Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Oteas: Christmas Cookie Green Tea

As you are probably more than aware, I'm a huge fan of Christmas and Christmas tea's in particular. There are quite a few good ones on the market at the moment, but I can't resist trying new tea's and the amount I've spent this year is very naughty indeed. But what a joy all the tasting has been.

I recently became aware of a new (to me anyway) tea company called Oteas. And they have a delightful selection of Christmas tea's that cover each taste. They have a black tea, rooibos tea and a green tea. I've brought them all so will be reviewing them all over the next week.

Today though I've opted to review their green Christmas tea. It's a delightful little gem called Christmas Cookie Green Tea. 

This tea comes in a single, silky tea pyramid.

I think I opted to try their green tea first because I've been drinking a lot of Christmas tea (it's a hard life!) recently and most are black tea that need a bit of milk and sugar so I appreciated a lighter drink that could be taken on it's own without adding anything extra.

There are only a few ingredients in this tea. We have cinnamon, cloves, almond and pink pepper. An interesting, sweet mix.

As this was a green tea I was particular as to how I infused this tea so boiled the water to 80 and infused this for two minutes. It infuses to a light green, attractive colour and has a gorgeous sweet aroma.

My first impression of this gorgeous (and it is gorgeous) tea is that it's so smooth and easy to drink. With the addition of cloves and cinnamon I was preparing for a bit of a pow moment when I took my first sip, however, in fact it's a sweet, gently spiced tea and I'm really impressed.

I know I've been going on about the blending of Christmas tea's for month's now, but this is a very good example of how a decent blend can make the difference in a spiced tea. Good blending makes for a delicious, poor blending makes for a awful one. This, I'm happy to say, is certainly in the former category.

From the first sip the most prominent flavour is the sweet almond. It brings that rich, desert element to the tea without it being overpowering, unlike the addition of vanilla which some Christmas tea's have this year. This is sweet and rich without it being sickly so.

The cinnamon and cloves are there too, but the amount is so little that you can taste their presence but it doesn't overpower anything. Obviously you can't add milk to green tea anyway, so it's nice a little bit of limitation has been used so this tea remains pleasant and refreshing.

However, it's the addition of the pink pepper which I really like and which makes this tea different and exciting. It gives a generous kick at the end of each sip. And it makes your mouth dance and fizz and truly comes alive with the vibrant flavour.

Christmas Cookie tea is really a journey in each sip. Initially you get that sweet kick from the almond, then you get the familiar warmth from the cinnamon and then a kick from the pink pepper! It's really awesome and I find this tea quite charming.

The green tea is mellow, smooth with a slightly nutty element which I find totally enjoyable. It rolls nicely across the tongue and adds a bit of depth to the tea.

I found this a light, refreshing alternative to the normal black spiced tea's that are gorgeous but can sit a bit too heavy if too much is taken in a short period. This would be great on Christmas and Boxing Day when you've over indulged a bit and fancy something a wee bit lighter.

Additionally, this is also very refreshing and a great palate cleanser, too!

I am very impressed and cannot wait to try the other two Christmas tea's I've purchased from Otea's.

And do you know what makes this tea even better? Each single silky pyramid tea bag - that is crammed full of tea - was only 49p each! But, when I sat down to review this today checked in on Otea's site and their Christmas tea's are now on sale for 39p. There really isn't anything as nice as a bargain at this time of year!

teatourist: An Exciting Way To Explore Tea

I've not been around much recently. I've had teeth issues. Sore gums and huge anxiety about visiting the dentist doesn't make for a good Laura.

Last week though, I had something utterly fabulous pop through the letter box, and when I was sat, slightly panic stricken in the dentist's chair, this little gem was all I could focus on.

This is a brilliant way to experience high quality, artisan, loose leaf tea. And as a dedicated tea drinker, I find this concept very exciting!

teatourist are a newly established tea subscription service that sources the finest quality loose tea from many different suppliers in the UK, and hand selects six new tea's a month for you to try. Not only can you start an incredible tea journey but it's made all the more convenient for you as it's posted out in boxes that are designed to fit through your letter box, so no more annoying trips to the local sorting office to pick up your parcel!

The first thing I find appealing about the teatourist concept is that each month six different tea's are carefully hand selected for you to try. teatourist work with over 100 tea suppliers to offer a wide selection of tea each month. So, in my box I had a lovely selection of functional tea's, herbal tea's and black tea. (Each tea will be reviewed on a individual basis in the near future so keep your eyes peeled for upcoming reviews).

This idea is very convenient. How many times have you brought a quantity of loose tea or a large box of bagged tea, tried one cup and decided you didn't like it, therefore creating not only waste but also a loss from your wallet! In each pouch of tea you get enough tea for several cups. This is interesting because sometimes you like a tea straight away, sometimes it takes a couple of cups for you to make your mind up, sometimes you don't like it on first tasting and nothing can change your mind. This is an affordable way of experimenting with different flavours, blends and different types of tea.

To make things simple, each tea comes in identical packaging. As you can see below with each tea you get lots of excellent information. Each card contains information about the type of tea contained, allergen information and a use by date. In addition, it contains clear and precise information about the company that sells that particular tea. Now, teatourist doesn't sell tea, so if you try some tea and love it, then you can go straight to the suppliers website to order more. So don't forget to retain the card for each tea so you know where to buy your refills from!

On the other side of the card there is clear instructions on how to prepare and infuse the tea. You are told how much you need, what temperature to boil the water to and how long to infuse. There is also space for you to write your own tasting notes, too! (This is especially handy for a tea blogger!) I think that's a really charming addition to the package.

 For a tea addict, this is just the ideal way of trying new tea's. It's fantastic and I'm genuinely excited that there is a simple way of trying all that the tea world has to offer.

teatourist was created by a lovely guy called Joss. What is very evident through my communication with him is not only is he as in love with tea as I am, but he understands the difficulties that both tea drinkers and tea companies have.

For the consumer, tea drinking isn't the cheapest habit to have. Some tea's are expensive and I myself have paid out for a lot of tea that seemed appealing to me, but in fact, once tried, was not my, cup of tea, so to speak. The amount of money I've wasted over the years would probably of brought me a decent holiday. Or a slightly better quality record player. And there really isn't anything more frustrating then having a huge packet of tea, or a huge box of tea that you don't like, and having to either throw it away or find someone who will give it a good home.

For the producer of tea, the market is literally crowded with tea. Yet, if you go to the local supermarket, you simply see the same brands over and over again. For the independent seller, the artisan tea company or the newly formed tea company it's almost impossible to get your product out there amid the plethora of Twinings, Tetley, Yorkshire Tea and PG Tips. If you think about it, how much great tea are you, as a consumer, missing out on simply because you haven't yet discovered that little tea company that's sitting on a gem of a tea?

So, how does it work? Well, here's the practical bit!

A teatourist subscription costs £14.95 per month. With each box you get six hand picked tea's. Along with this you get tasting cards as described above. Each parcel is packed in letter box friendly sized boxes, so as I said before, if you're not in the tea will still reach you safely. The postage for the box is free and each box is sent out around the 20th of each month.What is very clever is the subscription is done on a month to month basis so you can pause anytime you like and just pick up where you left off when you're ready to.

And,  if you decide you'd like to join the subscription please use the discount code 'LAURA30'.

I would like to note that that this service is only currently available in the UK.

I fully support teatourist on so many levels. As a passionate tea lover I feel that those small tea companies that we may miss need as much exposure as possible. I'm equally passionate about helping new starters launch their brand, (and I've worked with several through this blog) so they can make a real impact into the tea market. teatourist share these principles and that appeals to me.

As a drinker of tea, I feel we need more choice and a better quality of tea. But we also need this to be affordable too, as times are hard right now.

With teatourist both the tea company and the tea drinker win. So why not pop over to their website and explore this exciting concept.

teatourist give tea the respect it deserves. And I wish them nothing but luck (and support) as they make their mark in our tea world.

And I will end this blog by simply saying there is nothing more exciting then having a extensive box of different tea's pop through your letterbox. Take it from me, it really is that good!

Friday, 2 December 2016

Ahmad Tea: Earl Grey Tea

Last Sunday was one of the loveliest day's I've had all year. My best friend, Kirsty, came down to London to see me. We have been friends for over twenty years, but due to her living in Cheshire and I in London we only see each other a few times a year.

In recent years it's become somewhat of a tradition that I take the last week of November off work as holiday and on the Sunday Kirsty comes down to see me. We meet at the train station, have a cup of tea, walk down to Pizza Hut, where we eat, drink and are certainly merry!

On the way back to the station we always stop off at a fantastic gift shop. This little shop stocks loads of tea, especially tea by Ahmad Tea which is a company I've tried many years ago and have always admired. 

As readers know I can't resist buying something when so much gorgeous tea is laid out in front of me. However, after having a clear out of tea recently, knew  I didn't have much room for all the gorgeous tea filled caddies on sale. I was just about to not buy anything when my tea radar spotted this teeny, tiny little gem!

This mini-caddy, which stands barely two inches tall is filled to the brim with lovely Earl Grey tea. It features the famous London Routemaster bus. And the cost of this tiny find? Just £1.99.

Initially, I wasn't sure who made this tea and was naturally a bit dubious as to the quality inside, however the cuteness of the caddy is something I couldn't resist. So, I was very pleased indeed to see this came from Ahmad Tea.

Upon opening the caddy this tea smelt gorgeous. Nice and citrusy - that all too familiar flavour that you get with Earl Grey. And the tea is beautiful to look at. Lovely and dark in flavour, with small leaves. And surprisingly, you get a LOT of tea in such a tiny caddy.

You can see in the picture above, the generous amount of tea you get. I had already made two cups of tea from this when I took the photograph. Each cup had two generous, heaped teaspoons of tea, and as you can see it's barely touched the surface.

The ingredients in this tea are simple. Ceylon black tea and bergamot. It's pretty simple.

Simple the ingredients may be, the flavour though, is full bodied and simply gorgeous. I'd even go as far as to say that this is one of the finest and tastiest Earl Grey tea's I've tried.

The use of Ceylon tea is marvelous. And the Ceylon tea used in this blend is smooth, delicate, yet at the same time, has a very slight smokiness to it which makes it interesting and gives this tea a gentle afterbite. A nice kick that you don't tend to get with Earl Grey. It truly is a very, very good tea.

The bergamot flavour, which gives Earl Grey it's very famous citrus flavour is just perfect. It's natural and fruity, rather than being oily and synthetic as some bergamot based tea's can be. It's certainly flavoursome but not overpowering.It works hand in hand with the tea, so both flavours are very present but nor does one cancel the other out.

If you are looking for a Earl Grey that is nicely flavoured but isn't too strong then Ahmad Tea may of just produced the Earl Grey for you.

There is a nice smoothness to this tea, that element making it easy to drink. There is no bitterness or strange aftertaste with this tea either. It's just gorgeous.This would make a perfect tea for a afternoon tea. I am guilty of taking this tea from my Christmas mug, when in reality this is one tea that should be served in a pot, with fine bone china and tiny little cakes in a afternoon tea. This is ideal for serving to friends.

Aside from this lovely teeny caddy, Earl Grey is, of course, sold in more tradtitional forms, too. You can get it loose, bagged, in boxes, in caddies, decaffeinated even. So do check out their Earl Grey page.

And they even sell it in a beautiful musical caddy. Isn't this just about the prettiest caddy ever. And it play's a tune. Just so very pretty and I am seriously lusting after it! Now, that really would make my Christmas!

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Piacha Tea: Oolong Iron Mercy

(Photograph sourced from

Whilst browsing through this blog I have noticed that oolong tea's have not featured a great deal here. I think partly I'm so in love with black and green tea that I tend not to always venture further away from these two tea's. Also, I was a little in awe and unsure of oolong tea. Unsure of what to do with it, how to brew it correctly.

In recent weeks I've been focused on the festive, seasonal Christmas tea's. And they are gorgeous, but at the same time I have missed my familiar, sturdy, reliable green tea's. As with anything to do with Christmas, over indulgence in rich, flavoursome tea's can leaving you wanting the more simple tea's in life.

Last week I visited Piacha's website with the aim of buying some more of their Apple Green tea which is a firm favourite of mine. However, I have a total inability to just stop at one tea, so decided to try their Oolong Iron Mercy. I was taking the step into the world of oolong.

Oolong tea is a cross between black and green tea. So, black tea is fermented, green tea isn't and oolong is partially. The taste of oolong can vary, depending on many things, such as where the tea is grown, for example. That's it in a nutshell!

Before I start the review I will say a little word about Piacha.  They are a company who have a tea bar in Islington, in London and also sell tea online, too. They are one of the friendliest tea companies going. Their natural enthusiasm and love for tea is infectious and they are nothing but kind and friendly with me. They are a delight to deal with and their tea is wonderful to drink. So if you are in Islington, do pop in. I'm aiming to in the near future!

Anyway, back to the tea. As Piacha explains this tea can be infused up to three times and each time the tea tastes differently, so I've settled down today to have three good cups of tea!

The instructions for this tea are to boil the water up to 90c and infuse for two minutes, and I've followed those instructions carefully.

First Infusion:  I am immediately impressed with this tea. It's just sooooooo smooth and a pleasure to drink. On first impressions this wonderful tea resembles a softer, gentler, gunpowder green tea. It has that familiar sparkling, pale yellow hue and the wonderful woody, plant like taste that is all too familiar with good, high quality green tea's. And I'm in no doubt whatsoever that this tea is of the highest quality. It's quite expensive, £11.80 for 75g's but it oozes taste and quality. It's a luxury tea but for any green tea lover this will be worth every penny. I love how light, fresh and delicious it is. Just so refreshing and wonderfully tasty. And despite this being a slightly plant like tea, there is a delicate air of honey about this tea as a after taste. With each sip of this tea, especially as it cools, the tea develops in it's flavour. It's amazing.

Second Infusion: Whilst infusing the second time I noticed the tea brewed to a slightly darker colour. It brewed to a light green rather then light yellow colour. Still, the tea retained its smoothness, however it has now taken on a stronger, woody type flavour. Very pleasant, especially for me as a green tea lover. The change in flavour is quite big but still appealing to me.  It has morphed from something delicate to something a bit sturdier, something you can get your teeth into!

Third Infusion: By this final infusion the colour has changed dark green colour. For me, on this third infusion the taste is even deeper, a full on strong, green tea flavour. This has developed from a light and airy tasting tea to something a bit more solid. I still enjoyed this tea on it's final infusion but it had also developed a slight tart, bitter twang. Personally I would stop at the second infusion, but if you like your tea stronger and don't mind that slight bitter after bite then you will happily get along with three infusions.

I really, really enjoyed this Oolong blend. It is a luxurious tea and it feels as though you are drinking something really, really special. I love the smoothness, I love the woody like flavour that appeals to me when drinking green tea. I just loved this tea. And, as I said, it's a perfect tonic to the highly spiced Christmas tea that I've been drinking a lot of.

This tea was worth every penny I spent on it. And I will be buying more!

Bluebird Tea Co: Christmas Cake Tea

Christmas is by far my favourite time of year. Especially since I've become a tea lover. At this time of year there are hundreds of festive blends around.

Today, then, I'm reviewing a extraordinary tea. A tea so gorgeous that after a SINGLE cup, I went back onto the website and immediately ordered more - in the biggest quantity possible.

That tea is by Bluebird Tea Company and the blend is their delightful Christmas Cake

The tea is available in both bagged and loose form. It's my preference, if possible, to get blends loose but of course if you prefer the convenience of bagged tea then there is the option to purchased this tea bagged, which in itself is fantastic.

Bluebird Tea are a tea company I've long heard of and have tried several of their tea's, so, last week I found myself browsing and just couldn't resist their limited edition festive blend. I ordered some and instantly I fell hopelessly in love.

This blend is striking in so many ways, but it's the visual impact that you notice first. This tea is just so, so pretty. Firstly, you have the striking dark black Ceylon tea. It's a wonderful, rich tea which I was very impressed with. Dotted within the tea you have pieces of vibrant orange peel, the familiar site of cloves, pieces of flaked almond as well as green spruce needles. But, the prettiest thing ever is the sugar snowflakes. You simply cannot get more festive then seeing snowflakes in tea. It's just so pretty and beyond cute.

I LOVE the idea of Christmas Cake flavoured tea. And the several that I have tried, I've always enjoyed, despite, oddly, the fact that I don't actually like Christmas Cake. But what these tea's have is the essence of cake without the overpowering flavour actual cake can have. As a festive tea, this really works.

I took three very generous, heaped, teaspoons and added them to my empty tea bags. I popped the bag into the water and let the tea infuse for around four minutes. Whilst these tea infuses the aroma is just so yummy that it seemed like the longest four minutes ever!

One of the many things I like about this tea is though it contains cinnamon and cloves it isn't overly spiced. So this is the first Christmas tea this year that I can take without the addition of milk and sugar, so it retains a really nice lightness and is fully flavoured. Yes, there is something comforting about a milky, sugary drink, however, I only have a couple of cups a week like this, so it's nice to be festive whilst being able to drink tea as I normally do - black and unsweetened.

From the very first sip I loved this tea. Even my mum - who couldn't care less about my exotic (or weird, as she call's it) tea collection - said to me 'that must be lovely, I can see it in your face'.

And lovely it is.

Unlike the other festive tea's that I've tried this year, Christmas Cake has a sweetness to it, rather then a highly spiced flavour. So straight away, because of it's difference to what's mainly on the market, it immediately made an impact.  Of course the sweetness mainly comes from the sugar snowflakes, however, the addition of vanilla pieces works alongside it. And it's due to this sweet aspect that I can take this without milk because the sweetness helps balance out the natural robust flavour, which comes from the cloves and cinnamon.

The Ceylon tea that is the base tea in this blend is smooth and is gently flavoursome and I think it's great that Ceylon has been used as opposed to the mighty Assam as Ceylon helps the tea retain it's delicate qualities.

Alongside the sweetness of the vanilla and sugar sprinkles, you get a spicy kick from the cinnamon and cloves. My taste buds normally detect the sweet flavours first so the spices take a short while to come through, then all of a sudden, like an explosion they are there, tip toeing across your tongue, making this tea multi-layered and exciting.

Underneath these flavours, the sweetness and the spiciness, there is a slightly tart tang of orange which comes from the orange peel and the familiar marzipan like taste from the flaked almonds.

Whilst drinking this tea it really is just like a Christmas cake. You know the sort, the type with sticky pieces of fruit and topped in snow white icing.

This tea is just simply awesome. I have really enjoyed the other tea's I've tried from Bluebird. The Strawberry Lemonade, Lemon Sherbert, Jelly and Ice Cream, but this Christmas cake tea really is the best I've tasted. I love how it's so different from the Christmas spice tea's around at the moment.

I cannot say how much I like this tea, and on the strength of just one cup, I've brought 140g's more of this tea say's volume's. Normally, I'd think, I'll buy some more next month. As this is a limited edition I'm aware this won't be around for long, and the mere thought of not having it in my cupboard spurred me on to make a second purchase. It's just glorious.

I would like to state though that there is an allergen alert with this tea. This tea contains almond flakes and hardened peanut oil.

What's exciting about Bluebird is they offer you plenty of ways of buying this tea. It's available in a caddy (with refill options) with loose leaf tea, it's available in sample sized pouches and of course as a bagged tea, too. So you can pick loose or bagged which is great and of course can pick how much of this tea you want! Also, with every order you get a sample of another tea free - fabulous isn't it?

I cannot praise this tea highly enough. If you can't take milk in your tea, this is mild but flavoursome enough to take black. If you don't like the highly spiced traditional Christmas tea's this makes for a refreshing change.

Somehow, this has traditional qualities, whilst being fresh and up to date.

But, be warned, this isn't a tea you'll find easy to serve to guests. It's so lovely you'll just want to keep it all to yourself....

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Twinings: Orange And Cinnamon Black Tea

In October I visited the Twining's store on The Strand. When I had to move back in with my mum after a relationship break up she had allocated me one cupboard in the kitchen for the tea. After being hit on the head more than once by a falling tea caddy, I had promised her that I'd sort the cupboard out. I did. I made space for all the new Christmas tea's I knew were coming up. I would simply buy a few refills for the tea jar.

I failed miserably on that promise. Within seconds of being in the shop I had purchased The Orangery Of Lady Grey, which came in a box. A caddy full of tea blended to celebrate HM The Queen's 90th birthday, two boxes of Winter Spice, refills for the jar (naturally) and a box of this little gem: Orange and Cinnamon Tea. 

This gorgeous tea is part of Twining's international range. It's available widely in America (on the website and in stores I assume). However in the UK it's available only in The Strand or via the website. It's a little tricky to get but boy, is it worth it!

The tea is simple. Black tea, orange and the wintery flavour of cinammon. However, it's become a firm favourite. In fact, it did as soon as I took my first sip. And it's one of those tea's that is rationed!

As you all will know by now I'm a HUGE fan of orange in tea. For me it works even better than lemon in tea. And this blend has plenty of orange.

The orange flavour is full and fruity. This is no weak, barely flavoured tea. This has real taste and body and you are in no doubt that this contains orange. It's really smooth and lovely and a perfect example of how well fruit's work with black tea.

The cinnamon adds a level of sweetness and is the perfect compliment to the slightly tart twang of orange. And I love how the cinnamon adds that gentle kick. It really is gorgeous.

However, the black tea itself is not strong, but it does naturally add a base tea. I am not overly keen on fruit tea's so when fruit flavours are added to black (or green) tea then it really works for me.

This has autumn and winter running through it. I could well imagine you serving this hot tea to guests as you watch fireworks or after a night of singing Christmas carols. Even on Halloween it would be great as a warming refreshment after a night of trick or treating it. It's made for this time of year.

Also, this would make a great tea if you are planning to make the step from taking milk in your tea to taking it black.

When I stopped taking milk in my tea I had to do it the hard way at first, by drinking strong breakfast tea's - it wasn't pleasant. That was till I discovered Twining's floral ranges (now defunct sadly) and just by adding lavender, rose, orange blossom or indeed actual orange and cinnamon it meant that journey from white tea to black tea was made a lot easier.

I know this is a short review but I wanted to let you all know how fabulous this tea is.

And it's one you'll be mad to miss out on!

The Real Tea Company: Assam Masala Chai Tea

It's fair to say, for me anyway, 2016 has been the year of Chai.

It doesn't matter if it's gingerbread chai, Bollywood chai or any other chai, this spicy tea has become a real treat for me this year.

The fact that I've eased off on my strictness, and now allow myself a tiny bit of milk and sugar has really helped. Chai was simply too much to drink without so I avoided them and most Christmas tea's like the plague. Now though, I have a lot of catching up to do.

Last month I was lucky enough to win a taster pack from the awesome Real Tea Company - a new start up company. I've already tried their delicious Winter Green Tea, a surefire hit in this house! Today, I'm trying their equally lovely Assam Masala Chai.

Yesterday was a busy day for me. Today is cold, miserable and wet so what better tea to cheer you up and make you feel warm and cosy than a lovely masala chai! These are the sort of days chai is designed for!

The first thing that struck me about this tea is how pretty it is. I love how the ingredients - cardamom, clove and cinnamon - add beautiful dashes of colour against the dark black tea. The first impression this tea made was a visual one. And it's truly gorgeous.

And the fabulous aroma of clove is just stunning. It's the first scent you get from this tea. This tea smells so fresh, it's bursting with exotic scents. As a tea lover this has ticked two very, very important boxes. For me of course the taste is everything, but, if it can delight the other senses too, then it makes the drinking of the tea a much richer, indepth experience.

I brewed the tea for a good few minutes and the tea itself (before adding milk of course) brewed to a gorgeous copper red colour. However, I'm simply not brave enough to take it without milk so added the tiniest amount of milk, to take the edge of the spices, but not to mask the flavour completely.

I LOVED this chai. And it certainly will go onto my list of hits of 2016. The taste is extraordinary. It's effective without being unpleasantly strong. It's tasty and leave's you wanting more, without any nasty after taste. It's got the familiar strength of Assam black tea, whilst adding a scrummy mix of spices.

Firstly, the base tea used in this blend is Assam. Assam is like your favourite, versatile little black dress. It's lovely in it's simplicity but also takes the addition of extra things and adapts to them so well it lifts it to another level. And this tea is the best example of it.

The Assam is strong and robust as Assam tends to be. And it's that strength that makes this tea work so well. Any lesser black tea would most likely be utterly masked by the spices, this is not. The familiar and malty taste of Assam is still very obvious and easily detectable.

And oh, the spices. What a journey they take your tastebuds on!

I have to say the cardamom is a brave choice to add to something like clove that in itself is very strong. And that's without acknowledging the cinnamon!

We have in this tea three very strong ingredients. I have to say when reading the description of this tea the other day I wasn't sure it would be my thing simply because of the strength of these wonderful spices. Yet, they do work.

The cardamom, for me at least, is the strongest flavour and even twenty minutes after finishing my second cup my tongue is still dancing from the effects of it. It just makes your mouth fizz and pop, it's like the tea version of the popping candy that is everywhere at the moment. It's just really nice.

After the initial effect of the cardamom, came the soothing, every so slightly sweet cinnamon, a lovely and effective balance to the cardamom. It soothes that wow factor and calms it a little making for a rich, smooth taste.

The cloves - of which I've experienced a lot of lately testing out the Christmas tea's - were the lesser flavour and the one I struggled hardest to detect. It's one of those situations where one spice is slightly overpowered by the other two, yet, despite me struggling to detect it, I'm sure I'd notice it if it was not added. Of course, this will vary from person to person, and you may drink it and pick up the clove and not the cinnamon. We are all different, after all!

I know I've been ranting on about the art of blending whilst trying the Christmas tea's. But this tea is the perfect example of how getting the blending spot on makes for a fabulous cup of tea. Tea blending is a art and Real Tea Company have got this right.To produce a tea that manages to retain the lovely familiarity of Assam with it's qualities, and yet adds three spices into the mix to make a even balanced, satisfying and tasty tea is no easy job.

Assam Masala Chai works. It's a tea that has several layers of flavour, has depth and is both warming and comforting for the cold days we all have coming up. Yet, at the same time it's subtle enough to leave you wanting more. And more.

I am so impressed with The Real Tea Company. They have managed, so far, to produce a wonderful green tea and now have created a lovely, exotic chai.

I'm also very happy to see they have added a Earl Grey, Darjeeling and a Russian Caravan, too! So, even if Chai isn't your thing, there are plenty of tea's to cater for every taste, whether you are a traditional tea drinker or if you like to experiment with something a bit more exotic.

But, on the Assam Masala Chai, they get a double thumbs up. Now, I'm off to make a third cup!

Friday, 18 November 2016

Wilkinson's Of Norwich: Winter Tea

All of this week I have dedicated serious time and energy to reviewing a selection of Christmas tea's that I currently have in my famous tea cupboard! It's been a chore, and hard work, but I do it for the love of my readers!

On a serious note, I have chosen this Winter Tea from Wilkinson's Of Norwich. Though it's not labelled as a Christmas tea, I have included it in the Christmas tea reviews because I think this tea is still seasonal, but not overly spiced - perfect for those tea drinkers that wish to try something just a bit different and special for Christmas but who may not enjoy the overly spiced versions that are around at the moment. (Though I will note that Wilkinson's do have an actual Christmas tea on sale but I've yet to try it).

Wilkinson's of Norwich has a gorgeous tea shop located on the wonderfully named Lobster Lane in Norwich. But fear not, if you are not in the vacinty of Norwich then they do sell online through their website so you'll be able to enjoy this gorgeous tea no matter where you are!

The base tea of this blend is a black China tea. The tea itself is lovely and strong and even though I added milk and sugar it still brewed to a wonderful copper colour.

I really liked this tea as it's vastly different to the other Christmas tea's that I've tried so far. It's a lot gentler then it's highly spiced cousins and perfect for those who don't like highly spiced tea.

The aroma and taste of this tea is very different because this is a Winter tea that relies on the addition of fruits rather then relying solely on spice for the flavour which a lot of winter and Christmas tea's tend to do. That isn't a bad thing, I personally love the spices, but other's may not.

From the first sip of this tea you encounter a rich, fruit flavour.  There is a subtle flavour of coconut, and the well rounded, slightly tart taste of plum. It's really delightful and incredibly tasty. Underneath it all there is also a slight citrus tang, too. It has it all going on but is really tasty.

There is a natural sweetness to this tea, so when I brewed my second cup I left out the sugar and though this made for a stronger cup of tea and the taste of the spices were stronger, the sweetness from the fruits is enough to sweeten. With this tea no added sugar is needed.

You still do get a slight kick for the spices. The actual spice used is not listed on the website, but I am assuming it's a mixed Christmas spice or cloves and cinnamon or possibly ginger. Whatever the spice may be, it does tickle the tongue somewhat, but is not overpowering. This tea brings to you the familiarity of a winter or Christmas tea but is different enough to stand out from the other seasonal blends.

I really, really liked this tea. I love the fruity flavours. This would go so well with a dessert like a apple strudel or warm apple pie, or indeed a huge slab of sticky ginger cake!

I think this is a worthy contestant for my favourite Christmas tea. It's blended really well being both sweet and yet that spicy kick adds a bit of depth to this tea. This tea is a multi-layered tea, with each sip you experience a different type of flavour.

From the first sip to the last you experience full and rich flavours. This is a mouthwatering tea and very addictive. And thoroughly enjoyable.

This tea really is worthy of being a addition to your tea collection. It's different but at the same time has that spicy familiarity that you get with winter tea's.

Go on, treat yourself to this impressive tea. My mum treated me to it and I'm very glad she did!

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Twinings: Christmas Blend Tea

So, so far, I've reviewed two Christmas tea's. These have been from Whittards and Marks and Spencers. Today I am reviewing the third Christmas tea I have in my tea cupboard.

Today the tea is from Twining's and it's their Christmas Blend. It's priced at £7.50 for this lovely little scenic caddy.

Looking at the ingredients this tea is eerily similar to the Whittard's tea. The ingredients are pretty much the same. There's orange peel, a black tea, safflowers, but here lies the difference. Twinings have opted for Christmas spice, where Whittards went for cloves. So, even though the ingredients are very similar, the tea's taste a lot different!

With regards to the caddy, isn't it pretty? Who doesn't love a London at Christmas scene? It's extremely cute, with all our iconic London icons. A black cab, Big Ben, a red telephone box and a Christmas angel sprinkling magic over the capital city, which could easily be the statue of Eros which normally sits on Piccadilly Circus! The packaging, as always with Twinings, is lovely.

Inside this delightful tin box sits a aromatic and attractive tea. Amongst the stark, dark black tea are lovely dashes of orange from the orange peel. And to be fair, Twinings haven't scrimped on the orange peel. As you can see in the picture below there is a liberal sprinkling!

I will start this review by stating that this tea I think is the same blend from last year. Twining's, it seems, has found a recipe that works and is sticking with it. I think that is fair enough, though, if anyone at Twinings read's this, I REALLY, REALLY, REALLY miss your Mulled Spiced blend from 2010 and your Christmas Cake blend from 2013 and 2014!

As I have done with previous Christmas tea's I added a splash of milk and a tiny bit sugar. It's how I take my spiced tea's and thought it only fair to review all the tea's under the same circumstances.

So, I loaded two generous teaspoons in a teabag, added milk and sugar and waited for this spiced tea to infuse.

Christmas Blend is a highly spiced tea, and that is the difference between having something like cloves to using something like Christmas Spice as Twinings have done with this tea.

As the tea brewed the whole kitchen filled with that wonderful spicy scent. It certainly smells yummy and it's very hard to leave the tea to infuse for any length of time. You just want to dive right in.

This tea tastes like it smells. It's very, very spicy! It's actually very reminiscent of their recent pyramid spiced chai latte tea's.  But does it make for a decent cup of festive tea?

I would say a very cautious yes. From the first sip  your mouth certainly feels as though it's alive. Your taste buds absolute buzz when sipping this tea as the Christmas spice works it's way around your mouth.

However, I honestly feel that a dash of sugar really is needed to tone this tea down a little bit, especially if you don't like overly spiced tea's. The sugar just takes the edge of what possibly is a firecracker of a tea if taken without sugar. That's great if you like spicy food and drink but if your less keen or have a more subtle palate then I would recommend adding a sweetener of some kind!

It is a festive tea though and it really is Christmas in a cup. The tea is blended very well indeed and having had several cups (it's a hard life being a tea blogger!) today every single cup has tasted identical and that really does count for a lot.

I am disappointed slightly in the fact that as a citrus lover, and despite the huge amount of orange peel in the blend, you simply don't get any hint of orange and that is a big let down for me. And that is simply because the Christmas spice is so strong that it does tend to wipe out the flavour of the orange and the actual tea in itself. Perhaps next year, Twinings, if using this as their blend could look into reducing the spice ever so slightly, so that the natural sweetness of the orange could come through.

Overall, this is a nice blend. It certainly packs a punch and is a tea that you'll never forget. It is perfect to be taken in front of a crackling fire, with some chocolates at your side and something good on the television!

And, to let you know, that as a stroke of genius, Twinings have catered for every taste in their Christmas range. You can get a festive English Breakfast, Christmas Chai and Merry Christmas Mint infusion. All come in their own caddies so if Christmas Blend isn't your thing, you can still celebrate with a tea of your choice. Sadly, I can't review these tea's as money is tight this time of year, but maybe next year I'll take a break from Christmas Blend and try something new!

Seeing what Twining's has included in their Christmas range has become a tradition for me since I became a tea drinker and now I'm back, living in London, I have very easy access to their adorable shop on The Strand. For this, I consider myself one of the luckiest girls in the world! Nothing quite beats going up to their teeny shop and seeing the gorgeous packaging on the shelves.

And already, I'm looking forward to what surprises Twinings have for us all in 2017!


Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Whittard: Christmas Tea

Todays' review is a classy, elegant, well crafted and simply beautiful Christmas tea.

It's from Whittard's and is simply known as Christmas Tea.

I will admit that I fell in love with this tea, not on it's taste but on it's really beautiful and elegant tea caddy. Whittard's have created a simply beautiful tea caddy this year. It's gorgeous red and gold colour scheme looks expensive (though it's an affordable £10). On the appearance level, it's far outweighed anything I've yet seen in the Christmas tea collection. It's beautiful and sits permanently (or at least through the seasonal period) on my counter top.

Not only is the caddy lovely to look at, it's practical too. It's clip lid means the caddy seals tightly and your tea will stay lovely and fresh for however long, (or short!) it stay's around. The use by date on my tea is 2018, though I'm sure it will be long gone by then!

But, we all know that tea is like books, you cannot judge them by their packaging. For no matter how beautiful the caddy, if the tea is awful then really, it's all rather pointless.

I've been unfair on Whittard's Christmas tea in the past. I brought my first Christmas tea in 2010. I was a complete novice and had just started drinking my tea black and unsweetened. I brought some Whittard tea and made a pot, taking a sip I was almost ill. The combination of spices and other flavours was too much and I threw it away, promising never to drink it again.

Fast forward six Christmases and I now know where I stand with Christmas tea. I know how best to prepare it so I can fully enjoy and I've relaxed a little, adding a dash of milk and a bit of sugar to make the tea that extra bit tasty.

So, after all those years, I purchased this tea from Whittards. And, oh what a joy it is!

The list of ingredients, though simple, are interesting. This tea includes, orange peel, cloves, safflower petals and vanilla pieces.

On the surface this is a simple Christmas tea. There is no added ginger, or cinnamon or all spice or any other spices that could be added. However, the sheer, and utter beauty of this tea is in the blending. I recently reviewed  Marks and Spencers Christmas Spiced Tea. Though certainly not a terrible tea, my main complaint was that it wasn't blended well, and considering it came in teabags, it made for uneven taste in each cup.

This is smooth, flavoursome and most importantly it's even. I've had several cups already and as is commonly known, I make my own teabags up and every single cup tastes exactly the same. You simply don't get one cup full of a clove flavour and another cup mostly vanilla. It's even through and through. This is one reason why I tend to go to companies who are experts in creating - and blending - tea, they know exactly what they are doing and do it exceptionally well.

This tea is a joy for every one of your senses. When you unclip the clasp of the caddy the aroma of this tea is stunning. It's fresh and fruity. And it looks stunning, too. The tea is black in colour, and scattered through the blend are dashes of colour from the orange peel and cloves.

But that first sip was heavenly. It's a tea that is made for your day off work, when it's sunny and bright outside but with a biting crispness in the air. I literally did sink back into my chair and did that one thing lots of tea obsessives do. Take a sip and exclaim 'ooh that's a lovely cup of tea', even though not only the room, but the whole house is empty!

But, beautiful it is. The black tea is smooth and mellow. And I was really pleased, (being a lover of citrus in tea) that the orange peel brought to the tea a lovely fruity tang. This is especially lovely because even though most Christmas tea's add orange peel, that element is masked by the heavy use of spices. This, however, is so well blended that the orange was easily detected, making my heart jump for joy.

The cloves added a spicy kick to the tea and that is the fun element of this blend. You take a sip and within seconds your tongue is fizzing with the clove's spiciness and it does linger for a good few minutes too. It's a really nice touch, especially for those who like a bit of a kick in their food and drink.

The addition of a sweet, rich vanilla really rounds this tea off. It's a good mixture of spice and sweetness. The balance is good so one does not overpower the other. And due to that good balance the vanilla isn't sickly sweet, which is another sensation I've found in tea's from Christmases past. In fact, it's been so bad I've avoided any blend that includes vanilla. But, again, Whittard's have triumphed with this tea.

What else can I say about this blend? It's absolutely perfection in a cup. It hits the right notes (for me at least). It's tasty but not sickly sweet or too full of spices it's hard to drink. It's blended so perfectly well that you will be left yearning for another cup. I've had three today - I doubt with all sincerity that this tea will last till December let alone the big day!

This is a absolutely perfect companion for a nice mince pie. In fact my mum is a coeliac and had purchased some gluten free spiced pear pies and it really matched that well, too! Just yummy on all fronts.

For December 25th this is a ideal tea to pull out the teapot and serve to your guests as a afternoon drink. It's also warming, too, so ideal for those outside events such as fireworks and Christmas carols. But, I can also add, it's ideal for curling up on the sofa in front of the telly on a freezing cold day.

This tea perfectly sum's up the exciting Christmas season. I am so in love with this tea it's ridiculous.

And I can only credit Whittard for doing so well with this Christmas blend. It's a hard tea to get right and they have got it spot on. And it leaves the Marks and Spencers tea in the shade. It's simply everything that I would expect from a Christmas tea.

So, Whittard, I can only thank you. You have impressed me so much through the year with the tea's I've purchased. And I hope that this will only continue into 2017.

I would also like to add that this tea is also available in bagged form to - so if you don't own a pot, infuser or DIY teabags, you have no need to miss out on this wonderful blend!

Friday, 11 November 2016

Marks And Spencers: Christmas Spiced Tea

Yes readers. It's that time of year again. Christmas is fast approaching and the geese are getting fat! And so, in the tea world, we now have a plethora of Christmas tea's available on the market. (Oh so much tea, so little money!).

Today I thought I would review Marks and Spencer's Spiced tea. Now,  I cannot directly link to this product as M&S don't have a website for their food department but this tea will be available in every store on every high street.

A couple of Christmases ago I was really impressed with Marks and Spencer's Mulled Fruit tea and had nothing but praise for that product. It was a great alternative to black tea and perfect for those fruit tea lovers. Well, the product is back on sale this year at M&S though I haven't tried any so not sure if the recipe is the same, but, chatting to folk in the tea world I have been assured if it's not the same, then its certainly very similar!

But this year I decided to try a tea from M&S that I've not tried before - their Spice Tea.

As you can see this tea comes in a delightful little seasonal red caddy, and I'm well and truly a sucker for a lovely caddy that's for sure. It's really rather wonderful isn't it? And, as always with M&S, very tastefully done, too.

Within this caddy there are 50 circular teabags that are filled with a generous amount of tea. I actually found it a refreshing change that the tea is bagged and not loose. I suppose, the whole idea of a Christmas tea is you drink it with family and friends whilst celebrating the holidays, therefore, having the time to make the tea traditionally, in a pot. Due to this tea being bagged you can easily pop a bag into a cup, making it a more accessible tea.

Within the caddy the tea comes in a gold foil bag allowing you to keep the tea lovely and fresh - a practical thing to do which I think is a good idea.

Upon opening the tea I was really interested in the aroma. The tea lists nutmeg, cloves and all spice in it's list of ingredients (amongst other lovely things, too!). And the aroma is fabulous. Really inviting and delicious, and yes, it does sum up Christmas day. Spiced Christmas pudding, oranges, crisp aroma's hanging in the air. Just enticing.

To be fair to this tea, I have prepared this tea as I would any Christmas tea from Twinings or Whittard's or indeed any spiced tea at all. A small drop of milk and a teaspoon of sugar. As much as I'd love to, spiced tea is something I cannot drink black, so I know that this tea will be no different.

I infused the tea for four to five minutes and it infused to a rich colour.

I quickly settled down to drink this tea on a dark, grey, very wet November morning. My first impressions where not overly wowed but not let down by it either.

Despite it's promising aroma, I found the overly strong presence of all spice slightly off putting. Having taken a couple of cups of this tea, I've found that the blending must of been slightly off somewhere as with one bag all you get is all spice, another bag the nutmeg is the stronger flavour. A even blending would of been preferable.

And yet, oddly, despite the strong all spice the tea is slightly lack lustre. Perhaps, as a dedicated tea lover, I'm more used to the stronger Twining's Christmas tea's, maybe, but I found that as the tea cooled it lost it's flavour somewhat. It was all a bit lacking.

So, I threw a half dozen bags into a teapot and brewed it again and I did find that from the pot, it was a lot, lot better.  Perhaps it's because I used more bags and got a better mix of flavours, but from the pot it was evenly flavoured, far stronger and much, much nicer then simply dunking a teabag into a cup. So, despite what I said earlier about convenience, perhaps Christmas tea's are tea's that ought to have a little time invested in it so you can enjoy it's flavours fully, making a more rounded, and far happier experience.

I will be honest, if you are a true tea obsessive, who likes rich flavours, I'd honestly turn to places like Twinings and Whittard for that special Christmas tea. (Both shops have already released their Christmas tea and reviews will be appearing over the next few weeks on both brands). Let's face it they are the experts in tea.

However, if you just want something a little different from your normal all day tea or English breakfast, to make your Christmas  a little more extra special then this really isn't bad at all. If you have friends and family coming for Christmas, invest in a lovely pot (if you don't have one already!) and serve them this on Christmas afternoon.

Marks and Spencers haven't done too badly, but, perhaps next year they ought to look at their blending process so every tea bag tastes the same and is more evenly produced.

But, even after the tea has gone, you're left with a pretty little tea caddy. And that really cannot be bad!

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Twinings: Discovery Collection Orangery Of Lady Grey

(Photograph taken from

Recently, I visited Twinings. That teeny tiny little shop hidden away on The Strand in London. That peaceful haven for the tea lover.

I had promised myself - and more importantly my mum - that I was simply purchasing refills for my tea jar. That promise lasted barely seconds. Amongst my purchases I brought orange and cinnamon from their international range. I brought the Queen's 90th Birthday blend and a few other bits and bobs.

I also brought this. This little gem is from Twinings Discovery range. Orangery Of Lady Grey.

I have, on previous occasion tired their Orange Grove tea, also from this range and was disappointed with it's oily flavour and texture. So why I decided to place one of these in my basket, I do not know, however, I am very glad that I did.

I am a Lady Grey lover. I am a Earl Grey lover. I love all the variations on the Grey family, but the deliciously orange Lady Grey has stayed a firm favourite over my tea drinking career. It was the tea that helped me move from milk and two sugars to black and unsweetened. This was helped due to it's fragrant, fruity taste.

Unlike Earl Grey, Twinings seems to have left the recipe for Lady Grey alone, so I know I'm getting a constant, evenly flavoured cup of tea. Lady Grey is like a old friend, reliable, loyal and trustworthy. And more than once I've cried into a mug of this fabulous tea.

But with Orangery Of Lady Grey, Twinings have bettered Lady Grey. Never thought it would happen, but it has.

The Discovery range is made of silky tea temples which are filled to bursting with loose leaf tea. The range of tea's go from black tea (Orange grove, Rose Garden, English Breakfast) to Rooibos, to fruit tea, via Camomile herbal and green Sencha. It's a unique collection  because every taste is pretty much catered for, which is great to hear, though perhaps a decaff version could also be thrown in to the mix for those who are unable to drink caffeine.

The packaging for this line of tea is gorgeous. Pretty, solid and strong cardboard boxes with a modern and colourful design, inside the box the tea is housed in a gold foil, resealable packet to keep tea fresh.

Within the box of tea there are fifteen (I limited myself to a couple of cups per week) silky pyramid teabags. The tea inside is richly dark in colour with blue cornflowers and pieces of orange - intensely attractive to look at.

The simple joy in this tea is when open the packet of teabags and are hit with a strong, yet not overpowering, aroma of fresh oranges. When I opened the packet and inhaled that gorgeous aroma I knew that this was a tea that would be for me. It's certainly vibrant and fresh and mouthwatering good.

And it is a joyous tea indeed. It's warming, perfect for autumn and just delicous.

The tea itself is a black China tea which is delicious, robust and nicely flavoured. It's smooth and mellow and intently refreshing and very light to drink.

The icing on the cake, though, is the wonderful blending of the tea. It's very hard to get flavoured tea right. You can be left with a overly flavoured tea which can taste like perfume and you can get tea's that are barely flavoured, leaving the tea feel washed out and weak. Even Twinings themselves have sometimes got the blending wrong and off kilter. However, with this tea, they are spot on.

The citrus flavours, which also does include lemon, are well blended with the tea. Tasty and bursting full of flavour, yet subtle and delicate enough to work hand in hand with the tea to  make a wonderful partnership.

This tea just works. You truly do get the best of both worlds with this tea, a decent black tea that has that extra special something to spruce it up. Twinings have really hit the ground running with this blend, balancing it well, picking high qualities ingredients and packaging them in a eye catching, pretty design.

So why is this tea better than the standard Lady Grey that can be found on the shelves of every supermarket and convenience shop. Well, it's a hard one to describe. This flavour of this tea is just a bit more zingy then Lady Grey. It has more of a kick than the traditional blend, it feels fresher, as if it were just blended yesterday.

Of course, being a silky pyramid, you have loose leaf tea within rather than the processed tea that goes into the standard teabags sold in shops all around the world - and I have to say that loose leaf tea is far better to drink and enjoy.

I will never knock Lady Grey. It still holds the bigger part of my tea drinking heart. But, I suppose, this is just the souped up version. A bit of luxury in a cup.

But luxury it is. The only downside to this tea is the price. For fifteen silky pyramids I paid £6.50. That is, in my opinion, hideously expensive for fifteen bags. I do acknowledge that this tea is a luxury blend and therefore will cost more, naturally. I understand that. But this does put this tea into the realm of a treat tea rather than a every day tea.

So, I suppose I can have the best of both worlds. Lady Grey as my daily fix of orange flavoured tea, and Orangery of Lady Grey is my couple of times a week treat.

Despite the price, I will certainly buy this little gem of a blend again. And again. And again. It's too delicious for words really.

If you like Lady Grey, or indeed black tea with a hint of something fruity you'll certainly love this. Twinings have honestly struck gold with this little beauty of a tea.

To Twinings, I congratulate you for another hit.

It's just about as perfect a Lady Grey as you could possibly get. And that comes from someone who is incredibly fussy about her Grey's.

Thursday, 27 October 2016

The Real Tea Company: Winter Green Tea

This week has been my lucky week. On Monday, I received a fabulous email from a new start-up tea company called The Real Tea Company who informed a rather ecstatic me, that I was one of the lucky winners of their competition. The prize? A wonderful taster pack which contained three of their tea's and a rather gorgeous heart shaped tea infuser.

Within the taster pack there were three tea's. A English Breakfast blend, an Assam Marsala Chai and a Winter Green tea.

The prize arrived today so I opted for their Winter Green Tea. As regular readers know, of course, I adore green tea. I love it when it's packed full of juicy tropical fruits or soft peachy flavours. But to really experience a green tea, I love to drink it pure, unflavoured as nature intended it to be.

It didn't really take me very long from the tea arriving to the point where I was carefully undoing the cute little brown envelope that contained the tea. As I undid the envelope that all familiar, and much loved aroma of green tea came flowing out, and, yes, my heart did beat a little faster. If there is one tea that gets the tea loving side of Laura going, it's a natural, pure green tea. The last green tea I brought was Twinings Gunpowder Green which was a huge hit for me, and this, I realised, would probably have the same effect on me!

Green tea, as I've often said, is rather like marmite, you either love it or hate it. Very few people in the tea world, or without it actually, sit on the fence with green tea. It's quite divisive and brings out strong opinions in people. Those who loathe it are very quick to tell me, those who adore it happily sit back quietly and enjoy all of it's many benefits.

I am in the love it camp. I always have been. But, I'm exceptionally picky about what green tea I buy. For instance, Twinings recently launched steam green tea was awful. But, on the other side, I'm quite partial to Tetleys Tropical Green, not only for it's fruity taste but for it's added vitamins. Generally though, with the exception of one or two, I tend to buy green tea from tea merchants rather then from the supermaket shelf. That's just my preference, but I like what I like and cannot help that.

I will admit the thought of trying another green tea makes me excited which is why I opted to try the green tea first. I did toy with the idea of the Masala Chai, but honestly, my green tea loving side took over and before I know it I was preparing the Winter Green.

Visually, the tea is striking, with tightly curled leaves, it colour is dark green, boarding on black. The aroma is just gorgeous - it has that all familiar plant like aroma which I find enticing.

The advice on the packaging was to steep the tea for three minutes, but I will admit I always err on the side of caution when it comes to infusing green tea and set the timer for two minutes which I find, for my own personal tastes, is perfect amount of time for green tea. Though, you may like to infuse for a little longer which makes for a stronger, more robust flavoured tea.

I fell in love with the tea during the infusion process because it infuses to a gorgeous emerald green colour. It's really quite striking to see what beautiful colour the tea becomes. I loved it. It sparkles in the mug and is just about beautiful in every way a tea can be.

This tea screams health and goodness. From it's appealing aroma to it's gorgeous appearance you feel as though you are going to be drinking something that is really good for you and that is a wonderful feeling!

So what of the taste?

The tea is strong and fully flavoured. This most certainly isn't one of those wishy washy green tea's.  It's as satisfying as full on black tea. One of the complaints I've had from readers about green tea is that they feel as though they are not getting a proper cup of tea when it comes to green tea, that's it's weak and unsatisfying. That it lacks any oomph. This tea then is the complete opposite. I do feel as though I have had a decent cup of tea, and even after only two minutes steeping time it's strong and most certainly makes it mark.

Winter Green Tea is exactly why I love green tea. It has a earthy flavour which I really like. It's rich and smooth without being overbearing and does not have that bitter twang that a lot of green tea's can have. The taste of this tea is rather like peeling the layers off an onion. With each layer you remove the flavour reveals something new.

Upon first sipping you come across the familiar earthy, vegetation type flavours, which are crisp and brisk and which green tea lovers adore about the tea. Then, the tea takes on rice like flavour that most readers will be familiar with if they have tried a genmaicha tea. (Genmaicha tea is a green tea that is blended with puffed rice and has a very distinct flavour).

Finally, the tea has a smokey flavour which rounds the experience off nicely.

I was really impressed with this green tea. I have been used to drinking a fair amount of Sencha and Gunpowder Green tea's lately which have completely different tastes so it was really nice to get back to what green tea is all about.

I've had a second cup of this tea and honestly enjoyed it as much as the first! It's truly yummy and I'm so impressed. It's tasty and oh so satisfying and comforting when you feeling under the weather (as I am currently) on a chilly, damp, miserable day. It's certainly lifted my spirits!

So, I can only say a huge thank you to Real Tea Company for picking me as one of their winners. I'm really pleased that I got to try your beautiful tea.

And I would like to end this review by wishing this new start up company all the very best for the future. I hope they find all the successes they are due. I shall enjoy watching this company grow!

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Wilkinson's Of Norwich: China Black Tea & Orange

Today's tea I am reviewing is a perfect black tea for the chilly autumn day's we are now experiencing. Though it can be enjoyed all through the year (obviously!) I find that somehow this is perfect for this time of year, and perfect if you are not keen on the favourite autumnal tea - pumpkin spice, that can be found pretty much everywhere at the moment!

This delightful little gem is China Black with orange from Wilkinson's Of Norwich.

This tea was purchased for me by my mum on her annual autumn holiday to Norfolk. Though I had made a list for my mum of the tea's I fancied, she had somehow lost it, and had to ring me from the shop so I can only thank the lovely assistants for helping mum sort out my package of tea's!

I love black tea and I also love orange. As regular readers will know that Twinings Lady Grey is a perennial favourite. As much as I love the zingy lemon based Earl Grey, I do like the orange flavoured tea's as well, they just appeal to me. So when browsing the website for idea's I had to have this orange tea.

And I'm so glad I spotted it because there is absolutely nothing at all to dislike about this tea. So much so I cannot get enough of it and will certainly be asking mum for top up's of this fabulous tea whenever she is in Norwich.

As this is a loose tea I had to set to making home made teabags. I do have infusers, which I love, but I tend to find that I get the perfect amount of tea and flavour when I make the bags. I buy empty teabags for just a couple of pounds for 100 on ebay and they are well worth it. No hassle trying to dispose of tealeaves, which for me, always get everywhere .They are convenient and only take a  minute to make up, with no fuss at all.

The teaspoon, a gift from my bestie, is perfect as I now know the perfect tea to teabag ratio. Two heaped spoonful's in each bag makes for the perfect tea!

China black with orange is a gorgeous tea. It's leaves are really lovely and dark and the aroma of orange when you open the bag is strong, natural and not at all overpowering. 

It's important for me to state that the aroma and the flavour of orange tastes natural. Quite often in flavoured tea's the flavour can taste synthetic and somewhat oily and you get none of this in this tea. It is gorgeous to the taste. Just lovely.

Once I've prepared the teabag I leave the tea to infuse. Three minutes is good but I tend to set the timer on the cooker for four minutes as that, to me at least, is perfect. You get a well rounded, well balanced flavour. Too little time you won't experience the full glory of this tea, too much time and it can tend to taste a little stewed which is equally unpleasant.

I LOVED this tea from the minute I first tasted it. It is refreshing and exceptional. And I honestly can say that I can't leave this at one cup. If I make a teabag up of this tea, I tend to have three on the trot, it's delicious.

The base tea, a china black, is strong and robust, but well rounded and flavoursome. Strong enough to not only handle it's own against the orange flavour but it's smooth also and very easy to drink without any hint of bitterness or a twangy aftertaste. It leaves your mouth feeling fresh after drinking. I was very impressed (and recently I've had a few iffy black tea's!). The quality is very high and the tea itself would be beautiful and enjoyable on it's own, let alone with the added orange flavour.

The orange flavour is rich enough so that you are in no doubt at all what the flavour of the tea is, yet, almost at odds with itself, it's light enough to not make for a extremely pleasant tea. It is full of flavour yet doesn't have that heaviness that sits in your stomach as some flavoured tea's have. It's very hard to describe. I think what I'm trying (and failing miserably at!) to say is that you get a full, well rounded orange flavour, yet it's light enough to serve for an afternoon tea with a lemon sponge cake or dainty fairy cakes. It's the best of both worlds.

And I fully believe, as I stated at the start of this review, that this is a perfect autumnal tea. At the moment almost every tea shop (be it online or on the high street) is overflowing with the usual pumpkin spice tea. This never has, never will be, a tea that I'll drink as I just don't get on with it. So this orange tea is a good replacement, if you, like me, don't like pumpkin spice tea.

This would be ideal to serve to friends at your firework party or after a evening trick or treating. It's exceptionally warming and comforting and enjoyable.

I have tried tea's from Wilkinson's before and have always been impressed, but this is a personal favourite of mine from the shop and will certainly buy this gorgeous tea again!

And another added bonus of this tea is it leaves your kitchen smelling wonderfully fruity, too!

How A Zesty Orange Blend Rejuvenated My Love For Tea

My relationship with tea is long lasting and deeply formed. It is unbreakable. But, like any relationship, whether it is a romantic one, a friendship or family ties, it can, at times be taken for granted.

This year has been a year of mixed emotions. It resembled a trip on the choppy waters of the Solent rather that the smooth cruise through the Med that I had hoped for. I've been so happy I could of sung, in the blink of a eye, I've been so sad it felt as though not only my heart, but my entire self was broken.

But through it all my love of tea has remained steadfast, loyal and constant. At times though, it's needed sprucing up!

When it comes to my tea drinking, I've never been one to stick to one brand or type. I cannot honestly say that I've sat and drunk my way through thousands of PG Tips, Tetley or Yorkshire Tea teabags. Quite out of character for me, when it comes to tea,  I'm experimental. In the morning I can be drinking an Earl Grey, at lunch a Gunpowder Green, in the evening a Elderflower. What I'm drinking at 8am isn't even what I'm drinking at 9am. I chop and change and that's how I like it.

Yet, still, I felt, as though I was taking this wonderful drink for granted. That I had lost my true appreciation for it. And it made me sad.

The best tea investment I've made this year then has to be this tea jar from Twinings. It's available in different sizes with different contents. You can get a mixed jar which contains the ever popular loose tea pyramids in all manner of flavours. From Gingerbread Chai to ginger. You can get a jar that contains only Earl Grey tea, and you can get a fruit tea too!

There is nothing nicer in the morning then rummaging around the jar for that first cup of tea, wondering what I'll pull out of the jar. It's a delightful treat that makes me smile. And since I've refilled the jar now, it's crafted especially to my personal tastes so there are no tea's now in the jar that I'm not keen on.

Yet, the one tea that really made me appreciate my love for tea all over again, was a simple but well executed tea that my mum brought for me whilst on holiday in Norfolk. A wonderful, rich and flavoursome black tea with added orange. I took one sip and then instantly I remembered how much I love tea and why I love tea so much.

Tea offer's me solace. It's like a warm, comforting blanket. A friend that is always there in times of need. It's a item of familiarity in unusual situations. It calms me when nervous and upset and brings even more pleasure in the happy times.

I will admit that tea lack's the "up and at 'em" energy boost that so many get from coffee. If you take any commuter train into London first thing in the morning you'll be ankle deep in coffee cups from Starbucks or Costa, the dregs of undrunk coffee sloshing around your feet.

No, tea doesn't do that. It's effect is more gentle - and for me, far more emotional. Coffee is the feisty, amusing cousin. Tea is the steadfastly loyal daughter. Just to take five minutes out to really savour a well prepared cup of tea has to be one of life's luxuries. There are some tea's around, such as a really good Earl Grey or a high quality green tea, that should only be taken at a slow speed. To glug them back whilst you're running out of the door would be criminal.

I have spoken to many people in the tea world, the tea loving consumers and those who produce and sell the tea's we all enjoy. And the one thing that has stuck me is that we place tea on another level. It's not a case of tea, hot water, milk mixing together in a cup to make a passable drink. Tea to the passionate tea lover - such as I - is our life force. The genuine tea obsessive cannot live without it, it courses through our veins rather than blood. We are constantly looking not just towards our next cup, but to the next blend we can try, to the next flavour, always hunting for that next exquisite mug of tea.
For the perfect blend.

And yet, at times during this year, I have taken tea for granted. But no longer. One sip of a perfectly balanced orange flavoured black tea has brought back to me all that I love about camellia sinensis. All of it's exquisite qualities. It's warming properties, it's ability to give comfort, the fact that it will always be here, reliant and trustworthy.

Indeed, it is nice to know, that no matter how happy or sad you are feeling, even if you are on your own, that there is something there, in your kitchen cupboard, that gives you balance, comfort and for a few minutes, peace of mind, even.

So, that is why I love tea. No matter if it's a rich and robust black tea, a light and airy green tea or a zingy fruit tea. To me it's a friend. And a friend I can honestly say I could not live without.

It's not just a thirst quencher. It's not just a comfort giver. It's everything.

And never again will I take it for granted again. From now on every sip will be treasured and appreciated. It's qualities are extra special.

And it doesn't matter if you enjoy a supermarkets own brand or a expensive artisan tea. As long as you enjoy it and treasure it, you'll always have something that little bit special in your life. And that can only be a huge bonus, surely!

Friday, 2 September 2016

Sainsburys: Taste The Difference Fairtrade Earl Grey

As a dedicated Earl Grey lover it takes quite a lot to please me when it comes to the beautiful, bergamot infused drink. I'm fussy. I do give the variations of Earl Grey a go. Some I've loved, some I've liked and others I've not been at all keen on.

Supermarket own brand Earl Grey are not normally the first I turn to, I will admit. It tends to be weak, wishy washy and lacking any type of oomph. Or, at the other end of the spectrum, it's can be synthetic, overly perfumed and burns the roof of your mouth. Normally, I will only turn to own brand Earl Grey when Twinings is too expensive, as it can be in some places.

Earlier this summer I visited a friend who always buys me a box of tea when I go to stay. She very kindly read out the options and for some reason I decided to opt for this Taste The Difference Fairtrade Earl Grey from Sainsburys.

Not sure why I opted for this over Twinings as there wasn't much different in the price (Twinings was on offer at time of ordering)  but perhaps I just fancied something new and different. After all, though a devoted lover of Twinings Lady Grey, I've equally been impressed by Marks and Spencers Empress Grey. Variety is the spice of life so perhaps I just fancied shaking things up a bit. Stepping out of the tea comfort zone.

From the offset this tea doesn't compare to Twinings. However, it's not a bad second. Here's why I feel this.

The base tea is of unknown origin, it doesn't state on the box where it comes from, simply that it's a black tea. It's quite strong and robust, and in itself makes for a good tea (note to self: maybe I should next try their English Breakfast  and Assam blends) which is tasty and gives you a real kick start in the morning.  However, the strength of the tea causes a problem.

Those of us who have drunk our body weight in Earl Grey will instantly know the warm, familiar taste of bergamot. That citrus taste which is hard to pin down to either lemon or orange, but takes the plain black tea and blasts it into a different stratosphere. In this tea, it's slightly lacking. It's more reminiscent of Twinings Delicate Earl Grey then the ever popular The Earl Grey available in every supermarket and convenience store in the UK.

The flavour of the bergamot is gentle, tasty, but does lack a certain oomph. It's there, but I just wanted it to be stronger to stand up against the tea they have used. And it just lacks a bit of something. However, the actual taste of the bergamot is nice and natural - thankfully this isn't one of those perfumed disasters found in some Earl Grey.

What I will say about this tea though is it's incredibly refreshing, and leaves a gorgeous taste in your mouth long after the cup has been finished. It's refreshing on a hot day and doesn't seem to sit heavy on my stomach during the mini heat waves we've had recently here in the UK.

Going back to the bergamot flavour, because it's - shall we say - dainty, I would avoid adding milk to the tea for fear of wiping out that Earl Grey essence completely, however, I find this tea really is spiced up by adding a slice of lemon. That seems to bring the bergamot out a little and I've found that since adding the fruit, I've had some really gorgeous cups of this tea.

I have tried leaving the tea to infuse to it's maximum time, but I found it went bitter and didn't actually alter the strength of the bergamot at all - rather it just made the tea taste a little stewed.

I do apologise for this mish mash of a review. It's a little all over the place granted!

However, I did actually like the tea. The bergamot is a nice flavour, but I just need a wee bit more of it added so it stands up against the high quality, but strong, black tea that Sainsburys have decided to use in this tea. It just needs a little bit more oomph and if Sainsburys read this and decide to make the flavour a little stronger, this will be a surefire hit.

But, do not be in doubt, this is a pleasant tea and I can't praise highly enough the black tea used. It's a robust, nice quality tea that will give the tea drinker a satisfying cup of tea.

I like the packaging too, it's really pretty.

I also can't fault Sainsburys for the options it gives their customers. You can buy this tea in boxes of 50, 100 and 200. You can buy it as a loose tea also (good for the traditional tea drinkers) and they also provide a decaff version too - and that's great because I know at least three people who need to drink decaff coffee and tea as part of a healthy diet.

I will easily give this tea 8/10 for the quality of the ingredients (I really am impressed with the black tea used). But to get it up to a 9 or 10 then Sainsburys need to add more bergamot flavouing. Not a huge amount more, but enough for us to taste the special element that makes Earl Grey, well, Earl Grey!

As a supermarket own blend this is really quite good. And I don't think the price, £1.20 for 50 teabags is bad at all. But, honestly, put it up to £1.50 and get a smidgeon more bergamot in there.

Then, it would be the perfect cup of Earl Grey.