Monday, 28 June 2010

Japanese Tea Ceremony Photos

I love the way how in this one, subtle colours are picked out and that you have to really, really look to see them.

This one is my favourite. She looks like she is concentrating, yet very serene. I also love the crazy colouring used- why be delicate when you can go Day-Glo?

Two of my obsessions are tea and Japan. I think that these pictures capture that perfectly.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Earl Grey Challenge- Day 4

I woke up stupidly early for a Sunday morning and decided to take advantage of the cool temperature to have a sneaky cup of Earl Grey. Clipper is one of my favourite tea brands for many reasons; good, clean tastes, Fairtrade and they sell Alice in Wonderland themed tea.

I also love the artwork on Clipper boxes. It's a fairly new design, but I just think that it's simple and elegant (I always like to pretend I'm elegant, until I bang into something.)

The first thing I noticed when opening this box was the smell. Put simply, it smells like sunshine- citrusy, heady and fruity. Just the thing when I'd got up at 6.45.

The taste is fantastic- smooth, with the balance of tea/bergamot just right. Neither taste dominates, which means that the flavour is just right for a summer cuppa. The tea is tinged by a soft citrus flavour that sort of travels to the back of the throat. If I knew how to talk about wine, I suppose I would know how to describe that. As it is, I'm just a tea geek... The aftertaste is pleasant, slightly 'sticky', but in a good way. As in, the taste is so lovely, you don't mind it hanging around for a while. Just like its packaging, Clipper Earl Grey is simple, elegant and sophisticated. Yum.

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Interesting tea things...

So, it's very warm here, too warm for me (I drank some tea at work the other day and felt like I was melting inside...) Because I love looking at tea and tea accessories as much as I do drinking it, I thought I would show you some really cool stuff:

I love this Owl tea set from Stash Teas. But then, I just love owls. I think it's pretty cool and would cheer me up on a rubbish morning!

How cute are these Oriental tea cups? They come in a range of colours and are just so sweet! Not sure how much tea you would get into them, but you'd be stylish drinking from them (there is also a matching teapot..)

I use DIY teabags all the time for loose tea- they're great as you can just sling them on a compost heap or in the garden (tea leaves are very good plant food) I also find that metal strainers are a bit of a faff to empty and clean and can also leave a metallic taste in some lighter teas.

Finally, I love this print, which is available from Etsy- perfect for a tea-lover's kitchen!

I shall be posting lots of tea reviews later today and tomorrow. If you've seen any cool tea stuff or interesting teas, email me. I'd love to hear from you!

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Earl Grey Challenge- Day 3

Today's tea comes from The Rare Tea Company, who kindly sent me a sample of their gorgeous British-grown Earl Grey tea. The leaves are grown on an estate in Cornwall and provide an interesting contrast to the mass produced leaves in many varieties of tea. Knowing this, it is understandable that you will pay a bit more for this tea. However, I highly recommend it.

The colour is a gorgeous amber, which is somewhat lighter than that of the last two teas. The smell is a subtle bergamot that is lighter than some other 'brash' EG teas. I instantly liked this. I don't like my tea to be overwhelming.

Then we get to the taste. Normally, I would expect an Earl Grey to have a strong, overwhelming flavour. This one has a sophisticated flavour, smooth and unpretentious. It's the kind of Earl Grey that I expect Charles Grey would have drunk in the 1830s. Overall, the tea and bergamot oils are balanced so finely that the taste is light, sweet and  luscious. I would probably drink this in the afternoon with a nice bit of cake and a chat with some friends. I would only save it for the friends I really, really like though; it's much too special to hand out to anybody!

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Earl Grey Challenge- Day 2

So, after yesterday's disaster, I'm back for another go (it's like Rocky, just with tea leaves instead of, er, boxing) Today's tea is from a fabulous Etsy seller Teaman. Tim is a really nice bloke and I've bought many a tea from him. It's good to support indie tea blenders.

Anyway, back to the tea. It's a black tea with a sharp, citrus smell. The smell is somewhat sweet, without smelling chemical-y, which some bergamot extracts can do; i.e. more Glade Touch and Fresh than smell of the Orient.

The taste is strong and robust, with a smoky aftertaste. The taste on first sip is highly perfumed, but not overpowering, with lovely clear notes of bergamot. It may take a bit of getting used to if you are used to other types of EG, especially weaker tasting ones. It is worth the experiment though, I promise. This is a particulary excellent tea for mornings, as it's a bright, sunny flavour that should wake you up a little bit, even after a heavy night. The tea goes down smoothly, without any of the 'stickyness' of flavour that is sometimes accompanies EG.

Overall, this is a good Earl Grey for the seasoned EG drinking, especially because the tea and bergamot balance each other out delightfully.

PS- apologies for lack of photos, camera not working. Today's mug was spotty!

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

An annoying interruption

So, today was going to be Earl Grey Challenge- Day 2. I had the tea all ready to go until I realised that I'd finished the milk this morning and had forgotten to get some more. Sigh.

So I'm drinking a very nice tea that I will tell you more about another day...

Monday, 14 June 2010

Earl Grey Challenge- Day 1

So, the way this will work is that over the next few weeks, I will try at least two varieties of Earl Grey a week (I don't want to commit myself to more a week, otherwise I'd probably lose all sense of fun...)

Tonight's EG is a classic from Twinings. It's the first brand I tried, when I was on holiday at my aunt's aged about twelve. I remember thinking how amazing the taste was; I'd never drunk anything like it. So this is an old favourite and a good place to start. However, I will maintain a sense of objectivity and keep an open mind as to other types.

I generally brew my Earl Grey for about 3-4 minutes and add milk until I get a colour similar to the one below (apologies for poor photo and used teabag):

It's actually more golden in tone than shown in the picture.

The smell is floral, although I wouldn't say that it's strong. On first sniff, there is the bergamot, followed by the undertones of, well, tea (or tannin, I suppose).

The taste is smooth, although the bergamot seems to be easily lost against the stronger, malty taste of the tea. This was satisfying, but not so much as an Earl Grey especially, but as a tea in general (does that makes sense?) Also, I found that the after taste was slightly sticky, cloying at the back of the throat. This left a bitter after taste, which was slightly strange.

However, it's a very traditional Earl Grey and, because of this, very familiar and very comforting. I think all tea has a time and a place in which it's meant to be drunk and this is no exception. It's the kind of tea I would be desperate to have on a stormy autumn's evening after battling the elements to get home. It's soothing and calming, everything a good cuppa should be...

New look and Earl Grey Challenge begins!

I decided to tart up the blog when I saw the background- reminiscent of a lovely old tea shop! What do you think?

Also, when I get home from work tonight, the Earl Grey Challenge will begin, which I am very excited about (is that sad??) Please don't forget to add any suggestions in the comments, or email me here. Any comments about tea or the blog welcome!

Fun Earl Grey fact: When EG was first developed, it was considered dangerous for ladies, as it apparently caused 'inproper impulses'! Hence Lady Grey was born...!

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Yorkshire Tea- Decaffinated

I normally don't 'get' decaff (especially coffee- surely nobody drinks it for taste alone?? What do I know, I'm allergic to the stuff.) but have been having issues sleeping recently, particularly on a Sunday night. So I decided to try the Yorkshire Tea decaff.

I grew up in Yorkshire, so I have a soft spot for anything from the county of the White Rose. Saying that, I can't remember ever drinking YT, although I must have at some point. So, in a fit of provincial pride, I decided to see what my homeland could offer.

YT has a smooth, strong taste that mellows into an almost creamy aftertaste. This is strange, but not unpleasant. The taste reminds me of the type of tea served up in fish and chip restaurants at the seaside. When I was a kid, tea with fish and chips was almost compulsory for the grown ups.

I've found that decaff has made a good bedtime drink, but I'm still not sure I would buy it; I may stick to herbal teas for bedtime. But for a traditional cuppa, and for those simultaneously fond of 'builders' tea' and sleep, you can't beat a bit of Yorkshire Tea. 'Ee by gum, etc etc.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Your Favourite Tea

I have had a rubbish day today. The weather has been horrible, work has been boring, I'm tired and I have to go food shopping. When I get home, I fancy a nice cup of Earl Grey or some 'everyday' tea, to soothe the blah-ness of the day.

What tea makes you feel better?

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Palais des Thes Green Tea with Vanilla

So, another Palais des Thes tea- another green one too. I have recently tried two vanilla green teas, this being the main one. The other I will write about at a later date. This is the one I have in my mug right now!

There's something very soothing about vanilla. It's a byword for 'nice', 'calm' and, dare I say it, 'boring'. However, I've found that vanilla in tea can transform something perfectly ordinary into something very, very lovely.

Like many of PDT's green teas, this is a Japanese tea and is very smooth and without a cloying aftertaste. What makes this special is the actual pieces of vanilla pod in the tea. They're tiny, but they pack a punch when the tea is brewed. The smell is heavenly and reflects the taste- a sweet (but not sickly) vanilla with a quality that can't be gained from simply using vanilla essence. I've found in the past that some 'vanilla' teas can have a slight 'Play-Doh' taste(!) and it's nice to find one that is pleasant to drink.

There's a lovely sweet aftertaste, which means that drinking this tea is a complete joy, especially on a hot day...

Monday, 7 June 2010

Clipper Organic Everyday Tea

I'll admit, I often get made fun of by friends, family and co-workers for my love of 'strange', 'posh' and 'weird' teas- and I do enjoy a good perfumed or exotic blend. But I'm also the first to admit that a good old fashioned everyday tea is essential too. Today was one of those days that started wrong (by ignoring my alarm and getting up ten minutes before I was due to leave for work- fun), was wrong in the middle and a bit at the end. So my idea of heaven was getting home, eating Turkish Delight, sticking Doctor Who on the TV and a nice, unpretentious cuppa.

I got ten bags of Clipper Organic Everyday Tea to sample after signing up for their newsletter- I probably wouldn't have specifically chosen organic if I was in a shop, although I have bought regular Clipper teas before and always been happy with them.

The tea brewed to a nice amber colour after about three minutes and a bit of milk. The taste is smooth and pleasant without any of the nasty tannin-esque after taste that 'normal' tea can sometimes suffer from, even if it hasn't been overbrewed. The flavour is not sweet and is quite subtle- handy for not suffocating anything else you might be eating, but enhancing the flavour.

I'm not sure whether the 'organic' label has any affect on taste, but I can say that this tea is a fantastic companion when paired with Doctor Who and Turkish Delight...

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Milford Unser Home-sweet-home-Tee

This is a German tea and I must admit, it smells gorgeous! (My German unfortunately only extends to singing a few Christmas carols and counting rabbits, so I had to have the translator out for most of this review, so apologies in advance for any shaky translation.)

It's a black tea flavoured with a blend of pear, apple and almond. I didn't add milk to this one and I think the tea benefitted from this. On first tasting, the pear flavour is very apparent. Interestingly, the taste mellows and becomes a highly perfumed, sweet flavour that is an absolute delight! The apple and almond are not very present, but this is not a bad thing, as fruit teas can be quite overwhelming.

I couldn't find a European seller on first look for this tea, but a range of Milford Teas are available on an Austrian website. I am very tempted to try some more from this range!

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Earl Grey recommendations...

So, I just got back from visiting my family in Yorkshire and, I must confess, that I didn't do much tea tasting. I did however decide that I want to do a super-duper Earl Grey tasting comparison. So, can you tell me your favourite Earl Grey tea and where I can get it? I hope to do the tasting in the next few days...

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Twinings Orange and Cinnamon

Cinnamon is one of my favourite flavours and I enjoy its wintery taste in tea (there's something about cinnamon that screams 'Christmas', which is fine for me whatever the season!) so I was intrigued to try this tea that was sent to me by a friend in Austria.

First things first, to some eyes, I may well be a tea heathen. I put milk in pretty much all of my black teas. This is just personal preference and I know others prefer it without. Cool. However, this black tea probably needed a bit of dilution. The orange aroma practically smacked me in the face as soon as the water was on the bag. It wasn't a 'nice' orange aroma, more an orangeade smell, which was confirmed by the taste. Although those who like citrus tea may well enjoy this (and maybe Twining's orange flavour works better in their herbal ranges), the cinnamon was completely overpowered. And that's hard, because if cinnamon was a person, it would be the flirty showoff in the room. In this tea, it was overshadowed by a younger, flashier upstart.

I'm not sure whether this is a mainland Europe special blend; I have been unable to find a sample of this on the British website.