Happy Virtual National Tea Day!

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Well, this year’s National Tea Day will be a little different. In previous years, I’ve celebrated this special day with tea loving friends at the National Tea Day events and visited my favourite local tea suppliers in Kingston, like the lovely people at T2 and Whittard of Chelsea, stopping off for a a moment of zen over a cup of green tea and to stock up on sweetly scented skincare and home fragrances at Rituals. It was often combined with an afternoon tea, leisurely local lunch or dinner with friends and family. And that’s what tea is all about, for me, bringing people together, a moment of calm, time to take for yourself and to enjoy the places, people and activities you love. It’s why I started Tea with Rachael.

Brave New World

Fast forward to 2020, and it’s a whole new world. So it’s a very different National Tea Day for many. But in some ways, this virtual Tea Day is reflective of my day to day life. I started the year enjoying some sunshine and reading on holiday, hoping it would be a good way to kick start my health for the year ahead. Unfortunately, I had not been back home long when I was struck with a debilitating virus, with extreme fatigue, shortness of breath and many of the hallmarks of a pneumonia type illness that were just not showing up in the tests I had in early February. It felt much like it did when I suffered from pneumonia and a blood clot on my lungs in early 2019, and I was pretty much stuck in bed, not able to even read all the lovely books I had received as gifts, or enjoy my usual activities.

Meanwhile, my poor Mum has been unwell with what we think was Covid-19 and my beloved cat of 17 years, the famous Max of my social media, died on the morning of my birthday. After losing much of last year to recovering from pulmonary embolism, it was a blow, to say the least.

Two months on and it’s time for tea

The one thing I could still enjoy while feeling so awful was lots of soothing tea, and I have been very fortunate to have been sent some stunning tea selections to keep me going and I have thoroughly enjoyed trying and tasting every single one – not something I always have the time to devote to that I would like! I am extremely grateful to everyone who has sent me tea to try throughout the years and I feel I am finally catching up on all my well-earned tea time!

Two months on, despite trying to rest and recover, I had to go to hospital briefly with breathing difficulties and they found that I had consolidation on my lungs from a secondary pneumonia infection. The paramedics and everyone at my local hospital were fantastic and made sure I was safe and well looked after during my short overnight stint. Antibiotics and lots of sleep finally seemed to do the trick, and I am now happily feeling much better, although still getting tired far more easily than before, which I suppose is to be expected.

Rachael enjoying afternoon tea in London before lockdown
Enjoying a gluten free afternoon tea in London long before the lockdown. Image credit: Yi Ling Huang

Life as I know it

So, life is much the same as usual for me with chronic arthritis, related conditions and their many foibles – good days and bad days; many days when I would like to be able to see friends and family or do something fun but I have to stay home and take it that bit easier. And I always have to be very careful of all the germs out and about because of my lacking immune system, so staying in the safety of my own home has been a relief on that front.

Time to bring people together – virtually

There will be many, like me, who find isolation not too far a stretch from the usual day-to-day. Not being able to see friends and family and have those occasions to look forward to, however, is a big wrench. Not being able to leave the house, even if you are feeling well enough, is also difficult, to say the least. But tea brings people together, and we are seeing that in a variety of positive ways in life in lockdown. Yorkshire Tea are bringing their own unique brand of news to social media; PG Tips are showcasing virtual tea breaks with friends and family.

The bigger tea brands are bringing what we have known for a long time to the public eye. It’s important to me to continue to support both independent and established tea companies that I have engaged with and enjoyed over the years throughout these unprecedented times. Being able to keep their businesses going online and spread some cheer through the wonderful world of tea is just what we need in times of uncertainty and sadness; but also solidarity, support, sunshine and smiles.

Loose leaf lovelies

People like Teasup, who are local to where I live and run by a husband and wife team of tea lovers, offer a selection of sustainable, high quality teas that taste great and you can order tea and all manner of tea goodies online. Cheeky Chai are quite local to where my Mum lives and are usually found beavering away at local maker’s markets and fine food fairs. You can buy their fabulous selection of teas online, too.

Ace Tea are a fun and independent London tea company known for their quirky branding and rather posh loose leaf teabags. Debonair Tea also provide a wide range of top loose leaf teas that you can buy online, and are run by lovely, friendly folk.

Niko Ceylon teas have a stunning selection of loose leaf teas from renowned tea estates and again are run by a passionate, tea loving team. You can get them online through suppliers such as Amazon, which is great if you are also ordering other essentials online.

A huge shout out to all the lovely independent tea companies that are working hard to keep going in the current climate and of course are keeping me going with lots of lovely tea. It really is a labour of love and it is very much appreciated.

Subscriptions to surprise and delight

Thinking of buying a gift for your friends or family? Check out the unique and beautifully packaged blends from Jai Tea. A luxurious treat to come through anyone’s letterbox. Bruu Gourmet Tea Club is usually right at the front of the queue celebrating National Tea Day and they offer a running monthly tea subscription box: beautiful packaged and complete with tea tasting notes. Everything you need for your own virtual tea tasting or to set the scene for a virtual tea party! More on these sensational subscription boxes soon…

Stocking up on teabags

If you want a huge selection of high quality teabags to keep you going while tucked up at home, try Dilmah UK and Ahmad Tea. Both have a long history of providing top notch teas and they do all kinds of exciting fruit, herbal and health-focused blends as well as classic English Breakfasts and Earl Greys. More on health helping teas in a future post, where I will discuss teas that can support your health and some that are designed specifically to give you an extra vitamin boost.

Clipper teas are known for their earth friendly attitude – perfect to mark Earth Day – and they have a cornucopia of teabags to choose from. They are usually a big part of National Tea Day celebrations in person, so have a browse online.

Stepping in to a Whittard of Chelsea shop and browsing the loose leaf teas, teabags and tea ware used to be a highlight of my National Tea Days. Why not step through the looking glass online, instead? Likewise, the wonderful world of T2 is available to explore online – you can learn a lot from the tea afficionados there.

Boofle mug saying lots of tea makes you very clever
Lots of tea makes you very, very clever – it’s true!



Tea time today

Today, I will be joining in some of the live online events that National Tea Day is putting on, having video chats with some of my closest, tea loving friends, and working my way through the wonderful world of tea that is Chez Rachael.

I started the day as usual with hearty breakfast brews. My recent favourites are malty, rich, loose leaf lovelies: Cheeky Breakfast from Cheeky Chai, Breakfast blend from Teasup and English Breakfast from Debonair Tea. Tried and tested teabag tea top ups throughout the day to get that same sense of earthy, malty richness include both the luxury silk pyramid and organic breakfast blends from Dilmah – which I genuinely couldn’t get enough of and hoovered up as soon as I got them – and Ace Tea’s Quintessentially English Breakfast – a classic.

When only a Builder’s Brew will do…

When only a good old builder’s will do, I have a very posh version in the form of Debonair’s Builder’s Brew loose leaf tea. People often laugh at the colour of my tea, as it more closely resembles a cup of coffee, but I like it STRONG! Teabag-wise, my favourite strong builder’s tea is Lifesaver Tea, in aid of the RNLI, which I always used to buy at local fairs and fundraisers but am delighted to find I can order it online for home delivery at a mere £2.50. Good tea for a good cause, just how I like it. I also enjoy a quick cuppa of Ahmad’s English Breakfast and Clipper’s Everyday blend anytime of day, anywhere, and my teabag tins are full of them. Honourable mention must also be made here to Hope & Glory teas, who have the most divine packaging, a good, strong breakfast blend and an infectious enthusiasm for all things tea, having met them at the last National Tea Day celebrations in person.

Afternoon tea

Afternoon tea and early evening treats include some gluten-feee biscuits, crumpets and, of course, Earl Grey teas – again, Dilmah comes up trumps for a subtle let flavoursome Earl Grey teabag here. Ahmad and Williamson also do good Earl Grey teabags, and you can collect the vintage style Ahmad tea tins and the Williamson tin elephants, like my very good friends and fellow tea loves do. For a much punchier pick me up of bergamot, Debonair’s Extreme Earl Grey loose leaf tea is wonderful, as are Ace Tea’s The Earl Grey silky bags. Regular readers will know I love a spot of lavender Earl Grey, and I was sent a delightful blend for my birthday by Leaf tea.

Sleepy tea

At night, I enjoy another lavender Earl Grey, a jasmine green tea or two, and have been recently drinking gallons of lemon and ginger and lemongrass and ginger teas with honey to soothe my still sore throat.

Enjoy a tea break or two today – and tomorrow…

I hope you all enjoy a good cup of tea, or two, or more, on this auspicious day for tea lovers. In my next tea explorer post, I’ll be reviewing some very fancy tea delivery boxes that will see you through lockdown and the stunning teas tucked inside them from Jai Tea and Bruu, along with some more detailed tasting notes on some of the great teas I’ve talked about today.

I’m having some technical issues with the website currently, so will post plenty of images and links in my next update.

Stay safe and have a great tea time today and every day!

Rachael XX


Has the UK fallen out of love with tea?

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I don’t think the UK will ever stop loving tea – here’s why…

I was asked if the UK’s love affair with tea is over today, as I was interviewed (18:47 minutes into the podcast) following Unilever’s decision to sell off PG Tips. In my experience, the British love of tea has only got stronger in recent years – but it is a very different world of tea that has emerged over the past 5-10 years. I think the UK continues to love tea for a number of very valid reasons, just in a different way to days gone by. Why?

I love tea

Favourite mug with a tea poem and gingerbread man tea steeper

 

1. Variety is the spice of life
There is much more variety of different teas available now. Healthy herbal blends have risen in popularity dramatically just over the past three years or so, as people look to tea to support a healthy lifestyle and make the most of all the health benefits available from drinking tea, such as green tea and matcha, and herbal tisanes.

2. Bye bye, builder’s brew!
The basic builder’s brew, that is, strong black tea, often with milk and sugar, while still surely a favourite drink across Britain, has fallen in popularity in favour of exciting new tea flavours, green tea, which is seen as being a healthier option, and healthy herbal teas. Loose leaf tea has become much more in demand than the humble teabag in recent years, as we strive to be kinder to our planet.

3. Sustainability and welfare
Consumers are seeking tea companies that are sustainable – those who are known for not testing on or exploiting animals, paying a fair wage and providing safe working conditions for their workers around the world, and tea companies that provide recyclable, compostable and sustainable teabags and packaging, as well as innovative ways to re-use tea paraphernalia, blend and brew teas.

4. The ceremony and art of tea
As well as the health lifestyle reasons, tea experiences have grown in prominence and popularity. The art of tea ceremonies, combined with meditation and mindfulness, is a new way of engaging with nature and bringing tradition into the new decade.

5. Afternoon tea treats are an affordable luxury
Then there’s the rise of the afternoon tea – themed afternoon teas have sprung up all over the UK, not just in the nation’s capital city, and this has become a tea experience and a special event that can be shared with friends and family. Afternoon tea now is on a whole other level to “popping round for a cuppa” like we used to do in days gone by. We don’t necessarily live near our loved ones in these busy times, so making tea time by way of a special afternoon tea into a sense of occasion, enjoying treats both savoury and sweet with your tea, is a great way of celebrating and catching up with others  – especially those who share a love of tea!

Why I will always love tea

Rachael raising a cup of tea at New York Plaza Hotel Palm Court

I will always love all kinds of tea

Personally, I still love a cup of builder’s black tea, but I like flavoured blends of both black and green tea, too, enjoy the health benefits of a wide variety of herbal teas and tisanes, and I really love a slap up afternoon tea somewhere nice with my friends and family.

I like to know the tea I buy is from someone who cares, that takes steps to ensure sustainability, fair trade and fair working conditions, and I like to support independent tea distributors, blenders and enthusiasts who share my love of tea in all its forms and all its glory!

Hope you enjoy the short snippet (18:47 minutes in…) of me sharing some tea knowledge and my opinion on the future of UK and tea!

Have a great weekend,

Rachael XX

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