Summer is finally here – BBQ and bubbles

Looking ahead to a sparkling summer

Summer by the river

Summer by the river – time for a BBQ

It’s taken a while this year, but it looks like summer is finally here! Having been out of action for a while, I’m really appreciating the simple pleasures of June – fresh air and sunshine; being able to sit outside on the balcony, and the odd stroll in the along the local riverside.

As the weather gets better, thoughts turn to lazy Sunday afternoons, sociable summer evenings and, of course, barbecues.
On a healthy but limited diet on account of many allergies and intolerances – as well as avoiding alcohol for the most part – how do you make summer party food and drink more exciting? Thankfully, some fabulous people have helped me find a way.

Tasty tipples

My tea lover friends always appreciate the opportunity to create fruity iced teas and tea cocktails in the summer. I like mixing fruity herbal teas with fresh berries, mint and ice; or lemon and ginger teas with slices of fresh lemon and ginger. For tipsy tea cocktails, a tot of  gin, vodka or even Chambord, pair beautifully with a tangy herbal tea.

After meeting the lovely people at Green Lady at National Tea Day, I discovered a sparkling tea drink that is a worthy replacement for alcoholic bubbles, but is also a healthy fizzy drink that can be used as an alternative mixer or be mixed into tasty cocktails. Everyone’s a winner!

It’s difficult to describe the taste of Green Lady – the light freshness of Darjeeling tea is evident, sitting alongside a sweet (but not too sweet), herby, gingery flavour. It’s the perfect something that little bit different to offer to my visitors for any BBQs this summer.

Going green

Green Lady sparkling tea drink

Green Lady sparkling tea drink

I was excited to try Green Lady, not least because it is made just doors away from where I used to live some years ago, on Green Lanes, North London. A health-conscious, calming beverage, the brand is synonymous with chill-out time and the calmness that summer is all about. They’ve been having a very eventful weekend for Urban Food Fest with free yoga (#Namastea) to spread the word about this interesting new tea-based offering.

They’re also doing a great summer offer at Ocado right now, until 13th June –
4 bottles for £5. Bargain!

And in the true spirit of #Namastea, I’m running a competition on Instagram and Twitter to win your very own crate of Green Lady! Simply follow and like @greenladyNo1 and @TeawithRachael or tag us in your best “sparkling summer” pics to be in with a chance to win.
(The competition closes on 13th June and is in the UK only.)

A Man Box for a proper BBQ

My husband and I have been eating very healthily for various reasons, and have been experimenting in the kitchen with different herbs and spices, to make healthy dishes more interesting. While I’m allergic to peppers and chillies, he’s a big fan of a bit of spice, so I thought it would be nice for him to try out one of the fabulous Man Boxes from the lovely folk at Ross and Ross Food – perfect for the BBQ and a gourmet gift in time for summer!

Man Box from Ross and Ross Food

Man Box from Ross and Ross Food

With spicy rubs and sauces to complement all types of meat, fish, and even grilled vegetables, there’s something to make every dish a little bit different, perfectly complementing my “something different” BBQ theme. Hubby has also been trying the spice rubs and flavoured salts out with baked potatoes, soups and salads to add a bit of a kick!

There are boxes of all shapes and sizes, including extra big Man Boxes with a range of cured meats – and all manner of meat rubs and sauces. If you’re looking for something to kick start your BBQ season, unique Father’s day gifts, or something special for the man in your life, check them out!

The fab peeps at Ross and Ross Food are also offering a special discount for Tea With Rachael readers: 10% off all food gifts – just quote rachael10

I’ll be sharing some BBQ recipes to match up with the fabulous Green Lady and Ross and Ross Food treats over the coming weeks as BBQ season begins with a bang – watch this space!

Until then, enjoy the sunshine and wishing you a sparkling summer!

Rachael xx

Ross and Ross Man Box and Green Lady sparkling tea drink

Green Lady sparkling drink and a Ross and Ross Foods Man Box ready for BBQ time

Rachael’s Adventures in Tea Land

Tea Adventures with Rachael: Part 3 – Adventures in Tea Land

Happy National Tea Day!

I’ve lived and breathed tea in the run up to and during #NationalTeaDay and I’ve loved every minute of it, although it’s been a busy few days! Each adventure needs its own mention, starting with a local tea adventure…

Adventures in Tealand with Whittard of Chelsea, Kingston

Alice in Wonderland

Whittard’s Alice in Wonderland collaboration

I was invited to the Whittard of Chelsea store at The Bentall Centre in Kingston, where, like Alice, I was drawn into a wonderful land and enjoyed more than a few cups of tea! Whittard have updated their Alice in Wonderland themed teas and tea ware for 2017 and it could not be more appropriate. I treated myself to a Cheshire Cat mug – as a Cheshire kitty myself! I love the Alice tea ware and hope to build up my collection over time.

Cheshire Cat Mug

The Cheshire Cat mug from Whittard

A tea for all seasons…

For a brand with an excellent pedigree and long heritage, Whittard has adapted and moved with the times and weathered all manner of economic and political crises to remain an oasis of tea loving heaven in the busy modern world. The colours, sights and smells when you walk in are all cheerful and comforting – like stepping into a treasure trove for a tea lover like me!

I thought I knew quite a lot about this well known tea brand, having been a regular shopper here and in other branches for many years; and having collaborated on some blogs in the past; but I learned a lot more during my visit from the lovely Beata, their resident tea expert, who was very well versed, not only in all things tea; but very knowledgeable about their own impressively wide tea range (over 100 teas, including the special edition blends, don’t you know?) and also knows a lot about their other tasty treats, such as coffee, hot chocolate, tea-inspired biscuits and even tea-infused jams and preserves.

Colourful teas and tea ware - including the Moringa Bamboo

Colourful teas and teaware at Whittard of Chelsea

Beata opened my eyes to some herbal blends and limited edition teas, too, such as the Moringa and Bamboo herbal tea – something I would never usually go for, but which was absolutely delicious and is undoubtedly incredibly good for you. I will definitely be popping in to buy this limited edition tea for as long as it’s available!

Whittard Tea Gift Selection

One of Whittard’s Tea Gift Selections

My magic number is…

I also learned that the numbers on the packaging of every Whittard tea have hidden meaning, whether denoting the date that blend was introduced, the number of different ingredients, or even social lucky numbers for the Whittard team.

A nice, personal touch; and also demonstrates their genuine love of their tea and how it is produced.

We also discussed my usual favourites and the different blends that would suit my tastes – strong, black teas; comforting chai; zesty Earl Grey blends; and anything with vanilla or cinnamon!

I came away with a much greater knowledge of the different teas available, my Cheshire Cat mug, some lovely goodies and even some vanilla flavoured coffee to share with my husband, who (shock, horror!) doesn’t drink tea! I also have some great tea party ideas for my forthcoming tea party fundraisers for Marie Curie and others (more on that in a later post…) thanks to the friendly team.

What a lovely way to spend an afternoon and perfect to celebrate #nationalteaday – thank you to the lovely team at Kingston’s Whittard for the warm welcome and a very informative visit.

More adventures to come…

In the next part in my tea adventures series, I’ll be sharing some of the tasty treats I’ve been trying in honour of National Tea Day celebrations, some of the wonderful tea people I met at The National Tea Day Festival at Kensington Roof Gardens, then more very British tea adventures through the ages with the lovely people at Twinings.

Until then, Happy Tea Day once again – hope you’ve had a few good cuppas today!

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

Enjoying an extended tea break…

Time for a tea break…

Need More Tea

Need More Tea?

Well, I’ve been enjoying an extended tea break, resting the old arthritic wrists from all the typing and enjoying some leisure and relaxation time to celebrate my birthday. I also had a wonderful birthday afternoon tea at the award winning Ham Yard Hotel – more on that in another blog post…

It’s given me time to try some really wonderful teas, and I’m going to share each of them with you over the coming weeks. A huge thank you to all the lovely people at Teakruthi, Varietea, Tea Tourist, The True Tea Club, Ahmad Tea, Whittard of Chelsea, Tetley and My Cup of Tea for my fantastic teas – trying your teas over the past few weeks has made me really happy, and I’m really looking forward to sharing my thoughts and recommendations.

I’ve also had some lovely birthday presents, including some fantastic mugs and tea gadgets, of which I am sure you will approve!

Finally, I’d like to thank and give a big shout out to the wonderful Shaherazad, creator of 18 Hour Heels, for the comfortable, shiny, sparkly and downright gorgeous shoes I’ve been wearing again and again on my adventures – much more to come on those, soon, too.

18 Hour Heels

Shiny, sparkly shoes by Shaherazad – my fabulous 18 Hour Heels

Until next then, hope you’re enjoying a lovely, relaxing cuppa and having a tea break of your own.

Rachael xx

Float like a dragonfly, enjoy a cup of tea!

A delightful evening of tea tasting and appreciation

I recently attended what was arguably the best bloggers’ event in the whole time I’ve been writing Tea with Rachael! It’s taken a while to put together this post, as I really wanted to do it justice, so I hope you get a sense of it all when reading.

The lovely people at Dragonfly Tea invited a small group of bloggers and tea enthusiasts to a very special and exclusive tea tasting masterclass with the family run tea brand’s very own Georgia Ginsberg, carrying on the grand tea tradition of her father, who founded Dragonfly 15 years ago, and her great grandfather, who introduced the people of the UK to Rooibos. I’m already a big fan of Dragonfly’s Rooibos blends, having a large box of both the Vanilla and Earl Grey Rooibos teas on my desk at work, so was very excited to try more of their teas.

The Tea House Collection

The beautiful tea and floral displays at the Dragonfly Tea event

The Tea House collection
The event was in honour of the launch of the new Tea House Collection, celebrating rare and precious teas such as Oolong, Matcha, white tea and the finest quality green tea, created to commemorate Dragonfly’s 15 year anniversary and with the aim of bringing them to a wider audience and making them more accessible, as well as including great blends of some old favourites and classic teas, such as English Breakfast and Earl Grey.

Earl Grey cocktails

Delicious Earl Grey G & Tea cocktails

Tea cocktails
Held at the Waitrose Cookery School in the regenerated, revamped and downright trendy area surrounding London’s Kings Cross, we were welcomed with some creative tea inspired cocktails. My tipple of choice was the very stylish Earl Grey G & Tea, but there were also other delectable choices of Oolong Island Iced Tea or the alcohol free Green Tea Mojito Cocktail. The cocktails were complemented with a selection of tasty and moreish canapés, again, inspired by tea. The lemongrass and ginger tea meringue choux were a particular hit!

Lemongrass and ginger tea meringue choux

Lemongrass and ginger tea meringue choux

Time for tea…
Georgia talked us through all the Tea House blends and we tasted each one in a very cute little glass cup! I was very surprised to find that I really liked the green tea – never usually one of my favourites – but this was light and refreshing. I was also reminded of how much I enjoy a good cup of Oolong – the delicious Eastern Beauty Oolong is one of the tea choices that I took home from the evening.

Garden Mint and Verbena Tea

Tasting the Garden Mint and Verbena

After hearing about the fascinating history of the Dragonfly brand, the different teas, carefully selected tea blends, their uses and – very importantly – how they should be brewed, we were asked to put our tea tasting skills to the test with a blind tea tasting. I teamed up with the lovely Nicola of Little Vintage Star and we were two of the three ladies to guess them all correctly! After a tie breaker question about Japanese tea, I was delighted to win the competition, and was stunned to receive the most beautiful bouquet of flowers!

Beautiful bouquet of flowers

The wonderful flowers I won for the tea tasting competition

My Tea Chest Number 1 Candle

My Tea Chest Number 1 Candle

How to make a girl feel special…
As well as the stunning flowers, we were each given the cutest branded marshmallows, our two choices of our favourite Tea House Collection teas, an adorable glass teapot/cup, an origami dragonfly and the very exciting Dragonfly birthday candle, Tea Chest Number 1 – an exclusive preview of the Dragonfly scented candle created by renowned perfumers, Alberto Morillas. The candle gives off a comforting scent of tea, cosy winter fires, and general loveliness! I’ve been burning mine since the evenings have got colder, while enjoying a good cuppa, and love it!

Everything about the Dragonfly brand is one of quality – each aspect is carefully and thoughtfully presented, reflecting the company’s heritage and ethos. Each tea is blended with love and the floral branding and packaging are so pretty!

Delicious Dragonfly marshmallows

Yummy Dragonfly branded marshmallows

What a fantastic event and a really fun and fascinating way to spend an evening! Huge thanks to Georgia, all the team at Dragonfly and the lovely people at Babushka Communications for organising and for inviting me.

The Tea House Collection is available online now and Dragonfly Teas can be found in a number of good supermarkets and health food shops. The Tea Chest Candle Number 1 will be available in time for Christmas and would make a fab gift for a lot of people I know! You can register as an Early Bird for when they’re available – there are options to buy the candle or you can get a lovely, boxed gift set that also includes two Tea Collection teas of your choice.

Georgia mentioned while we were learning all about the different teas a phrase that is used among Dragonfly’s tea suppliers and all the different people they work with to bring their teas to life, “Tea Friends”. I often talk about my tea friends, and apparently this phrase means more than just friendship; it’s a promise of collaboration and support among people who work with tea, a badge of honour, if you will. I think there is no better phrase to sum up this fantastic event, the people there, and the lovely new range of teas, which each show how much work has gone into them and all the tea loving people who have been involved in the process.

Dragonfly Teapot for One and Tea Chest Number 1 Candle

My amazing little Dragonfly mini teapot and candle

Tea Chest Number 1 Candle

Dragonfly’s Tea Chest Number 1 Candle

Goodnight, my lovely Tea Friends – hope you are enjoying a good cuppa and a cosy corner somewhere this cold autumn night!

Rachael XX