Tea up your year!

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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

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

Shoes, Glorious Shoes

Give a girl the right pair of shoes…

Shoes by Shaherazad

The shiny, sparkly Shoes by Shaherazad

Well, the past few months have been a bit of a whirlwind, with birthday celebrations for family and friends, lots of hard work and a rather annoying arthritis flare-up! Rest and relaxation were much needed…

In the time when I have been out and about, I’ve been very excited to wear my new, sparkly and oh-so-shiny shoes from 18 Hour Heels from Shoes by Shaherazad. These beauties are customisable with their sparkly “shoellery” and perfectly at home either in the office or out on the town!

Shoe jewellery

Sparkling jewellery for shoes – “Shoellery”

The heels look fabulous – attracting many a compliment and “oohs and ahhhs” from my colleagues – and these sparklers go with pretty much everything in my wardrobe, so I decided to experiment to see if they really were comfy enough to wear all day and all night, if needed!

Out and About
I’ve worn them in the office during the day and out to work events in the evening, still getting home with comfy and blister free footsies! Top marks so far…

Birthday treats
I wore them for my Grandma’s 86th birthday celebrations up North in February, getting my “dancing shoes” on with my mum and grandma to watch Anton and Erin perform at the Liverpool Philharmonic! I wore them all day and night for my special birthday day out, which involved shopping, afternoon tea at the Ham Yard Hotel, more shopping, cocktails and a delicious dinner at The Ivy.

Silver skirt and black and gold heels

Shining silver and gold celebrations

I also wore my fabulous heels to birthday parties for both my sister in law and a good friend; again, very comfy to wear on the journey into the West End, throughout the evening and on the journey home. Admittedly, suffering from PoTS, I don’t stand up too much, but still do a lot of walking around and still have a 15 minute walk to my train each morning and evening on my way to and from the office and from any train back from Waterloo after being in Central London. Add that to a day in the office and anything after work, or before and after a night out, and you’re on your feet for more than you think!

Shoes by the fire at the Bingham, Richmond

Sparkling shoes and a warm fire

And my conclusions?
These shoes made me feel confident and fabulous, ready to take on anything that is thrown at me (uneven pavements, busy commute, crazy work days, you name it…!) Knowing that these shoes contribute to excellent women’s causes makes them all the more special to me. Being genuinely comfortable and beautifully crafted in the UK, whilst still undeniably stylish, makes them my top choice. But there’s much more to them than that. These are shoes with a conscience, designed to make a difference to the lives of women around the world. With 500 women helped so far and counting, the company aims to empower women globally and support women’s charities with every sale, through their partnership with Global Giving UK. Global Giving UK’s CEO, Eleanor Harrison, recently wore her shoes like mine (the appropriately named style, “Dream then Do”) to receive her OBE – what could be more fabulous or more inspiring than that?!

Please do take the time to check out Shoes by Shaherazad and the great work this company and its hardworking founder, Shaherazad Umbreen, are doing. What a fantastic enterprise!

Shoes and tea

Shoes and tea – a winning combination!

Time for tea?
In between stepping out and a much needed rest, I’ve been very lucky to try a huge number of fantastic teas – more on each and every one soon, but in the meantime, check out your exclusive Tea with Rachael discount of 30% off your first tea subscription box from the lovely people at Tea Tourist – just enter TEAWITHRACHAEL30 at checkout.

More great offers to follow soon, too – enjoy!

Rachael xx

Reuse, Recycle, Relove – Sustainable Fashion

Vintage Gap jumpsuit bought on Vinted

My lovely vintage Gap jumpsuit bought on Vinted. Photo credit: Yi Ling Huang

Vintage dresser for my vintage clothes and accesories

My vintage dresser to house some of my vintage clothing and accessory finds

I have always been a bit of a hoarder, particularly when it comes to fashion. I keep clothes and accessories for years and years, and often wear a mixture of old and new pieces, lovingly matched and coordinated. I do love to be “matchy-matchy” with coordinating colours across all my clothes and accessories! I have luckily not really changed size too much since my late teens, meaning I have been able to keep and continue using old favourites and bring them back to life with some new additions to the wardrobe.

 

I also love vintage fashion and buy a lot of it online, from like-minded ladies on Twitter, where a group of us meet up every wednesday at 8pm for #vintagefindhour, organised by the lovely Sarah-Jane Hosegood (find her on Twitter at @vintagefindhour or @vintagehomeshop), through using handy apps such as Vinted and Etsy, and regularly combing charity shops, vintage and secondhand designer clothes stores for vintage bargains.

I also love a nod to vintage styles, such as historical fabrics and prints from Liberty or the V&A. I was very excited to see that the V&A had recently collaborated with Oasis, one of my favourite high street shops, on a range of stunning clothes and accessories with vintage prints. I bought a number of pretty tops – my favourite is this silky electric blue number, which I have worn and worn!

Lovely blue top from V and A and Oasis collaboration

My favourite top from the beautiful V and A and Oasis collaboration

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is something that has been passed down to me through the generations: I have a very glamorous grandmother who always has beautifully matched and coordinated outfits, as well as a very impressive shoe and handbag collection – including a pair of shoes with Wedgewood heels from the 70s – with many items dating back through the years. My mum, also glamorous and youthful, also keeps her good quality items for many years and, like me, matches with new items or vintage treasures that she has a particularly good eye in seeking out.

1980s YSL jacket from a charity shop

Fab charity shop vintage find – a 1980s YSL jacket

While I love shopping and browsing fashion magazines, keeping and reusing my clothes and accessories has always been important to me. I’m a firm believer in reloving and reusing classic items and mixing fashions from different eras. And it’s stood me in good stead – everything comes back into fashion again (I knew I shouldn’t part with my super-flattering 90s flared jeans when skinnies took over – and I was right!)

These days, it is more important than ever to be eco conscious, so by reusing, recycling and reloving your clothing and accessories, this is a a real and easy way to be able to make a difference and contribute to the sustainable fashion movement. Certain high street shops are also now doing their part – H&M gives a £5 voucher for every bag donated to their textile recycling bin, where you can also – very usefully – recycle your unwanted household textiles. Marks & Spencer has a similar donation box and scheme to take your unwanted clothes. Both H&M and Marks & Spencer also offer Earth friendly ranges made from sustainable and organic fabrics.

I was recently interviewed as a case study for a national newspaper about using Vinted and some of the fabulous items I have purchased on there, taking some pictures and sharing some of my fab fashion finds – another post to follow once it’s been published! I also sell a number of items of clothing and accessories on there – adding some items every few weeks. I even managed to pay for our removals last time we moved house with the proceeds of my sales so far. There is a real sense of community among “Vinties”, and I have found it very enjoyable both hunting for bargains and selling a few of my own.

I also love the camaraderie within the vintage community. The lovely people who join #vintagefindhour each week are vintage enthusiasts across the spectrum – they all sell or buy vintage items, from antiques and upcycled furniture, to vintage clothes from the 1920s-1980s, to vintage china, crockery and homewares. I discovered this wonderful group a couple of years ago now – and, as well as finding a number of fabulous vintage bargains, have found some lovely, likeminded friends. We even try to meet together when we can for an in-person meet up, but I have yet to be able to make one of those with a pretty hectic schedule. Definitely next time, though!

Vintage patterns

Lovely vintage inspired patterns from Oasis

Vintage Chanel shoes and Oasis patterned trousers

Vintage Chanel shoes with brightly patterned trousers from Oasis

 

Until next time, why not embrace the joys of reusing and recycling your own wardrobe? It’s really good fun to rummage through your own clothes, bags, shoes, jewellery and scarves, and to rediscover past favourites or items that have come back into style. Even if you’re not interested in collecting or buying vintage clothes and accessories, by making the most of the wardrobe you already have, you may well find some undiscovered treasures, some fab new outfits, and who knows – perhaps the vintage of the future?

Wearing my blue V and A and Oasis top in London

Me wearing my favourite blue top out and about in London

Tea and vintage

Enjoying a nice cup of tea in my vintage Gap jumpsuit, bought on Vinted

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have fun!

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