There has been the healthy green tea sales pitch. The exotic herbal and infusion emails. Want to de-tox for the New Year? Well, there's a tea for that! Every possible taste is catered for.  And one would have to be a millionaire to afford everything that is on offer. 

There was, however, a distinct lack of advertising for the humble but glorious black tea. Where were the special deals? Why were tea companies opting to ignore black tea and hard sell speciality teas? 

James Pogson from Northern Tea Merchants explained his views on speciality teas.  "We have seen a huge rise in our sales of speciality and green teas, and also herbal infusions. Market leader, Tea Pigs (owned by Tetley, or Tata Global Beverages), have done much to bring the idea of speciality tea into the minds of the marketplace". 

Upon asking Mr Pogson why he feels that speciality tea sales have risen, he replied "The cause of the increase in sales of speciality teas is twofold. Firstly, people are more and more health conscious, and many people are switching to green tea because they think it is better for you than black tea. Some people are drinking it additionally and reducing their intake of coffee, but are still drinking black tea. There are many urban myths relating to green tea that I hear on a regular basis – for instance, I have been asked if green tea is really caffeine free (!), I’ve been told that black tea is bad for you, I’ve been told that green tea cures cancer, makes weight fall off you, and all sorts of ridiculous ideas that people come up with in what seems to be a nationwide game of Chinese Whispers!

Secondly, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 saw an enormous boom in the whole lifestyle, dinner-party, cup-cake, afternoon tea scene, and that has also grown the demand for speciality tea both in and out of home."

So, it seems, that as we grow ever more concerned about beating ill health and staying well we are making deliberate choices that will help to keep us healthy. But does that mean we are turning our backs on black tea or are we willing to drink it in conjunction with other teas to keep ourselves as healthy as possible?

When I asked Mr Pogson about the proportion of black tea sales over speciality teas (which include green tea, herbal teas) his reply was interesting, and for me, encouraging. "Black Tea in Tea Bags accounts for 96% of all the tea that is drunk in the UK – The proportional weight of Speciality Tea that we sell to that of Black Tea in tea bags is approx. 10%".

I requested some sales figures from Twinings to see how they feel about the nation's willingness to experiment with speciality teas. They reported a decline in sales of black tea with the sales dropping from 80% to 72% and a sharp rise of sales in green tea which are just over 16%.

Even with the decline in sales that Twinings reported, I do not think that those of us who love black tea have much to worry about. With black tea in bags taking a whopping 96% of tea sales in the UK we can rest easy that black tea is still the star of the tea show!

But what kind of black tea do we enjoy as a whole in Britain? I asked Mr Pogson what Northern Tea Merchants best sellers where. His reply delighted me as it's a personal favourite of mine. " My best selling black teas are our ‘Gourmet’ blend, which is right in line, quality-wise, with the brand leaders (Taylors Yorkshire, Tetley, PG Tips etc.), and our Small Leaf English Breakfast blend, which is a better quality blend of character, flavour and strength."

I have to say I do agree with James on his Gourmet tea - it's simply, sublime.

As regular readers will know, I love nothing more than a nice sturdy black tea but with the added edge of flavouring. Are flavoured tea's popular? James told me "Flavoured teas have gone in and out of fashion two or three times in my 26 years in the tea trade. Twinings introduced a range of flavoured iced teas in the early 90’s, but sadly they never caught on in the UK, and similar attempts by other companies relating to flavoured teas have come and gone. However, the current upsurge of public interest in tea has driven people to search for teas using tools that were not as readily available before (i.e. the internet), and find ‘unique’ teas that fit their persona and mood. Also, a tea bag machine called a ‘Fuso’ from Japan (launched in 2006) has allowed manufacturers to produce speciality ‘Pyramid’ tea bags at relatively high speeds, making speciality teas in bags a more viable option for many people."

Although it seems the British are remaining rock steady for their love for black tea how we have drunk it has changed significantly. Once a day to day staple, loose tea is now considered a luxury to be enjoyed when you have the time to prepare it. 

Teabags were introduced into the UK in the early 1970's and their popularity soared. Never before was it easier to make tea. No mess, no fuss.  Just pop the bag into the cup, add hot water and you're off! James explained to me how the trend for teabags took off "We sell far more tea bags (approx. 100 million per year) than we do leaf tea, and have done since 1972, when they started to become popular in the UK. One of the original advertising slogans for tea bags in the late 60’s / early 70’s was ‘No leaves in the sink, no leaves when you drink’, and the British Public quickly switched over about 5 years or so to using tea bags almost entirely. Our packing Supervisor for the tea room, Sue Porter, has been with us for 26 years and has made in excess of 2 billion tea bags during her time here!"

However, in recent years the trend for afternoon tea, home baking and pretty much everything vintage in the kitchen has contributed to a raise in the sales of loose tea, teapots and infusers.  And that's really lovely to hear as there is nothing nicer then having a high quality tea, brewing it in a pot and sharing it with friends!

It's good to know that the British still love the reliable black tea but that we have also embraced the exotic green tea, herbal teas and various infusions that are available in stores and online nowadays. Variety is the spice of life after all!

But, if I'm honest, as much as I love green tea and get absolutely excited at the prospect of trying new types and flavours, (and there is something lovely and refreshing about green tea) black tea does hold a special place in my heart, and, I'm glad to say, it seems that it's as popular as ever. 

Although it seemed, at the start of the year, that speciality teas were the thing to publicise, already I've noticed that black tea is starting, once again, to creep into the email's. It seems that even though we as a country are willing to try new things, and we temporarily ignore black tea for the exotic alternatives, we never forget the friend we have in the humble black tea.  Because there really isn't else quite like it!

Authors note: I would like to personally thanks James Pogson from Northern Tea for his extensive help in the production of this blog post. And also, to Leigh-Anne from Twinings who helped gather their statistics which are included in the post. 

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

How Cheeky Monkeys Swayed The British Tea Drinking Population

(A scene from PG Tips advert "Mister Shifter" - 1971. Image taken from Google)

Last night I watched a documentary entitled The Secret Of The Tea Chimps. It was fascinating.

For readers that may not be familiar with the tea chimps here is a very potted history.

In the late 1950's, Brooke Bond who produced PG Tips tea in Britain came up with a gem of a advertising campaign. Building a campaign on the success of the popular Chimps Tea Party that zoo's often featured, in which chimps ate cake and drunk tea in front of delighted zoo visitors, Brooke Bond decided to use chimps in their advertising.

However, in the mind 1960's audiences were tiring of adverts of chimp's tea parties, so they decided to anthropomorphise the beloved chimps and put them into situations that were normal to us human beings. So, for instance, there were chimps who became removal men, who cycled in the Tour de France and who even played James Bond. They were even portrayed as normal families with two rowdy teenagers in toe.

(Image from Google)

The advertising became so popular that PG Tips saw a massive rise in the sales of their tea. They outsold Tetley and Twinings and pretty much any other brand that was sold on Britain's shelves at the time.

The PG Tips chimps opened supermarkets, made personal appearances, and went through many hours of training to continue their roles as the tea chimps. They were dressed in specially made outfits and became major celebrities in the 1960's. There was no doubt that the chimps made PG Tips the nation's favourite brand.

However, by the 1970's, when Britain was establishing different attitudes towards using animals for entertainment,  Brooke Bond  ceased using the monkey's in their advertisements. Out of  work, the chimps helped establish the success of Twycross Zoo in Leicestershire.

This is when things got really interesting.

As soon as the tea chimps were unceremoniously dumped PG Tips noted a dramatic loss of sales. And it was virtually overnight, too. For eighteen months PG Tips lost it's crown and where it once sat as top selling tea in the UK, it dropped down several places in the list. Before long the chimps were re-established.

The chimps, who were called The Tipps family remained in place till 2002 when they were once again dropped and have now been replaced by a puppet monkey, called, well, Monkey.

 (PG Tip's current Monkey. Image from Google).

What was totally amazing about the story, for me as a tea lover, was how those chimps really swayed the British tea buying public for over thirty years. It showed how a really strong and popular advertising campaign could latch onto people's imagination and keep hold of their hearts, too. 

This does, however, cost a huge amount of money - funds which are unavailable to smaller tea companies - and a lot of hard work to keep the advertising interesting.

But underneath the smiling chimps and the excited public there did lie a much darker question. Why did tea sales drop significantly after the advertising was dropped? What was it about the tea that meant its once loyal customer base abandoned them and went to other brands?

Sadly, I cannot answer. But it certainly does reaffirm to me how susceptible we are by marketing. Whether it be beautiful packaging or successful television campaigns. And that for me is slightly frightening because does it mean people settle for less in quality even if the outside looks nice and pretty.

The current Monkey used for advertising PG Tips - which is now owned by Unilever - is also successful but not quite to the degree of the Tipps family. There is plenty of Monkey merchandise available and each Christmas a new Monkey teddy can be purchased with your tea in special edition boxes.

But as much as I enjoy a good marketing campaign or pretty packaging I have to say my heart always belongs to the actual quality of the tea. And if it comes in plain packaging that doesn't make a bit of difference to how much I enjoy the tea.

So, I guess, I'm saying is don't be fooled by the exterior packaging and TV adverts. It's what is on in the inside that really counts.

Monday, 12 January 2015

Kensington Tea Company: Chinese Pai Mu Tan

Today, I have a very different review for you. I am reviewing Kensington Tea Company's lovely white tea Pai Mu Tan (White Peony). White tea reviews are few and far between on here, I will admit, so it's really exciting to review this tea.

When you order from Kensington Tea you always get a free sample. Just before Christmas I ordered some tea's and this was the free sample that I received.

Upon sorting through my tea cupboard this afternoon, I stumbled on this tea so thought I'd give it a go.

Pai Mu Tan is a tea that looks natural. It's gorgeous to look at with different sorts of leaves added into the blend. As you can see below it's lovely and colourful and just really nice to look at.

(Picture taken from Kensington Tea).

I really do like white tea, but, in all fairness, I've not experienced vast quantities of white tea. In addition, I also mainly drink it with flavour added (it often comes with peach flavouring) so it was nice to try it pure.

This is the first loose white tea I've tried.

There is something really earthy about this tea. It's a tea that is delicate, as white tea often is, but at the same time, it's a tea you can get your teeth into. I find this tea a very natural one, and it just feels very wholesome when drinking it. It's also incredibly moreish too.

Pai Mu Tan has a delicate sweetness to it too. Almost honey like but it's very smooth and easy to drink. There is a element of green tea about it too, and you would be excused if you thought this was green tea.

Despite being a delicate white tea there is a fullness to this tea, you feel totally satisfied and refreshed after drinking a cup. Or two. Or even four like I have today. Pai Mu Tan is just one of those tea's that you have the kettle boiling before the first cup is even finished.

You need no milk or any sweetener or sugar with this tea it's perfect as it is.

Of course, being a delicate tea there are strict "rules" for brewing white tea. You MUST let the water cool for three minutes before you pour it on your tea. I made the mistake of not following this on my first infusion and it scolded the leaves and made it bitter.

You can infuse this tea for two to five minutes. And the good thing is that you can re-infuse the leaves three times so you get a lot for what you pay for!

As normal with Kensington Tea Company, the tea is of a superb quality. Also, in my experience, orders are dispatched quickly and my experience when purchasing from the company is just pure joy. The tea is lovely, it's packaged elegantly and just a great experience.

So why not give Pai Mu Tan a go? It's tasty, delicious, light and refreshing and just heavenly.

And don't forget that with every order placed with Kensington Tea you earn loyalty points that you can save up and use against future purchases. And of course, you get a free sample enclosed ... and we all love a free sample don't we?

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Adiago Tea: Green Popcorn

When I created this blog, I decided straight away that honesty is the best policy. On the whole, I'm generally positive about most tea's that I try, but when I stumble across a tea that doesn't appeal, I have to be as equally forthright as I would with the tea's I like.

It's not easy to write a negative review, but, to keep my integrity - both personal and on this blog - if I dislike a tea, I feel I have to write that.

I always hear positive things about Adiago Tea. I have one very good friend - who kindly sent me some samples of which this is one - who raves about Adiago and one or two others that I chat to in the tea world who are keen fans.

I have several samples in my sample box which I am looking forward to trying, but their Green Popcorn (or Genmai Cha as it's also known) just did not hit the spot for me.

Green Popcorn comes in a silky pyramid and the amount of tea is plentiful. As you can see  in the picture below there is a good mixture of green tea and toasted, popped rice.

Sadly, it all went downhill rather quickly for me as soon as I poured the hot water onto the tea. The smell turned my stomach. It was as if I had poured hot water onto my Rice Krispies which was something I would not do. The aroma, though not unappealing to some I should imagine, just did not appeal to me.

But, trying not to judge a tea by its aroma, I stuck with it. As I tucked myself up in bed, I gingerly took my first sip.

The base tea, which is green, is very tasty. Sadly though it is lost to the popcorn type flavour of the toasted rice. Essentially, you are drinking popcorn with hot water poured on top - that's exactly what it tastes like. It has a nutty element to it which is nice but everything seemed to be swamped for me by it's slightly off putting aroma.

I did stick with this tea. I managed to drink half the cup but could drink no more or it.

It's simply a tea that just didn't  work for me. On the other hand there will be readers out there who are excited by this tea and will enjoy it. What is one man's meat is another man's poison, and I can only write how I find a tea.

If you like popcorn, nutty or even malty type tea's this will be perfect for you. It certainly is a tea that will leave an impression, whether it be negative or positive!

I do have other Adiago tea's in my sample box and I'm excited to try them. I like the brand, just wasn't too keen on this particular blend.

But, will you like popcorn tea? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Revolution Tea: Peach Mango Green Tea

This week I have been drinking, on the whole, wonderful black tea's. But my taste's are transitory and I happily flick between black tea, green tea or white tea.

This morning I woke up fancying something light and fruity. Going through my box of tea samples I came across this tiny little package and thought it would be the perfect tea for today.

Revolution Tea's  really lovely Peach Mango Green Tea is a incredibly light and fruity tea, and on this gloomy winters afternoon gave me a slight spring in my step and has left me looking happily towards summer.

I do tend to treat (perhaps, unfairly) flavoured green tea's with caution when I try them. Sometimes the flavours taste too artificial, or they just don't sit well with the green tea, so it was with interest that I waited whilst this tea infused, wondering how it was going to taste.

One of the brilliant aspects of fruity tea's is that they do not only infuse your cup but infuse your entire kitchen with a really wonderful aroma. And this tea has a very strong fruity scent which is refreshing and enticing.

This tea is utterly gorgeous, simply put. I could tell from the first sip that this was going to be a blend that I'd enjoy.

There is a rich, herbal taste to the base green tea which is fulfilling without bearing any of the bitterness that some green tea's have and which often puts off newbies to green tea. It's very light and just taste's gorgeous.

But what of the flavours? Well, they are not a disappointment either!

The peach flavour is by far the stronger of the two. It leaves your mouth feeling lovely and is very moreish. Sometimes the peach in tea can be slightly bitter but this is sweet and juicy and when you close your eyes you can imagine taking a bite from a lovely ripe peach. It's also incredibly refreshing too and the peachy element is lovely and this would make a wonderful iced tea.

Underneath the punchy peach flavour comes the sweetness that you get from mango. It's delicate but works exceptionally well with the peach. It adds a wonderful roundness to the tea. The two flavours are a brilliant pairing.

I was really impressed with this tea and Revolution Tea have come up with a fantastic blend. It's lovely and refreshing (perfect for those hot days!) and an ideal candidate to make an iced tea from. It's fruity but has the substance that you get with green tea.

I think established green tea lovers will enjoy the fun side to this tea - and it is fun, it makes you feel good - but also it would make a perfect introduction tea to those new to green tea or those who struggle to drink it pure, and there are a lot of people who do.

I really came away feeling lovely, relaxed and happy after drinking this tea. You can't really ask more from your cuppa then that, can you?

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Brew Tea Co: Earl Grey

I will readily admit that I love Earl Grey. And as you may or may not of noticed it appears quite frequently on here!

When I was younger Earl Grey was one of those awful tea's that we were made to drink when visiting my father's aged  aunts in Southend. Of course, as a ten year old girl who would much rather drink some colourful Panda Pops monstrosity, I could never of really, truly appreciated the gorgeousness of a wonderful Earl Grey.

As we grow up and mature so do our tastes in all things, and now, Earl Grey is one of my upmost favourite blends. And I have tasted some gorgeous ones, and some rather horrid, oily ones.

When my friend, Rebecca, from Brunette Lifestyle sent me some fabulous Christmas presents, she included a few samples of tea that I could try before the big day. The samples included Brew Tea Company's rather lovely Earl Grey teabags.

This afternoon I decided to try the Earl Grey.

This is a really wonderful blend of Earl Grey. It's exceptionally light and perfect for an afternoon tea.

The base tea is a Sri Lankan black tea and added into the tea is the traditional bergamot (it wouldn't be Earl Grey without it) as well as orange peel and calendula.

Firstly, as much as it's light and airy it's a very full bodied tea, with a delicate taste. The bergamot, though present is very light - this isn't one of those Earl Grey's that is highly flavoured. Sometimes it's really nice to have a tea that has a strong citrus taste but at times that can be quite overpowering, especially with some of the cheaper tea's available.

However, with Brew Teas blending, you do get to experience the very lovely Sri Lankan tea that is used as the base and it's flavoursome but, at the same time, you can still enjoy the zesty zing you get when citrus flavour's are added.

One of the many joys of taking tea black is you get to experience every facet of the tea you are drinking. From the flavour of the base tea to the flavour of the things that are added to the tea. And you get to experience how the tea is blended and this is a pleasant, evenly blended tea.

If you like your Earl Grey to have a strong bergamot taste, this may not be the Earl Grey for you. However, if you like your Earl Grey delicate, well balanced and well blended this is perfect.

Oh, and I almost forgot to add that the teabag is absolutely crammed full of tea. Brew Tea obviously do not scrimp on how much tea they put into their bags.

I have to say I'm a complete novice when it comes to Brew Tea. I had heard of them via Twitter but as of yet not ordered from them. But I will say I was hugely impressed with their Earl Grey.

And if they pass the Earl Grey test, which they have done, then they are worthy of investigating further!

Friday, 2 January 2015

Bluebird: Lemon Sherbert Green Tea

For my first blog of 2015, and with many new year's resolutions being made, I thought it rather fitting that the first review of the year would be a green tea.

So, today, I am reviewing Bluebird Tea Co's   Lemon Sherbert Green Tea.

I purchased this tea just before Christmas. I wanted a few new blends to enjoy over the festive season, and along with their fantastic Strawberry Lemonade and Earl's Paradise (yet to be reviewed, one coming shortly!) I picked this simply because it sounded really different.

I ordered the tea and within a few days it arrived, in perfect time for Christmas.

As with green tea I boiled the water, let it cool somewhat and let it brew for three minutes.

It's fair to say that I didn't instantly fall in love with this tea. On initial tasting, it tasted odd and rather bitter. I put it back into the cupboard and forgot about it till Boxing Day when I decided to give it another go, such was my interest in the tea.

So, I brewed it again, following the instructions closely and sat back. On the second tasting, in which, to be fair, I had more time to enjoy it's intricate flavours, I really took to it.

I will say then, that this tea is a tea that should be enjoyed properly when you have the time as it's a tea that is multi-layered and one that could easily, as I discovered, be written off.

This is a green tea with a nice, solid green tea base. The green tea is flavoursome and full bodied.

But, this simply isn't just a bog standard lemon green tea! There is a bit more depth to it then that.

When you first try this tea you do get a very strong, prominent lemon flavour. And initially, you will think, what's so sherberty about this? Well that is the extraordinary thing about this tea. After you get "hit" with the lemon flavour, just shortly after, there is a fizzy element to this tea, which is where the sherbert comes in. This tea really does taste like the tart childhood favourite of mine!

As I said before there is a fizz to the tea, but it is also quite sharp like sherbert is meant to be. It tingles the tongue, that's for sure!. It's probably the oddest tea I've tried, but it's rather nice to.

Although this tea contains stevia - a natural sweetener which comes from a plant - I don't find  this tea sweet at all, and some readers may find adding a small amount of sugar to the tea will make it slightly more enjoyable. However, if you like things sharp and slightly bitter, then I'd say this is the perfect tea for you.

Lemon Sherbert is a tea that needs patience. This isn't something you sling in a pot or infuser and drink it quickly before rushing out the door. Due to the tea's slightly sharp elements (and the fact it's a green tea) I would advise that you follow the brewing instructions to the letter. Also, make the time to really enjoy the many different aspects to this tea.

The way the tea goes from something tasting very much like a plain lemon tea to it bursting into flavour is amazing. It's like the tea equivalent of a firework. It start's off slowly then just comes alive. It's really stunning.

I was really (and unusually for me) rather rash with this tea. I judged it far too quickly without appreciating the full qualities of this tea. In my defence, I think I may of drunk it when we had company which isn't the best way to try a new tea!

The really great thing about Bluebird tea is that they sell tea in sample packets which is enough for ten cups of tea. It costs just £1.95 for the sampler size so why not try it today?

Believe me this tea will make an impact with you. So give it a go and find out what a experience drinking this tea is!