Kusmi Tea Sweet Love 

When I was gifted the Kusmi Tea set, that I’ve posted about previously here, I opened all the tins to have a look and smell at the contents but in terms of brewing I stuck to the top few but I decided today that I would make the effort to go down the column and make something new, and so I decided on the Sweet Love tea.  

 
At its core, you could simplify this down to being a chai tea.  The packaging decorated with Paisley pattern and what could be assumed to be two stars in a romantic Bollywood feature film invite you to the friendly atmosphere of the home of chai tea – India.This tea is made from “Black China tea, liquorice roots, spices, guarana seeds and pink pepper”.   Included in those spices is cardamom, a key ingredient in chai and very noticeable, primarily,  by seeing the giant pods mixed amongst the leaves, but also by its signature refreshing taste.  I find that the sweetness of cardamom awakens the taste buds for any chai and in this blend it pairs with the equally dark but sweet tasting liquorice roots inside.  

This is the first liquorice infused chai tea that I have tried and was a bit wary at first as when I was growing up I always found myself only accepting liquorice sweets from my gran for the foamy bits wrapped round the outside before forcing myself through the chewy blackness but after enjoying various Pukka teas which all contain liquorice I have warmed to the flavour and find that it has a very important place in this tea as it stands boldly in the face of a cliché chai tea by combating the savoury tastes usually associated with such.

I’ve found many people call chai teas a drinkable curry but this is more like a drinkable pick and mix that has a bit of kick.  It’s definitely a tea to be enjoyed in the afternoon with some nice music (my choice was the Darjeeling Limited soundtrack) and I’d say it’s better without milk as I find the flavour of the liquorice mixes with it oddly, although I imagine coconut milk would add another layer of sweetness and I plan to have some stocked for the next time I make this tea! 

Whittard’s Lapsang Souchong

 

DSC_0754

As I found myself more interested in tea and started to ask about blends I’d heard of or seen I had only ever been told that this tea was horrible and held a strong taste of smoked salmon; for this reason I avoided it until I accidentally tried it after confusing teapots with my friend who had ordered it one day when we were having lunch at the Willow Tea Rooms in Glasgow.  I understood what had been intended in the smoked salmon description told to me but I didn’t necessarily agree with it because I really don’t like smoked fish but I really liked this tea (though if you’re a fan I’d say it’s worth a shot to see how they compare).  After my first sip that day in the tea room the first thought to pass through me as I noticed the distinct, smoky flavour was that the rose black tea I had actually ordered was burnt.  My friend then pointed out that burning tea would probably not put a coating of charcoal across the liquid sitting in the pot and it was then we noticed that we’d been given the wrong pots…

I’ve tried a few different smoky teas since that incident but this is the first one that I have owned, much to the dismay of my family and friends who really cannot find the appreciation for this blend at all.  It’s definitely a love or hate tea and I’ve definitely found myself on the love side of the argument and allowed it to hold the title of my favourite tea for a couple of months now.

Though the flavour is surely distinct I would say that it still has a rather light body and would be best enjoyed in an afternoon off work or, as Whittard recommend on their website, in a flask next to a campfire.

DSC_0705
The burning smell emitted by the pine cones fuelling this fire reminded me of the tea just as the tea reminds one of scenes such as this.

I really didn’t think that I would hold this tea to such a high calibre but upon drinking it I am brought to think of teenage weekends spent staying up late with friends and burning things (as you do in teen angst) and I enjoy every cup of nostalgia as the hot piney liquid leaves its mark on my taste buds.

If you were not the type to have bonfires in the woods then another way to have a bit of fun and return to childhood with this tea is to imagine oneself as a dragon having just breathed fire as you finish your cup and have that lingering smoky breath.  If, like me, you realise you’re the only one in your friend circle that likes the tea then you can add to the relaxation that the light flavour  brings by brewing some up to deter those on the hate side and get a bit of peace!

 

T2 Creme Brulee black tea

DSC_0748
Excuse the plants that could have maybe been watered a bit more…

When I made the decision to go to T2 in London this is the only tea that I had planned on buying after I viewed it on their website but then after tasting and talking about some others in the shop I did end up making the execuTEAve decision (don’t let me make tea puns) to bring the two sample boxes home with me.  I couldn’t leave all the different flavours in Shoreditch but given it was one of my main reasons for visiting, I decided I could grant the Creme Brulee tea the grace of being the first that I brewed at home.

I first, finally, tried a creme brulee last summer after seeing it on the Great British Bake Off and fell in love with the layered textures and flavours within the small ramekin-served dessert.  T2’s tea provides all the flavours you would find in the dish, minus the pleasure of cracking the hard sugary top and imagining you are Amelie.

IMG_20160630_225508The tea came in a small packet with a loose leaf serving to be used with 450ml of water – the exact amount of liquid one of my mum’s old teapots holds.  After waiting four minutes I eagerly poured the tea to recognise a rich red colour and a sweet, but strong, caramel aroma.

I’ve always been one to take my tea black but have started adding a tiny bit of milk to some teas in a separate smaller cup to compare the flavours.  Doing this allowed me to experience the alternating layers of a creme brulee.

Here is my suggested list of instructions on how to enjoy this tea and replicate the dessert.

  • Brew your tea and serve into two tea cups, one smaller than the other (an espresso cup is a perfect substitute for a small teacup).
  • Add a splash of milk to the small cup, leave the bigger cup black.
  • Drink from the bigger cup first in order to replicate the crisp caramel shell that crowns the creme brulee dessert.
  • Take a small sip from the milky cup.  While it is still hot it renders a buttery vanilla tone akin to the bite taken from the area of the dessert which rests between the crown and the custard base.
  • Return to the bigger cup and drink at leisure, though ensuring that you allow both cups to cool to room temperature.  When the black tea has slightly cooled the flavour will soften to provide a calm afternoon-suited taste as you notice yourself having delved into another layer of the dessert where the caramel isn’t quite as sharp as you would find at the top but is still perfectly present.
  • Once you have finished the bigger cup of tea return to your small cup which should be room temperature or cooler.  Allowing the milky tea to chill to a temperature similar to what you’d serve the dessert at will bring out the sweet vanilla custard flavour of the creme brulee base.

I thoroughly enjoyed this tea and looked forward to enjoying this flavour after reading a review of another brand’s take on the dish by teagem.wordpress.com.  Leave a comment below letting me know if you’ve had any dessert themed teas recently!

London!

Long time no speak, so a quick update about what I’ve been up to!

I can only really offer the usual adult chat regarding what I’ve been doing in the general picture – “working away” – but I have collected a bit more tea in my blog absence so there’s plenty to review and post about but when that will be I don’t know!

A few weeks ago I had my first paid week off in over a year so decided to cram as much as I could into that time and one of the things I wanted to do was a day trip to somewhere.  My first thought was maybe somewhere up north in Scotland I could get to cheaply or maybe taking a plane or boat across to Belfast or Dublin but these ended up being more expensive than I wanted to spend and so I took a chance at seeing how much it would be to get to London after having an amazing week there a few years ago.

I was extremely lucky to find a flight for £10 that would get me in the city for about 9am then I decided to get the Megabus home which, once again, I was extremely lucky with in finding a journey for £1.50 including the booking fee! DSC_0589I had about 12 hours in the city so how else was I to use that time if not trying to go across as many tea rooms as I could?  I didn’t make it to every place I wanted to because I had planned quite a lot and the places I made it to I spent a good amount of time in.

The first stop was T2, an Australian-born tea shop I had heard about from my friend who had previously been a regular customer in Australia before returning to live in Scotland.  I was recommended to try their French Earl Grey but going in and seeing just how many varieties they stocked it was hard to limit myself to one blend.  The customer service in this shop was amazing and I really felt they went above and beyond to take the time with me by letting me try all their samples and brewing even more small batches to try after they came up in conversation.  I came home with two sample boxes to try cover as many flavours as possible and see myself spending more on their products in the future!

DSC_0584
Many of the teas were out in little boxes like this so you could see all the ingredients and take in the aromas

After T2 I made my way over to the Twinings Museum on Strand.  My first thought upon planning my visit to the museum was that it’d be similar to a brewery experience like the Guiness factory in Dublin (if anyone knows of a tea experience like this please let me know!) but the truth was that the museum was a shop with a small exhibit at the back but the information was still exciting to read about.  Within the exhibit was a bar where tea tastings took place but at the time of my visit a private session was taking place and so I couldn’t sit in of course but I overheard the host telling the story of why Chinese people tap upon the table while tea is pouring – a fun story my friend Kelly has explained over pots of pu-erh before.

DSC_0595
The cosy little Twinings museum – this location has been open for 300 years!

I moved on to a place I had caught a glimpse of in a vlog someone had made in their visit to London called Sketch and was blown away.  Had I not stumbled upon the video I had seen it in in a YouTube playlist I’d never known about the place as I don’t remember seeing it come up in my Google searches for tea rooms in London.  Sketch had different rooms with different themes of decor but I knew that I wanted to go to the glade room which was very “Alice in Wonderland”-esque.

I had a cup of their matcha tea with fruit scones (an experience I wish I could repeat today on cream tea day) and sat marvelling at the beautiful decor in the place.  I’m tied between here and T2 being my favourite place of the day.

Because I spent a lot of time in Sketch relaxing I didn’t have time to visit “The Tea House” in Covent Garden or “Tombo” in Soho but I’m not so bothered about the second option as I was going for the half price matcha as it was their opening week but I had already had my fix for the day from Sketch.  The rest of my day was spent wandering the Camden markets where I bumped into another tea seller and picked up the most amazing caramel rooibos tea but for my next visit I definitely know more places to go and until then I have lots of tea to try out!

Check out the slideshow below for a few extra pictures of the places I mentioned and follow me on Instagram @daveismapal to see more tea pictures!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Suki Tea: Apple loves Mint

I’ve long heard about the peculiar pairing of apple and mint in herbal tea but had yet to try it until this afternoon.  I had a small little pot from the Tinderbox located above Paperchase in Glasgow and people-watched away as the 9-5 workers left the offices to make their way towards the packed rush hour trains.

apple-loves-mint-loose-leaf-tea-fapple

This was my second time ever having Suki tea, and my second ever time in this cafe, but I really like it and it has a cosy atmosphere despite being situated at the head of a large open plan stationary shop.  Suki Tea has been growing more as a requested tea in eateries and many locations will now display signs proudly proclaiming “We Serve Suki Tea!” at the counter but despite it’s now wide-availability I still hadn’t tried it until recently.

The Apple Loves Mint tea is one the brands fruit infusions with the ingredients on the website stating it is composed of  Natural apple Pieces, natural papaya pieces (papaya and cane sugar), rose buds, peppermint leaves and flavouring.

When you first pour the tea from the signature Suki Teapot you notice the light green colour hit the cup and get a quick draft of the sweet apple smelling tea you are about to drink.  This tea is described as being “nostalgic, like sweeties” on the website and that was exactly my first thought on the tea! The apple flavour is much like many Turkish apple teas I’ve tried which in turn are much like the flavour presented in apple laces I used to buy frequently at tuck shops in primary school.

Wshoe-string-licorice-apple-2lb-100ct-21hile I was drinking the tea I knew it was a bit more complex than simply apple pieces and mint leaves in the infusion and this was where the papaya and rose buds came in.  The papaya is not too prominent in the flavour but is noticeably present to provide a deeper, fruitier flavour, whilst the rose buds are low in number and perform a similar act to the papaya in that they are present to offer a touch of “herbal” flavour to the mix without colliding with the sweetness of the other ingredients.

The mint flavour wasn’t as evide
nt as I’d have preferred in the tea but it was there at least and its absence didn’t cause too much of a disappointment when the other flavours layered so well together.  All the mint leaves must have been hiding when my pot was being prepared so hopefully they’ll come back out next time I have the tea, which may be in my house as the prices to buy online are pretty good!

 

 

Hello!

So it’s been five months since my last post and I’m dying to post again but haven’t had any time since changing workplaces so I thought I’d post a little update and thank you for staying with me.

The shift patterns of my previous workplace allowed me to enjoy pots and pots of tea every night before waking a bit later in the morning but in my new place I find myself waking up at 5am to start most days so I can’t have the caffeine at 10/11pm like when I used to enjoy it and by the time I’m home I’m usually too tired to prepare anything anyway, ruling out the caffeine-free options…

I really miss tea though, and have slowly been re-introducing myself to it by having bagged tea (:O) on the way to work or on my breaks but I feel I’m finally comfortable with sleeping patterns to enjoy tea again and therefore start writing more reviews!

Once again I’d like to thank everyone for continuing to regularly check the blog and for the odd like/favourite still popping up every few weeks!

Kusmi Detox Tea

A few months ago my younger brother got to go on a trip to Paris with his school year and, being the golden-hearted young boy that he is, he brought me some gifts from the duty-free section of the airport on his way home.  One of those gifts so happened to be a selection of teas!

France has many exports of interest to me: Pain au Chocolat, Brioche, BN biscuits, Acker Bilk, and indeed, the list goes on, but the most recent addition to this list is the products of “Kusmi Tea” – a Paris-based company producing Russian-styled teas.  I first discovered the company after a friend purchased a tin on their trip to the city and posted a photo of the packaging online.  After noticing how beautiful and elegant the tin containing their tea was, I visited the company’s website to see how the Russian-styled teas were different from the Chinese and Indian flavours that I was especially used to at the time.  The flavours on offer sounded so exquisite and almost-experimental in nature that I decided I would put some money aside and treat myself to a tin or two when I had the expendable funds at the ready.  You can imagine how pleased I was when my brother gifted me the set of 5 mini-tins from his duty-free haul on return from the company’s home city.

The best thing about this gift is that I had actually forgotten about my intentions to purchase the tea so it made the surprise all the better when I realised I was now the proud owner of Kusmi’s Detox, BB Detox, Sweet Love, Be Cool, and Boost blends.

“Wellness teas” and their detoxifying qualities have been heavily advertised and promoted on social media recently as the new sort-of-diet-fad that people are turning to.  I agree that tea can have these benefits but I have always drank tea for the taste so I surprised myself when trying the Detox blend as it seemed almost out of character but when you’re enticed by the promise of the taste of lemongrass in a mate and green tea blend, who can resist?

My only previous experience of lemongrass is from some of the Lush soaps and bath bombs that have made their way into my home over the years, so I think that my senses were expecting to be left drinking foamy bath water when I first opened the pale Kelly Green tin and had my nose blasted with the calming aroma.  The Lush products that I know to have lemongrass as an ingredient typically have an oceanic theme to them and so I have come to associate the smell with calm blue waters; making it appropriate that the gentleness of this tea (though mid-green in colour, not blue) is able to recreate the sensation of a calm afternoon on a sailboat as the taste sways from cheek to cheek.

The Detox blend, like some of the others offered by Kusmi, is a mix of mate and green tea.  The mate brings a pleasant sweetness to contrast the calm, almost muted, green tea which in turn compliments and really highlights the lemongrass flavour, which I found to be very subtle upon the first few sips, before getting about halfway through my first cup when the taste grew in strength.  To touch upon the topic of detoxifying, it is easy to appreciate the purifying connotations of this tea as it produces such a fresh, clean, flavour and aroma that one would not be considered wrong in associating the experience of drinking this tea with health and wellness.  This tea did come in the “Wellness Teas Assortment” after all, so I’ll be sure to keep this title in mind when reviewing the other blends!

For anyone looking to try something from Kusmi tea, I would say that this is definitely a good option and I believe this is backed up by the company’s own opinion as it is the second listed blend under the “Must Have” section at the foot of their website. The teas on offer from this brand are more expensive than most other teas so for some first time buyers it is understandably daunting to pay out but for these “designer teas” with their rich flavour and alluring presentation it is the perfect treat for yourself or gift for another.  You could always keep your eye out for a tin or two in the duty-free section if you ever find yourself leaving France and wanting a little discount.