Sunday, December 9, 2012

Harrods Spiced Tea (aka Christmas Tea): A Tea Review

Whether we like it or not, and I do like it, Christmas is closing in. I'm not all that keen on the commercialness of Christmas however the one thing I love the most about this time of year is the food and all its accompaniments. I know I could go and buy a big turkey and roast it up any time of the year, and sometimes I do, but there's something special about cracking open an overpriced cardboard bonbon and wearing the daggy paper crown that makes the turkey taste just that little bit better. There is however one special Christmas treat that tastes just as great and makes you feel just as special all year round, it is my friends Spiced Tea.

It was Christmas eve a few years ago and I was in Singapore Airport with my probably better half. One thing you should know about this airport is that you could literally have your holiday there, it's huge and incredible. All the other times we had travelled through this airport we had been on a different airline in a different terminal. Today we were in a new terminal, well new to us anyway. As we wandered along killing time before our flight suddenly I saw something incredible. My superb distance vision had honed in on a green signature like logo and a six foot bear in a green vest and cap. To you this might not mean anything but to me it meant one thing, Harrods. Much to my my delight, there in the middle of Singapore airport was a Harrods, it might have been the size of my bedroom but it was still Harrods. It stocked your general souvenir type goods and a decent range of teas. As I was being ushered away from inevitable credit card blowout I noticed a red tin, it had Father Christmas on it in his sleigh and he was flying over the iconic Harrods' building. It is fair to say it had my attention. I picked it up, read the ingredients of this 'spiced tea' and before my husband could say 'your tea cupboard is bursting at the hinges', it was purchased and placed inside a green shopping bag that dangled from my hand.

The thing that enticed me about this tea was the blend of flavours. It starts with a black tea base and builds on it with spices reminiscent of chai such as cinnamon, cardamon, clove, ginger and vanilla. It then adds to them with some blackberry leaves, red thistle and orange blossom. It combined a lot of the flavours I love, especially during the cooler months.

After a decent 7+ hour flight we landed safe and sound back in Australia. I don't know if you have ever traversed Australian borders, it's a pretty daunting thing, even when you haven't done anything wrong! I guess nobody wants to end up being the silly person on the television show Border Security. It was around 7am on Christmas morning and we were keen to get home, have a quick nap and head out to Christmas lunch which would be followed by a cup of my new Christmas tea, or so I thought.

As we opened our suitcases to be searched we declared we had food, which we did, I had a stash full of Percy Pigs and Fudgy Bars - don't judge me. Then I remember I had my tea so I put that out on the counter too. Like a hawk the quarantine officer snatched up the tin and read through the ingredients. 'I have to open this' she said. 'That's ok' I replied. As she opened the tin the aroma hit me, it was divine, it was tea heaven. And then my dreams were shattered. 'This has orange peel in it, I have to confiscate it'. 'What, no', I thought to myself as I reluctantly let her pry the pretty tin from my fingers. I was devastated that I wouldn't be able to drink the tea. She mistook my sadness for some kind of border protest and forced some brochures into my hand and told me to read the laminated piece of paper on the counter about border protection. I put the pamphlets back down and kindly told her that I was fully aware of the reason why it was being confiscated and I agree with protecting our country and blah blah but I was just a little upset that after smelling that incredible tea I would never be able to have a cup.

As we walked through the doors out into the airport terminal my head hung low with a certain sadness. I was pretty sure those customs people would be enjoying themselves a lovely cup of Christmas tea.

Fast forward another year and my wonderful husband happened to be passing through Singapore on a business trip. He picked up another tin of Spiced Tea and decided to try again. This time he was successful and they didn't have a problem with the spicy blend. We looked at the tea, there was no orange peel, just flakes of cinnamon curl. We wondered if they had changed the recipe. Regardless, I settled in for my first very long awaited cup of this tea. I was not disappointed. Where does this tea take me?

Imagine that gorgeous English cottage from the Cameron Diaz film 'The Holiday'. I'm sitting in front of the fireplace on a comfy lounge drinking a large mug of this spicy but sweet warming tea. In a perfect world there would also be a little bit of snow outside. I love a cup of this tea in the evening, especially after a long difficult day.

So, regardless of the weather where you are this Christmas, if you can get your hands on this tea, you wont regret it. It also comes in white spiced tea and green spiced tea.

The Verdict

Tea: Spiced Tea (black)
Store: Harrods
Rating: 5/5
Comment: A delicious blend of black tea and chai flavours with a slight natural sweetness. Brew this for 4-5 minutes at 100 degrees celsius and serve with milk.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Coconut Tea: A Tea Review

I have spoken briefly about Tea Tonic teas when I reviewed The Aviary Dessert Kitchen and had a pot of Apple Tree Tea. Tea Tonic is an Australian tea company that claims to create Australia's healthiest tea. Whether this is true or not I'm not sure but what I can tell you is that they make some truly dreamy teas. Tea Tonic teas are blended by the lovely Lisa, a naturopath and herbalist. Many of the herbs used in the teas are grown organically in Australia and if you choose a tea bag you can enjoy your tea knowing it has been made in an unbleached tea bag. That's the other thing I enjoy about these teas, you can buy the tea loose leaf or in tea bags. Whilst I drink loose leaf at home I prefer to have some tea bags with me at work for pure convenience.

Earlier this year I discovered an incredible day spa, it rates second on my list of favourite day spas. Encase you were wondering, number one is the Onsen Spa at Dinner Plain in Victoria. There is something magically relaxing about sitting in a hot spring, albeit man made, surrounded by snow. I had been searching for something that would come close to the experience of that incredible day spa and then I found this gorgeous little place not far from my house. Obviously there is no snow here, no plunge spas or saunas in the change room but one of things that I loved most about my visit to this spa, apart from the incredible treatment that I had, was that upon arrival I was handed a cute little tea pot and tea cup and told to relax. I kind of chuckled, 'me relax' I thought, 'impossible'! I just don't relax, I'm always on. I sat down and took a sip of this tea and something started to happen, I was being relaxed whether I wanted to or not. This was when I decided I had to buy myself some of this deliciously relaxing tea.

The tea was Coconut Tea. Tea Tonic describe it as a 'bright and breezy blend' and I would certainly agree. There is something lovingly refreshing about this tea with its blend of coconut flakes, pineapple pieces, aloe vera pieces and Yerba Mate. Its flavours are slightly reminiscent of a pina colada. Before I go in to much more detail, let me show you my tea place for this tea. When I drink this tea this is where I imagine myself to be, relaxing in a hammock, drinking straight from a coconut.

A key ingredient to this tea is Yerba Mate. Yerba Mate is considered the green tea of South America. Yerba is Spanish for herb and unlike a tea bush the Mate is actually a tree growing as high as 15 metres. Grown in places like Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay, Mate is high in antioxidants and whilst still containing caffeine it has less than traditional black teas and asian green teas. Much like your asian green teas, Yerba Mate based teas should be brewed at a lower temperature to black teas, say around 75 celsius, otherwise they too can become slightly bitter. Both the leaves and twigs are used in the tea which produce a herby taste.

Another ingredient in this tea that I'm fairly sure I've never ingested before is aloe vera. Usually it's something we find in gel form to ease the sting of sun burn. The health properties of aloe vera are disputed but none the less it adds a refreshing aftertaste to this blend.

This is a great tea for summer and a bonus is that it doesn't really need any sugar or sweetener as the pineapple adds enough sweetness. This tea is best consumed warm as the aroma is incredible.

Tea Tonic teas are not readily available in supermarkets however you can buy them online from the company direct or check their website for a stockist near you. The great thing about these teas is that you can purchase them so many ways. You can buy the small travel size tin of loose leaf tea like the one pictured below, a large tea caddy, tea bags or even half a kilo of the blend! In my honest opinion the best thing to do is browse through the Tea Tonic online store and purchase yourself a tea bag sampler box containing the Coconut Tea, Apple Tree Tea and many other fantastic blends.

The Verdict

Tea: Coconut Tea
Store: Tea Tonic (online store)
Rating: 5/5 
Comment: A perfect summer tea for relaxing or even jump starting your morning. Make sure you brew it correctly at around 70-80 degree celsius and drink it warm.