Thursday, 20 November 2014

Devon & Cornwall Road Trip

Just incase you need cheering up from the cold, I thought i'd post-up a couple of snaps from a trip to Devon and Cornwall a couple of months ago, just before the leaves turned!  It ended up being another tea adventure...



Dartmouth - WOW!
Our year of remembrance.  This tank was dug up from the waters off of Slapton Sands when it was used as part of a training exercise for the Normandy beach D-Day landings.  Although the training at this beach must have been a scary and awful time, the beach is beautiful. It has a lovely long stretch of sand parallel to the road, which now makes for a wonderful scenic drive with the window down.

I tried to have a look around the Tregothnan Tea Estate, which is the only Tea Estate in England, but they don't do tours of their tea facilities unfortunately. They did offer an Afternoon Tea with a tour of some of the gardens but apparently not a lot to see in the way of tea - and name dropping Tea Street blog didn't help!  I can only hope this changes in the future as i'd love to see the tea being grown and processed.  Anyway, not to be disheartened, we headed for the Eden Project, which as you know is a family-friendly, environmentally-conscious gardens with huge biodomes housing plants from around the world.

This is embarrassing; we were walking down a path passing (what I thought was) some bushes and didn't think too much of it.  Then all of a sudden I looked closer and it looked very much like the pictures of tea i'd seen, "hang on a minute" I thought.  It was a funny zoom-out on face moment when I realised I was stood in front of a hill of tea!  I was so happy to finally see some in real-life after all, without having to board a plane!

The Real Thing!

Into the domes...  My favourite was the rainforest biodome - and when I say rainforest, I mean huuuuumid! I think Cairns was the last time I felt this kind of humidity and luckily there is a cool room at the top for people who need a rest. 

Explorers and Tea

Our last night, with a lovely campfire to end the trip...

I bought some Tregothnan Afternoon Tea at the Eden Project shop that I cracked open at home.  It's a blend of tea leaves from the Cornish Estate along with leaves from Darjeeling. A light, peachy tea with nice full leaves.

Thanks for reading :-)

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Bea's Vintage Tea Rooms

If a vintage tea street is your thing, then check out Bea's Vintage Tearooms between the Assembly Rooms and Fashion Museum on Bath's Saville Row.  Friends were excited to have a home-made afternoon tea surrounded by stylish 1930s and 40s decor, but I note the range of loose leaf teas that you don't always find at some homely 'Gran' style tearooms. 

This picture is igniting my sweet tooth!

The attention to detail is amazing and I just LOVE these ration-style menus!  I love dressing up and vintage finds so this tearoom looks great, but I also think it must be quite a treat for older folk who actually remember this time.  What a change Britain has seen, from rations to fast food..!  If you love a vintage tearoom or two, find details on Bea's Vintage Tearoom website here.

Monday, 6 October 2014

The London Tea Co!

Hi, here's my second instalment to The London Tea Company reviews and also a competition below!  There were lots of fun ethical tea blends to try here:
Breakfast teabag, Breakfast Tea, Earl Grey, Vanilla Chai, Darjeeling,
Green Tea Tropical & White Tea and Pear 

The Earl Grey is a blend of Fairtrade tea from Ceylon and the Nilgiris in South India (Nilgiris apparently means Blue Mountain). Added to this is the typical, but natural Bergamot, lemon pieces, orange and grapefruit peel. This is a good example of EG but would appeal to the stronger bergamot lover, as it overpowered me a little and I would have liked even more citrus to balance it out. A piece of lemon could really improve it for me, so i'll do that next time.  It seemed to have a caramel tone to the tea base, which was a lovely surprise to note.

Vanilla Chai is a high quality second flush Assam "grown on the banks of the Brahmaputra River" blended with the traditional spices but with Vanilla to create "a thick and rich brew".  I liked this one a lot; it had a lovely vanilla aroma and tasted smooth and creamy, with a slight spice that didn't dominate.  It was a bit like semolina pudding and i'll definitely drink more of this.

Green Tea Tropical with leaves that are steamed during the Sencha manufacturing process, which ensures a "delicate freshness is retained". The green tea leaves are blended with real ginger and and natural fruit flavours that gives a smooth, peachy tea that's soft on the palette. I don't think it would be for everyone though and I think I may personally prefer tropical flavours with my cordial drinks. 

White Tea Pear Tatin is new to me as I don't think i've had Pear Tatin before.  The tea has a nutty, almond aroma and a taste reminiscent of marzipan - or Battenburg cake as my other half says! I wouldn't guess there was pear present but it was a nice and smooth tea.  White tea is a treat too as it's supposedly the purest form of tea due to it's simple drying processing.

Darjeeling Tea was surprisingly nice considering the leaves in the bag weren't too big.  This one comes from the Ambootia Tea Estate at the foothills of the Himalayas in Northern India.  Considered the Champagne of teas and this one is a second flush Darjeeling, which is probably why it's slightly more affordable compared to very expensive first flushes.  It was a nice tea with the peachy light taste i've come to expect from Darjeelings, but it didn't have as many complex layers to it that some do.  I also found it a little bitter, so be careful brewing, perhaps leave before the boil.

Tea bag vs. Tea temple

London Breakfast Tea can be bought as a handy box of sachets, or as tea temples as seen above. The standard bag that comes in these boxes of sachets was a nice surprise as it was really nice with an almost floral taste.  It was also very smooth, which was best for my tastes as I don't like tea that's very strong. The pyramid tea is a blend of malty Assam from the banks of the Brahmaputra River in Northern India and a Kenyan tea in the Highlands of the Rift Valley. Possibly because of the Assam, this was a lot stronger and therefore needed more milk to balance it out. The flavour was richer, warming and likely to be bitter if it's a strong brew, a good classic blend though.

As I mentioned before, The London Tea Company have renewed their packaging, to make a really colourful fun brand with London iconography.  Each flavour of tea has a slightly different design, but since i'm a cat lady i've highlighted the Earl Grey cat packaging in blue!

You can visit The London Tea Co. on Facebook and Twitter.  All of these teas can be found on The London Tea Company shop website where they can also direct you to local stockists. For a guide, the tea temple boxes are around £3.99, so about the same as most teas of this type.  However, yo can use this exclusive VOUCHER CODE: londontea (one word) to receive a 20% discount on your first order!

Giveaway:  Two lucky tea lovers can win a set of The London Tea Company's 'Everyday' tea range! Simply type onto your facebook wall, twitter or instagram and say what your favourite type of tea is (or one of, if there'a a few) with the hashtag #myteastreet to enter! Make sure posts are set to 'public', Piccies optional,  "builders tea" will be accepted.  Competition closes this Friday 10/10/14.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Do you have a Kindle?

I just wanted to write a post about reading, and my Kindle in particular!  If you've visited my Pinterest page before, you'll know that Tea Street blog has a board dedicated to books and reading (please feel free to send recommendations!).  In my opinion, nothing goes better with a cup of tea than a book, apart from maybe cake!  I've been really escaping into some books recently, and have been so grateful for my kindle, so I thought I should say a few words on it.  

I love books, I love the smell of them too,  and I don't mind judging them by their cover.  With this in mind it took me a while to commit to the idea of moving to reading electronically.  It seems that most things we use now require a power supply and it seems like a shame to add books to the mix.  I was worried an electronic device would lose the romance of (grabbing the air) 'the book' by not having a proper wedge of pages in my hand.  I started to visualise a world without bookshops or libraries and it seemed very sad! 

On the other hand, I realised that I had more books than shelf space at home and considering I like to read, I thought it may be more environmentally-friendly to buy one electronic device over many books that require paper, wood and trees. 

I decided to come to a compromise and now use my Kindle for most of my reading but will buy books every so often if they have photos in them or are my favourites that I want to display.  Deep down I want my own library but one has to be realistic!  I also have an iPad, which has the kindle app on it.  This means I can import my books onto that device as well and if there's two of us, we can both read downloaded books.  However, the Kindle is better for reading because it's dedicated to that purpose and if I put on an iPad, i'm more likely to find myself looking at emails!  Also, the reflective surface of the iPad outside in the sunlight can really get in the way of reading clearly.

I'm really glad I bought it and I like the idea that I can click a button and have a book instantly, especially if i'm going away somewhere last-minute and don't have much time.  I also found the kindle store to be very good value for money, which I can access with the Kindle itself.  But most of all I like the privacy and that I can read a book without anyone judging me for my embarrassing choices!

The kindle I have is a couple of years old and it doesn't have the inbuilt light.  I find this a problem at night if I want to read in bed when others are asleep and therefore think the newer generation with the backlight would tick all the boxes.  I've put a link to it below incase you're interested in buying a Kindle and it's also on my shopping widget on the right menu... Enjoy! 

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Yummy Herbal Teas from London

Who:  The London Tea Company.  I first came across this brand when I was taking (yes taking) Afternoon Tea at the Donnington Valley Hotel in Berkshire.  I've been in touch with the London Tea Company since and they have offered Tea Street an abundance of teas to try, possibly to promote their new-look packaging with a choice of fun tea bag envelopes or biodegradable pyramids. They have also moved completely over to Fairtrade and are members of the Vegetarian Society - not bad!

I've decided to split my reviews up and therefore this post is about the Herbal Tea products they offer. Within the selection is a glorious mix of; 'Lemongrass Ginger and Citrus Fruit', 'Moroccan Mint', 'Rooibos', 'Peach and Rhubarb' (I hope this isn't horrible!), 'Pure Peppermint', 'Zingy Lemon and Ginger', 'Raspberry Inferno' and 'Camomile'.  

(Biodegradable Pyramids)

Lemongrass Ginger and Citrus Fruit:  This is a refreshing blend of flavours with a citrus taste that gives it a hint of 'Starburst' sweets!  I found it to taste a little like straw, possibly because of the lemongrass and it's more serious than some of the fruity teas to follow.

Moroccan Mint:  I was told at my tea tasting event that the Moroccan Mint tea is traditionally taken with a tonne of sugar so I tried it with and without and liked it better with!  They're on to something there, but not sure what my dentist would say.

Rooibos:  Kindly reviewed by blog-friend The Digital Photo Wizard for Tea Street blog "This is what I am having this morning. This time with a small amount of milk added so it's a mid-brown colour in the cup. Very nice taste and very pleasant aroma. Quite strong and distinctive flavour. I like it and rate it 8/10."

Reviews continued:
(Envelope Teabags)  These envelopes are quite snazz and are quite convenient if you like your tea to be mobile, since you could put a couple in your bag to take to work, or on holiday etc... 

Peach and Rhubarb sounded several shades of wrong to me so I was reluctant to try it!  However, I have a serious sweet tooth and was more than pleasantly surprised to like this tea.  It's deliciously sweet and indulgent and reminded me of those boiled sweets with rhubarb in them and I think it mixed well with peach. I'll definitely drink more of this, it's a fun flavour.  

I tested it on some family as well but they didn't seem quite as sure, so it goes to show how different everyone's tastebuds are! "Nice easy drinking tea, very fruity, but honestly could have been any red fruits!! Smelled a little of Rhubarb, but didn't really detect any peach, probably the rhubarb overpowered it.  Don't think I would buy this more than any supermarket brand."

Camomile is unfortunately not on the group photo because we drank all the tea by accident!!  Sorry!  I had caught a virus, which had made me incredibly nauseous and this tea with a bit of sugar was just heaven! I didn't really love camomile before so i'm converted not only for the taste but for its relaxation and stomach settling properties.

Pure Peppermint tea surprised me as I didn't think one peppermint tea could really stand out from any other.  However, I found this to be smooth and creamy and more refreshing than some other brands and with a lasting mint aftertaste.  Another person I tested it on said it had a strong flavour "even though I didn't leave leave the Teabag in the water for very long" but found "it tasted just like my supermarket brand of peppermint tea!"

Raspberry Inferno tea is actually a blend, with hibiscus giving it its bright red infusion.  This one is quite nice and refreshing but a bit more bland to my tastebuds than the other flavours.

Zingy Lemon and Ginger is a lovely tea, especially if you like ginger and it can be used to settle the stomach as well as for its anti-inflammatory properties.  I don't think this is quite a nice at the Lemongrass, Ginger and Citrus fruit blend though and this is either because of the full leaves in the tea temples or the citrus notes.

Thanks to The London Tea company for sharing their teas with us!  All of the teas in this post can be found on their website here as well as a few more that I will review later as well.   If you like what you see then you can also follow them on Twitter and like their Facebook page!

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Tea Tasting Gift Experience!

On Saturday, I attended a Tea Tasting afternoon as a gift experience through Red Letter Days!  What better gift for someone like me who loves tea??  It was hosted by Master Tea Blender Alex Probyn from 'Blends for Friends'; a company he created in order to make people bespoke tea blends - another great gift idea!  It was held at the exquisite Langham Hotel in London where a lovely lady greeted me at the lush floral reception area and took me to the room set-out for the event and where I joined eighteen other tea fans.  The people attending were of all ages and there was a fairly equal mix of males to females.  It's how i'd imagine a wine tasting experience to be (without the alcohol!), as opposed to a fancy afternoon tea geared more towards the girls!

The tea tasting experience ran for just over three hours, but with such an abundance of information, the talk was rich in content and the time flew by. Alex's humour and down-to-earth style entertained us with the history of tea, info about different types of tea and how they're produced, and then of course the tea tasting, with an amazing selection to try.  I was a bit worried beforehand about having lots of cups of tea and over-doing the caffeine, or wearing out the carpet with too many trips to the lavish bathroom there, but the tea samples were offered in (without a better description) shot glasses! Phew. 

The funniest, most embarrassing part of the afternoon was learning how to slurp tea properly, just like the masters would.  I had no idea tea was tasted in this way and it's actually quite abrupt!  I gave it a go, but didn't seem to quite get the violence of it so have since been practising at home!  I don't know what my cats think.

I'm so grateful for this tea tasting gift experience and found it to be a perfect compliment to what i'm doing here with my blog.  There were parts i'd read a bit about before (having tried to teach myself) like the growing conditions and 'flush' system, but there were also things that i'd never grasped that became clear by having it explained in person by someone with a wealth of knowledge.  For example, the tea plucking and manufacture process has always gone a bit over my head, but is clearer now! 

I feel this event could also make a great introduction to tea for absolute beginners or even coffee drinkers and I can't recommend it highly enough.  The gift experience cost £50, which I think is very reasonable and although I went on my own, some people went as a couple, with friends, or with family.  I also think this would make a fun event for clubs or organisations that want to try something a little different. 

At the end of the session, we had a chance to create our own tea blends (and name them!) and i'm looking forward to receiving mine in the post soon!  I wonder how my tea blending will fair?  If it's really good maybe it will be the new Tea Street blend, who knows.

Anyway, I don't want to say too much more as I think you should see for yourself, so please see the links below and happy tea tasting!

For more information see the Red Letter Days experience here
Blends for Friends website
Blends for Friends Facebook
Blends for Friends Twitter

Monday, 7 July 2014

Homemade Strawberry Jam!

I'd like to write a post in honour of my Grandad who sadly passed away earlier this year.  Before he was taken ill he had bought some strawberry plants that we later took on and re-planted in the hope of a few strawberries to enjoy in the summer.  

Starting to take off

The plants really took off and when we got back from France we were inundated with an abundance of strawberries we couldn't eat quick enough!  With the atmosphere of Wimbledon coming up, we decided to make jam out of them and have a lovely cream tea in the sun...!

The jam set really well 

It was a warm day so we decided on Iced Tea rather than hot tea and got these ready-made blends from Marks and Spencer; 'Peach, Camomile and Green Tea' and 'Lemon and Green Tea'.  They were lovely and refreshing and surprisingly light!

Cream Tea

We decided to keep the strawberries as whole as possible when we made the jam and they really kept their flavour for the scones. 

Cream first, jam second - it's the only way!  Cheers Grandad! xx

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

French Road Trip

You may have seen me on Twitter a few weeks ago asking if anyone knew of any good tea rooms in France due to an upcoming road trip.  We had a lovely time but there was so much to see that we didn't manage a single one!  Thanks everyone for your great ideas though and if anyone is travelling this way then please have a look at people's suggestions via the Twitterverse.  Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy these photos...

We found a lovely little cottage on the Owners Direct website in Josselin, Brittany that we rented for several days.  It was so cute and beautifully decorated in a French Country style...

Our little French friend...

The cottage was in Lanouee, a charming village to stroll around:

Trip out to beach on the Quiberon Peninsular - absolutely loved the natural beauty:

Back at the cottage: 

Once we (regretfully) left the little cottage, we passed through the medieval town of Vitre:

Then onto Le Mans for the Le Mans race car museum (Le Musee de 24 Heures), before the sun set in this beautiful town...

Tea and cars!

Next, we enjoyed a stroll around Paris...

View from the Eiffel Tower

I couldn't get a good shot of this amazing bridge 'Pont Alexandre III' because police were lined up awaiting Queen Elizabeth and Barack Obama for a D-Day meal!  We felt honoured to be in France for this day.

We stayed in Versailles and enjoyed our visit to the Palace

Found a Laduree counter there and bought a box of their signature blend tea!  

To Marie Antoinette's quarters (miles of gardens away from the King!)

Versailles town is also very pretty and we found a coffee and tea shop!  Love the tins...

The drive back to the ferry after a great break away; beautiful...

Friend on the ferry...

The best bit about getting home was that I could get my new Laduree tea out for a tasting!  

This 'Tea Melange Laduree' is their signature blend.  It is an elegant combination of black tea from China and Sri Lanka, citrus fruit, flowers, sweet spices and Vanilla and should be infused for 5 minutes in 95c water.  

This tea soooo good and I can't recommend it highly enough!  It reminds me of a spirited sugar-pop sensation like Katy Perry crossed with a graceful Princess, with more than enough sophistication on what is otherwise a fun, colourful flavour.  These macaroons aren't Ladurees own, but they are a perfect pairing.

I hope I can enjoy more of what Laduree has to offer in the future, perhaps with a trip to one of their tearooms!

  Well that's all folks!  I hope you enjoyed these photos and as I mentioned, we were in France during D-Day and therefore want to close this post with respectful remembrance.  Thank you.