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