Tuesday, 22 January 2019

Silver Needle White Tea - The Mecca

The Mecca is a tea and coffee merchant in the town of Aberystwyth, Wales. Now sadly I have never been there, but my friend visits that part of the world quite regularly and she says that it is a fabulous little shop with friendly, knowledgeable staff. She freely admits that she knows nothing about tea, but they were so informative, they were able to provide her with a great selection to gift to me! 

Silver Needle White Tea is made from the buds of the tea plant; no leaves or stems are used, making it the best white tea there is on the market. For this reason, it is also the most expensive of the white teas.


The tea buds are harvested by hand before they have opened, they have a sharp tip and are covered with fine silver hairs, hence the name Silver Needle. The finest flavoured Silver Needle teas come from the first generation of buds between the months of March and April. The harvesting only lasts a couple of days and is therefore known as the Imperial Harvest.

The tea when prepared is a pale yellow; in sunlight it shimmers, as some of the fine hairs in the cup reflect the rays of light. It is a mellow and delicate tea with a slightly sweet aftertaste and very refreshing. 

The flavour comes from the way the buds are processed. Ideally, once picked the buds are left in shallow baskets to wilt in direct sunlight. Three days later, the buds will be dried out at a low temperature before being packed and shipped to its various destinations. As the tea is not overly processed, it is considered a healthy tea; rich in polyphenols, aiding digestion, protecting the heart and boosting the immune system. 


It is a very special tea and one to consider when you want to treat yourself, despite the higher than average price tag! Sadly, The Mecca does not have an online shop...so I guess I am going to have to make a special journey there myself one day!

You can find their details on their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/themecca.aberystwyth/

(Mighty Chai) Ginger Chai Tea - The Wee Tea Company

A couple of years ago, when being a Tom Burke fan meant large group gatherings, insane banter and much merriment, a charity tea party was held. It was great fun, themed around Alice in Wonderland and a Mad Hatter's tea party. Lots of people rolled up their sleeves and played their part in making it a fun and successful afternoon. I was lucky enough to win a gorgeous basket of goodies in which there was a packet of Ginger Chai Tea.

Now there are plenty of Chai tea blends available, but this one is from a company in Scotland called The Wee Tea Company (it already has an extra star just for the name.) The Wee Tea Company was set up by Jamie Russell and Derek Walker as specialist tea blenders, however, they also grow their own tea in Dalreoch in Scotland. Whilst the tea plant, Camellia Sinensis might be considered to be more at home in China or India, it's actually happy growing on the Scottish hillsides. Think about it - Darjeeling is grown on the Himalayan mountains!

Now the tea I had was in a white box and called Ginger Chai Tea – since going onto the company website, it appears to have changed its name to Mighty Chai, although the ingredients are just the same as what I sampled.

The tea is based on a traditional Masala Chai, however, it has extra ginger in the mix, making it a really warming brew. It is particularly refreshing on a cold, wet wintry night and it will certainly warm your cockles up! The makers suggest using warm milk and honey for a beautiful spicy beverage, but I don’t take milk in my tea, preferring to drink it “as is.”

It is a strong black tea mixed with ginger, cardamom, cinnamon and cloves giving it a truly exotic scent. So sit back, close your eyes and transport yourself to the heat of the Orient as you sip this hug in a mug!

https://weeteacompany.com/index.php/ginger-chai.html


https://www.amazon.co.uk/Wee-Tea-Ginger-Chai-Loose/dp/B00EYZXPQI

Tea Lover's Advent Calendar - Fortnum and Mason

I have a tea notebook, which I fill up with comments, but then I forget to post them on the blog! My aim in 2019 is to do much better!

I was bought a Fortnum & Mason tea advent calendar in 2017. I was thrilled and made notes each day about what I found hiding behind each door. I thought there was no point in doing a write-up 12 months later, but that was before I looked at the 2018 advent calendar and it was exactly the same packaging as last years “sold out” version.


I didn’t bother with the 2018 calendar – not only did it cost £25 for 24 tea bags, but whilst the 2017 calendar was a beautiful gift, I was a bit disappointed with the contents considering the price.

https://www.fortnumandmason.com/products/christmas-tea-lovers-advent-calendar-59g-2017

For a start a Tea Lover's Calendar should just contain tea, not a few tea bags and a number of herbal infusions. It should also contain 24 different teas, not various repeats. There are hundreds of teas out there, and this is not a cheap product, so I was hoping to find a few hidden gems I could purchase a caddy of when visiting F&M next time I was in London.


Let us take a trip behind each door and see what lay waiting for me on the countdown to Christmas 2017:
  1. Rose Pouchong – a large leafed Keemun Mao Feng tea, scented with rose petals. The Tea was redolent of Turkish Delight, or rosewater depending upon how romantic your sensibilities are. It's a new favourite for me to add to my list.
  2. Assam TGFOP – leaf tips of Assam tea bush – a full bodied and robust tea, perfect for that breakfast brew.
  3. Rhubarb & Raspberry INFUSION!
  4. Earl Grey – a blended black tea flavoured with bergamot oil, the quintessential afternoon tea brew…good with cake!
  5. Darjeeling FTGFOP – the leaf tips of Darjeeling producing a full-bodied taste reminiscent of Muscatel grapes.
  6. Moroccan Mint – peppermint leaves are mixed with green gunpowder tea which produces a lovely refreshing after dinner drink (great when there is so much rich food around at Christmas.)
  7. Countess Grey – a combination of orange pekoe tea with bergamot (I prefer this to traditional Earl Grey.)
  8. Liquorice, Mint & Lemon Verbena INFUSION! Tasted better than it sounded – which is good because it was duplicated on the 19th!
  9. Royal Blend – this traditional black tea from Ceylon and Assam was first blended for King Edward VII in 1902. It has a smooth honeyed flavour and is very palatable.
  10. Chai – a black tea, containing various herbs and spices – cinnamon, cumin, coriander, ginger, cloves, star anise and fennel. A soothing tea for the stomach which, like the mint tea, is good to have at this time of year.
  11. English Camomile INFUSION!
  12. A repeat of the Royal Blend.
  13. A repeat of the Rose Pouching.
  14. Apricot, Honey & Lavender INFUSION!
  15. Breakfast Blend – Assam tea from Brahmaputra Valley in NE India. It’s a robust, strong, malty brew and perfect for Breakfast as it name would suggest!
  16. A repeat of the Moroccan Mint.
  17. A repeat of the Earl Grey.
  18. Gunpowder – a green tea which resembles gunpowder pellets. The tea is very delicate and doesn’t actually contain any gunpowder!
  19. A repeat of the Liquorice INFUSION.
  20. A repeat of the Chai.
  21. Sour Cherry and Orange INFUSION!
  22. A repeat of Darjeeling FTGFOP
  23. Ruby Red Christmas INFUSION!
  24. Christmas Tea – well it had to be didn’t it?! A black tea which has been mixed with the taste and scent of Christmas; cocoa nibs, clementine and Christmas spices. It’s a smooth and slightly tea for Christmas Eve.



Over the 24 days of the festive period, there were in fact only 11 teas to sample in a “Tea Lover's Advent Calendar.” 

There were 6 infusions (one of which was duplicated) and 11 teas (6 of which were duplicated) at the cost of £25. Value for money? Not really. My stand out teas were the one’s I had not tried before; the Rose Pouchong which I now keep an eye out for if I go for an afternoon drink on a summer day; the Moroccan Mint (which has a much better punch than a traditional cup of peppermint “tea”) and the Royal Blend – something that can be pulled out for the more “traditional tea” drinker.

I rather hope the 2018 version contained more of a mix of products…but as the box was the same, I somehow doubt the contents miraculously changed into 24 unique teas to try!