Thursday, 13 December 2012

Afternoon Tea Review - Fortnum and Mason

Review - Fortnum and Mason, The Diamond Jubilee tea room - £40.00 per person

 

 
As it's nearly Christmas, and it's our last afternoon tea of the year, we thought we deserved a treat.  To say we were expecting this to be good would be an understatement.  We were expecting this to set the benchmark for afternoon teas.  With Fortnum & Mason's reputation, we would have been disappointed with anything less.
We arrived ten minutes early, and made our way through the crush of people on the ground floor to the much more sedate Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon on the fourth floor.  The salon is split into two sections, separated by the entrance hallway where there was a Christmas tree decorated with Fortnum & Mason tea caddies, and a pianist was playing an 'interesting' selection of tunes on a grand piano.  The salon is decorated in the distinctive green/blue Fortnum & Mason colour, and the overall atmosphere is one of civilised elegance. 
We were shown to our table, where a waitress explained the options available, and told us to ask if we needed any help with the tea selection.  We all chose the afternoon tea option (of course), and after spending a fair amount of time looking through the extensive tea menu, Charlotte chose the Imperial West Lake Long Jing green tea, Caroline chose the Assam Superb, and Mo went for the Bannockburn First Flush Darjeeling.  There was an extra £2 surcharge for choosing a single estate tea instead of a blend, which Charlotte and Mo were happy to pay for their teas.
The teas arrived and were poured for us, then the pots were immediately topped up with hot water again.  We were all very pleased with our choices, the green tea had a nice tangy seaweed flavour, the Assam was full and strong with a slightly unexpected, though not unpleasant, aftertaste and the Bannockburn was fresh and delicate. We were brought pots of hot water when we asked for them, but most importantly we were offered fresh tea - not just fresh pots of the teas we had chosen, but pots of a new tea if we wanted it.  Mo stuck with the Bannockburn, while Caroline chose the Jubilee Blend (a mixture of India, Ceylon and Chinese teas) and Charlotte went for the Silver Peony King Special AA white tea.  Caroline and Charlotte both preferred their second choices, the Jubilee Blend was less strong than the Assam but more rounded while the white tea had a mellow flavour with a subtle grassiness.  All in all, with the selection, the top ups, the option to try multiple teas throughout the afternoon we couldn't give this anything less than a perfect score 30/30
Along with the teas, we were brought a cake stand with sandwiches, scones and cakes on it.  We were just thinking that the number of sandwiches looked small when we were told that we were welcome to refills of everything as often as we liked.  In fact, as soon as we finished the first round of sandwiches, a waitress instantly appeared and offered us more.  If it hadn't been for the fact we had to save room for the scones and cake, we could have been there indefinitely.  There were five sandwiches in the selection: egg mayonnaise in white poppyseed bread, cucumber with mint butter in plain white bread, beef with horseradish cream in granary bread, chicken with tarragon dijon mustard in plain brown bread and a combination of smoked and poached salmon with creme fraiche in granary bread.  The only minor complaint we had here was that the mint butter was slightly too strong with the cucumber, and to be honest, didn't really add much to the sandwich.  Due to this minor quibble, and we're really being harsh here, the sandwiches scored 29/30
The scones were the usual one plain, one fruit per person.  They were served with a large pot of clotted cream and three different types of jam - strawberry, blueberry and raspberry.  There really isn't much to say about these, other than we all very much enjoyed them.  If we hadn't been wanting to move onto the cakes, we'd have been happy to have more.  29/30
The cakes we were presented with were small and beautifully made.  There was a good variety in the flavours and types available.  They consisted of pink rose flavoured eclairs, chocolate ganache filled with a chocolate, raspberry and rose mousse, a light vanilla truffle on chocolate sponge filled with cherries, and a lemon curd and praline layered cake topped with caramel and gold leaf.  We were also told that we could have slices of cake from the main cake stand in the centre of the room.  Caroline chose a maple and pecan cake, Mo chose the blueberry bakewell tart and Charlotte went for the layered orange cheesecake sponge.  Once again, we were offered as many refills as we wanted, but we were feeling a bit too full to take them up on this offer.  The cakes provoked a more mixed reaction from us.  The chocolate and cherry ones were delicious and easily the favourites, the rose eclair was also very good.  The bakewell tart and the orange cake were nice but not outstanding, while the maple and pecan was far too sweet and the lemon curd one tasted like eating spoonfuls of lemon curd with the occasional surprise nut.  Having said that, we are being deliberately harsh here.  We would have easily been able to avoid any cakes we weren't keen on and ask for as many of the ones we liked as possible.  Even with the quibbles we had, the cakes still scored a more than respectable 28/30
In case it's not clear from our description, there was an abundance of food and tea.  We were there in total for 3 hours, which is the longest afternoon tea we've had so far.  Even after we had paid the bill and were getting ready to leave, a waitress offered us some more tea!  The service was really exceptional, with a nice balance between being attentive and leaving us to enjoy ourselves.  We were also given a small sample box of the Jubilee Blend tea to take away with us. 
With supplements for single estate tea, the service charge and the bottle of water we ordered, we ended up paying between £45 and £50 per person.  Although this is the most we have paid for a tea, it was actually only a few pounds more than some of the others we've had (admittedly we had discount vouchers for these and didn't pay full price).  As far as value for money goes though, we really can't fault this.  It's not something we could afford regularly, but we all agree that if we were going to go anywhere for afternoon tea, Fortnum & Mason would be the top choice.  The only reason we are not scoring it a full 10 is in case we find somewhere even better in the future.  We're cautious like that.

Pros                                                    Cons
Trying more than one tea                 The odd selection of music being played 
Taking your time                                  Erm....lemon cake was too lemony
Excellent quality and variety          Really struggling to think of things now

Score

9.5 out of 10

Friday, 7 December 2012

Afternoon Tea Review - The Betty Blythe tea room

Review - The Betty Blythe tea room - £21.00 per person




On Friday last week the Tea Ladies went for a themed afternoon tea. The Betty Blythe vintage tea room offers a 1920s tea experience with dressing-up box included. An added benefit is the opportunity to bring your own bubbly with a very reasonable £2.20 per person corkage charge.

The 1920s tea takes place is downstairs in a small room with no windows, which accomodates about 6 people at most.  This gives your party a certain amount of privacy to dress up and be silly, without feeling self-conscious about who might be watching.


For dressing up there was a wide array of hats, fascinators, gloves, handbags, shawls and beads on offer. The gentleman in our party even had a smoking jacket to wear. There were so many dressing-up options available in fact that we felt the need to swap accessories every 20 mins or so to get the chance to try everything we wanted.


There was a good selection of teas on offer with white, green, black, rooibos and herbal teas all available, although quite a few were flavoured teas which aren’t to everyone’s taste. Caroline chose the Assam ,Mo the Darjeeling, Charlotte chose a green tea called 'The Muse' and Dave, the honorary tea lady chose Bollywood Dream Chai.  We all liked our selections, and were pleased that they were all loose leaf but we were disappointed that we didn't get any information on which companies produced our teas.  We got a top up of water when requested and all felt that we had more than enough tea to keep us going through a couple of hours of dressing up fun. We gave the tea a score of 24/30.

We got one stand of sandwiches between us, which seemed a little measly, especially when we saw the amount given to a party with half the number of people. They had made some effort to use different breads and we got salmon, cucumber and cream cheese, egg mayonnaise and ham sandwiches. Overall we thought they were a little bland and the bread was a bit dry so we scored them a mediocre 16/30.

The sandwiches were followed by a small canapé of smoked salmon on rye bread with a dill sauce. We all found this ok but a bit soggy and it seemed strange as it was just one single canapé each in the midst of all the other courses.

The scones arrived prettily arranged on a plate, already loaded up with cream and jam (see Cream vs Jam). Whilst it was a pretty display we felt that putting the cream and jam on the scone is half the fun, let alone the fact that they’d decided on cream first (which is clearly wrong*). The cream was clotted cream but not the best that we’ve tasted and they were a little stingy with the jam. We were assigned two halves of a scone each and all the scones were plain which in comparison with other places where we’ve had one plain, one fruit scone each was disappointing. We scored them 12/30.

There were three cakes on offer which each came in a little course of their own, brought down by smiling waitresses at regular intervals. The first was a small truffle chocolate brownie square topped with a mint leaf and jam filled raspberry. The majority liked the brownie but weren’t too sure about the topping. 



Next was a small orange and coconut cake  (not the promised lemon drizzle on the menu) which we then divided into four. This cake we universally disliked - there was a strange taste of alcohol and washing-up liquid which was rather unpleasant. Last to arrive were some tiny cupcakes. These were nicely decorated and tasted ok but were certainly nothing special. We thought it a shame that there was no variety in the selection - no pastries or biscuits on offer, and we felt that presenting them on a cake stand would have been much more impressive than bringing them to us individually. We gave the cakes a very low score of 11/30.

We got our afternoon tea via Living Social which amounted to a cost of £9 each which is excellent value for money for what we received, even considering our opinion of the food however we wouldn't be so happy paying the full price.

It’s clear from the above that we didn’t rate the food at this tea very highly but we wouldn’t want you to go away thinking that we didn’t have a good time. If this had been a plain afternoon tea where the food and the tea are the central focus of events we would have been very upset, but the fact is that the whole dressing up element was a huge amount of fun and that combined with the Prosecco that we brought along meant that we had an enjoyable couple of hours. If you go to Betty Blythe’s go for the dress-up and the atmosphere - not the food.
 


*this is the opinion of one tea lady the others agree that cream first is correct

Pros                                                                                             Cons
Great fun dressing up                                                       Mediocre sandwiches
Bring your own bubbly                                                     Pre-spread scones
                                                                                                      Disappointing cakes


Score:



5 out of 10

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Tasseography - Reading tea leaves


Hello,  MysticMcmo here.

As it is Hallowe'en the Afternoon Tealadies have asked me to explain the mystery of reading tea leaves.  

I will share some of the secrets with you but of course not all of them.  For example, it takes many years to be able to read the future in floral tisanes, and don’t even get me started on tea bags.

*

First, make a pot of tea with loose tea leaves. Pour out a cup – preferably one with a nice plain inside (not using a strainer of course!)  and drink until about a half an inch is left at the bottom.  It may help you to think about the question you want answered while you drink the tea. 

 Actually, thinking about problems while drinking tea is recommended anyway.  Don’t dunk your biscuit  in the tea – that will dramatically change the reading

Swirl the tea 3 times round in the cup, then place it upside down on the saucer. Count to 7 and turn the cup right side up..

Empty your mind. Relax and prepare to interpret the images that have formed.





First consider the overall pattern. Many tea leaves left in a cup means a full or busy life.  (Or you like strong tea)

Anything in the very bottom of the cup is an area of your life that needs special attention.

Some symbols are obvious in their meaning. For example, a boat, train, car or plane means a journey.   Numbers refer to time.

Birds are generally a lucky sign, though a penguin suggests sorrow or angst.

Animals sometimes appear – obviously it depends on what those animals mean to you but in general the following apply:
Cat – home loving
Dog – loyalty
Lion – fear
Giraffe – something is just out of reach
Pig – happiness
Fish – water, perhaps a journey
Horse - partnership
Hippopotamus – vivid imagination

Letters of the alphabet mean people such as relatives, friends or associates. The closer to the handle, the more important they are to you
   
Poorly outlined shapes represent indecision, or laziness.  

Stars and triangles are risky, circles indicate success and squares mean security.
Below is a list of a few other shapes and their interpretations

Table – work
Owl – aging
Flowers – love
Pineapple – exotic
Snail – gardening
Ladder – a parking ticket
Lamp post – a dog
Skull – Shakespeare
Balloon – an explosion
Tea – you’re not really trying


Of course it takes years and a huge amount of guesswork  and creativity to become proficient in reading tea leaves but I hope that you at least have a go.  It’s amazing what you can see if you just look




MysticMcmo



* That's not me.  MysticMcmo can never be photographed



Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Tea Review - Chateau Rouge

The very kind people at  Chateau Rouge Teas recently sent us some Rooibos to review

Chateau Rouge are a London based independent tea company.  They  import, pack and distribute speciality teas from around the world.  They are passionate about tea and want to celebrate it in all its diversity. So we were very keen to taste some of their products.

Rooibos is not actually a tea but a tisane, a herbal tea, made from the leaves of the South African plant known as the "red bush"  (scientific name Aspalathus linearis).  It is naturally caffeine free.  Most Rooibos is oxidized which produces the distinctive reddish-brown colour and enhances the flavour.


Chateau Rouge  sent us two from their range; Wiedouw Rooibos - £4.95 for a 50g pouch; and a Vanilla Rooibos also £4.95 for a 50g pouch.  Both are organic and certified by the Rainforest Alliance.



The packaging is sleek, modern and rather understated.  They sell mostly via the website and, we supposed, don't need shelf appeal.  They do also sell some of their teas in rather attractive tins (£10.95 for the Wiedouw in a 100g tin)

We liked the fact that the pouches are resealable and will keep the tea fresh.






The Wiedouw was tasted first and we all agreed it smelled very fresh and appealing.  It is single estate, coming only from the Wiedouw farm in South Africa.  It brewed to a rich reddish-brown colour and had a bright, almost grassy flavour with a malty undertone and no hint of bitterness.  There was no heavy aftertaste, and it tasted very refreshing.

The Vanilla Rooibos is made from a combination of South African rooibos and vanilla pods grown in Madagascar.  Prior to brewing the vanilla scent was faint but once in the cup if came out beautifully.  Even without checking, we could tell the vanilla was real, as it didn't leave the sour aftertaste you often get with vanilla essence or flavouring.  The vanilla added a sweetness and creaminess to the rooibos flavour that Charlotte and Caroline particularly appreciated.  Charlotte was surprised to find that she preferred this one, as she's not usually a fan of flavoured teas.  Mo, however, liked the plain rooibos, as the vanilla made the tea too sweet for her. 
 
In conclusion;  these are two really good tisanes - ideal if you want something without caffeine.

If the standard of these are anything to go by, the rest of Chateau Rouge's range is well worth checking out, expecially as they offer taster packs of  five 10g samples for £10.95




*EDIT:  The taster packs are no longer available, but Chateau Rouge now do a range of jams, coffee and hot chocolate alongside their teas.



Sunday, 30 September 2012

Afternoon Tea or High Tea?


We like to go out for Afternoon Tea -  but some people, notably Australians and Americans,  call the meal High Tea.

What's the difference?  Is there one?

Well, it’s a bit of a contentious subject.

The dictionary gives us these definitions:
Afternoon tea is a small meal snack typically eaten between 3pm and 5pm comprising tea, sandwiches scones and cakes or pastries.
High Tea sometimes known as a “meat tea” - a meal eaten in the late afternoon or early evening, typically consisting of a cooked dish, bread and butter, and tea.

So why are some very grand establishments serving tea, sandwiches, cakes and scones as High Tea?
It seems to have arisen out of confusion – “High “ rather suggests something grander and posher perhaps. But actually it seems that the reverse is true.

One theory suggests that the term was first used in the sense of well-advanced (like high time) to signify that it was taken later in the day than afternoon tea, as an early evening meal  –   originally for middle class children who would not be sitting down to dinner with their parents later.
The other version refers to the height of the tables;  high tea being served at a dining table with afternoon tea served in a salon or day rooms from low tables.   I have also seen the suggestion that it refers to a working class tea taken standing up at the mantelpiece by the man of house after coming home from work (being too dirty to sit down presumably).

The first version sounds more plausible to me. Certainly , growing up in Scotland, “high tea” was a hearty early evening meal, a great treat. A cooked dish, served with bread and butter followed by tea and cakes,  There used to be a fish and chip shop in Biggar that did a particularly fine one.... ah, memories.

Finally, and just to muddy the waters further,  Mrs Beeton  described several different types of teas:  the old-fashioned tea, the at-home tea, the family tea and the high tea. 

Whatever the origin of High Tea, it is clearly a very different thing from  the genteel meal reportedly invented by Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford, to combat "that sinking feeling" during the afternoon.  

 Ultimately, it doesn't really matter what you call it – as long as the tea is of good quality, the food is tasty and the company good.


Mo



Monday, 24 September 2012

The Cake and Bake Show

As soon as I saw the adverts for this, I wanted to go.  Cake!  And Baking!  Unfortunately Caroline and Mo were busy that weekend, so I was a lone Afternoon Tealady at the evening session on the first day of the show. 
I'd looked at the list of exhibitors beforehand, and had a couple of places I definitely wanted to visit.  I also had a big shopping list of baking-related items I wanted to get.  The first place I wanted to go though, was the Tea Room Garden.  According to the website:
Visitors will be able to sit back and relax in our Tea Room Garden, enjoying traditional scones and cream and of course cakes galore, while supporting the ongoing efforts of the wonderful team at Macmillan Cancer Support.
Charity, cake and most probably tea.  What a great place to start.  I made a beeline for it and have to confess, I was more than a little disappointed by what I found.  It was basically a cafe, with some astroturf and topiary.  The display counter had a few sandwiches and cakes in it, but nothing to justify its name of Tea Room Garden, so I went away cakeless, deciding it was much better contribute to Macmillan Cancer Support on their stand at the show rather than here.
No matter, I still had a whole show to see.  One of the first stands I came to was actually one that I'd been intending to seek out.  Simply Vintage Designs sell cake stands made from old, mismatched china.  You can select the plates and patterns you like from their stock which they've already drilled holes in, and they'll put them together for you into a 2 or 3 tier stand.  They also have tea cups and saucers, candles in tea cups, and other tea-related items.  I couldn't resist, and chose some plates for my own three tier cake stand.



The next stand I came to was again one that I'd intended to find.  Pistachio Rose are a company that specialise in combining Indian flavours with cake.  Among the delights on offer were Chocolate Naan, Pistachio and Rose cake and mini flavoured madeleines.  The one that I couldn't resist trying though, was the Chai Spiced cake. 



A lovely chai-flavoured cake with vanilla and chai frosting; I would happily eat this again.  The flavours blended really well together and were just the right strength.  I talked to Rekha, the owner and baker behind Pistachio Rose, about how long she's been baking, and how she used the chai flavour in this cake.  I'm not going to give away her techniques, I'm just going to say that she really got the flavouring right in this cake.  Pistachio Rose products are currently available in Fortnum and Mason, and they are now taking bookings for an Indian-inspired High Tea at the end of October.

There were other stands selling cupcakes, gourmet marshmallows, chocolate and baking equipment such as piping nozzles, icing bags, edible glitter, stencils, and even ready made cake mixes.  However, I was disappointed at both the range and amount of stands.  There were very few actual cake or bakery stands there, and the equipment stalls were very cupcake-centric.  There were hardly any cake tins available to buy, bread flour and baking was restricted to a couple of stands, and despite it being only a few months till Christmas, hardly any stands had ideas or equipment suitable for Christmas cakes.
Obviously, stands were by no means the only thing at the Cake and Bake show.  Something that really caught my eye was the Edible Beach competition.  Competitors had to design a beach-themed cake.  The entries were fantastic.  It was hard to tell the amateur categories from the professional ones.

There were some brilliant entries, so creative and skillful, I really enjoyed looking at them all.


Also, there were workshops on everything from making chocolates to delicate sugarcraft.  These you had to pay an additional amount for, so with only 4 hours at the show I decided I didn't want to spend my time on this, but I did drop in on some of the free talks, including Paul Hollywood demonstrating some bread plaits, and two of the contestants from the current series of the Great British Bake Off making a cake together.  The last one was absolutely hilarious, as they are both amateurs at presenting and everything that could go wrong did.  My favourite part was when one of them accidentally got hot caramel into the host's eye, which he surreptitiously kept trying to remove at the same time as interviewing them about what they were doing.

There was however, a huge wasteland towards the back of the show.  The 'Wedding Cake Showroom' had roughly 6 cakes in it.  The workshop areas and 'classrooms' fed on to an almost empty area of seating, the Tea Room Garden, and the chocolate stands.  I felt really sorry for the people here as they were shoved right at the back and hardly anyone was going to them.  It was a waste of such a large area, they really could have fitted a lot more in.

My biggest gripe about the show was the lack of information.  The website wasn't fully updated, the Sugarcraft section was still missing its list of talks on the day of the show, when we got there the show guide (£3) had clearly been done before they'd decided to do an evening session, so it had all talks and workshops finishing before 6pm and was completely useless to us.  Judging by the tweets from the second day of the show, queuing and lack of refreshments were also a big problem.

Overall, I enjoyed my time at the show, but I'm glad I only had an evening ticket.  I really don't think there was enough there to hold my interest for an 8 hour day.  To be fair, it's the first time this show has happened, so the organisers didn't have much to go on.  I will probably go again next year, but only if there is a better website, a greater list of exhibitors and more information about the attractions on offer.


Charlotte.

P.S. Some tea stands wouldn't go amiss either. 




Sunday, 16 September 2012

Afternoon Tea Review - The Montcalm Hotel, Mayfair

Review - The Montcalm Hotel, Mayfair - £36.50 per person*

Once again, the bargain-hunting Tealadies, having seen a Groupon offer for afternoon tea, leapt at the chance to try it out. This time our voucher was for a two-for-one afternoon tea with bubbly at the Montcalm, an impressive-looking Mayfair hotel.



We were shown into the Crescent Restaurant and Lounge for our tea.  There was  a harpist near the entrance to the lounge providing some pleasant background music .

Inside, we asked if we had dietary requirements and given the tea menu.  The Montcalm serve Jing Teas and had an impressive 23 on offer. Looking at the Jing tea website, they have an extremely extensive range of teas and the 23 that the Montcalm have chosen give a good range of different types, with white, black, green and fruit teas all represented. We also were served with a glass of prosecco included in the afternoon tea which was good quality.

Mo chose an Earl Grey, Charlotte the Flowering Osmanthus green tea, Caroline the Lychee Red and Dave, the honorary Tealady, chose the Ceylon.

The teas all came in small glass teapots, big enough for one large cup. This highlighted the attractive flowering tea in particular and allowed the rest of us to judge the strength of the tea based on colour. We were all quite pleased with our teas, apart from the Earl Grey which we don't seem to be having much luck with. Once again, we judged it to be not "bergamoty" enough. We were given refills of hot water very promptly and in total got three top-ups and were even offered a fresh brew so never came close to running out of tea. We scored the tea at 26 out of 30.


Owly Images

The food was served on a traditional three-tier cake stand with jam, clotted cream and interestingly, a shot of fruit smoothie on the side. The smoothie tasted very good but we weren't sure it added anything to the experience.



There were nine different types of sandwich and a bridge roll on offer - quite the biggest variety of sandwiches for an afternoon tea we've reviewed so far. There were bridge rolls with egg mayonnaise and capers, sandwiches with smoked salmon, crayfish, houmous and peppers, ham and mustard, cucumber and mint yogurt, trout paté, coronation chicken and roasted courgette and tomato. There  were almost too many and our only niggle, and it is just a niggle, was that aside of the bridge rolls there was only one of each, meaning we had to cut them all in half to make sure that we each got to try them all. We also liked the fact they came with differnt types of bread, including poppyseed.  We scored them 25 1/2 out of 30

The scones, again, followed the formula of one plain, one fruit per person. The jam was a little on the solid side which made spreading it a bit challenging, but the clotted cream was good and there was plenty of it.  The scones on the whole were fine, the plain ones were definitely the nicer of the two.  We scored them 20 out of 30.

There were five mini cakes each to round off the tea - a carrot cake, a fruit cake, a fruit tart , a  strawberry macaroon,and an opera cake.  We liked the selection available and though the carrot and fruit cakes were particular favourites, they were all good. We also liked the variety of cakes and felt there was something there for everyone.  We gave them 24 1/2 out of 30.



In conclusion, a delightful way to spend a Sunday afternoon. The atmosphere was relaxing and the service excellent throughout.

*We paid £33 for two via Groupon which was amazing value for money. We all agreed that we would be happy to pay the full price of £36.50 for what we received. Having just looked at their website again, I notice that there is a two-for-one special offer available. We recommend you give it a go.

Pros                                                                                             Cons (just quibbles really)
Excellent service                                                            The harpist had a rather limited repertoire
Selection of teas, sandwiches and cakes                  The teapots were on the small side
Lovely ambience


Score:



8 out of 10



Thursday, 13 September 2012

Tea Review - In Nature Teas

The nice people at In Nature Teas sent us some tea samples for review.  We love our teas and were more than happy to oblige.

In Nature Teas sells high grade, organic teas from China.  They only sell loose leaf tea and they put the emphasis on their teas being free from any kind of additives or flavourings.  Their range includes varities of White, Oolong, Puerh, Green and Black tea.

The tea samples we received were their Pure Flower Jasmine and Red Rose Black Tea. 



The teas came in lovely boxes that we all liked.  They have a simple but attractive design that stands out next to other tea packaging.  Inside, the tea was packed in foil bags that were designed according to the tea inside.



The bags emphasised the Chinese theme, but we didn't really feel they fitted in with the pure, organic tea and the attractive boxes.  There were also leaflets in each box, with some information about the health benefits of tea and brewing instructions for each of the teas.  Strangely though, there was no information about the actual tea, either on the boxes or in the leaflets.  We had to go to the website to find out about each tea. 
 

Red Rose Flower Black Tea - £6.50 online

According to the website, this tea is a blend of a mild, sweet black tea from Zheijian and red roses from Jiansu.  The taste is 'mild and soothing...with a deep floral fragrance'.
 
The first thing you notice about this tea is the smell.  It has a heavy, woody scent with a slight sweetness that makes it smell malty.  Interestingly, once it's out of the packet, the rose scent is much more noticeable.  We were split on whether we liked the smell or not, as the sweet woodiness reminded Mo of drawer liners, whereas Charlotte really liked the maltiness.

Once it's in the cup, the tea is very pretty to look at, with its rose petals and buds.


We brewed it according to the directions on the leaflet, using water at 85C and leaving it for 3-4 minutes.  The tea was quite a light red/brown colour, and once again had the malty smell, rather than the rose one. 

This tea was surprisingly light and refreshing for a black tea.  It was clean on the palette and didn't leave a strong after taste.  It had a slight sweetness to it but you couldn't really taste the rose flavour.  For us, this wasn't actually an issue as none of us would choose to buy a rose tea, but it could be a problem if you were expecting a more floral taste.  Interestingly, adding milk to it made virtually no difference to the taste.

As black teas go, it was a nice, good quality tea but nothing startling.  Although In Nature Teas classifies their black tea as Autumn/Winter, this one would probably make a nice iced tea.  It would look beautiful in a jug with some rose petals added, and would make a refreshing summery drink.




Pure Flower Jasime Tea - £5.01 online

The website listing says that this tea has been picked from 'the finest leaves, buds and flowers picked early in the morning to ensure freshness of aroma and flavour'.
 
As soon as you open the packet, you get a lovely, strong Jasmine smell.  We also had a pleasant surprise, as we were expecting leaf tea but instead we got Jasmine pearls.



 
We were much more excited about the pearls.  It's a sign of a good quality Jasmine tea, plus it's fun watching them uncurl in the hot water. 

Again, we followed the brewing instructions and used water at 95C, waiting for 3 to 4 minutes until the tea had brewed.  There was a bit of mixed feeling about this. For Charlotte, the tea wasn't strong enough, so she put the pearls back in for another couple of minutes.

The tea was a nice golden colour when brewed, and as with the Rose tea, it gave a very clean, fresh taste.  It kept its Jasmine aroma and flavour well and didn't get bitter as it got stronger.  It was a nice quality Jasmine tea that all of us would be happy to drink again.  It was easily the favourite for all three of us, as it looked, smelled and tasted lovely.  It's also very reasonably priced for a Jasmine tea so I'm sure we'll be buying it in the future.  
 
 
 
Overall, the teas were very good quality and we'd all be interested in trying more of their range.   It was disappointing that there was no information about the teas on the boxes.  Without this, there isn't really anything apart from the nice packaging to single them out over other teas on a shop shelf.  We didn't even know the Jasmine tea was in pearls until we opened the packet.  We'd really like to see the information from the website printed on the boxes, as they have been so selective about their teas it's a real selling point for them. 
 
If you'd like to try any of the range, In Nature Teas are available from their website and in certain branches of Whole Foods, Fresh and Wild, Nutri Centres and Tesco.