Fun with festive teas

Time for a cosy, festive cuppa – part two!

Festive tea

Festive teas from Tea Sparrow

Tasty, festive teas from Tea Sparrow

The lovely people at Tea Sparrow sent me a host of fabulous, festive teas from their holiday tea box selection. What a treat for tea lovers! Tea Sparrow organise monthly tea boxes with a selection of teas from different suppliers around the world, some of whom have featured on Tea with Rachael before, like the tea experts at Just Tea and The Tea Guy. I’ve been enjoying some fab new festive flavours recently, and the selection from Tea Sparrow certainly didn’t disappoint, with tasty and classily Christmassy treats such as Winter Almond Rooibos from Tea Desire and Organic Christmas Delight from Sonnentor, the fresh, sweet tasting Safari Oolong from Just Tea, and the downright decadent Cream of Earl Grey from The Tea Guy.

Festive teas from Tea Sparrow

A festive selection of teas from Tea Sparrow

An elegant Oolong

I’ve rediscovered Oolong recently and find it so refreshing and easy to drink. The Safari Oolong from Just Tea blends the refreshing taste of Chinese Oolong  with the sweetness of Kenyan tea, something that Just Tea are known for. It was an almost fruity tasting combination and a great way to start the day.

Winter teas from Tea Sparrow

Tea Sparrow’s winter teas

Refreshing Rooibos

I’ve also been drinking a lot of Rooibos, particularly with some added natural flavours, in an attempt to fend off the winter lurgy and keep hydrated throughout the day. The combination of flavours in the Winter Almond Rooibos from Tea Desire is uniquely festive – almost like a comforting slice of cake. Delicious!

Comforting cinnamon

You’ll also know I’m rather partial to a bit of cinnamon, especially in the winter, so I was excited to try the Organic Christmas Delight from Sonnentor, which blends organic cinnamon pieces, raspberry leaves, orange and apple pieces, liquorice, cloves, marigold and cornflowers. It’s like Christmas in a cup and comforting for mind, body and soul. Liquorice, cinnamon and marigold are known to have tummy soothing properties, too, so this is still a treat even if you’ve over-indulged during the festive season! A clever idea for tea lovers at Christmastime.

Would you like a dash of cream with your Earl Grey?

Regular Tea with Rachael readers will know I love a good cup of Early Grey. While I’m not really allowed much dairy due to an intolerance, I do tend to have the tiniest dash of milk in my Earl Grey, treated myself to a calming cup of The Tea Guy’s Cream of Earl Grey after my weekend lunch and it was the perfect cuppa to satiate my sweet tooth. When you open the packaging, it smells like a box of chocolates – a sweet, creamy, vanilla scent – and the taste is just the same, with a refreshing hit of citrus bergamot to stop it from being too sweet. The note on the packaging essentially says you won’t be happy with any other Earl Grey after tasting this, and while my tastebuds are always open to trying different Earl Grey blends, I did love this and the combination of vanilla and Earl Grey flavours really bring together my favourites in a tea. Highly recommended!

I was really impressed with the friendly communication from the lovely Tea Sparrow team and really enjoyed the full selection of teas I received. A really nice idea for a festive tea gift and there’s bound to be something to suit all tastes in their carefully thought out selections.

Find out more about Tea Sparrow and their story at www.teasparrow.com – along with some great tea cocktail and comforting flu fighting tea recipes!

The gift of tea from Basilur

A festive tea book from Basilur Tea

A festive Tea Book from Basilur Tea

Basilur Tea sent me some of their beautifully packaged festive teas. I don’t know if you’ve seen their packaging before, but if you haven’t, get on the website and take a look! Beautiful artwork, sparkly tins and boxes and…tea books. Yes, that’s right, tea books! Ah, another combination of two of my favourite things! What a fabulous festive gift idea – and you can collect volumes of tea books to display on your shelves! Heaven!

Tea book volumes from Basilur Tea

Collect volumes of tea books from Basilur

A good quality brew

Sencha green tea from Basilur

Sencha green tea from Basilur

The tea is excellent quality, too – I enjoyed pure Ceylon and Sencha green teas and am keen to try some more of their teas, which come highly recommended on Twitter.

As you can see, I’ve been really spoiled for choice these past few weeks and am looking forward to enjoying many more festive cuppa in the run up to Christmas.

Big thanks to all the lovely tea people who have helped me try all these delicious teas ready for the Christmas festivities – thank you to Tea Sparrow, Basilur, Bruu and The Kent and Sussex Tea Company.

A cosy cup of tea

Cosy cuppa

I hope my festive tea tastings have given you some ideas and provided some festive inspiration. Only a few weeks until the festive season now – I hope you also get to enjoy many a good festive cuppa!

Until next time – Compliments of the Season to all, Cheers!

Rachael XX

Comforts of the Season – The Gift of Tea

It’s almost time for festive tea!

Christmas decorations

The festive decorations are up!

It’s officially December – the Christmas tree and decorations are up and it’s time for a cosy, comforting brew. Or two, or three – or even four…

I’ve been tucked up at home with the lurgy for a while, so it’s given me some time to enjoy a rest and plenty of tea. And I have been well and truly spoiled for choice! Where do I begin? It’s all a bit of a tea Love Story!

Time for a Bruu

Fabulous teas from Bruu

A fabulous selection of teas in the monthly tea box from Bruu

The lovely people at Bruu sent me a sample of their monthly tea boxes and I was delighted   by the whole experience. From the pretty packaging and the beautifully designed tea information included in the box, to the innovative selection of high quality loose leaf teas. I was excited to find that that particular month’s tea selection suited me down to the ground – some strong, hearty black teas and a soothing loose leaf blend of lemon and ginger. Perfect timing!

Stunning tea box from Bruu

The stunning tea selection from Bruu

The tea subscription model is a clever one – a great way to try different teas with a different theme each time – and the opportunity to enjoy each tea in your own time.

And as a special, festive treat, they have a tea advent calendar – the design is really cute and makes me feel all Christmassy!

The Bruu tea advent calendar

The tea advent calendar from Bruu: Image courtesy of Bruu Tea

A right royal brew with the Kent & Sussex Tea Company

I was very excited to receive a large selection of loose leaf teas from the Kent & Sussex Tea Company. The smart, stylish and downright regal packaging sets the tone for a finely blended selection of teas, which I’d admired on the website and was really keen to try. Unique blends of old favourites, such as their downright delicious Versailles Lavender Earl Grey – a blend of Earl Grey with lavender and cornflowers and a personal favourite; a warm, comforting Madagascan Vanilla Chai; and clever use of green teas, such as a blend of white and green teas with vanilla and jasmine, and a gingerbread flavoured green tea meant there was a type of tea to suit every mood and occasion.

Madagascan Vanilla Chai

Madagascan Vanilla Chai from Kent and Sussex Tea Company

The Versailles Earl Grey and Madagascan Vanilla Chai were comforting and refreshing, while the fantastic blend of green and white tea with jasmine and vanilla really hit the spot when I needed something to satisfy my sweet tooth after a meal.

I have lots more wonderful teas to share with you in the run up to the festive season – I hope you enjoy a good many cosy cuppas in these cold days and nights and definitely recommend that you try out the fabulous tea choices from Bruu and Kent & Sussex Tea Company for you or as festive gifts for friends and family.

Until next time,

Rachael XX

Top teas from Kent and Sussex Tea Company

Top notch loose leaf tea from Kent and Sussex Tea Company

 

Versailles Earl Grey

Versailles Earl Grey from Kent and Sussex Tea Company

It’s 2015: Time for tea!

Newby Tea at The Bingham, Richmond

A lovely pot of Newby tea and pretty china at The Bingham, Richmond

Happy New Year!

After a blogging hiatus towards the end of last year, following injury, illness and a number of other reasons, I’m looking forward to making this year “The Year of the Blog”!

2014 wasn’t exactly the year I was expecting, but I have high hopes for the New Year and am feeling positive!

 

A New Year’s Eve to Remember

I saw in the New Year with my lovely husband eating a fabulous six-course tasting menu at Richmond’s beautiful  Bingham hotel. We had a lovely room overlooking the river, inspiring a search for a new home by the river, where we hope to move in March. I can’t wait to wake up to the peaceful, comforting sight of the river and being surrounded by greenery once more!

Miller Harris toiletries at The Bingham

Luxury Miller Harris toiletries at The Bingham

A stylish room at The Bingham

Our stylish room at the Bingham

Do Not Disturb sign at The Bingham, Richmond

Celebrating in style at The Bingham, Richmond

Time for Tea…

I had several lovely cuppas courtesy of Newby Teas, and thoroughly enjoyed my moments of luxury!

In the spirit of “New Year, New You”, I was recently introduced to SlenderTox Tea by the BloggersLove Hub. I’m delighted that this is a health product based on one of my favourite things – tea! I am keen to try the 14 day teatox and see if it helps improve my overall health and wellbeing, ups my energy levels (which are in need of a jumpstart right now!) and that the evening teatox helps me enjoy a good night’s sleep.

I will update you on the results as I go along – very excited to be trying out another tea experiment!

I had a lovely New Year surprise this week, winning some delicious-smelling teas from JollyBrew. The packaging is stunning, making a welcome addition to my tea cabinet and matching the blue themes of my kitchen. I can’t wait to try all three loose-leaf teas – I will share the verdict, but I predict they are going to be amazing!

The Gift of Tea

The elegantly packaged JollyBrew Teas

The elegantly packaged JollyBrew Teas

Festive gifts of tea and coffee

The gift of tea…and coffee!

I received some wonderful tea related gifts from family and friends over the festive season: a real favourite tea of mine, Harney & Sons’ Tower of London Blend Tea, a wonderful blend of black tea with Bergamot and dried fruits; Christmas Thanks from Twinings, which tastes like Christmas cake and is pure comfort in a mug; several lovely mugs; lots and lots of Teapigs; and Christmas Blend teas from Whittard of London and Kent & Sussex.

Slendertox Tea

Time for a TeaTox

This was all after a pre-Christmas visit to one of my favourite shops in Covent Garden, The Tea House, to stock up on my favourite Ahmad blends, Vanilla Tranquility and Cinammon Haze. I’ve been drinking these in abundance, both at work and at home.

Gingerbread Lattes, anyone?

I also received various gingerbread-themed gifts, as my obsession with gingerbread lattes shows no signs of waning! I have to admit I drink them all year round, rather than just as a seasonal treat. I am really looking forward to trying out the Gingerbread Body Lotion from the fabulous Sniffy Whiffy – keeping that festive feeling going through the dark January days! I’m collecting my parcel tomorrow, so will keep you posted…

Until next time, wishing you a very Happy New Year – here’s hoping 2015 is a fantastic one!

Enjoy your January tea break,

Rachael XX

 

Happy New Year!

It’s a new year – time to get life in order…

Library Corner

At this time of year, I always like to read lifestyle books that help me get my life in order.  Previous Christmas gifts have included the fabulous The Goddess Guide and The Goddess Experience by Giselle Scanlon; Clare Coulson’s House Rules, Camilla Morton’s How to Walk in High Heels and A Girl for All Seasons; the wonderful Things I Wish my Mother had told Me, by Lucia Van Der Post; and the brilliantly-titled How to do everything and still have time for yourself, by Dawna Walter, also the author of The Life Laundry.  I love all these authors and this style of book – you can dip in and out like a women’s lifestyle magazine, but they are incredibly useful to keep and refer back to particular sections for reference for years to come.

I also look for interesting cookbooks to give me recipe inspiration for healthy meals throughout the New Year ahead – as well as firm favourites Nigel Slater and Bill Granger; I always go back to my Food Doctor books for inspiration.  I particularly love Ian Marber’s healthy, low fat salad dressing suggestions, using staple ingredients like vegetable juice.

Every January, I look forward to perusing my local bookshops and charity shops for similar finds.  This year I was delighted to find Gok Wan’s Work Your Wardrobe and Nigella Express in one of many of my well-stocked local charity shops, spurring me to action to audit my wardrobe and plan some quick, delicious meals!

Then it’s on to some meaty reads to keep me going on the commute – very excited to start Hilary Mantel’s Bring up the Bodies, especially having just read Alison Weir’s The Lady in the Tower, about the fall of Anne Boleyn.  I also have a stack of Philippa Gregory novels waiting for me!

Happy reading…

Christmas Tree DecorationsThe most wonderful time of the year…

On the subject of Anne Boleyn, I received several lovely Christmas gifts from my wonderful husband on this theme – my Anne and Henry Christmas tree decorations – shown in the picture; Hampton Court Tea Blend and Lemon Curd, and the piece de resistance, a replica of Anne’s famous “B” necklace, in an “R” for me!

Twinings Tea BoxAlice in Wonderland MugTime for tea?

Similarly, I also received a number of gifts from family and friends related to, you’ve guessed it, tea!  I am very proud of my beautiful Twinings tea chest; a delightful book on afternoon tea from my mother in law; a fun tea towel and shoe-shaped cake slice; this fabulous White Rabbit mug; and an entirely different type of tea – Whittard’s Bath Tea Bags! Ah, thank you, lovely people – you know me so well! 

We also enjoyed several afternoon teas at local favourites The Original Maids of Honour in Kew and The Teacup in Richmond, where we discovered Cinnamon black tea, perfect for this time of year!  It smells like Christmas in a cup, and Cinnamon is so warming and comforting…

Bath time treats

And not forgetting another of my favourite things – Soap & Glory!  I was lucky enough to receive the enormous bag of goodies that is The Best of All gift set.  I am now well and truly stocked up with my favourite Soap & Glory treats and looking forward to some bath time pampering!

It was a lovely, relaxing holiday season – I was ill last year, so really enjoyed decorating and entertaining in our little cottage this time round – everything seemed very festive and very cosy.

The snow is on its way – time for some winter warmers…

It’s got a lot colder – snow is on the way.  I promised to offer up some seasonal recipes, so here are some lovely winter warmers to keep out the cold.

All recipes serve 2, but could easily serve more, as there are usually leftovers that we keep in the fridge for a few days, or freeze!

Creamy Corn Chowder

Serves 2

Creamy Corn Chowder

What I love about this recipe is that you can easily make it with store cupboard and kitchen staples – there’s usually a tin of corn on the shelf and some bacon or ham in the fridge!

Ingredients:
  • Bacon/ham/pancetta/Parma Ham – whatever you have.  (I used Parma ham)
  • A glug of olive oil (I’m using Filippo Berio Extra Virgin olive oil at the moment)
  • 2 chopped large onions
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • Approx. 1 pint chicken stock (can use vegetable stock if Vegetarian)
  • 6 cups medium-diced white boiling potatoes, unpeeled (2 pounds)
  • One tin of corn or equivalent weight frozen/fresh corn kernels
  • 2 tablespoons coconut milk/ a quarter of a small can coconut cream (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons crème fraîche
  • Grated cheese (any hard cheese works well), or 2 tablespoons cream cheese
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
To cook:

Use a large casserole/stockpot or saucepan.  Cook bacon/ham in the olive oil over medium heat, until crisp. Remove the bacon from the pan and set aside. Add the onions to the pan (you may need to add a little more oil) and cook until the onions turn clear.

Stir in the seasoning and turmeric and cook for about 3 minutes. Add the chicken stock, bring to the boil, then simmer uncovered for around (10-15 minutes).  Add the corn to the soup, and then add the crème fraîche and/or coconut cream/milk and cheese. Cook for 5 more minutes, until the cheese is melted and the soup takes on a more creamy consistency. Season with a pinch more salt and pepper. Serve piping hot with a garnish of crisped bacon/ham and, if you like, some fresh parsley.

Make it even heartier…

I was inspired by the wonderful Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten, for this dish! (Ina has a lovely, more hearty Cheddar Corn Chowder recipe that also includes potatoes – you can find it on the Food Network website –http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/cheddar-corn-chowder-recipe/index.html)

No-chili Chicken Korma

Serves 2

No Chilli Chicken KormaI’m allergic to peppers and chilies, so often miss out on the wonderful flavours of Indian cooking.  However, after some experimenting at home, I came up with a tasty korma recipe without any chilies or related products.  Should you wish to add some spice, you can add chili flakes/paste or chili salt towards the end of cooking!

Ingredients:
  • A large glug of olive oil
  • 2 chopped large onions
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon chopped ginger
  • 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
  • 1 cinnamon stick or ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • Small bunch chopped fresh coriander and parsley (reserve a few sprigs for garnish) or ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • Peeled potatoes – 2 medium/large potatoes should be enough
  • Frozen peas – about a cup full
  • Sweetcorn/carrots/beans – any vegetables you might have handy
  • One tin of corn or equivalent weight frozen/fresh corn kernels
  • 2 tablespoons coconut milk
  • 1/2 small can coconut cream
  • 1 tablespoon crème fraîche
  • Teaspoon tomato puree
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
To cook:

Fry the chicken in the olive oil (if using pre-cooked leftover chicken, warm in the pan with the onions).

Once the chicken is cooked, add the onion (an possibly a little more oil) until the onions are soft and translucent

Add the ginger, garlic, spices, tomato puree, salt and pepper, lower the heat and cook for a few minutes, to release the flavours of the spices.  (If you want to make the traditional version of this with fresh chili, this is also when you add the chilies).  Keep stirring – you don’t want the mixture to burn to the pan – and add a little water if necessary.

Add any vegetables and cook for about 10 minutes

Add the coconut milk, coconut cream and crème fraîche. stir thoroughly and simmer on a low heat until the vegetables are soft, the colour of the sauce turns a nice yellowy shade and the consistency is creamy.  To thicken the sauce, add some.

Season to taste, serve with wholegrain rice and garnish with a sprig of fresh coriander or parsley.

Veggie sausage casserole

Serves 2

Veggie Sausage CasseroleThis is a cold weather favourite at home.  Quick and easy – and can even all be thrown into the slow cooker and left to bubble away while you’re at work!

Ingredients:
  • 6-8 veggie sausages (try Linda McCartney or Quorn sausages)
  • A large glug of olive oil
  • 2 chopped large onions
  • 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
  • Tin chopped tomatoes
  • ½ pint vegetable stock (if you aren’t a vegetarian, chicken stock also works really well!)
  • Frozen peas – about a cup full
  • Half a can sweetcorn
  • 4 carrots
  • Half can cannellini beans
  • Half can kidney beans
  • Any other vegetables you might have handy – chopped butternut squash beans, leeks, spinach all work well
  • 2 tablespoons crème fraîche
  • 1 teaspoon tomato puree
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Fresh thyme
  • Fresh rosemary
To cook:

Fry or grill the veggie sausages, slice and reserve.  Cook the onions and leeks (if using) in the oil until translucent.  Add the other vegetables and cook for around 10 minutes on a medium heat (if using spinach, don’t add this until a few minutes before the end of cooking).  Add tinned tomatoes and stock and bring to the boil.  Add the herbs, season with salt and pepper.  Reduce heat and simmer for around 15 minutes, until all the vegetables are soft.  Add any leafy vegetables (eg. spinach) and cook for a few minutes more.  Serve over wholegrain rice or pasta, (or with mashed potatoes/carrot and suede mash) and garnish with any fresh herbs you might have – parsley works well.

Happy New Year everyone – and bon appétit!