National Tea Day Adventures Part One – A festival of tea at Fest-Tea-Val

Every day is Tea Day for me

One month on and I’m still revelling in the tea celebrations and tea adventures I enjoyed on National Tea Day. It was a triple whammy of tea for me on 21st April. I started the day at my amazing local shopping centre in Kingston, The Bentall Centre, where I visited my old friends and tea favourites T2 and Whittard of Chelsea for quite a few morning cuppas. More on that soon…

I spent the rest of the day at Fes-Tea-Val, which took place on 21st and 22nd April 2018. I so enjoyed National Tea Day last year, with so many fantastic tea stalls and tea tastings in one place and so many tea enthusiasts and experts all under one roof, aptly hosted at the fabulous Kensington Roof Gardens, which sadly no longer exist. I met some wonderful tea people (including catching up with old friends, like Tea People!) and enjoyed some spectacular tea blends and accompanying treats, as well as making friends with a few flamingos…

Fest-Tea-Val at Chiswick House and Gardens

Fest-Tea-Val in the tranquil surrounding of Chiswick House and Gardens

Fest-Tea-Val

This year’s National Tea Day festival, however, went way beyond expectations. The fabulous celebration of all things tea, cleverly called “Fest-Tea-Val”, perfectly complemented the tranquil beauty of Chiswick House and Gardens – a genuine and very unexpected oasis of calm in between Richmond and Central London. It was much bigger than I thought it would be – more like a food festival and just as much fun (if not more fun, as everything centred around tea!).

A time for friends and family

I visted on the first day, on National Tea Day itself, 21st April. A couple of my friends met me at the event and were just as surprised at the size, scope and scenery of Fest-Tea-Val. We made a point of visiting every single stall and trying as many teas and treats as we possibly could!

Par-tea time!

The Fest-Tea-Val was divided up into different zones, with something for everyone: Tea ‘n’ Treat Village was exactly what you’d expect – full of teas and treats. Tea ‘n’ Tipple Boulevard showcased some of the more grown up delights on offer, with tea cocktails and tea-infused booze.

There were over 225 providers of tea and treats at the festival, with everything from loose leaf teas, specialist teas, posh teabags, organic teas, detox teas, tea-infused beer and spirits and some tea-inspired tipples. I came home with all kinds of edible goodies – from cheese, to tea-infused gin, to tea of all kinds. I must say I was very excited by my tea-inspired haul, as were my friends. 

As well as enjoying all the tea, tipples, food and frolics, there was live music, baking demonstrations and numerous how-tos. We all learned a lot about tea, and there was even time for some relaxation in the Vitali-Tea Garden.

A fashionable festival of tea

There was even a tent dedicated to fashion, bringing together some of my favourite things: food, fashion, and of course, tea.

So many wonderful tea people

I’m going to try to do some special posts for the different tea companies that we discovered, but there are certain companies that really made it a fantastic day for us, and I’d like to give a little shout out.

Hope and Glory at Fest-Tea-Val

The fabulous Hope and Glory stand at Fes-Tea-Val

Where there is tea, there is hope…

Independent tea brand, Hope & Glory, were one of the sponsors of the event and had both a fabulous vintage inspired stand and a cafe area, right by the riverside. It was a peaceful spot to sit down for a bit and enjoy some top notch tea and tuck-boxes, resting our weary feet as we surveyed our tea purchases and enjoyed a quality cup of tea and a stunning view out over the River Thames. The Hope & Glory afternoon tea lunch boxes were made up by top chef, Cyrus Todiwala, in a special collaboration to celebrate National Tea Day, presented in the Hope & Glory vintage-style tin tea caddies. We were delighted to meet the team behind the brand, including co-founder, Bharat Chudasama, who is so genuinely passionate about tea and welcomed us warmly with a lovely Earl Grey and the tasty tuck-boxes. We enjoyed a lengthy conversation about tea and our shared love of good quality teas until we realised the Fest-Tea-Val was closing and it was time for go home. But that meant going home to more delicious tea – and maybe some of the tea infused boozy treats, too!


A fab festival atmosphere in stunning surroundings

It was a really fab day out all round, perfect for tea lovers and foodies alike. We were exhausted after all the tea adventures, but it was so worth it!

Thank you to all the lovely team at National Tea Day for inviting me and for putting on such an awesome event. True tea lovers!

I’ve so many other lovely tea adventures to share in the coming weeks – from more National Tea Day fun, to some fabulous teas and treats to try at home. Much needed after such a busy time!

I’m looking forward to many more tea adventures, too, now that the weather is getting so much better.

Until next time, hope you’re enjoying a cracking cuppa!

Rachael xx

The Great British Cuppa: Part One – How do you take your tea?

Winter is here and the festive season isn’t far away – time to cosy up with a cuppa…

Premium Earl Grey

A cosy cup of Earl Grey, anyone?

Winter is officially here! The golden Autumn leaves have almost disappeared, Halloween has been and gone, and the festive season is fast approaching. My thoughts are turning to cosy afternoons tucked up at home or in front of a fire in an atmospheric, historical or country house hotel, with a great pot of tea and a sweet treat!

As you would expect at this time of year, the days are getting shorter, the nights are drawing in, and it’s got a lot colder. So what better time to get really cosy with a good cuppa tea?

What makes the Great British Brew?

Mug of tea

A nice mug of tea – do you prefer a cup or a mug?

This month, there has been some fabulous research into the perfect cup of tea and the enduring British love affair with tea. With the importance of a good cup of tea and the tradition and ceremony of a properly made afternoon tea having a resurgence over the past few years, it seems our nation’s obsession with the perfect cuppa is showing no sign of waning.

Sykes Cottages have just completed a major piece of research all about The Great British Brew. Tea has inspired our artists and literary greats over the years, being the source and subject of many a famous quote. I’ll be sharing some of these as tea inspiration over the coming weeks.

They have also explored how the great British public likes to take their tea, asking 2,000 people in Britain about how and when they have their tea, with some interesting results:

  • Over half of British people take their tea white with no sugar
  • 84% of people in Britain drink at least one cup of tea per day
  • People drink more tea the older they get – 33% of Brits over 55 drink five cups or more each day. This compares to a figure of just 11% for 18-24 year olds
  • It seems our tea making abilities also improve with age, as 68% of those surveyed aged 55 or over claimed they made the best tea, as opposed to 41% of 18-24 year olds.
  • It may come as no surprise that we’re a fussy bunch when it comes to making our tea, with 59% of those surveyed saying they preferred to make their own cup of tea

How to make the perfect cup of tea

How to make the perfect cup of tea

How do you make the perfect cuppa?

With perfect timing, Whittard of Chelsea have just produced their guide to making the perfect cup of tea. It’s important to take into consideration the type of tea you are using, the temperature of the water, and what you are planning to use to brew your tea in. As big fans of tea will know, as a general rule, 3-5 minutes is about the right time to brew black teas, in freshly-boiled water, depending on how strong you like your brew. Lighter, more delicate teas, such as Darjeeling, white or green teas, should be brewed for no more than 3 minutes. It’s also important to remember that the water needs to be a little cooler for green and white teas, so don’t pour your water on these teas as soon as it’s boiled.

Have a look at Whittard of Chelsea’s useful and detailed guide to making the perfect cuppa.

How do you like your tea in the morning? Or afternoon, or evening…?

What’s your favourite kind of tea, and how do you take yours?

A nice, strong pot of tea

I like a nice strong black tea with the tiniest splash of lacto free milk or milk alternative

Do you prefer loose leaf tea or teabags? A rich, earthy Assam, or light, fragrant Darjeeling? Or perhaps a refreshing white or green tea?

Mine’s a nice strong cup of black tea with the tiniest splash of lactose-free milk or milk alternative, please!

Until next time – enjoy your perfect cuppa and a cosy corner in the cold – more comforting tea treats on the way soon!

Rachael XX

Tea at Tiffany’s – a bite of the Big Apple in Surrey

Twinings Tea, Audrey and Cat!

Tea at Tiffany’s – actually the very lovely Warren House!

New York is my all-time favourite city and my ‘happy place’, but I love my home in leafy Surrey, too.

A classic representation of New York, Breakfast at Tiffany’s is also one of my all-time favourite films. When I was last in New York, back in June last year, I bought a number of books inspired by both this iconic Audrey Hepburn film and the mythical status of Tiffany’s on Fifth Avenue – “Fifth Avenue, 3AM” and “Summer at Tiffany’s”. It’s making me long to go back to the amazing NYC again! More on my amazing trip to the Big Apple soon…

My Holly Golightly looks

My Holly Golightly-inspired outfit – and Cat!

 

My lovely friends at The Secret Tea Society, also huge fans of both Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Audrey Hepburn, recreated the magic of the film and paid homage to the wonderful Audrey in a Breakfast at Tiffany’s-themed afternoon tea, right here in lovely Surrey!

Lovely, peaceful garden

The stunning secret grotto garden!

I was so excited to put on my little black dress (a cute little number from Anna Sui, bought especially for the occasion and based on the outfit that Holly Golightly wears when she visits Sing Sing); my black patent kitten heel Jimmy Choos (appropriately purchased in Saks Fifth Avenue during my visit last June) and some fabulous jewellery (a very sparkly choker-style necklace bought for me by one of my lovely Sisters-in-Law a few years ago) for this most elegant of teas! I even put my hair up in a bouffant bun!

Taking with me Cat (not my real cat, but a very lifelike soft toy!) and raincoat in reference to the iconic final scene of the movie, I headed over to the stunning Warren House, the venue for our special event. Greeted warmly by the lovely lady at reception and our tea sommelier for the afternoon, I headed into the stylish sitting room reserved just for the ladies of the Secret Tea Society. The sun beamed through the windows and the French doors were open onto a secret grotto – an adorable cobbled garden and fountain, which led to the statuesque grounds, where other happy guests were enjoying sumptuous afternoon teas.

Choosing our Twinings loose leaf tea

Choosing our Twinings loose leaf tea at Warren House – spoiled for choice!

After a glass of Champagne and catching up with the fabulous Secret Tea ladies, we sat down to play a few games – a prize for the best representation of Audrey Hepburn/Holly Golightly (my lovely table-mate, Clare, won with her striking Holly Golightly party look!) and a quiz to see who knew the most fun facts about the film (my table won, naturally!) Our prize was a copy of the film and, of course, some delicious tea, from Kent and Sussex Tea and Coffee Company.

Lovely afternoon tea at Warren House

Delicious teatime treats at Warren House

Next, we chose our Twinings loose-leaf tea – I decided to try both the Darjeeling and Assam – two of my favourites and full of flavour!

 

Then we were delighted to see the fantastic spread appear before our eyes – delicate, flavourful sandwiches, dainty, melt-in-the-mouth scones, the most amazing mini cinnamon loaves, tempting cakes and sweet treats. After stuffing ourselves happily with as much as we could manage, there was stll plenty left to take doggy bags home!

The Tiffany's-inspired decorations I took home

Some of the lovely Tiffany’s-inspired decorations

We also each took home some of the beautiful decorations that our “Hostess With the Mostest”, Founder of the Secret Tea Society, Claire Worrell, had lovingly made: Tiffany-blue-green pom-poms, ladylike table flowers adorned with Tiffany-style ribbon and pearl decorations, matching feathers and shiny butterflies! I have mine proudly on display next to my Tiffany-coloured heart chalkboard in the kitchen.

What a wonderful way to spend an afternoon! I had such a good time, and it was tremendous fun not only seeing all my lovely Secret Tea friends again, but seeing everyone in their fabulous outfits. I also cannot recommend Warren House and the incredible team there highly enough.

Both an afternoon and an Afternoon Tea to remember! X

More tea? Don’t mind if I do!

teapotA lazy sunday afternoon meant it was time to try more of the tasty teas from my friends at Teavivre!  I chose a lovely strong black tea for my post-lunch brew, Teavivre’s Bailin Gongfu Black Tea.  A lunch of a hearty chicken sandwich and caramel cake bar called for a nice, malty cup of tea, and this pot of tea was just right for my relaxing afternoon cuppa.  A rich, earthy smell wafted as I brewed up a steaming pot in one of my favourite colourful teapots, and the tea has a soft, almost caramelised aftertaste.

Jasmine PearlsAs my evening cup of tea, I brewed up a little pot of Teavivre’s delightful Superfine Jasmine Downy Pearls Green Tea.  Jasmine Green Pearls tea is a firm favourite of a number of my fellow Secret Tea Society members, this is a truly relaxing and refreshing tea, with a lovely golden colour.  I just had to show it off in my little glass teapot!

On the subject of Jasmine Pearls tea, I recommend a rather naughty little poem – another favourite of the lovely ladies of the Secret Tea Society – by Britain’s Tea Poet, Elizabeth Darcy Jones, which can be found in her book, Distinguished Leaves.

On that literary and inspiring note, I will leave you to enjoy a nice cup of tea, too.  A good evening to one and all!

Rachael X

Library corner – Curl up with a great book and a cup of tea

I have a lovely big stack of books just waiting for me to dive into! I love to curl up with a good book and a nice cup of tea, come rain or come shine, and think the two go together hand in hand!  In the good weather, there’s nothing better than enjoying a great book in the sunshine and fresh air.  When it’s cold, there’s such comfort to be found in retreating to a cosy corner with a steaming cup of hot tea and a book, whether new or re-discovered.

books tea time

I have been working my way through the pile of fab books I got as Christmas gifts, and have also been bought some more beauties for my birthday.  Add to that the fact that I can never go shopping without buying at least one book, and the pile is ever-growing!

Over Christmas, I channeled a vintage vibe by reading Nancy Mitford’s “Christmas Pudding” – a fun, festive, vintage read!  And I particularly like the cover, featuring some fabulous vintage clothes and cloche hats!

One of my very good friends, of course, knowing my love of books, bought me “Ex Libris” for Christmas, a book for true book lovers!  It was just the right book for curling up with in the cold and reading all in one go!

I absolutely love Mr Selfridge and am delighted that it’s part of my Sunday evening routine once more!  While I was eagerly awaiting the launch of the second series, I got in the mood by reading the book that inspired the TV series, “Seduction, Shopping and Mr. Selfridge”!  I love the historical context, the pioneering nature of Selfridge’s store – like them being the first British store to have cosmetics at the very front counter for all to see and try – and the historical and vintage references, from the costumes, to the replica advertising, to the Guerlain perfume and Yardley face cream!  I have to say, it has replaced Downton in my affections these days…

Another fashion and shopping-themed book, about a topic close to my heart, is “Green is the new black”. I have always felt passionate about recycling clothes, whether re-using and up-cycling your own wardrobe, or buying quality vintage and charity shop finds. I have always mixed in my wardrobe a combination of high street and charity shop bargains, good quality vintage and favourite designer classics. I think they all complement one another and I like to dress to feel good about myself. This book covers so many elements of this, from…

With this in mind, I picked up the beautifully-bound “How to tie a scarf: 33 styles”, which looks like its cover has been bound with a luxury silk scarf. I have just had a complete sort-out of my wardrobe, including accessories, and found I have so many lovely scarves in all the colours of the rainbow and an array of fabrics.  I really must find new ways to style and wear these scarves, so this book should come in very handy!

On the subject of style and fashion, I received the gorgeous “Parisian Chic” by Ines de la Fressange as part of my birthday goody bag from one of my best friends.  This is just the kind of book I like to curl up with and dip in and out of while taking a tea break at home! Fashion, style and shopping tips always inspire me, and I like books that you can always refer back to.  The same friend and I are also planning a girly trip to Paris soon, so it’s both a practical and pretty book in planning for our trip!

Novel-wise, I’m also savouring every word of Joanne Harris’ “Peaches for Monsieur Le Curé”, the next sequel to “Chocolat” after “The Lollipop Shoes”.  I loved both “Chocolat” and its first sequel – the colourful, cleverly-drawn characters and the strong sense of sight and smell that Harris conjures up in her books really transport you into the world that she’s writing about, and I always find myself glued to her novels from start to finish!  Knowing I will soon finish this fabulous book, I also recently bought her collection of short stories, “A Cat, a Hat, and a Piece of String”.  It was when buying this book in Bath when I visited a few weeks ago that I discovered I’d just missed the author popping into the local Waterstones, by a day!  Such a shame!  I will have to keep my eyes peeled for her next book tour…

Also on the reading list is Philippa Gregory’s “The White Princess”.  I loved the whole Wars of the Roses trilogy: “The Red Queen”, “The White Queen” and “The Kingmaker’s Daughter”, and also really enjoyed the BBC TV series inspired by these books, so I am looking forward to delving back into that turbulent period of history and the magical, yet realistic world that Gregory creates in her books.

Tree decorations

Speaking of history, I really enjoyed Susanna Lipscombe’s Channel 5 series on Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn.  I have always been fascinated and inspired by Anne Boleyn and the Tudor period in general. I am planning a trip to Hever Castle, Anne’s family home, at Easter, and can’t wait!  I also really want to stay at the stunning Thornbury Castle in Gloucestershire, where Henry and Anne stayed in happier times and which features on the programme.  Understandably, this stunning hotel books up pretty quickly, so I will have to plan that well in advance for another special occasion!

Right, I’m off to have a pot of tea and settle down with another good book…