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.