It's about that time of day - time for a tea break...

Time for tea...The best lifestyle, culture, beauty, fashion, food and drink in London, the UK and beyond - all in your tea break!

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Time for a Tea Break - Tea with Rachael 2014

Happy New Year!  Time for tea?
 Tea with Rachael

If you would like to take a tea break with me in 2014, please visit my new Tea with Rachael website at :)

Wishing you all a happy, healthy, and tea-tastic 2014!

Rachael X

Monday, 28 October 2013

Vintage Shopper - Blogger of the Month

We interrupt our usual programming for a shameless plug!

The lovely people at Vintage Shopper have set up the "Blogger of the Month" award - and I'm nominated for October!

Please do vote for me if you like my recent post for Vintage Shopper, all about my Vintage Tea Party!  It's certainly been fun planning my vintage tea party and getting the opportunity to use my lovely vintage china, decorations and clothes!

You can vote here -

More tea adventures to follow soon - including tea in a treehouse, some fab new afternoon teas and lovely new teas to taste!

Until next time, enjoy your tea break!

Rachael X

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Rachael's Adventures in Tealand - Part Two - Breakfast with Twinings at the Savoy

I love the Autumn!  The new season always brings with it new adventures, as well as new smells, tastes and experiences that come with this most lovely of seasons.  This month has opened the door to even more fun adventures in Tealand!

Time for a Twinings English Breakfast at The Savoy

I always seem to be better at eating a proper breakfast in the Autumn, so I was delighted to be invited to an exclusive breakfast hosted by Twinings and 2011 Masterchef winner and culinary alchemist, Tim Anderson at London's luxurious Savoy.

This was not just any breakfast, but the 80th Anniversary of Twinings English Breakfast tea, the first 'designer tea', created in the 1930s!  I was very excited to be greeted by Stephen Twining, Brand Ambassador for Twinings when I first arrived, who shared with me his tips on brewing the perfect cup of English Breakfast - make sure you brew it for at least three minutes!  Many people complain that they don't like English Breakfast tea because it's not strong enough, but the trick is in the timing.  True to his word, it was a refreshing, tasty cup of tea - much needed after my travel across busy London!

The theme of the event was, of course, breakfasts throughout the last eight decades, paired with English Breakfast tea, of course!  With my love of all things vintage, this was a combination of a fascinating trip down memory lane and an interesting anthropological study of how eating behaviour has changed over the years - and continues to evolve.

I'm not sure what I loved more - the fabulous retro Twinings packaging, the vintage teapots, tea cups and tea sets, or the food itself!

Tim Anderson then talked us through his vision 
for the breakfast of the future - which is certainly innovative and different from the normal fry-up/cereal/pastry on the go that we're so used to today!  Tim's idea was that people will turn to more sustainable food sources in the future, eating things that may have seemed unappealing in Western countries before, such as insects in your muesli - crickets, ants eggs and mealworms, anyone?!
Insects for breakfast, anyone?
I very much liked the idea of more gamey meats featuring on the breakfast table, like Tim's smoked duck bacon - smoked with Twinings tea, naturally - and rabbit and venison sausages (although, rather childishly, I still can't bring myself to eat rabbit or venison, which conjour up images of Thumper and Bambi!)

Innovation is an important theme for Twinings, too - I didn't realise that they were pioneers of the teabag in the 1950s and de-caff tea in the 1980 - and the evolving packaging through the ages has reflected the styles and fashions of the era.  I particularly liked the 1970s packaging, which I think would be very fashionable again today!

Happy Anniversary Twinings English Breakfast!
I was also delighted to meet Mike, Twinings' master blender, chatting with him about my favourite Twinings blends and how different tea leaves add those all-important layers of flavour to different tea blends.  Mike created a special, strong blend to accompany the breakfast of the future and cut through the strong flavours of the food.  This was a strong, comforting and fragrant cup of tea, that really stood up to the robust flavours of the futuristic breakfast.

I was equally impressed with the special, limited edition 80th anniversary blend of Twinings English Breakfast, a blend of Assam, Ceylon and Kenyan teas, in its fabulous Art-Deco-inspired packaging. Twinings' master blenders have continued to tweak the blend of English Breakfast throughout the years to match up to the popular breakfasts of the time and to ensure consistency.

Since getting my paws on this special anniversary blend, I have been enjoying this strong, malty cuppa every morning for my first breakfast cup of tea - brewing for at least three minutes, naturally!

Until next time, hope you enjoy your breakfast cuppa!

Rachael x

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Rachael's Adventures in Tealand - Part One

Tea in the sunshine
What fantastic tea adventures I have had recently!

Tea on the balcony in sunny Rhodes
Tea in the sunshine
My first tea adventure came in the form of drinking lots of tea in sunny Rhodes, where we stayed at the wonderful Elysium Resort and Spa again this year.  As well as regular tea-time in the sunshine and in our beach suite, we ordered their Afternoon Tea on our balcony - a rather impressive sunny tea-time, and one to remember!

We enjoyed a savoury course of smoked turkey served in canape spoons rather than bread; and a yummy combination of mini cakes, chocolate mousse and fresh fruit mini-tarts.  It was quite a novelty having afternoon tea in the blazing heat of Greece, and felt very civilised on our balcony overlooking the idyllic bay.

Drink me - yummy tea blends
Time for tea!

The Mad Hatter's Tea Party
Then there was the Mad Hatter's Tea Party with the lovely ladies of The Secret Tea Society at the Sanderson!

The Mad Hatter's Tea has been remixed and is a real feast for the eyes (and stomach!)  We started our tea in style with a refreshing glass of Laurent Perrier Champagne, followed by a plethora of Wonderland-inspired treats, including a selection of unusual dessert-themed tea blends - apple pie, strawberries and cream and mint choc chip, in beautiful decorative bottles.  I particularly enjoyed the apple pie tea, which was full of cinnamon and so comforting - like Christmas in a teapot!

The sandwiches were delicious - all rolled up in rainbow colours - as were the mixture of sweet and savoury scones.  There followed mushroom and carrot-shaped marshmallows, "Drink Me" fruit custard, and gooey cakes, including a dark chocolate tea cup filled with green tea mousse! Tea and chocolate - a fabulous combination!

We had a wonderful afternoon of good company, gossip, good food and of course, lots of tea!  I think my favourite element of the Mad Hatter's Tea was the china - the plates and teacups are stunning and such clever designs.  I really want the "Tea" teacup to add to my collection!

More fun adventures in Tealand to follow, so until next time...enjoy your tea break!

Rachael X

Sunday, 11 August 2013

An afternoon celebration of tea

Soho's Secret Tea Room
I was very excited to visit Soho’s Secret Tea Room in London this weekend, which I’m ashamed to say I didn’t know about until a friend (and fellow blogger) invited me there for a traditional afternoon tea.  We spent a very pleasant afternoon there, enjoying a very traditional afternoon tea with all the trimmings. 

The tearoom is set up in a traditional, retro style, with old 1940s adverts inside the menu and quirky vintage mix-and-match china and tableware. 

We were a served a lovely, big pot of tea to share, in what has to be my favourite teapot yet!  Depicting a traditional “Toile de Jouy” scene, I really wish I could add this to my teapot collection at home! Toile de Jouy has a special significance for me, as it featured heavily in my vintage-inspired wedding!  

A fabulous Toile de Jouy teapot!
We were also given a timer to ensure we brewed our tea for the correct amount of time – something I always appreciate, as I like a nice, strong cup of tea!  

We enjoyed a cake stand full of treats – sandwiches, scones and enormous slabs of cake!  What better way to spend the afternoon, than whiling away the hours drinking lots of tea, chatting, enjoying good company and eating tasty treats? 

Tea-time treats!

The Tea House, Covent Garden
We continued our afternoon celebration of tea with a visit to The Tea House, located nearby in London’s Covent Garden.  This fantastic, olde-worlde shop stocks a fantastic variety of teas, teapots and other tea paraphernalia - I was in Heaven!

I stocked up on two of my favourite teas – Vanilla Black Tea and Cinnamon Haze black cinnamon tea from Ahmad Tea – as well as some new spoons and steepers for when I use my loose leaf teas and some additions to my Willow Pattern china collection.  I do love an excuse to buy anything tea-related!

Filling the room with the scent of tea leaves and bergamot
Tea-inspired perfume - delicious!
Extending the tea theme, I also tried out for the first time one of my new tea-inspired fragrances - Elizabeth Arden's Green Tea Cherry Blossom - a lovely, light, summery scent, to go with a sunny day of tea in London!  I also recently bought Jo Malone's Earl Grey and Cucumber Cologne to wear throughout the summer, and a fun London home fragrance kit with diffuser reeds - apparently the scent of London is of tea leaves and bergamot, which I think it very appropriate in my home!

What a fun, tea-filled Saturday afternoon in sunny London – it certainly brought a smile to my face!

Until next time, hope your weekend is also suitably tea-filled!

Rachael x

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Time for a tea experiment - #RealiTEA

I was never a big fan of science at school, preferring history and literature :)
But when it comes to experimenting in the kitchen, I love it!  So I was delighted to be invited to take part in a tea experiment with Cafédirect as part of their 
#RealiTEA campaign!

The #RealiTEA campaign is intended to get the nation drinking better tea and giving a fair deal to tea growers, exposing the real story behind the average UK cuppa.  The report shows concerning statistics, such as the cost of growing tea rising 94% over the past five years, crippling tea smallholders, while the prices being paid to growers have only grown by 25% in comparison.  In contrast, the price of tea on UK shelves has only gone up by 3.8% over the last 3 years.  The compromises made to keep tea at this low price usually comes at the expense of the growers and the quality of the tea.

It was time to put the tea to the test.  I tried several cups of Cafédirect's smallholder-grown, hand-picked teabags versus some mystery teabags from one of the Top Five, big brands.  They were different shaped teabags, so they were easy to tell apart, and I actually found they made slightly different-looking cups of tea.
Cafédirect Hand-picked Tea versus the Mystery Top Five Tea

Both teabags made a nice strong cup of tea.  The Cafédirect tea, however, made a clearer, fresher tasting brew.  I like my black tea strong, but found that even though I like a "builder's tea", I needed more milk with the mystery brand.  I did enjoy the mystery brand, having not had standard teabags for a while after tasting lots of different speciality blends, but think that the Cafédirect tea had the edge in terms of delicacy of flavour and strength of brew.

Comparing the teabag contents
Delving further into this experiment, I took a good look at the tea inside the different teabags.  Much as I hate to waste tea, Cafédirect encouraged me to look at the contents, which show the difference in the quality and texture of the tea used inside the teabags.  You can see these differences clearly when examining the tea - to do this (feeling very scientific!) I emptied the contents of each tea bag into identifical glass  bowls.  The Cafédirect tea is the one at the top, with a uniform, darker colour tea.  There are no visible twigs, and you can also see that less tea is needed inside the bag to give a good flavour, as there is considerably less in the bowl.  The mystery brand, on the right, has lighter coloured tea and little bits of twig mixed up throughout the tea.  The twigs really bulk out the teabags.

Cafédirect explain this in their RealiTEA campaign - in their series of in-depth interviews with tea growers from Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania, it became clear that the traditional, artisan skill of hand-picking the tender top two leaves and the bud (widely regarded as the only part of the tea plant suitable for making tea) is fast being replaced by less accurate machine-cutting.  This standard practice for the mass market, low-grade tea means that there are twigs and the tougher, lower leaves in the teabags, and the growers are losing out.

As well as the Cafédirect tea passing the taste test and coming out on top, it's reassuring to know that they are doing their bit to give a better deal to tea growers - 22.5% of the price of a box of Cafédirect teabags goes straight back to smallholder cooperatives. According to Cafédirect, the tea industry is worth £629 million, so there’s no reason why independent smallholders should be struggling to make a profit.  If all the top tea brands invested in growers in the same way, smallholders would be in a far better position and everyone would enjoy a better quality tea!  

Cafédirect are asking people to ‘Think Before They Drink’ - to really value good tea and be prepared to pay that little bit more so that everyone benefits.  You can sign the pledge at  
I am personally happy to sign the pledge, as I'm always happy to pay a little bit more for great quality tea, and as I drink so much tea, I think it's only fair!

Thank you, 
Cafédirect, for bringing this to my attention, and for inviting me to do the tea experiment and be a part of the campaign.  I enjoyed the tea taste test and am happy to have signed the pledge.

Until next time, I hope you enjoy a good cuppa or two, and can also join me and fellow tea lovers in the drinkbettertea pledge.  Happy drinking! :)

Rachael X

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Rock and Roll Tea, anyone?

A month of yummy tea!

I have been lucky enough to have had a number of fantastic tea experiences over the past month - both in the UK and across the pond, in the ever-amazing NYC!  I would like to share them all with you over the coming weeks, b
ut first, I must tell you about the fantastic W Rock Tea afternoon Tea at London's W Hotel in Leicester Square.  Remixed by the fabulous Gizzi Erskine, the menu features sandwiches, scones and sweet treats named after famous rock and roll artists and songs. 

Our afternoon tea outing was organised by the charming tea-loving ladies at
The Secret Tea Society, a membership group for like-minded ladies who, well, love tea!  And what a wonderful way to spend the afternoon it really was!  I encourage you to join this fab group of fellow tea lovers!

The lovely Claire from The Secret Tea Society
Mmm - rock and roll tea, anyone?

The tea looked amazing, as I'm sure you'll agree!  We started with "Dark Side of the Moon" sandwiches, followed by the aptly-named "Rule Britannia" currant scones (with jam and clotted cream, of course!), then  the beautiful and sweet-smelling "Every Rose has its Thorn" (Rose financier with rose petal jam), t
he "Cherry Bomb", a colourful and sparkly bomb of chocolate, mascapone and cherry.  

Wild make my heart sing...!
Then came the cakes, designed by Gizzi herself!  My favourites were the utterly gorgeous "Wild Things" - salted caramel and popcorn eclairs - which just melted in the mouth!  These were closely followed in my affections by the equally fabulously-named "Rockabilly Rebel" cakes, made from Devil's Food Cake layered with peanut butter mousse and topped with peanut brittle.  
Mmm...even more delicious then the Reeses Peanut Butter Cups that I was addicted to for a long time!  There were also the delightful "Flips Ville" - miniature Cherry Cola and Yuzu tarts with sparkles and popping candy (still popping when they arrived - amazing!)

The delicious food was all washed down with a fine selection of teas from Harney & Sons, a really lovely range of teas that I discovered in New York, first when I was served it with breakfast at the Waldorf Astoria where I was staying, and then being served almost everywhere I went!  I brought some of the very tasty and quite unusual blend of English Breakfast back to the UK with me, so was delighted to have more of this and also sample their refreshing Earl Grey with my W Hotel tea!

We had a wonderful afternoon of great tea, yummy food and even better company!  To top it all off, after a leisurely afternoon taking tea, we also tried out the delicious cocktails at the W Hotel bar.  I had the very appropriate "Royal T" - a fragrant, floral mix of jasmine tea, rose syrup, gin and lemon juice, topped up with Prosecco.  Refreshing and delicious!

Cheers! Cocktail o' Clock with fellow Secret Tea Lady, Liz!
I heartily recommend this scrumptious tea - and the extensive cocktail menu!  In fact, I will have to go back again at some point just to try the other equally tasty-sounding cocktails!
So, until next time, "Cheerio", as we said at the end of our afternoon!  Enjoy your tea break - perhaps rock and roll-style and even followed by a cocktail (or two?) Fabulous! :)

Rachael X