Saturday, 25 April 2015

Fortnum & Mason: Countess Grey

As arrogant as I may sound when I write this, I feel as though Fortnum & Mason have created a tea just for me! So delicious and perfectly suited to me is their wonderful Countess Grey tea that somehow it feels as though it was created with me in mind.

Last week I wrote on this blog about my recent trip to Fortnum & Mason with my (almost) lifelong  friend Kirsty. It was, I feel, one of the nicest day's out I've had in years. It was lovely to look around the world famous shop and enjoy the London sunshine, but it was far much more fun catching up with my old friend.

Kirsty has a heart of gold, always thinking of me. Quite often I will have little packages sent to me in the post and we even sent each other a parcel full of chocolate for Easter! During our rather tearful farewell at Euston Station (I hate goodbyes) she suddenly produced this wonderful tea which she had, somehow, managed to purchase without me knowing. With lots of hugs and tear's I waved her off, left standing with this marvelous box of tea in my hand.

When I visited Fortnum & Mason's rather extensive tea floor I was truly stuck about what to buy but I had seen the Royal Christening tea and was determined to buy a souvenir, albeit belated, to celebrate Prince George's birth nearly two years ago. So this tea, actually, hadn't really crossed my radar.

But what a joy this tea is. It's available in both loose tea, in a caddy no less, or in teabags. I had the bagged tea which is just as good as loose.

The tea is made up of orange pekoe black tea, and has the addition of a glorious orange flavour. It's Fortnum & Mason's twist on Twinings Lady Grey.

The tea has a glorious, fruity fragrance which in itself is a wonder. It's inviting and warm and as I soon came to understand, utterly addictive. So bad is my addiction to this tea that even though I am determined to try some of the Royal Christening tea, my heart, and tastebuds, tells me to make a hot, steaming pot of Countess Grey!

I adore also how the tea fills up the kitchen with the fruity orange scent as it's steeping. Glorious!

One of the many things I really love about this tea is that it's well blended. I find that sometimes Earl Grey and it's counterpart, which is sometimes called Lady Grey or Duchess Grey or even Princess Grey, are often too strong and have a perfume element making it very hard to drink, or at least, drink a entire pot. With this tea you finish your pot and are left wanting more, and more, and more!

The use of a Orange Pekoe tea as it's base is a brilliant, though not unexpected choice. Orange Pekoe has a basic sweetness to it (in some cases) which I think contributes to the gentle element of this tea. I would feel that a tea like Assam would be a little bit too overpowering for this drink.

The tea steeps to a wonderful golden,syrupy colour which is a joy to look at, and which I am fortunate to see in the tea maker. And, even when you are reaching the end of the pot and the tea has cooled, it still retains the soft element, and doesn't tend to go bitter or tart as some black tea's can go once they have started to cool.

Fortnum's own description of the tea is that it has added bergamot, which is traditional in a blend like this, and a light orange.

I loved the fruity flavour of this tea. It really wakes you up in the morning and at the same time, when taken in the evening is equally as relaxing. Although the description said the orange flavouring was light, and it is, I found it to be full of taste and it makes my taste buds dance with joy! I love the natural feeling of this tea, it doesn't at all feel artificial or perfumey. With some Earl Grey based tea it can be rather like drinking perfume straight from the bottle. But there is none of that with this tea.

Orange works so well in a tea, and, if the tea is of a good quality, as it is here, it can be perhaps the best experience going to curl up with a mug and to taste the glorious citrus flavours. 

And, once you have finished your cup your mouth feel's cleansed and the last lingers for a short while.  I have drunk this tea by the cup but normally just load up the tea maker and make a pot, getting three or four cups from one steeping.

Drinking Countess Grey is an experience. And it's worth taking a few minutes out of your day to sit down and really enjoy and taste the tea. I like to experience every aspect of this tea, from the richness of the base tea to the fragrant orange flavour. It's soothing for the soul on those day's when you're not feeling quite yourself and it's something to celebrate the good times with, too.

And for your afternoon tea this would go hand in hand with some lovely cakes and good conversation!

Thank you to Kirsty for treating me to this wonderful tea. It's a little gem that I loved and enjoyed with every single sip.

And, on a personal level, every time I make a cup I think of that sunny day in London where we chatted to our throats were sore and laughed till our sides ached. A tea with memories in every sip.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Northern Tea Merchants: Passion Fruit Black Tea

(Northern Tea Merchants Passion Fruit black tea. A gloriously black tea with hints of bright orange colour, making a tea that makes a visual impact.)

In London the weather has been warm. Sometimes it's been stifling hot (for people like me who do not deal well with heat!) but mostly it's been pleasantly sunny, warm and everyone has a spring in their step. And Northern Tea Merchants rather lovely Passion Fruit Tea makes life feel just that little bit extra summery.

I'll readily admit that I'm rather compulsive when it comes to tea and there is nothing I like to do more then window shop for tea, and Northern Tea Merchants is my favourite website to window shop on. I have had my eye on Passion Fruit Tea for some time and just recently brought myself a tester of 50g's.

This afternoon I've enjoyed my second pot of this fruity tea and am really impressed.

As normal when the tea arrived I placed it in a caddy and I was hit by a wonderful aroma of passion fruit, a fruit that I really enjoy either as a fruit or in desserts - and now in tea.

It's a really well blended tea and I just love how it looks. The tea is stark black and the passion fruit brings a shining bright contrast of colour. This tea looks how it taste's - bright, inviting and full of sunshine.

I loaded up the trusty tea maker. Now I normally put a teaspoon in per cup and a additional spoon "for the pot". However with this tea, I found it came out quite strong so on my second infusion cut out the extra spoon for the pot and found it made a better cup of tea. In this case, less is certainly more.

The tea steeps to a dark amber colour. The aroma is a fruity and ever so slightly floral, too, so it's a interesting blend to taste, smell and look at.

 (With it's wonderful aromatic elements, this tea is nice to look at and tasty to drink).

Passion Fruit Tea is made up of black tea from China, passion fruit leaves and also has passion fruit oil blended into the mix too so it's highly flavoured and quite strong, too. Of course, with a tea such as this, it's perfect on it's own so you don't need to add milk or sugar.

This tea has a robust flavour that I immediately loved. I think the strength of flavour is possibly because the tea is flavoured with a exotic fruit rather then traditional fruits that are added to tea such as lemon, apple and strawberry.

It's a well rounded tea and I like the fact that it's not overly sweet, and perfectly compliments the Chinese black tea which, naturally, is of the finest quality (we don't expect anything less from Northern Tea do we?).

The passion fruit is a delicious addition and is just about as perfect as it can get for this time of year. It's extremely refreshing and is calming, but it's sparky and interesting at the same time. It's very different but has the tasty familiarity that I love with Northern Tea Merchants because their black tea is nothing else but perfection in a cup. 

This tea is absolutely perfect for those who like fruit but perhaps needs something a bit meatier then a fruit infusion tea. I love the added exotic fruit flavouring it's something different from the traditional.

I love how the taste lingers ever so gently in the mouth for a long while after you've finished your cup of tea, and it's a moreish cup of tea. I can easily finish off a pot in no time, which is a great compliment to the tea itself.

Of course, the tea isn't just made of up flavouring. The base tea is gorgeous too, and it's full bodied, robust and pleasant on the tongue. That's one of the many reasons I love Northern Tea. I can rely on them to provide a high quality tea, blended with wonderful flavours to create a super cup of tea.

This tea is light and refreshing and would go well with desserts that contain fruits like peach or apricots, be it in a tart or a crumble. Also, it goes well with caramel flavoured treats too.

I loved this tea because you get something tasty and fruity and zingy but still have the satisfaction of having a black tea base. Truly, it's the best of both worlds.

I've tried a lot Northern Tea Merchants fruity black tea's. These have included: Mandarin Black Tea, Strawberry Black Tea and Apple Black Tea. But I think I'll go as far as to say that this is my favourite of the fruity tea's because it's something just that little bit different, followed sharply I think by the Mandarin.

If you're looking for something light, refreshing that is suitable for the summer months then do give this tea a try. It's fruity and flavoursome and it's a tea that will really impress any guests you may have.

It's also a great tea to have if you're new to drinking tea without milk (and I've heard of several tea drinkers who have given up milk recently!) because it has a wonderful flavour and will ease you into drinking tea without milk easily and gently.

And, in the winter months this will remind you of the hazy summer days we are currently enjoying!

What's not to like about Passion Fruit Tea? I can't find a single fault!

Monday, 20 April 2015

Laura's Tea Room On A Day Out: Fortnum & Mason, London

(Fortnum & Mason, London. Photo sourced from Google).

On Saturday I had the most amazing day. I met up with a friend in London and we were fortunate to visit the wonderful store, Fortnum & Mason.

Kirsty, my friend, lives in Cheshire and this year we will have known each other for twenty years. But life, as it tends to do, takes you on different paths and it's been over 15 years since we saw each other. In the past year we had re-connected and have become very close so we decided to meet up in London.

Due to the fact that we had such a short time together we decided not to stray too far from Euston, and thanks to Kirsty's Dad, who told us about Fortnum & Mason we decided to pay it a visit!

After a extremely happy reunion at Euston we headed off on the tube to Green Park, the station closest to the shop.

Saturday was a wonderful day. It was warm, sunny and breezy, but not too hot. A stifling day in London can be extremely unpleasant. (I had encounted a really hot London day last Wednesday when I went to see The Woman In Black at the Fortune Theatre with my brother and nephew and it's REALLY tiring in that kind of heat).

Arm in arm we almost skipped along Piccadilly. We walked past the London Ritz and had a nose at the prices of their breakfast. Needless to say it was slightly out of our price range, but still, at the same time, it was great to see this really famous hotel. Even in the morning sunshine seeing The Ritz lit up was amazing.

Fortnum and Mason didn't open till 10am and we got there quite early so decided to head into their restaurant for a cup of tea. We were greeted by a really polite young woman who led us to a table  which was decorated with fresh flowers and wonderful cutlery. However, we opted only for tea.

The restaurant was already fairly busy with families, couples and lone people enjoying the breakfast on offer. I noticed that the jam, for instance, was brought out in mini hampers, it was incredibly stylish. Looking around the dining room I noticed how elegant and simply it was decorated. Being a tea lover, of course, I spotted the wonderful display of tea sets and tea caddies they had. This was going to be a really fun shopping trip.

Kirsty and I opted for a pot of tea for two and we chose a English Breakfast blend. The waiter brought the tea in a wonderful silver teapot which he poured for us into the cutest cup and saucer which bared the Fortnum and Mason colour scheme.

The tea was absolutely gorgeous. As readers know I'm not overly keen on English Breakfast but can drink it with milk. However, sipping on the blend without milk I really enjoyed it!

Of course Kirsty and I had a lot of catching up to do, but the experience of drinking tea in the wonderful environment was something really special and I think that both Kirsty and I were slightly overcome with it all.

And most of all we were surprised by the price. A pot of tea for two, with each of us getting roughly two and a half cups each from the pot cost just under £6.00. I know that does appear expensive, but, actually it was not much dearer then two drinks in Marks and Spencers cafe, for instance. And recently I found myself at St Pancras station in London and paid £3.00 for a Jasmine Green Tea so in my opinion it was by no means overly expensive.

By the time we had finished up our tea the store was fully open and Kirsty and I were off in full on shopping mode. Kirstly looking for gifts for her family, me, looking, quite naturally, for tea!

But, like most ladies, the first place we needed to visit was the toilet, which, was called, rather cutely, the powder room! On the same floor as the powder room was where Fortnum and Mason kept their tea sets. I saw the cutest selection of mugs, teapots, plates, silver ware, tea strainers, tea spoons, cup's and saucers and milk jugs I've ever seen in one place.

The range varied from modern plain white mugs with Fortnum and Mason printed on to elaborate tea sets and silver tea pots. It was like a wonderland for tea lovers and I was beyond excited.

There was one item that totally caught my eye, and then my heart. It was a 1930's vintage cup and saucer in a buttercup colour. It was just beyond pretty. It was stunning and if I were rich I would of brought it. I kept going back to have a sneak of it. Something about the dainty cup and saucer just caught my eye and I loved it.

I have to admit we spent ages just looking around and seeing what tea sets we could buy, and there were probably about six sets I could of purchased. It was just stunning.

We decided to walk down the sweeping staircase that has wooden handrails and luxuriously thick carpeting. That alone was something lovely! We were back on the tea floor!

The tea floor was divided up into sections. The tea section was large. It comprised of tea in boxes, caddies, gift boxes and in addition there was tea on sale that was loose. Huge jars of tea lined the shelves on the back wall that was filled with every tea possible. White, black, green and probably red! And on the wonderful counter stood several sets of weighing scales.

Another clever addition were glass teapots that held small amounts of tea. You could pick the pot up, take off the lid and have a good sniff of the tea inside. A quirky but really practical addition.

Also on sale on the tea floor was coffee, but in tins and boxes and loose, biscuits, ranging from wafers to shortbread, and chocolate. There was also a large selection of sweets and jams, preserves, cheeses and biscuits for cheese. I was honestly just staggered at how lovely the shop was, how varied the selection of items available to buy was and how friendly and helpful the staff were.

The tea selection is huge and I mean huge. The choice varies from black tea's through to green and white. They of course have the traditional tea's such as Earl Grey and English Breakfast through to Jasmine tea and even blends from Prince Charles's Highgrove Estate.

I had already browsed their online shop and had narrowed down to three tea's I wanted to buy and they were all tea's related to my other hobby - royalty. There was Wedding Breakfast, which was created for the 2011 Royal Wedding, Christening Blend, blended to commemorate Prince George's Christening in 2013 and Jubilee Blend, for the Diamond Jubilee celebrations in 2012.

Naturally I browsed all the tea but I wanted something that extra bit special. The Wedding Breakfast tea was a blend of strong Kenyan tea's, the Christening Blend was a twist on Earl Grey and the Jubilee a mixture of tea's from China and India.

What did I opt for? Well, you probably have guessed - The Christening Blend. I will be reviewing this tea later on in the week but I did go all out and purchased the lose blend in a caddy. 250g's cost £9.95. Nice and affordable.

Kirsty brought some wonderful gifts for her family and we enjoyed browsing the sweets and biscuits but thankfully we resisted temptation. We must of spent hours in this shop, but, for me anyway, it was a little bit like stepping back in time.

Fortnum and Mason is effortlessly chic, stylish and traditional. The decor is tasteful, not glitzy and tacky. The staff are warm and welcoming, and look so elegant in their uniforms. Shopping in Fortnum and Mason is a experience in itself. And one I will never forget.

Our day went by too quickly and before we knew it there was tearful goodbyes at Euston. This was a day that we had waited for for months and it flew by in seconds.

Just before Kirsty headed back up North, she handed me a present. A box of Fortnum and Mason's Countess Grey - a feminine twist on Earl Grey. Such a lovely thought from a wonderful woman.

So, that was my day out. It was a joyful day out filled with happiness and much laughter and it is one that I will never ever forget.

If you ever find yourself in London, don't just head to Harrods - the store everyone knows. Head to Fortnum and Mason, too. It's a magical land full of lovely goods with traditional British values flowing through it's every being.

You will be left astounded. I was. And it takes a lot to make me feel like that, that's for sure.

Friday, 17 April 2015

t+ Wellness Tea: Raspberry And Pomegranate Boost

Today I thought it would be a great day to review my second tea that the lovely folks at t+ Wellness Drinks kindly sent me last month. This gorgeous tea is flavoured with Raspberry and Pomegranate.

The previous tea I have reviewed was their Apple and Blackcurrant tea and it was really rather tasty!

So, I just wanted to give you a little run down on t+ Wellness drinks. They are a new tea company but have a lot to offer. They provide healthy green tea's which come in a wide range of wonderful flavours, all with the added benefit of having vitamins A, B, C and E added. So it's not just tasty but healthy, too.

However, I would like to stress in this review as I did in my previous one that I am not commenting - or reviewing - the tea based on the health claims that are made about this tea. I'm reviewing it on the quality of the tea and the flavour only.

Let's get started, then!

Raspberry and Pomegranate is a flavoured green tea which comes in traditional and individually wrapped tea bags.

I have experimented with this tea and found that two minutes infusion time is just about perfect to make a super, fruity cup of tea.

As you can see in the photograph below, it brews to a lovely green colour!

I really enjoyed the last tea I tried from t+ so when I poured a hot cup of this tea from the tea maker, I was delighted at how fruity this tea smelt. It really is extremely pleasant and as I subsequently found out, it was a utter joy to drink.

The raspberry and pomegranate work really well together. I have tried this combination in tea's several times and although it's a popular blend with me, they can vary between being extremely sharp and bitter or overly sweet - this tea is neither. It's well blended and extremely refreshing, even on a particularly hot day as today.

The raspberry is very natural and tasty and just reminds me of succulent, freshly picked raspberries. The pomegranate adds a depth of flavour and there are also elements of peach included too. There is a slight kick to this tea which comes from the added cardamon.

On a hot day this is very refreshing, light and magical. On a cold day this will be comforting.

The green tea is of a wonderful quality and there is no bitterness or astringency either. It's a well rounded, full flavoured drink that will quench your thirst without a doubt.

Although flavoursome, this is a tea that is gentle on the tongue and is extremely pleasant to taste. It's great that the tea has the added benefits of having vitamins included, but you also get a wonderful cup of tea and not the perculiar flavour that you can get with other functional tea's.

This is just a "normal" tea (for what of a better expression) but has health benefits added too! It's a win win!

I think this would also be a great starter tea for people who are a little unsure about green tea. Let's face it green tea often get's a bad press because people often drink poor quality tea or are unsure how to prepare it and subsequently drink a fowl mess of a green tea. Due to it's perfectly blended flavours, this tea would provide drinkers with a fine cup of tea, enable them to gain the benefits of drinking green tea without the bitterness.

I really do wish the team at t+ plus every success with their tea's. And thank you for the samples - it's been absolutely brilliant trying your tea's!

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Taylors Of Harrogate: Sweet Rhubarb

As we are now in Spring, with the sun shining and the temperatures (slowly) rising, I woke up fancying something really fruity this morning. So, I turned to my trusty box of tea samples and single sachets and found this little gem at the bottom of the box, which was kindly sent to me from Rebecca who regular readers will know is a good friend who I often tea swap with.

I love rhubarb. Be it in a crumble, pie or covered with yoghurt or custard, but I do tend to struggle with it in tea because it can be extremely sharp, paired with ginger (which is fine but often the ginger overpowers) or, is extremely sweet. As you can tell I'm hard to please when it comes to rhubarb tea!

So, quite frankly, I was looking forward to trying Sweet Rhubarb which is produced by Taylors of Harrogate.

The tea comes in the shape of a traditional tea bag, as you can see below.

I adored the aroma of this tea as soon as I removed the bag from it's envelope. It reminded me of one thing only - rhubarb and cream boiled sweets that I used to enjoy quite often when I was a little girl.

It smelt gorgeous and brought back happy childhood memories in a instant.

As there were no brewing instructions on the individual packet I decided to brew this for five minutes but actually ended up brewing for about seven, but as this is a fruit tea, it doesn't matter too much if the tea is brewed for longer. In fact it's preferable to steep for longer as you get a better depth of flavour.

I did try to capture the colour of the tea but this photo doesn't do it justice. It brews to a glorious blood red colour. Extremely inviting I have to say!

As I gingerly took my first sip, I waited for that grimace inducing sharpness that almost every rhubarb tea I've ever encountered has, but it simply did not appear. Instead, I experienced a well balanced, fruity and flavoursome tea and it was nice to take it without the traditional additions of vanilla or ginger as you'd normally find in rhubarb tea's.

This is a tea that Taylors ought to be proud of. The rhubarb is fresh and fruity, and tastes as if the rhubarb had been picked and prepared only this morning. It is full of flavour and has a wonderfully smooth texture, not at all bitty like some fruit tea's can be.

It's incredibly refreshing and would go perfectly with a afternoon tea of sandwiches and scones served with lashing's of strawberry jam.

In addition, there seemed to be a ever so slight kick after you take a sip. I have to admit I couldn't put my finger on it so going onto Taylor's website found it to be the added ingredient of blackberry leaf. It's a brilliant addition to this tea and adds just a little bit of something different to this very traditional ingredient.

Sweet Rhubarb is perfect for this time of year. It's Spring (and Summer) in a cup! It's incredibly light and refreshing and will be a good option to use in iced tea over the summer months. It's also incredibly moreish and makes for a perfect treat.

And the good thing is that this is readily available in most of the UK's main supermarkets so it will be easy to source too. However, if you are experiencing difficulties it can be purchased from Bettys, Kew and on Amazon.

This really is a fantastic fruit tea. If you love fruit infusions, you'll love this!

Friday, 10 April 2015

White2tea: OBSX Oolong Tea

(This oolong is of a fantastic black colour, long leaved and crunchy to the touch).

Today I have decided to review a fantastic tea from White2tea. This tea is a gorgeous, tasty oolong called Obsx - Wuyi Yancha.

The OBSX element of the name is a little different but according to White2tea's website, they explain the name this way "The name “obsx” is an acronym for old bush shui xian. Shui Xian is the name of the Narcissus flower in Chinese (and also the name of this type of Wuyi Yancha oolong). Old bush refers to the older age of the bushes from which the tea was harvested in Fujian province". 

I loaded up the trusty old Sage tea maker, pressed the oolong button for a medium infusion and just sat back and waited for the tea to infuse.

Whilst I was waiting I had a look at the remaining tea leaves and it's one of the most interesting tea's to look at. The colour of the tea is dark black and it's stunning to look at. The leaves are extremely long, and this made for a exceptionally interesting to look at tea.

The aroma of the tea is slightly nutty. It's a tea for all senses as it looked interesting, smelt divine and felt really crunchy in your hands.

This oolong brewed to a lovely golden colour and I poured a cup. This was the first cup of the day, which I treasure, as my senses seem to be a bit heightened at that time of day. I couldn't wait to experience this tea.

And it was pure joy to drink.

Obsx Oolong has a depth of flavour that goes beyond wonderful. It's rich and mellow and full of flavour, and for me anyway, it's the perfect cup of tea to get me up and going in the morning.

This oolong reminds me slightly of white tea, it has the fresh, pure element to it which I enjoy when drinking white tea, yet has the robustness of a black tea.

Even though this is a full bodied tea, there is a gentle sweetness too which compliments the earthy, grassy elements to the tea. 

As a blogger it's hard to admit when you feel lost for words when describing a tea. But that's how I feel. I feel that this tea is possibly the hardest to describe.

But I will say that I love this tea. I love the purity, I love the grassiness, I love the strength, yet, at the same time, the delicate qualities too.

This is a oolong tea of a superior quality and a sublime taste. It's makes for a perfect start to the day, and would be brilliant at the end of the day to unwind with after a busy day. What I'm trying to say is it's pretty perfect.

There is nothing to dislike about this tea.

Thank you to White2tea for giving me the chance to try this amazing oolong. I feel just that little bit happier that I had the chance to try this fantastic tea.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

A Spotlight On: Black Tea

(A fine example of a black tea: Northern Tea Merchants Apple Tea)

Black tea is probably one of, if not the best known type of tea. It can be found under many different names such as Keemun, Darjeeling, Yunnan, Russian Caravan, Earl Grey, Assam, English Breakfast .. the list can go on and on.

Black tea is a robust, strong and fulfilling type of tea. But, it's also comforting and has delicate qualities too, such as found in Darjeeling tea. It's also particularly versatile and due to it's hardy qualities, it's a bit easier to prepare, in comparison to white and green tea which can go bitter and take on a dull, flat flavour if over brewed.

Here is a little run down on (possibly!) the nation's favourite tea!


Black tea is produced in China, India, Napal, Sri Lanka and a small amount from Taiwan. Black tea often comes under different names, quite often, especially in China, the tea is named after the region, with different region's producing tea's with vastly different qualities.

How is it processed?

After the tea is harvested, hot air is blown onto the tea leaves to wither them. Then it can go through one of two processes.

CTC: CTC stands for "crush, tea, curl" or "cut, tear, curl". This is a system where the tea leaves are cut first.They are then fed into the CTC machine where a further processes of cutting and tearing occurs. The tea will finish up as very fine particles. This tea is mostly used in teabags.

Orthodox: Tea that is produced via the orthodox method are rolled, whether this is done by hand or by machinery. The tea is pressed down and rotated so chemicals are released from the cell's in the leaf. The highest quality tea is considered to be rolled by hand. Tea produced in the orthodox manner is used for high quality loose leaf tea.

Next, the tea is oxidized (or fermented). If a tea is fully oxidized it's considered a black tea, low oxidized is green tea. Oolong is a tea that has various levels of oxidization. Oxidization is done under strict temperature and humidity conditions. However, oxidization starts the minute the tea is rolled and the amount of oxidization affects the taste of the tea, and many tea producers will alter the oxidization time to produce tea's with certain characteristics. The leaves are then dried and then the tea is sorted into grades using a sieve.

How to prepare black tea

Unlike green and white tea, black tea is best made with freshly boiled water. Most black tea's can be steeped for four to five minutes, the more delicate of the black tea's such as darjeeling should be steeped for three to four minutes.

How to take black tea

Of course, this is down to personal taste. Black tea can be taken with milk and sugar to make a "builders brew" type of black tea. Chai, a black tea with added spices or Christmas tea's, that include cinnamon and clove are perfect candidates to be made milky and with lots of sugar.

However, if you like your black tea lighter it can be made by added a slice of lemon. For a change I've even added lime!

I like to take my black tea unsweetened and without milk as I love to really taste the tea!

What does black tea look like when fully infused?

Black tea can take on many different shades. It can range from a very dark black, almost ebony coloured, to red and copper tones to shades of amber and honey. It's a pretty tea.

And the flavour?

Black tea can take on many different flavours. For instance you have Yunnan that has nutty elements to the taste. Keemun can be chocolatey. Assam is strong and malty. Lapsang Souchong is smoked over pine and has a very strong and obviously smoky taste. I have just recently tried a Keemun Mao Feng that is very strong and to me has almost coffee like qualities. There is a broad spectrum of flavours so there isn't just one black tea flavour. There are many!

Additonal extra's

Black tea sits well with fruity flavours such as lemon and orange. I've also tried mandarin black tea which is gorgeous, apple tea which had a zingy taste and strawberry tea. I'm planning to try passion fruit too. It sit's less well with flavours such as peach or pomegrante.

Floral flavours, such as rose, lavender, orange blossom and jasmine are the perfect partners to black tea. They can add a feminine touch to the tea whilst still retaining the strength you expect from black tea.

Christmas tea's are also good but do take a bit of caution with some Christmas blends as these typically contain a lot of clove's and so I'd advise that Christmas tea's are taken with milk. In fact these tea's are made for milk and sugar - they make a wonderful winter treat.

Laura's favourites

I have many favourites. Here are just a few!

Northern Tea Merchants

Keemun Mao Feng
Mandarin Black Tea
Russian Caravan
 Russian Caravan

Teavivre's Lapsang Souchong 

Twinings Rose Garden