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