Lockdown Loose Leaf Love


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I’ve been so lucky during lockdown to have received some stellar loose leaf tea selections from some tea people who really care – about their customers and the planet. I really value the tea companies that share the love of what they do, do it with love and create experiences with their teas. That personal, caring touch makes such a difference, and having a wide variety of blends and tea treats has really helped while staying at home for months on end. Time for a tea break?

Unboxing the beautifully packaged Jai Tea with bright pink paper and inspiring quotes
Unboxing the beautifully packaged Jai Tea

Jai Tea Jewels

Jai Tea sent me so many wonderful loose leaf teas, that I have paid it forward and sent some of them to friends and family. Being shielded, it’s a lovely way for me to show I care through the magic of tea! I feel it’s only right to share the love they put into these lovely teas and enjoy a virtual tea break or two with my loved ones. I know some of my friends have been bitten by the tea bug now too and have been enjoying some of the lovely tea treats.

Jasmine, founder of Jai Tea, is clearly passionate about tea, travel and providing luxury food and drink experiences for her customers – that certainly shows in the beautiful website, luxury products that are clearly crafted with care, and their engaging social media posts. Her customers obviously appreciate it, too – I see so many lovely reviews of the Jai tea and food gifts. They do some great competitions over on Facebook, so have a go – you might win something very special!

I love Jai Tea’s branding, look and feel – especially the romantic names for the loose leaf tea blends, elegantly written in calligraphy on the packets. Wrapped in fuschia pink (my favourite!) paper, with the brand’s logo gilded on the tissue paper, beautifully boxed and including inspiring quotes in their thank you cards within, it’s quite the treat to unbox these teas and survey the tea adventures before you. And there are adventures to be had all around the world from your teapot – Parisian Nights, anyone? Or revisit a bygone era with blends such as Queen Victoria’s Promenade. Very nice with some old fashioned violet and rose creams, by the way…

I felt it was proper to brew these teas in some of my vintage and more decorative teapots and serve in my vintage china, setting the mood for relaxation and inspiration as I write at my desk, or get carried away with a good book. Bliss! The innovative ingredients alongside the loose leaf teas were flavourful and all natural, something that made a real difference to the subtlety of the flavoured black tea blends and received a big thumbs up from me. I loved the flower petals – violet, rose, bergamot, cheery blossom – mixed with top quality loose leaf tea and other soothing ingredients.

Jai Tea's romantically named On Behalf of My Love, a cinnamon black tea
Jai Tea’s romantically named On Behalf Of My Love, a sweet, comforting black tea with cinnamon.
Discovering new tea with Bruu
Discovering new teas with Bruu

Bruu Tea Brewing Discoveries

I was talking on Facebook and Instagram last week about the tea adventure approach and the caring ethos of Bruu Tea that shone through its packaging, messaging, and loose leaf tea selections. There are tasting and provenance notes for each tea and tea region featured in the monthly tea subscription box, giving you the opportunity to discover new and different teas with every box. There was also a style of tea to suit all tastes, from more traditional strong black teas, to fruity and tropical tea blends that suited the summery weather we had during Spring’s lockdown. Along with the heartfelt message from the company’s head Tea Taster, Scott (what an amazing job!) to bring cheer and encourage us to stay safe during the Covid-19 pandemic, I liked everything about my Discovery Box and really support and salute Bruu as a brand. You may have seen the “Tea-Rex approved” stamp of approval on my Instagram and Twitter feeds recently! Have a look at some of the photos of the box and its contents on there – great stuff!

Unboxing the Bruu Tea Subscription Box to with a personal message from Head Tea Taster Scott during the pandemic
Finding a heartfelt message from head tea taster Scott in my Bruu Tea box.

Stir Me Tea Turns It Tropical

Stir Me is a recently launched Kenyan loose leaf tea brand, with stunning packaging and branding, innovative Kenyan tea blends and a friendly, helpful face, Reena, at the helm. The Stir Me strap line is, “Better tea… better conversations” – how appropriate! A local company, based in Twickenham, they hand delivered a wide variety of teas to me, including some creative, soothing chai blends and summery selections, perfect for the changeable weather we are experiencing this summer! Featuring an elegant Orange Pekoe black tea, turmeric chai, Persian Chai with rose petals and cardamon, there was also a selection of tropical summery tea blends, Mango Mania, and the Pina Colada white tea blend. Again, there was a loose leaf tea to please all tastes and some real favourites of mine in there, such as rose petals and black tea based blends.

The tea boxes feature colourful patterned packaging and fun branding, reflecting the friendly, community-focused and fun ethos of the tea brand. I was so delighted to try these teas and to meet Reena briefly from the window when she dropped the teas off. On that note, check them out on Instagram. Lots of lovely reviews and stories capturing the vibrant branding and tasty teas. Better tea… better conversations…

Sunny selection of Stir me teas with bright, colourful packaging
My sunny selection of Stir Me Kenyan teas

I also received my loose leaf tea selection in a very pretty and practical mini shopper bag, which I have been using to carry all my bits and pieces around when heading out to the garden to enjoy the sunshine and a tasty tea. Helps me to get away from it all without going any further than my garden path, all while shielding in quarantine. you can find them on the West London Hampers website, too.

Stir Me Tea Natural Fabric Mini Shopping Bag saying Hakuna Matata
My lovely little bag from Stir Me – Hakuna Matata!

Hakuna Matata, everyone!

Drink tea, enjoy life, and don’t worry…

Rachael XX

Happy Virtual National Tea Day!


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?


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

A spectacular start to Chinese New Year

Take a trip to the #LandofLuck without leaving London.

I’ve teamed up with Air China to share with you a true taste of China – perfect timing to ring in the Chinese New Year.

Celebrate the lucky Year of the Pig and perhaps land yourself a little bit of luck!

I hope you enjoyed my last post, where I had the pleasure of being able to share some top tea tips, thanks to Air China’s #TeaUpYourYear campaign. I hope to share more of her thoughts on tea and time out in a future post – watch this space.

Chinese Tea Ceremony - tea being poured from blue and white tea ware

Chinese Tea Ceremony

An event to remember

In this next, sponsored post, I’m excited to announce that the lovely people at Air China have kindly invited me to experience their exciting, immersive Land of Luck event as an exclusive preview, before it opens to the public on 9th January! I’m so looking forward to seeing what it’s all about!

Book your own bit of China at The Bargehouse

You can book tickets to the event, which is taking place all day on 9th February at The Bargehouse, OXO Tower Wharf, at London’s South Bank, for only £10 – tickets and more information are available via Air China’s Facebook page and on the link above.

Sessions will start every 30 minutes from 10am – 10pm and you will have an hour-long taste of China and how to shower yourself in luck this most auspicious of years, The Year of the Pig.

Your exclusive sneak peeks

I’ll be sharing some sneak peaks of the show and what you can expect to find at the event in the run up to 9th February, but you can look forward to all this:

Tea Sessions – hosted by The Tea Whisperer, to teach you all about the art of tea making and luck

Chinese ‘Lucky’ Knot Tutorial – learning how to create a Chinese ‘lucky’ knot that you can gift or simply keep for yourself

A Lucky Menu – everyone will enjoy the following six Chinese dishes created by Chef Ching He Huang

Flavoured Prosperity (fish)

Wealthlings (vegan dumplings)

Rolls of Abundance (spring rolls)

Longevity Noodles (noodles)

Lucky Snaps (crispy seaweed)

Rich Ribs (pork ribs)

Good Fortune Fruit – (apples for peace and clementine’s for luck)

Beverages – chose from a Chinese beer, Jasmine Green Tea or soft drink

A wishing tree

I wish, I wish…

Make your own luck…

I hope you can join me in celebrating this Chinese New Year in style!

*Exclusive Tea with Rachael ticket offer! 10 lucky readers can get half price tickets to the Land of Luck event! Enter tea19 as a discount code on the ticket booking page.*

Until next week – wishing you lots of luck, tea, and joy in a healthy and happy new Year,

Rachael xx

Tea up your year!

Happy New Year! I hope everyone had some time to enjoy the festivities, drink plenty of lovely tea and enjoy some treats. Today is known as “Blue Monday”, as festive fun fades away and the realities of January set in. But, rather than being blue, it’s time to think positive! It’s actually a fantastic opportunity to take stock and decide what you want out of the year ahead – I find my thoughts lend themselves to this at this time of year. It’s an ideal time to get in touch with your dreams and work out how you will achieve them. And, as usual when contemplating life, my thoughts turn to tea…

In good company

It appears I’m not the only one – according to the UK Tea and Infusions Association, 165 million cups of tea are drunk in Great Britain. So why not combine your cuppa with your plans and resolution for 2019 and take this “opportunitea” to support your lifestyle, health and wellbeing?

Chinese Lucky Cat for Chinese New Year
Wishing you luck and good fortune for the year ahead – land your dreams this Chinese New Year with the help of the humble cup of tea, Air China and tea expert, Lera Zujeva

Time to Land your Dream

Chinese New Year is coming up in February and that’s another ideal time to look back on the year that has passed and look ahead with excitement and enjoyment at the year ahead. Air China has also turned their thoughts to tea, and have teamed up with tea expert, Lera Zujeva. This year, the Chinese Year of the Pig, symbolises fortune – and what better way to set your intentions for a year of good fortune than weaving this into your everyday cuppa? As part of Air China’s Land your Dream campaign, they will explore how the art of tea making can help body, mind and spirit – and how it is about much more than just your usual cup of builder’s brew.

Tea and wellbeing go hand in hand

Regular Tea with Rachael readers will know that I often talk about the benefits of tea for health – both physical and mental – and now is a great time to find out how your cup of tea can make you feel happier and healthier. Tea can play an important part in prioritising self-care and mental wellbeing. As we have touched on before, research has also found that drinking black, green or oolong tea may offer physical health benefits, such as protection from cardiovascular disease and cancer, reducing the risk of kidney stones, strengthening bones, teeth and boosting the immune system.

Combining mindfulness and the ritual of tea

Chinese culture brings tea to the forefront in treating the body and mind and helping improve overall wellbeing. Lera explains: ‘Tea is so much more than just a drink, it calms the mind and brings harmony to our life. In Chinese culture medicine and health is viewed in a holistic way, Mind, Body and Spirit and are key to achieving a complete state of balance. Tea is this miraculous plant that works on all three levels. My teacher Wu De says: ‘Most diseases nowadays are either caused by stress or aggravated by it, so anything that calms the mind and brings peace and harmony into our lives, is conducive to health. I personally have experienced it in my own life and am dedicated to relaying this message to others.’’

Lera has an inspiring story, having achieved what many of us dream about: she left her 9-5 job to follow her dream of travelling the world to practise the art of tea and now specialises in how mindfulness and tea can be combined to create moments of peace in an increasingly hectic pace of life. As part of her collaboration with Air China, Lera’s has shared her top tips to help create balance in your life with tea:

Lera’s top tea tips for a happier and healthier life

  • The brewing ritual. However you choose to make your tea, it is an opportunity to pause, to stop, to exhale and have a few moments to yourself without the need to run and do and think, connecting to your senses. You will really notice the benefits, as this is when you truly engage in the moment, which can also lead to more inspiration and ideas.
  • Make sure your tea break is just that: a break. If you have more time, switch off your phone and decide that however long your tea break is, you will fully concentrate on the ritual and yourself. This means no phones or distractions – by fully connecting to the experience, you can recharge and create a sense of peace and harmony. 
  • Timing is everything. In the morning, it is better to have darker stronger brews, while afternoons are better suited to lighter teas. Take inspiration from British tea traditions and enjoy a strong assam brew in the morning and lighter teas like Darjeeling First Flush in the afternoon. This will help connect your body and mind to how it ebbs and flows throughout the day.
  • Pay attention to the seasons. The benefits of the tea ritual change from season to season. In winter, it is important to enjoy more warming teas like black tea or dark roasted oolongs.  When summer comes, switch to cooling teas such as green, white and oxidised oolong teas.  This will help maximise the holistic benefits. 
  • Brain function. Tea can enhance how your mind works. For example, wild Sheny Puerh can help provoke creative thinking thanks to the unique blend of stimulating teas. GABA Oolong, on the other hand, can have a calming effect, preventing over-excitement of the nervous system, helping bring clarity and rationality to your thinking. 
  • The Yin and The Yang. Although it contains caffeine, tea has a different effect to coffee. It is released into the bloodstream slower, and its effect is longer, resulting in a more even energy experience.  A unique amino acid called L-Theanine increases alpha brain activity, promoting relaxation without drowsiness, resulting in being alert, focused and energised from the caffeine, but also relaxed, content and inspired from L-Theanine.

You can watch Lera’s video with Air China here.

Lots to look forward to

I’ll be talking more about tea and health in the coming months, as well as joining in Air China’s Chinese New Year celebrations, which are coming up on 9th March.

Lots to look forward to… Until then, sit down, breathe, relax and enjoy that cup of tea.

Why not share some of your dreams for the year ahead with me, too?

Rachael xx