Yesterday, ironically over a cup of hot chocolate, I gave a particularly impassioned speech about tea. My husband, who was claiming to only like a cup of milky builders (sigh), responded to my ten minute diatribe with, 'My goodness, you should be a Tea-evangelist!'.
As Barney Stinston would say – Challenge Accepted! It's also about time I broached this subject given the title of this blog. I don't want you all hauling me up on trade descriptions!
A few years ago I didn't even like tea. Looking back now on the dark time I'm not sure what I did for refreshment. I certainly didn't daily enter into a world of extraordinary flavours. I didn't have the option of deciding if I fancied a big caffeine kick or just a little caffeine nudge, as it were. I didn't have the opportunity to have Salted Caramel in my drink with NO ADDED CALORIES. It has been a revelation.
And now, dear reader, I share with you five of the best teas I have discovered on my adventures.
1. The Staunton Earl Grey - East India Trading Company
I discovered this tea while on a tea tasting at Christ Church College in Oxford with one of the East India Trading Company's tea tasters. Yes, people really get to do that for a living. This is a powerful brew containing the essential ingredient of a proper Earl Grey, neroli. In my opinion everything after you've had this is just a bad imitation. It is very fragrant and floral though so bear that in mind and brew gently!
2. Empress Grey - Marks and Spencers
This is my favourite every day tea. Where the Staunton is floral, this is full of citrus flavours. It has a light Chinese black tea as its base and is flavoured with orange and lemon peel. If you aren't a fan of the bitterness of strongly brewed black teas then this is quite different to that. It's also an absolute bargain at £1.49 for 50 tea bags!
3. Green Tea and Salted Caramel - Twinnings
This is a new one from Twinnings and it is AMAZING. Don't be put off by what sounds like a bit of a weird combination. The salted caramel adds a soft sweet note to the green tea that is just delicious.
Brew lightly with this and with all green teas giving them just a minute or so. I learned that from the East India Trading Company expert who informed us that we were all brewing our teas to death. In the case of Green Tea this is a bitter death indeed which often puts people off when they first try it. Brew less, no problem. Lovely tea goodness!
4. Cotswolds Fruits - Huffkins Bakery
If you happen to live in the Oxfordshire area then get yourself down to Huffkins Bakery in Witney or Burford. If you happen to be here on holiday then stop by and buy all of their tea. You won't be sorry. This is a delicious fruity tea made up mostly of berries. It honestly tastes just like summer.
Lots of people have tried fruit teas and found the taste doesn't live up to the smell. That is often the case if you go for fruit teas that are more dust than fruit in the tea bag! Whole fruit pieces in this tea give a totally different and rich flavour.
If you aren't lucky enough to live near Huffkins then Tea Pigs Superfruit is similar and nearly as lovely.
5. Orange Rooibos - Trumpers Tea
I'm not a fan of pure Rooibos but I love it with added spice and I also love its wild cousin Honeybush Tea. This one is particularly lovely and is flavoured with African spices, orange peel and orange oil.
Rooibos is an African tea and it really does remind me of the feeling of the sun on my skin. It tastes like where it comes from, all sunshine and warmth. Loose flavoured Rooibos can be hard to come across but if you can't find this variety then Twinnings do a specialist loose version as do Whittards.
So there you are, the Tea-vangelist has spoken. Are you converted?!