Friday, 7 September 2018

Eight Years A Tea Lover ... And The Pure Joy Of Tea Drinking Continues.

This month marks the eighth anniversary of my falling head over heels in love ... with tea.

A lot has happened in those eight years. Some of it great, some of it not so great.

I vividly remember the day I decided to drink tea. I had just moved to Blackpool with my then boyfriend, and I had just started WeightWatchers. I needed to find a drink that was low in calories. Naturally hot chocolate was out, coffee I loathed. So that left tea. So on a wet, dark autumnal morning, I was stood in a Tesco's Metro. Unsure what to do, I brought a box of Twinings Rose Garden. Only because it had the prettiest packaging. And from that first sip, I was hooked.

During my amazing tea journey I have discovered a passion for Earl Grey, a respectful appreciation of green tea (which I happen to adore) and I've discovered that I dislike fruit tea with a passion. Well, at least the cheap stuff you get in supermarkets!

I have shared some of the best moments and the worse moments over a cup of tea. When I discovered my then partner had been cheating, it was over tea with a friend that I had to make some hard decisions. When I got the job I needed, it was with tea that I celebrated. When I have done overtime at work or have received my annual bonus, it's tea that I've treated myself to. In addition to the actual drinking of tea, I have made some awesome and amazing friends through my tea journey. One or two who are especially close to my heart. And for that, I can only be thankful.

For me, drinking tea is as emotionally charged as anything in my life. I love the ceremony of preparing tea. The warming of the pot, the careful and precise measuring out of the tea, the exact infusion time to create the ideal cup of tea. All of it fills me with pure joy.

The physical act of tea drinking is comforting and beautiful. There is no feeling in the world like drinking a cup of tea on a freezing cold day, and that wonderful feeling of it warming you from the inside out. As we rapidly approach autumn, I cannot wait to be warmed by a hearty cup of Earl Grey. The experience of drinking tea is like being hugged by a friend, a warm pair of arms around you, comforting. You are never really lonely if you have a cup of tea.

There is so much choice out there that it can be confusing at times. I have spoken to several new tea drinkers lately and they don't know where to start. My response was just to try what you fancy, and appreciate that some tea's you'll love, some you'll hate. But even if you try a tea and don't like it, well, at least you try. Some of my favourite tea's are tea's that I never expected I'd like. So tea, unlike other things, always keeps you on your toes!

I honestly believe that tea is an emotional thing. I'm pretty positive that the coffee drinkers don't have the same emotional experiences that tea drinkers have. We may not get the caffeine buzz that coffee drinkers love, and come to rely on. But we have something much, much better. Because once you've fallen in love with tea, no matter what trendy things come along, that love never, ever leaves you.

It doesn't matter at all if your thing is black tea, green tea, white tea or rooibos. It doesn't matter if you love Earl Grey, Lady Grey, Countess Grey or Empress Grey. It doesn't matter if you love Lapsang Soughing and loathe English Breakfast. It's the actual drinking that counts. There are enough tea blends out there to cater for almost every taste. And there will be a tea suitable for you. And if you dare to step out of the comfort zone there are many exotic treats out there.

I love high quality tea. But I am not a tea snob. If you like to drink Tetley One Cup, PG Tips or your supermarkets own brand then it's all good. As long as what you're drinking tastes good and makes you feel fabulous then that is all that really matters.

I cannot say how many blends - and brands - of tea I've tried. Literally hundreds. And each time a new tea sample drops through my letter box I am as excited about it now as I was back then. My enthusiasm for working with tea companies, especially new launchers, is as keen today as it was when I started this blog back in 2011. To be around people who are as passionate about tea and their product as I am is heartwarming and exciting. And I feel honoured to have worked with some great companies.

Alongside the actual tea, this blog has also helped me through various tricky and hard patches. I love to write and consider myself blessed that I can actually write about tea. So I can only express huge thanks to the readers I have around the world who send me lovely messages and emails about this blog and the tea they drink. I always appreciate your messages. When I came up with the idea of writing a tea blog, it was originally intended to share my love of tea. But it's now more that that. It's a form of communication with likeminded people, many of whom have become close friends of mine. So I'd like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who reads this blog. I have readers from America to Australia. India to China. Spain to France and from many, many more countries.

So, the love of tea has brought so much richness and joy into my life. I am lucky. I am fortunate. And I write that as I sip on a exceptional cup of Earl Grey.

Happy tea drinking, readers. Here's to 2019 and a new year of tea drinking.

Niko Ceylon Tea: Earl Grey

This evening I'm reviewing my second tea from Niko Ceylon Tea.  It is their unique take on the very classic Earl Grey.

As you will all know by now I'm absolutely crazy about Earl Grey. I use this blend as the standard bearer for any tea company. If they can produce a really good, fantastic and tasty Earl Grey then they are alright by me. However, if their Earl Grey is lacking, then I am usually cautious about any other lines in the range that a tea company sell. Yet, my criticism can be harsh as even though Earl Grey is a very popular blend, it's also very hard for a company to get it right. Too much perfume puts me off, a weak flavour leaves me flat. So, it's not surprising, that I was eager to try this tea.

In my previous review I explained that Niko are specialists in Ceylon tea - my very favourite. So to have tea from my favourite region paired up with the Earl Grey element, I was beyond excited to try this.

Niko sell all their tea in loose leaf form which is my absolute favourite way to purchase tea. I much prefer loose tea to bagged form. I love the flavour, the texture and the quality. I also love the process and ceremony of making tea. Sometimes I fill empty teabags, today though I was using my trusty Flo-Tea infuser.

The tea is simply gorgeous to look at. It's a large leaf tea in a striking dark black colour. Unlike many loose leaf Earl Grey tea's, this doesn't come with the usual additions which normally consist of flower petals, normally sunflower. It's tea, pure and simple. However, this is quite a worrying point for me initially. As it didn't include any of the normal ingredients that normally come with the blend, I was worried that it would be a tea that has Earl Grey flavouring added - my worse nightmare because when a company goes down that pathway, it normally means the tea will taste of nothing more than perfume.

When I cut open the packet I was immediately sceptical about whether I'd enjoy this tea because the aroma was slightly stronger then I am used to. Even through the infusion process I was still worried. Would this taste like a cup of tea or a bottle of Chanel No 5 - a bitter tea that leaves my mouth wincing. I really wasn't sure.

I filled my infuser with a generous helping of tea, probably a teaspoon and a half. I set the timer for three minutes and wondered exactly what I was going to get with this tea.

This tea infuses into a stunning, beautiful dark ebony colour. Which I found to be attractive and interesting. It looks like what I think a good quality tea should look like. But what of the taste?

I was more that pleasantly surprised. Despite the strength of aroma upon first opening the packet, the actual flavour of Earl Grey is light. subtle and delicate. I was expecting this to have a strong and bitter flavour, how wrong was I!

With this tea you have two flavours and strengths going on. The actual base Ceylon tea is very strong, with a taste that is nutty and that lingers in your mouth for ages. The Earl Grey, however, is light and refreshing. It doesn't leave that horrible furry feeling in your mouth that you get from some cheaper blends.

I was absolutely staggered at how Niko have managed the seemingly impossible. To have a strong and robust base tea, pairing it with a light flavour, yet, both work hand in hand, neither cancelling out the other. It's really quite genius, and certainly brilliant. And very delicious.

The Earl Grey flavour is as it should be. Light and floral. I know there are many Earl Grey's out there (many delicious) that use lavender, rose and orange. But this is Earl Grey at it's traditional best. It's as light as air but refreshing. It's present but not over powering. It cleanses your palate and is simply wonderful. It doesn't burn the roof of your mouth as many Earl Grey's do. This is because it's blended exceptionally well.

In my mind the flavour of this Earl Grey is how I imagine it tasted when it was first developed. Best served with sponge cake and delicate sandwiches.

As this is a loose tea I have infused the leaves more than once. On the second infusion the Earl Grey flavour is present still, but I find that the strength of the Ceylon tea increases, slightly cancelling out the Earl Grey. Not by much, but I did notice a slight decrease of flavour. By the third infusion I could not detect Earl Grey at all and it was rather like drinking a pure Ceylon tea, so I'd advise no more than two infusions. However, I did actually enjoy the third infusion because it gave me a wonderful chance to experience the pure quality of the base tea used.

I can honestly say I was genuinely surprised by this tea and how much I love this! I was expecting the   very worse due to the strength of the aroma, and I was more then pleasantly surprised by the gorgeous flavour of this blend. So very moreish. In fact I'd go as far as to say this is one of the very best Earl Grey's I've tasted in a very long while. In comparison, this week I had a Earl Grey in a cafe which was a awful, bitter mess. It was undrinkable but it does make you appreciate the sheer joy of drinking a very good Earl Grey such as this.

I have to, once again, comment on the quality of the base tea that Niko use. It's sumptuous, nutty, strong and robust. And I haven't even tried the extra strong one yet! (I've been kindly sent many samples which I am currently working my way through and it's such a very enjoyable experience). I love how fresh it makes your mouth feel. I love the slight after taste that you have when drinking this tea. And I love how unbitter it is. It's also very easy to prepare. You are not hovering over your mug, trying to get the infusion time just right. The quality of the tea means that it infuses well.

This is the third tea that I've tried from Niko and I'm impressed more and more with each cup that I try!

Niko are currently in the process of building their brand spanking new website, so if you'd like to try this wonderful Earl Grey it's available via Amazon

Friday, 31 August 2018

Niko Ceylon Tea: Cinnamon Orange

It's no secret amongst my regular readers that Earl Grey is my all time favourite blend of tea. And I have tried many types of Earl Grey to confirm this. But if you were to ask me what my favourite tea is in it's purest form you may not know. That is because I myself have never been sure. All I have known is that as a tea drinker who does not add milk, Assam is certainly not my thing. It's too strong, too malty with a slightly odd taste.

This past year though, I have taken to drinking Ceylon tea and have utterly fallen in love with it. It comes in many different forms. Some are gently sweet, others fiercely flavoursome, some are so delicate it's barely there, others are as satisfying as any Indian or Chinese tea. But what I love every time I drink a cup is that it oozes quality and sophistication and it is a tea that keeps me interested.

I was delighted last week to be contacted by a new tea company. Niko Ceylon Tea specialise in Ceylon tea and I was very kindly sent a wonderful selection of their tea. I love getting involved with fledging tea companies. I love seeing them evolve and raise their profile. I love seeing what they can do. And I absolutely love - and appreciate - their enthusiasm and very obvious love for tea. It matches my own so I was incredibly excited to try their wonderful tea.

Currently Niko tea are in the process of building their website so you can access their tea via Amazon. 

After a particularly hot summer here in England, where the air was stifling, the temperatures were relentless and everything felt like such a chore, it's quite refreshing now to have cooler temperatures. In fact at times, when the evenings and mornings are nippy, there is a real sense of autumn (my favourite season)  in the air. There is, at times, a crisp freshness, a clarity to the air that you get as temperatures cool down. And I am now looking towards autumn and my favourite celebrations. Halloween and firework night.

So there is a desire in me to experience autumnal tea's. Those sorts of tea's that are warming and comforting. Those sorts of tea's that you make in your favourite mug, or sip from travel mugs whilst enjoying the end of year festivities. When the huge batch of samples arrived I homed in on one particular one immediately - Cinnamon Orange. And within minutes the kettle was on and the tea measured out strictly to make the idea cup of tea.

In the physical sense this tea really does represent autumn to me. This tea is dark black in colour and the additional orange rind and sunflower petals add wonderful dashes of colour in contrast. It reminds me of bright, sparkly fireworks against a inky black sky.

The aroma of the unmade tea is stunning. That all too familiar scent of orange is the first thing I noticed. It hits you when you open the package. In addition, there is a sweet element to the aroma. Inviting and delicious.

I was pottering around the kitchen whilst the tea was brewing and the wonderful scent of the tea fills the kitchen, making everything feel fresh and new. I brewed the tea for several minutes. It was hard to wait that long though, I couldn't wait to sit down and try this wonderful blend.

The Ceylon tea used as the base is a strong tea. It's certainly not at all delicate like some of the other similar tea's I've tried. But this is good. It needs to stand it's own against the cinnamon and orange. If this was a more delicate tea then the flavour of the tea would of been lost amongst everything else that is going on with this tea. So you are guaranteed a wonderful, strong and solid cup of tea. Ideal for those who do like Assam tea, without all the yucky malty element.

This tea is particularly well balanced. The flavour of the orange is present and clear but not at all overpowering. There is a wonderful zingy-ness to the orange. The base tea is strong and the slightly sweet orange flavour takes the edge of the strength of the tea. The two flavours balance nicely. One doesn't outshine the other. It's particularly well blended.

What is really interesting about this tea is the added cinnamon, a typical ingredient for winter tea's. Each time you take a sip of this tea your tastebuds go on a real journey. The strength of the tea is the first thing to hit you. Then you have the softening sweetness of the citrus flavour, which washes over your tongue in gentle waves. Finally though, you have the spiciness of the cinnamon. It tiptoes over your tongue and sets everything alive. The sensations that this blend of tea brings to you are wonderful. This is not just another cup of tea - it's a real experience. And a satisfying one as well. I am especially fond of this tea!

This tea is idea for autumn. It's warming and satisfying whilst being refreshing, too. The quality of the tea is exceptional - some of the best Ceylon tea I've ever tasted. It's rich, robust, smooth with a ever so slightly nutty flavour to it too.

I can only thank the lovely Niko tea for sending me such a wonderful mixture of tea. I cannot wait to try the other blends that were included in the package. If they are as good as this tea, I'm in for a real treat.

Friday, 13 April 2018

Jollybrew Tea Co: Blood Orange Marmalade

Last week the wonderful - and they are wonderful - folk at Jollybrew agreed to send me some wonderful samples that I could feature on the blog. I was beyond pleased when they said yes because I've had some fun interactions with them on Twitter but realised that it had been a very long time since I tried any of their tea.

Earlier this week a little parcel arrived through the post containing several lovely sounding teas. But, the orange in tea addict that I am, my eyes were drawn to this marvellous fruit infusion - Blood Orange Marmalade. 

I absolutely love blood oranges. I eat them, drink them in cordial and now am enjoying them in the comforting warmth of tea. Life couldn't get much better!

I couldn't wait to crack open this infusion and give it a go, which, I will admit, I did almost as soon as the samples arrived.

Visually, this is one stunner of a infusion. It's so bright and colourful. I love the blending of bright orange and red colours in the tea. It's just so pretty and wonderful and healthy looking.

I filled my infuser with a generous amount of tea and left it to infuse for several minutes watching it develop from a a clear liquid to a rich, strong, orange tinted drink. To see the colour emerge and swirl within the water is just so lovely. I left the tea to infuse for five minutes.

The infusion has a strong and pleasant fruity aroma. So far, this infusion ticked all the right boxes.

As I settled down into my comfy chair I took my first sip and it was lovely and refreshing. I always consider cold drinks to be refreshing but this tea is exactly that - I was thirsty when I made the drink and it certainly is a good thirst quencher.

This blend contains orange, apple and rosehip pieces as well as hibiscus petals.

This infusion is a full bodied, rich and well rounded. Upon first sipping you are hit with that lovely orange flavour. At the beginning of the sip it's nice and sweet and that sweetness is incredibly moreish - you just want and more of it, it's certainly a sweetness that appeals to someone who is trying to avoid sweet things. But towards the end of the sip there is a slight tartness which does take you by surprise but keeps this blend interesting. It gives the tea that extra bit of kick and I think it's really a fun and wonderful infusion.

Alongside the orange there is a underlying crispness to this infusion which I think comes from the apple pieces. It adds brilliantly to the blend - not only do you get a wonderful aroma and a vibrant flavour, it's also has a great texture to it, too. There are many different levels of flavour that all work together to create an interesting, vibrant and very modern infusion.

I love how you go from rich sweetness, to bold tartness. From the mouth watering benefits of the blood orange to the refreshing and crispness of the apple. There is, in addition, a gentle floral tone from the hibiscus petals.

Blood Orange Marmalade is, quite simply, an awesome infusion. It's ideal to relax to at the end of the day. As this contains no caffeine it's perfect for a late evening, before bed brew. And I think it's going to be marvellous as summer approaches. You can have the comforting benefits of a hot drink, whilst at the same time, experiencing something that is equally as refreshing as something you'd find in the chiller in the local supermarket.

This blend is healthy, funky and fun. And I am so glad that I managed to try this tea.

I urge you, the tea drinker, to give it a whirl. You won't be disappointed with this infusion, because, it's simply sunshine in a cup. And you really can't ask for anything more.

Friday, 6 April 2018

Whittard: Blend #93: Piccadilly Blend

I will admit that I never planned to buy Whittards Piccadilly Blend. Actually it was a blend that I tended to overlook whenever I was browsing the website. Recently though, I was placing an order and was told if I spent £4 more I'd be entitled to free postage so I just happened to grab this and I added it to my online basket.

I had quite forgotten that I had ordered it till the big beautiful box came through the post. So it was almost a surprise when I found this lovely little box nestled between all the caddies I had ordered. This blend is a flavoured black tea.

Due to  my hurry to place my order I hadn't realised that I had brought this tea in the bagged version. Buy tea loose now is about as natural as it comes for me so very rarely do I buy bagged tea. However, bagged tea does have it's positives and the main one is it's a lot quicker to pop a bag in the water and leave it to infuse - its' a pretty instant way to have tea, yet, it doesn't replace the ceremony of making the tea in the pot, which is what I really love about loose tea.

This tea contains a black tea from unknown origin, hibiscus, rose, strawberry and lotus. A very interesting sounding blend.

I boiled some fresh water and infused the tea for four minutes, being careful to follow brewing instructions. The aroma from the blend is a fruity blend on the whole with floral tones weaving it's way through. Quite pleasant!

Taking a first sip, I was left a little underwhelmed. I think this is because I have been blown away by their other blends, such as Bohemian Raspberry, Orange Blossom and their heavenly Orange Pekoe. I'm not saying that it's horrible - rather that it lacked the wow factor the the aforementioned blends have in oodles.

This tea is a smooth, easy to drink, well crafted black tea. The base tea, which I cannot establish it's origin sadly, is lovely and rich and has caramel tones to it. Just very beautiful and flavoursome. I am really loving the black tea's that Whittard choose for their blends - it's so easy to drink and full of flavour. Just yummy.

The two most prominent flavours in this blend are the rose and strawberry. When you first take a sip on this the strawberry is the first flavour that hits your tongue. It's fresh and pleasant and instantly refreshing. It's incredibly light - this blend would be ideal to serve as afternoon tea with a huge wedge of Victoria Sponge.

Complimenting the fresh and fruity strawberry flavour is a natural sweetness from the rose. It brings to the blend a flavour not dissimilar to Turkish Delight. The sweetness is rich and brings a very interesting layer of flavour to the blend. The two flavours are well balanced.

I think I may of preferred this blend if the ingredients ended at strawberry and rose. But there is a underlying flavour that is just a bit "off" for me and I think it may be the lotus flower. It's has a slight perfume like element to it and I find it quite distracting from the other ingredients in the blend.

Obviously people's tastes are very different and you may love this tea. I certainly liked it, it's not horrid or horrible but it just doesn't do it for me. It's not a tea that I would return to again, nor would I reorder it when I next place an order with Whittard. It just lacked a bit of oomph and spark for me. And it left a strange taste in my mouth after I've finished it.

I have been spoiled, I think, by my recent purchases from Whittard which are just perfect for me. Their Orange Blossom is divine.

If you like your tea fruity and floral and if you like a slight perfumey edge to your blend this is ideal for you.

For me, though pleasant and certainly refreshing, it just lacks something that appeals to me. You, though, may think differently and I'd certainly love to hear from you!

eteaket: Blooming Marvellous

I love Friday's. I work the entire weekend into the new week so Friday's are like most people's Sundays. I try to relax, unwind and enjoy doing what I love to do - mainly drinking tea and blogging, of course!

Today though seems to be a even better than normal Friday. It's been a long, harsh winter. We've had it all here in the UK. Rain, wind, lots of snow and achingly cold temperatures. Today the sun is out, the air is warm, the grass in our garden has burst into glorious, green coloured life and the squirrels that use our garden to run around and play in are bright eyed and bushy tailed.

Also, today, this months wonderful box from the tea subscription service, teatourist, arrived today. It's  is, quite frankly, one of the highlights of my month. I deliberately avoid their emails which give us tantalising hints into what is contained within the box. I love to be surprised. And today it's is a varied selection.

I spend a moment reading about each tea and this wonderful blend, Blooming Marvellous by eteaket immediately struck me as very interesting. And potentially tasty. So after all my chores were done today, I made my first cup.

Blooming Marvellous is a green tea.  The base tea is a Chinese sencha. It is bursting with strawberries, sunflower petals, rosebuds, mallow and lemon, red berries and vanilla flavouring. It's  jam packed when it comes to flavours. I was intrigued to try it!

This tea is a beautiful tea, visually. It's large, green leaves are natural and healthy looking - which is something that appeals to me. They are light in colour and the sunflower petals and strawberries add a lovely dash of colour within the blend.

It's incredibly aromatic. When snipping open the packet, you are hit with a wonderful mix of fruit and floral scents. Mouthwatering indeed.

As this is a green tea I am especially picky about how I prepare this tea to get the very best out of it. I put two teaspoons into the infuser. I used freshly drawn water and boiled it to 80 degrees, leaving it to infuse for three minutes. I am a passionate advocate for green tea and like to prepare it with the respect it deserves.

Indeed, as I suspected this tea fully sums up the glorious weather. It is like spring in a cup. It's light, breezy, refreshing, tasty and fun. It brings a modern and elegant twist to traditional green tea and I was immediately blown away by it's gorgeous flavour, which is as mouthwatering delicious as the tea's scent is. teatourist have done incredibly well, as they always do, to include this tea in this months box!

Firstly, the wonderful sencha is both tasty and smooth - it is a genius idea to include this as the base tea of the blend. There isn't a hint of bitterness or astringency about it. It's just wonderfully smooth and of a very good quality. A delightful green tea. I love the lightness to the tea and it's very yummy indeed.

I mentioned earlier that this tea is filled to bursting with flavour and I did wonder for a amount about whether the amount and variation of additions to the tea would make a confused jumble of a tea. It's hard to mix floral and fruity ingredients together and get them to work, but eteaket have managed just that. It does work! And it works extremely well.

The first flavour that comes through, and is very strong and natural is the fruity flavour of the strawberries. I have a odd relationship with strawberries. I love strawberry flavoured things, but I don't enjoy actual strawberries as I don't like the texture. This is a wonderful way to enjoy strawberries. The flavour is strong and full on and adds a very special element to green tea. It's nice to see green tea paired with strawberries, it's not a mixture one comes across very often.

From the sunflower petals you get a slight herbal element to this tea which adds a extra layer to the tea. First and foremost though the fruity additions to this tea are which come through the most strongly. I love that alongside strawberries you have the slightly stronger addition of red berries. The berries and strawberries work well together to present a flavoursome addition to this fairly light base tea.

Alongside the sweet berry flavour you have the addition of the lemon which brings a refreshing and tasty citrus twang to the blend. It takes the edge off something that would be very, very sweet. This is a extremely well blended tea.

I will admit that I didn't detect any flavour of vanilla. However, there is, weaving through this tea, which you detect more at the end of the sip, is a smooth richness. It's like adding liquid velvet to the tea. It's just glorious, plain and simple.

I have been totally blown away by this tea. Instant love. Admiration at first sip. My tea instincts honed in on this blend as soon as I opened the box from teatourist today, and I was not disappointed in the slightest.

For a green tea it's full of flavour and is full of fun, too.

This could be, putting it honestly, my perfect tea for summer 2018.

Thursday, 5 April 2018

Leaf Tea Shop: Autumn Fire

It's quite odd to be reviewing a tea entitled Autumn Fire in April, just when the British weather is calming down. The snow and cold weather has hopefully gone, the sun and warmer temperatures are on their way. However, as I was treating myself to a hot cross bun this morning - a Be Good To Yourself one, naturally, - the lovely flavour of mixed spices immediately reminded me of something and after rifling through my tea box, I found the tea I was thinking of.

That tea is Autumn Fire by Leaf Tea Shop. This gorgeous little gem was handpicked for me to try but the wonderful and talented team at teatourist.

It's more than fair to say that I absolutely adore autumn and winter when it comes to tea, at least. I love how warming and comforting the tea's become as we head into the colder months. Everything is blended with tasty spices with subtle floral or fruity flavours. The tea is indulgent, rich, moreish and perfectly reflects those autumnal and winter events; bonfire night, carol singing, firework displays and the joy of coming home to such tasty teas is part of the fun.

However, due to the ingredients of this blend which are: black tea, cinnamon, orange peel, rose blossom and almonds, this could also be perfect for Easter. This reminds me as much of hot cross buns as it does Christmas cake, so it's a perfect all rounder, despite it's name.

The aroma of this blend is simply gorgeous and it strikes you immediately. The main scent is of the orange but the sweetness of the cinnamon does come through - it is truly mouthwatering. In fact, as I sit here in bed blogging, I had left the tea in my bedroom whilst I nipped to the loo, and when I came back the whole room was filled with a glorious fruity scent that immediately took me back to Christmas when all the shops were full of wonderfully scented candles. It was a really lovely experience to walk back in the room and be greeted by such a aroma.

The base tea used in this blend in Ceylon black tea. I have had the luxury of drinking plenty of tea from Sri Lanka recently, and I'm really loving it smooth and delicious taste. As the norm with Ceylon tea the leaves are really, really dark and are always striking to look at. But the orange peel and red rose blossoms add vibrant splashes of colour, much like fireworks against a black winter night sky.

So far this tea was perfectly suited to my senses. How would it taste though?

I filled my infuser with a generous amount of tea and let the blend brew for four minutes. The information on the card that came with the tea said three to five so I went for one in the middle. For me, it was lovely but next time I think I will try for the full five minutes. As this is a black tea it's perfectly fine to use boiling water but always make sure you use freshly drawn water.

From the very first sip I realised that this is a tea that will take you on journey with each sip. Some teas, when you take a sip you are hit, face on, with the flavour. This tea though, and partly why I love it so much, is that the flavour develops through the sip. So the taste is very different at the start of the sip then when you swallow the tea. It's interesting and keeps you on your toes.

I suppose, not surprisingly, the first flavour that comes through is the sweet cinnamon. Cinnamon, especially hot in tea, is a strong flavour. So its the first to come through and I loved how it's spiciness dotted around on my tongue, making it feel slightly prickly. This tea has a texture as well as a lovely scent and wonderful flavour. The addition of the cinnamon makes this tea warming and tasty and, after a stressful period, which I have been going through recently, very comforting and relaxing.

There is a very slight twang midway through the sip which I think comes from the orange. The orange isn't sweet, like you'd get from a clementine, it's rather, not bitter exactly but sharp. So that sharpness is a nice contrast to the sweet cinnamon. The two work well together balancing well and making a very even and well blended tea.

I will admit that I didn't detect much from the rose blossom, but I think it's one of those things that had it not been added the tea would of tasted completely different. Maybe because the cinnamon and orange are so strong that they do cancel out the most delicate of flavours.

Towards the end of the sip there is a slight marzipan taste coming through from the addition of almonds. It does remind me a little of cherry bakewell cakes.

As with many tea's blended for winter, there are also cloves added as well which brings a familiar taste to this tea.

Overall this is a really well balanced and blended tea. I was sad to not be able to detect the floral element, however, that doesn't detract from the fact that this is a damn fine cup of tea. I am so impressed with it. It's a shame that I only have it in sample size, so I probably have enough left for another couple of cups of tea which is a huge shame - but it has been added to my list of teas to buy. Thankfully, it still seems to be available on the companies website.

I love how this tea perfectly reflects autumn - which is my favourite time of year. Everything that is nice is reflected in a single cup of tea. It's warming and comforting and also interesting and refreshing. It's familiar and at the same time, due to it's wonderful blending, new and exciting. It's a tea that can be enjoyed whilst snuggling down, yet light and refreshing enough to sit and admire the lighter evenings.

Despite it's name it is a all rounder of a tea.

This is the first tea I've tried from Leaf Tea Shop and I'm hugely impressed with it. I'm very much looking forward to having a look around their elegant and modern website to see what other delights they have on offer.  Already I have my eye on their Blood Orange and Baked Apple! They sound so scrummy!

I look forward to reviewing more of their blends on Laura's Tea Room.

Friday, 30 March 2018

Whittard: Blend #600: Lucky Lychee

To celebrate the Year of the Dog in the Chinese calendar, Whittard have blended a fantastic limited edition blend. It's been given the number 600, and it's their Lucky Lychee.

I first came across this blend a couple of weeks back when I was browsing the Whittard website looking for inspiration to feature on the blog. I've become quite partial to Whittard over the last year. I love the quality of their tea, I love the fact they have actual stores that I can visit and talk tea to the workers there, and I love the fact that mix traditional blends with the modern.

I know you cannot judge a tea by it's packaging. However, this eye-catching design stirred my interest and as I love lychees, I thought I'd give it a whirl. I cannot find out how long this blend will be on sale for, but if it sounds like something you'd like, I'd get in quick - it is limited edition as stated on the web page.

The tea consists of Chinese black tea and lychee flavouring.

This tea is gorgeous to look at. It's beautifully dark and is made up of relatively small leaves. It comes in a box and wrapped in plastic within the box. I would of brought a caddy to place this in, as it is highly fragranced, but as it's a limited edition, I'm happily leaving it in it's original and very pretty packaging.

I heaped a generous amount of tea in the infuser and poured on the boiling water. Whilst it infused I enjoyed it's sweet aroma. Though lychee's are fruit it has a oddly floral scent about it, and it is utterly gorgeous and tasty. I infused the tea for four minutes.

This blend is a extravagant, rich blend. It is bursting with flavour and is aromatic, robust and tasty. As lovely as it is, it's rather like the tea equivalent of shortbread. A small amount is lovely but if taken too often it can become a bit too much. I think this box will last me some time, as it's quite full on!

The base tea is of Chinese origin and is lovely and smooth and is the perfect match with the lychee flavouring as neither flavour out does the other. I think Whittard are especially wise to have used a stronger tea with this strong flavour as we could easily of had a tea where one flavour over took the whole blend. This is blended exceptionally well and is a joy to drink. A ideal blending!

There is something lovely about the texture of this blend. It's smooth and easy to drink, and it's like someone is giving me a hug. I feel good when I drink this tea. I'm not sure if it's the sweetness but it's just delightful in how it makes you feel. It's soft, gentle on the palate and makes your tongue dance with flavour.

I am rather partial to lychees, but in my neck of the woods they are not always easy to find so I was hugely looking forward to tasting this -and I wasn't disappointed. The flavour of the lychee is incredibly fresh, natural and it tastes almost as if there are real, actual lychees floating in the tea. It's well rounded and just wonderful. When I've had a cup I just want more and more and more of it.

This is about as comforting a tea as you could possibly wish to have. There is something so lovely that it's hard to find the words for. There isn't any harshness or bitterness to this tea, even as it cools. It is a well balanced cup of tea from the first to the very last sip. Utterly delightful.

I will be rationing this tea. It's quite pricy for the amount you get and as it's a limited edition I don't know how long it will be available for. So I only have a couple of cups a day. You know what it like - you get to love a tea and all of a sudden you can't find it anymore. I've had that happen several times in my eight years of avid tea drinking so I've learned to treasure those tea's and drink little of it so it lasts for longer.

I think this is a great tea for spring. As the days get longer, with lighter evenings and mornings, it's like your welcoming in a whole new world. And this is the perfect companion. It's brilliant that Whittard have chosen such an exotic fruit to blend with the tea. A very good example of Whittard successfully mixing the traditional with the new.

I am utterly in love with this tea. It's familiar yet different and keeps you on your toes and it's glorious flavour lingers well after the cup has been finished.

So far, this is one of the best new tea's I've tried in 2018. For me it's exceptionally lucky that two of my favourite things have been brought together in a fresh, romantic, dreamy way. Whittard - I can only thank you!

Teakruthi: Lemon Kandy

Unwittingly, it seems, it's all about Sri Lanka at Laura's Tea Room this week! The past few tea's I've had the pleasure of reviewing have all been from Sri Lanka and this review is no different. This review is about Teakruthi's lush Lemon Kandy black flavoured tea.

It's no secret here on my tea blog that I am a huge fan of black tea. It doesn't matter if it's in pure form or flavoured. I find great warmth and satisfaction in drinking black tea. And I have tried A LOT of black tea so I always approach new tea from new (to me) companies with excitement and high expectations.

Every single time I try a new blend I am enthusiastic. And when I tried Lemon Kandy, I was no different.

You wouldn't be blamed if you thought, due to it's name, that this blend is one of those new fangled dessert type tea's but Kandy, in case you didn't know, is actually a region of Sri Lanka. It's high up in the mountains and produces some of the loveliest tea going. Sri Lankan tea is quite strong by nature, but tends to have a lovely sweetness to it, too. It's the best of both worlds.

I am also partial to fruit in black tea. Normally I tend to veer towards orange flavoured black tea so I was interested and intrigued by this tea which is flavoured naturally by lemon peel. I have tried flavoured tea before and was disappointed as it tasted like washing up liquid. However, I know from experience that we cannot tar all tea with the same brush. And this proved to be a exceptional tea.

I filled my Flo-tea with a generous amount of tea and boiled the freshly drawn water. It advised me to boil to 90 degrees so I boiled the kettle and let the water cool down a while.

Visually this tea is a real treat! It's dark leaves are stunning and the dried lemon peel add a generous splash of colour which contrasts really well with the blackness of the tea. There is a slight aroma of lemon, but it's not overpowering or particularly strong, so I thought I'd brew this for the full five minutes that was suggested.

This tea has a natural rich sweetness which I put down solely to the fact that it's a tea from the Kandy area which is high up and produces stunning, delicious and tasty tea. Although there is a slight earthiness to the tea, which you normally get with green tea, it makes this blend memorable and different. And I do tend to love that natural, grassy element to tea, for some reason it really does appeal to me.

This is incredibly satisfying. Today has been a lovely day but it's been long and busy and and it's just what I needed as I flopped onto the sofa. It's warming and also comforting in a way that only black tea can be.

The addition of lemon is wonderful but it is very light and delicate. It's not a full on lemon flavour that you get with, for example, some Earl Grey's. It's whispy, light and refreshing. It's not at all tart or bitter, but I do feel to get the full force of the lemon you ought to brew it for the full five minutes. Anything less, it would of been lost to the sheer strength of the Sri Lankan base tea. It may be useful if using home made teabags or a infuser to find a bit more of the peel and add it just to strengthen the lemon a little bit. However, it really is lovely to experience lemon in a tea.

The leaves of this blend can be re-infused up to three times which is excellent as it makes the tea stretch a little bit longer. I have infused it three times, sticking to the important rules of using freshly drawn water and brewing to five minutes exactly, using a timer to make sure it is for the full five minutes.

On the second infusion the lemon came through a lot stronger than the first infusion which delighted me. I really liked it and I did like the slight sharpness from the lemon which worked well with the natural earthiness of the tea. I was also pleased to say that this tea did not go bitter on second infusion  it kept it's strong, smooth qualities which I honestly really loved. It had a level, even taste to it.

However, the third infusion, I must admit the tea did go slightly astringent. Now that is by no means a criticism and I personally know quite a few tea drinkers who like to have that sharp, twangy kick to their tea but for me, I think two infusions are enough with this blend. The slight bitterness of the tea with the, by now, quite sharp lemon was a bit too much for me, so I'd stick to two infusions. However, you may well disagree and I'd love to know your thoughts on it!

I really enjoyed this pleasant, intoxicating tea. It would be great to serve up as a afternoon tea, with a light and fluffy lemon cake. It's refreshing, cooling and satisfying and makes such a tasty difference to orange tea.

I do feel that the strength of the Sri Lankan tea does overpower slightly the addition of the lemon but this would be easily remedied by adding just a small amount more of lemon peel.

Overall, I found this to be a wonderful blend, ideal for black tea lovers who enjoy the addition of fruit into their tea. It's pleasantly easy to drink, smooth and delicious and I'm so pleased I got to try this wonderful tea.

The Tea Leaf Company: Simply Green

When it comes to tea, as with other things in life, quite often simplicity is all you want. Today I woke with a ever so slightly fuzzy head and just wanted a plain and simple cup of tea. Sometimes that is what my body yearns for. To experience tea in it's purest form.

Rifling through my tea box I found exactly what I needed. This lovely green tea by The Tea Leaf Company.  It's a simple yet beautiful tea. Simply Green. 

Green tea is one of the most divisive tea's that exists in the world. I very rarely come across people who say they like it, or it's ok. It's either yes, I love it and am a avid green tea drinker or I hate it and can't stand to be around the stuff. There is, in green tea, very little middle ground.

And I can understand that attitude because green tea is very unique. It's a very natural and at times almost gritty tea. I didn't like it at first simply because I was buying the supermarket branded tea's which are, in most cases, not very good. When I was sent a sample many years ago of proper, real, top quality green tea, I soon fell in love with green tea for all the right reasons.

I knew, as soon as I opened the packet of this tea that I would like it. This tea is a traditional, solid green tea and has all the earthy and grassy elements that I love - its' a real tea that you can get your teeth into and enjoy hugely. The aroma of this tea is exactly that - earthy and it made my mouth water. And, considering this is a Sri Lankan green tea, I knew this would have some oomph about it!

Visually this is a beautiful tea. Sadly it's not reflected in the photograph above, but it's curly leaves are dark green and stunning to look at.  It's very attractive - I find exceptional beauty in tea leaves and these are interesting to look at and lovely to feel.

As this tea was sent to me through the wonderful tea subscription service, teatourist, it comes with a handy little card with information about how to brew. Now I do know my green tea brewing stuff, and it did state to infuse the tea between two and five minutes. However, I do feel that five minutes is a bit too long so I opted for the middle option of three minutes and I felt this was perfect. However, you may enjoy it brewed at five minutes, it will be strong because it packs a punch after three minutes infusion! As with all tea's the best thing to do is experiment and see what tastes better for you.

I set the timer and waited patiently for three minutes and loved the scent as the tea infused.

The flavour of this tea is absolutely gorgeous and it's exactly the sort of green tea that I love. Natural, earthy and healthy. It's scrummy, delicious and much, much more!

There is a smoothness to this tea that, despite it's strength, makes it easy to drink. Some green tea's that have that slight bitter edge are hard to get through, this is not.

With most tea's that come from Sri Lanka this tea has strength, is robust (a very good alternative to that early morning coffee!) and is so full of flavour that you feel as though you could almost bite into it. This is ideal for a kick start in the morning if, like me, coffee is not your thing. It honestly would get you up and running in the loveliest possible way. Yet, whilst being strong, the flavour is, somehow not overbearing and is not too much to take. It balances very well between having flavour and yet is enjoyable.

It's also incredibly refreshing and is a thirst quencher. I prepared this tea after eating a meal that was probably a little too highly salted and unlike other tea's this quenched that horrible thirst that you get when you've eaten too much salt.

The flavour of this tea is grassy. And it's that traditional element that makes green tea lovers drool at the prospect of a good green tea! The flavour rolls around your mouth and stays with you long after the cup of tea has been consumed. You can taste it for some time after - and that is no criticism at all!

This is also incredibly moreish - I will admit that as I finished the first cup my body was crying out for a second, and I was interested to read on the information card that this green tea could be re-infused so, I thought I'd give it a go. I wasn't holding out much hope as me and re-infusing green tea doesn't always go hand in hand - I've had my fair share of disasters. But I remained hopeful as I drew some fresh water from the tap.

Does this tea stand up to a second three minute infusion? I tried the tea with trepidation, I will admit. However, I was pleasantly surprised!

It's like having two different cups of tea from the same leaves. Rather then it taking on a harsh, bitter tone, which is normally my experience, this tea totally transforms into a softer, gentler tea, though keeping it's much loved and familiar grassy elements, the strength is somewhat reduced. How that works I cannot say but I am totally shocked at how this tea changes - but not in anyway for the worse. It just seems to evolve into a softer version of it's former self. I was utterly gobsmacked at how unbitter this tea is on second brewing. I was expecting astringency - I got none. I was very happy.

I'm really quite smitten with this tea and highly impressed - and believe me, I've drunk lots of green tea.

It's vital though that you follow the golden rules of infusing green tea to get the best out of your cup and to enjoy this tea as it should be.

1. Use freshly drawn water - do not reboil water. It can make the tea taste strange and bitter.
2. Do not boil the water for green tea - 80 degrees will do it!
3. Set the timer - over infusion can kill green tea flat and it can be done in mere seconds. Always time your tea and err on the side of caution. I would advise that three minutes is good enough, but feel free to experiment but the difference between three and five minutes with green tea can mean the difference between a gorgeous tea and a rotten one - so infuse with caution!

Simply Green is ideal for you if you like your green tea strong. If you're a lover of Gunpowder Green, Fog Green or Dragonwell then this is for you. However, if you are so so on green tea, like it delicate or can only drink it with added flavouring then this may not be for you.

This blend is as satisfying to the tea lover then any black tea. It's tasty, wholesome and feels ever so good to be drinking it.

As a tea lover and a green tea nut I cannot recommend this highly enough.

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Whittard: Blend #67: Ceylon Orange Pekoe

Sometimes, as a tea drinker, you can get rather carried away by the plethora of flavoured tea's out there. From traditional blends like Earl Grey to the more exotic, such as chocolate and coconut, you are not short of tempting flavours to try.

But, going back to simplicity is just as fulfilling. To sit and enjoy a black tea in it's purest form is one of my biggest luxuries in life. I don't ask for much - but I do ask for decent quality tea. And at the risk of sounding like a thorough tea snob, it's almost impossible for me to drink substandard tea anymore. Thankfully, though, through wise tea choices, that doesn't happen - not when I'm at home at least.

Recently I found myself doing the internet version of window shopping. I had decided to purchase a box of tea from Whittard and made the fatal error, particularly on pay day, of just looking around, seeing what else was available, when I stumbled on their Ceylon Orange Pekoe tea.

I must admit I have a particular fondness for this blend. I have tried many and have always held that in my heart a little bit. Of course the quality of the tea varies. I have had some dreadful ones and some lovely ones, much like other blends that I have tried.

I purchased the loose leaf tea in a caddy rather than teabags, hopeful that this will be a blend that I really like. As I have said in other posts, I'm just mad about their caddies! So classy and elegant - a very pretty and graceful addition to anyones kitchen!

The actual tea itself is beautiful to look at and feels lovely when held in your hand. It has a vibrant copper like colour to it, and the tea inside the caddy is plentiful - this will last quite some time.

I generously filled my tea infuser with one and a half proper teaspoons of tea, poured freshly drawn and freshly boiled (please, do not use reboiled water - it will make a glorious cup of tea taste like a rotten, bitter mess) water into the cup and waited for four minutes as the tea infused.

Today had been a particularly stressful day. I had routine tests at the hospital, nothing to worry about, but all the while these tests were going on my mind wondered to several different subjects, including what cup of tea I was going to enjoy in the afternoon - anything to distract me from the hospital environment which nobody likes.  So, once this tea had infused I couldn't wait to sit down and drink it. It was much needed and much appreciated.

What I love most about this blend is it's natural smoothness. Orange Pekoe is generally a tea that is easy to drink - and this certainly is no different.

Despite being full of flavour and endlessly satisfying, it also has a delicate lightness to it as well. And because of that lightness it is extremely refreshing.

There is a slight earthy flavour running through this tea. On first sip there is a sweet flavour with honey like tones but as the sip develops it goes from sweet and light to earthy. Two different types of tea within one cup!

What makes this stand out is most Sri Lankan tea's are quite strong and even border on the bitter, but Orange Pekoe is the complete opposite, just so light and delicate. But it's almost addictive this tea, you want more and more of it and I'm already up and boiling the kettle for a second cup.

Due to it's wonderful lightness this tea is designed to be taken without milk, however, if you brew it for longer then milk can be added - but my own personal opinion is that by adding milk you are corrupting this tea that is bordering on perfect. I also believe that this tea would be great to drink if you're making the leap from having milk in your tea to taking your tea without. If I had known of this blend when I decided to take my tea black the transition would of been made much easier.

I honestly don't think you can get any better than this if you want a tea that is beautiful in it's simplicity. A unadulterated tea that is just so incredibly moreish and tasty and about as perfect as it can possibly be. And this blend from Whittard is one of the best.

It's tea's like this that really do make me very thankful that I love black tea the most. The spectrum of flavours can do to robust and strong to light and delicate, such as this. And you can tell when a tea is so good that it just leaves you wanting more and more of it.

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Loose Tea: Enjoying Tea In It's Perfect Form

If you're reading this then there is a huge chance that you are a tea lover. Like me, you probably enjoy the luxury of a good tea. But alongside the actual taste of the blend that you chose, there is something lovely about the ritual of making tea. Warming the pot, adding the tea, infusing and pouring. And believe me, there is no nicer way of drinking tea.

Drinking loose tea as opposed to that which comes already bagged is honestly such a wonderful thing. It is a luxurious way to spend time, indulgent and is a huge treat. And now, with various gadgets, it's never been easier to enjoy tea both at home and on the go.

What makes loose tea so special is how you prepare it as well as which tea you actually choose. If you get these elements right you will be able to enjoy tea in it's loveliest form, how nature intended it. So, here is a little run down of gadgets and tips that you may find useful for making loose tea perfectly.

If you are new to the joy of loose leaf tea I sincerely hope you find this useful. Loose tea can often be daunting and off putting, but it need not be! I'm sure you'll soon be up and running and enjoying tea in it's purest and most perfect form.

1. A Proper Teaspoon.

Never underestimate the usefulness of a properly sized teaspoon.  I received this from my best friend a few Christmases ago and which she had engraved. I use this every day and it is the perfect size to make a perfect cup of tea. When making tea in the pot I use one per cup and one for the pot. When using the Flo-tea infuser I use one and when I use empty teabags I use one and a half.

2. Infusers and Teabags

For many years I have owned a Flo-tea infuser. I think I must of been through three of these! They are sturdy, of good quality and the main part of the infuser is made from stainless steel, which is easy to use, easy to clean and doesn't rust. It also comes in this handy stand so you can rest it there without making any mess on your counter top. This little device is especially clever if you are preparing tea that can be infused more then once - a tidy way to keep the tea as you re-use it. They are great little inventions and come in a variety of colours.

In addition to the Flo-tea I also keep well stocked a empty caddy that is full, oddly enough, of empty teabags that I purchase on eBay. These handy little inventions means I can fill them with loose tea when I go out an have decent tea anywhere I go. I also use them to take to work, especially in the colder months, and it means if I wake up one day and fancy Earl Grey I can have it. Another day I may fancy a green tea. It's a really cheap way of enjoying your loose tea. So there is absolutely no reason to ever have to drink rubbish tea - there are many options you can use to have decent tea on the go!

3. Bone China Is Best

For many years both my parents and grandparents would tell me that drinking tea from a bone china cup was the best way to drink your tea. They told me it kept the tea hot for longer, it tasted nicer, it was just the best way to drink your tea. And for years I wouldn't believe them - but it's actually true. I recently visited my best friend in Cheshire and we spent a day walking around a antiques centre. I found a lovely cup and saucer for not even £4 and it feels so lovely to drink tea from it. I am aware that rather then glug the tea down, I sip it and because of that, really savour it's flavour.

There are some gorgeous cups and saucers available now but I love to go vintage - the older it is the better chance it is bone china.  And the patterns available in places like antique centres and shops are so cute that you'll be hard pressed to decide which pattern you want.

Even if you save the cup and saucer for your day of relaxation - it's always lovely to have one in the cupboard!

4. Follow The Infusion Rules Closely

Whether you are making your loose tea in the pot, or in a teabag or infuser, do follow the infusion instructions closely - and then, if they are not right for you, you can alter them when making your second pot or cup.

Instructions are there for a reason and it's really wise to follow them. Take particular care if you are using a highly scented loose tea, such as Earl Grey or Lavender because these do have a tendency to go bitter if over brewed.

And always use a timer, whether it's a tea timer or the timer on your oven or phone. Accuracy is best to make a perfect cup of tea!

5. Pick Your Tea Carefully

Always buy the best loose tea that you can afford. Unlike bagged tea which is uniformed, loose tea can vary in taste if you don't follow the instructions closely and some of the cheaper, branded loose tea's can vary from pot to pot. When using loose tea, and I have discovered this to my own personal cost, having a bit less of something better is always the better option.

There are so many great loose tea companies on the internet. They do a marvellous selection of loose tea of high quality, with interesting flavours and even textures. So do shop around and experiment. Many companies who sell loose tea even sell the tea in sample packs so you don't have to buy a lot only to realise you don't actually like it!

I find Whittard sell exceptional tea's. Their orange pekoe is out of this world and they have plenty of stores around the country for you to pop in. My own, personal favourite, is CHASH - The Fine Tea Company who produce gorgeous loose tea's, many traditional blends as well as fresh blends for the modern tea drinker. These are tea providers who never let me down!

Of course, there is nothing wrong with the loose tea's that you can purchase at the supermarket. Many of the higher end ranges are quite good, but do shop around. Why settle for quite good when there is excellence available! The internet is a brilliant place and tea bloggers are brilliant in pointing you in the right direction!

It doesn't matter if your preference is black tea or green tea. Great tea can be enjoyed in loose form as much as black tea. Just keep an eye on the brewing instructions and you'll have a fab cup of tea!

And finally ..... Experiment!

I know that loose leaf tea can appear old fashioned and a wee bit staid. Honestly though, there are so many tea companies that make fun and modern loose leaf tea blends. You can enjoy a traditional Earl Grey, but you can also enjoy a modern salted caramel blend or a vanilla creme rooibos. There is fun to be had with tea, so experiment - you'll certainly find some blends you're not keen on, but also many that you will love and become part of your loose leaf tea routine.

Friday, 23 March 2018

Twinings: Discovery Collection: London Strand Earl Grey

Today my second tea order arrived, this time from Twinings. Within my order is the gorgeous orange and cinnamon blend that I purchase regularly from their international section. But, as a tea lover through and through I couldn't stop at just one purchase. I brought something I have had my eye on for a little while. That blend is London Strand Earl Grey from their Discovery collection.

I have already purchased at Christmas their Rose Garden tea from the same collection that I will review at a later date and was thoroughly impressed with it. And, as a girl who bleeds Earl Grey when she is cut, I honestly had to have this tea and I do wonder, on reflection, why I've not tried this before.

This tea is available in two different forms, large leaf loose tea and in pyramids. Although pyramids are convenient, I always opt for the loose tea option. It's just a preference of mine - there is no difference in quality. But, my heart belongs to loose tea and I love how you can vary the amount you use to produce very different cups of tea!

The tea itself comes in a really pretty yellow caddy which has etchings of various London sites and on the back an artists rendition of Twinings tiny little shop, situated on the Strand. The only issue I do have with the caddy itself, just like the Christmas blend and just like Rose Garden is that its not a hinged lid, and is really hard to get off. Sometimes, in my struggle, I even bend the caddy itself so this is something you may need to be aware of if you have any physical difficulties.

When the tea arrives from Twinings it's contained in a lovely gold foil bag within the caddy. I tend to remove the tea and place it straight into the caddy because I find it's less fiddly and easier to get to the tea when it's out of it's foil bag. Again, that's just my choice but I honestly have kept Rose Garden within the foil and ended up losing so much as it was spilt on the counter top.

The tea used in this blend is a Chinese black tea and it has gorgeous black tea leaves which are really stark. However, the blend is also dotted with lovely bright yellow pieces of lemon rind - this Earl Grey is different to most Earl Greys because this has the added bonus of lemon, which, as I will explain later, puts a different  spin on the traditional Earl Grey.

At the moment, I'm using a floating infuser so I filled it with about three quarters of a teaspoon as I was drinking the tea from a tiny cup and saucer. Naturally though, I will alter the amount of tea used depending on which cup I am using to drink from. I infused the tea for a standard three minutes which was perfect.

The tea infuses to a wonderful dark red, copper colour.

London Strand Earl Grey has the typical aroma of Earl Grey. The all too familiar scent of bergamot is wonderful, but there is a bright, fresh and natural aroma of fruit as well. It's a tea of different layers and it really is nicely done.

I love the Chinese tea used as a base tea. It's strong and robust and brings to the tea it's wonderful hue. It's very smooth and easy to drink. It also is ever so slightly nutty as well which brings to mind the wonderful Keemun tea's that I have been fortunate to taste. Though strong it's not bitter or overpowering, but I believe this tea does need a strong base tea to hold it's own against the flavour of the bergamot and lemon.

So, what of the bergamot? Well, it's interesting. I've had several comments left on this blog about how Twinings bog standard Earl Grey, THE Earl Grey as it's now called is disappointing, lacks substance and is generally a bit, mah! And to be honest, I think I tend to agree with this general view. In fact it's so nondescript that I no longer purchase it. I much prefer Sainsburys Taste The Difference Earl Grey, and even the decaffeinated blend has more pow about it then THE Earl Grey.

However, all is not lost with Twinings Earl Grey - with London Strand Earl Grey they have redeemed themselves. And they have done it in a classy way. And I can only hope and pray they keep this blend going.

The bergamot, that one ingredient that makes Earl Grey, well, Earl Grey, is present, vivid, tasty and incredibly moreish. It is the lack of decent bergamot flavour which has made THE Earl Grey such a wishy washy blend. This, however, is bergamot back to where it should be. It should not taste like perfume, which so many do. And this does not. It's actually quite subtle yet packs a punch. It is present and you can taste it's glorious flavour, yet, compliments the blend rather then overpowers and that is what I have the biggest problem with when I purchase Earl Grey in, cafe's for instance. It's extremely well balanced - Twinings blender has done a fabulous job creating this tea.

Lemon is the other important ingredient in it's blend. It's the scattering of lemon rind that makes this tea a visually pretty tea, but that slight sharp twang of citrus fruit keeps this blend interesting. It keeps your tongue on it's toes. I love that ever so tart flavour that you get at the end of the sip, it works perfectly well with the sweetness of the bergamot and the nuttiness of the base tea.

Underneath all those flavours there is a earthiness, which comes from the base tea. It's a integral part of the tea as it's something to get your teeth into. Something that makes this tea satisfying for those tea drinkers who may appreciate the maltiness they get from a Assam blend, or the powerful punch from English Breakfast.

This tea is best taken without milk - adding milk will detract from the gorgeous mixture of flavours and textures. Though I suppose a slice of lemon wouldn't hurt, but honestly, it's perfect as it is.

There is a natural lightness oddly enough about this tea. And it's extremely refreshing thanks to it's citrus element. This is best served in your finest bone china for afternoon tea, with a big wedge of lemon drizzle cake!

I will admit that I had long given up on Twinings managing to create a decent Earl Grey after changing it's original blend and doing away with it's floral Earl Grey range some years back. But I believe they are back on top now with this fun, funky and incredibly delightful blend. I certainly found this a enjoyable Earl Grey and for a Earl Grey devotee ... that really is saying something.

This tea is priced at £8.50 for 100g's and I think it's well worth the price.

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Whittard: Blend #142: Orange Blossom

It's fair to say that I have become a bit of a devotee of Whittard in recent years. I was initially put off years ago when I was a newcomer to the tea world. I had prepared a pot of their Christmas tea and had taken it without milk. The overpowering  taste of the tea, with it's cinnamon and cloves was too much and I chucked the tea away - a criminal offence, but at the time I had absolutely no idea about how to prepare such tea's.

However, when I became more accustomed to tea and how it should be correctly prepared, especially things like seasonal tea's, I decided that it was time to investigate Whittard and I did that with their fabulous Bohemian Raspberry blend. A blend that remains a firm favourite many, many years after I first tried it.

Since then I have dipped my toe in the water many times, so when last Friday, on payday, I decided to treat myself to some tea after a horrifically stressful week, I knew where to go. When I put my order in I had promised myself that I would stick to the one blend that I wanted to try (which will be reviewed at a later date) and which cost just £8. However, that and two caddies later my order was considerably larger than I had planned!

So this morning the tea arrived and I was genuinely struggling as to which to try first, but, with my love of all things orange, I decided to go with blend #142: Orange Blossom.

Firstly, I want to mention the lovely caddies that the tea came in. Of course, Whittard do offer different packaging options so you don't have to pick the caddie option, but their caddies are just so beautiful that I'd find it hard not to purchase the tea in one. They are elegant, a light grey colour with a handy label so you know exactly what tea is in the caddy. I am partial to Whittard's caddies and will probably buy most purchases in that form. I like how elegant they are, how they, with their interior lid, keep the tea fresh and if the tea is highly flavoured contains that flavour so neighbouring tea's do not absorb the scent.          

Orange Blossom blend is a black tea that is blended with orange peel and orange blossom with additional flavouring.

This blend is a wonderful tea to look at. The base tea, which is a black tea of blended origin has a lovely, reddish hue to it. It's dark and aromatic. Dotted within the tea is the pale yellow of the orange blossom and the bright orange of the orange peel. It is both attractive and aromatic. When I removed the lid and then the interior lid, the aroma of orange was delicate, pleasing and natural.  

There were no specific brewing instructions with this tea, so I took a general view that three minutes should be fine and that I could alter it if it was over or under brewed. It seemed to me that three minutes was perfect. Though, of course, taste is a relative thing, so you may have to experiment to see what pleases your tastebuds.

As I sat and took my first sip, I was immediately pleased. I have a "thing" for tea blended with orange and I've tasted some divine ones and some truly dreadful. This is simply beautiful.

This is a most delicate of blends. Sometimes orange tea can be strong, this is not. The base tea, which as I stated earlier was made up of blended tea, is rich and smooth and slightly nutty. It's incredibly easy to drink because of it's smoothness. It reminded me of a gentle orange pekoe tea. It's strong enough to hold the orange flavour, yet delicate enough as not to dominate.

The problem that I have had in the past with orange flavoured tea's is sometimes they can be slightly oily, artificial and with perfume like qualities. This absolutely does not. It's one of the most natural tasting orange tea I have experienced.

The flavouring is incredible delicate. With the orange blossom it takes on floral tones. With the orange peel there is a slightly sharp citrus twang. Together those elements work hand in hand to make a delightful tea.

Despite the presence of the floral like tones within the tea, you do not feel as though it's a herbal tea.

This blend is incredibly refreshing and I predict that this will be my go to tea over the summer months when it's warmer. It's almost as refreshing and thirst quenching as if you had drunk a bottle of water. Yet, at the same time, it's comforting for a slightly chilly evening - certainly the best of both worlds, I must admit.

Considering I am on the WeightWatchers plan, there is, due to the lightness of the orange, a almost dessert like quality to this blend.

On the Whittard website it said that this tea is best drunk alone, but I think it would go well with a lovely piece of lemon cake or a light and fluffy cupcake.

This is perfect for afternoon tea with friends, perfect to give away as favours at a wedding and perfect to serve in your finest bone china!

I am, perhaps, a little biased considering my love for all things orange, but honestly, I have to say that having tasted some dreadful orange tea's, I appreciate this fully for it's delicious, natural qualities. It's refined delicate taste and the way it's been masterly blended.

So, I became a Whittard devotee, and I remain one. I've yet to be disappointed with any of their tea's. And I think, once you've tried this, you won't be either!

When Words Have To Be Enough ...

Recently I've been generously given a Macbook by my mum. And my genius elder brother, Stephen, has managed to upgrade it and fix a few things.

However, I'm finding it very difficult to add photos to my blog on the Mac. So, for the time being, till I can work out a solution, you'll have to have photograph-less blogs.

I'm sorry, but I do hope you'll still enjoy my tea musings.

Thank you for reading!


Marks and Spencer: Purple Tea With Blueberries

Hello everyone! It's been a while. After several major computer issues caused me to be unable to blog I am happily back to where I love to be. Writing about tea.

The first tea I have chosen to blog about is a wonderful, glorious little blend that I found in Marks and Spencer. Now, I will admit, that I never really saw Marks and Spencer as the go to place to find a nice blend of tea. Well, it's not the first place most people would think about unless they wanted a everyday type of tea.

Recently though, I've been really surprised about what this little hidden tea gem actually has in stock. Their Empress Grey blend is more than a equal to Twinings Lady Grey. Their fruity Christmas tea brings a refreshing change to the typical Christmas spice that is available at the festive time of year.

During a visit earlier this year to Nantwich in Cheshire to visit my best friend we found ourselves browsing Marks and Spencer food hall to fill some time before the afternoon school run. Naturally, whilst she was looking for treats for the children, I wondered down the tea aisle and saw that they had a few teas that were selling on a reduced price.

One of those teas was this glorious Purple Tea With Blueberries. Sadly, I cannot link to the item as Marks and Spencer do not sell tea online.

This full bodied tea comes in packs of fifteen silky pyramids, which, are filled with a generous amount of tea. As soon as you open the interior plastic packaging, the juicy aroma of blueberries fills the air. Recently I have tasted many teas that contain fruit and found them lacking, both in taste and aroma, but this tea is mouthwatering even before you've made a cup!

You may be wondering why this is called Purple tea. Well, the tea used in this blend is from Rwanda and their leaves are special because they are actually purple! Now, you can actually bring out the purple colour in this tea by adding a dash of lemon. Sadly, I've not yet been able to try this out but I will do, shortly!

When preparing this tea it's best to use freshly boiled water. I have made this tea several times and by using reboiled water it does tend to bring a bitter, slightly tart element to this tea which isn't very enjoyable so freshly drawn and freshly boiled water is the way to go with this blend. I also found that by being exact in the amount of time you infuse this blend (two minutes is perfect) will help you avoid a astringent cup of tea.

This tea is so pretty to watch as it infuses. It's colour darkens almost by the second and you are left with a dark red coloured tea. No milk is necessary with this tea, as it will ruin the flavour of the blueberries.

If you haven't tried Rwandan tea before you'll be in for a treat. It's very robust, full bodied and extremely strong. However, at the same time, it doesn't have the malty element that tea from a area like Assam can have. But it is because of it's strength that  you have to infuse properly - it does have the tendency to go bitter and it does have a slightly bitter edge anyway as part of it's natural qualities. So remember the two minute rule!

Due to it's strength it's incredibly satisfying and I find it perfect to have after I've got in after a long shift at work because it does give you a refreshing lift, not something that every tea gives you. It does tend to boost my energy as well. It would be perfect to take to work with me, however, as it cools it can go bitter. This tea needs to be taken hot!

What makes me REALLY love this tea is the addition of the blueberry flavour. Now, it's not often that I have experienced blueberries in a black tea. It tends to sit better with white tea. But Marks and Spencer have really created a lovely tea that is full of the juicy flavour of the fruit. And even though this tea is strong, the blueberry flavour is not lost either. It's well balanced blend and the two flavours are well matched, also.

I think this blend is for you if you like your tea strong, with a slightly delicate edge. It may not be for you if you like a more delicate blend, or if you are used to drinking your tea with milk.

An important lesson I have learned with this tea is never to be judgemental. And I had been judgemental thinking that Marks and Spencer tea wouldn't be any good. When, in fact, almost every blend that I have tried have been utterly delightful.

So when your next in Marks and Spencer do check out their tea aisle, and in particular, their wonderful Purple Tea With Blueberries! I'm positive you won't regret it!