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!