Welcome to our blog....here we will share all our afternoon tea adventures with you...the good, the bad and the wonderful!

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Time for.....Christmas?

Hello there,

Happy Teas-day! I hope you are well today!

Ok....I know its not quite December yet.....and yes Christmas is still six weeks away....but when I saw the Christmas afternoon tea from Cherish Finden and her fab pastry team at Langham London I couldn't wait to share it with you!

How cute does that tea look??

This year's Christmas theme is The Nutcracker and guests begin their afternoon tea feast with a pre-dessert of Eggnog pannacotta with rum jelly. The savoury element of the tea includes Forman’s smoked salmon éclair, Truffled duck egg bridge roll, Farmhouse stilton, red onion and port relish, Cucumber, cream cheese, chives and Smoked turkey, marjoram stuffing, watercress.

Once guests have finished their savouries and their freshly baked scones, they can move onto that top tier of sweet treats which includes.....

Mini Reindeer chocolate log cake, crunchy caramelised hazelnut
Cinnamon Christmas tree shortbread
Mango and passionfruit white chocolate Chantilly
Nutcracker Victoria sponge with cranberry and white balsamic pâte de fruit
Pistachio and raspberry dome, sablé biscuit

This festive afternoon tea is available at The Langham between the 27th of November 2015 and the 3rd of January 2016 from £49 per person. For more information pop by the Palm Court website.

If you enjoy this festive afternoon tea this Christmas season we'd love to hear what you think. Were you able to bite the head off that cute little reindeer??

Thanks for popping by today,

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Time for tea, cake....some bubbles and maybe a little jam making?

Hello there,

Welcome back to Tea With Me and Friends - I hope you are well today!

Today I wanted to share something a little different with you as this week I was part of something rather exciting......I attended the preliminary meeting of the Farnham Women's Institute (WI). When I received the Facebook invite to join a group interested in setting up a brand new WI in Farnham at the end of September I was so excited. Since moving to Farnham three years ago I have wanted to join a group just like this....somewhere to make new friends, learn new things and of course eat cake!

For anyone who hasn't heard of The Women's Institute, it was initially formed in 1915 to revitalise rural communities and encourage women to become more involved in producing food during the First World War. Since then the organisation's aims have broadened and today the WI is the largest voluntary women's organisation in the UK, celebrating its centenary this year and currently it has 212,000 members in over 6,300 individual WIs.

Anyone who has popped by the blog before will know that I am rather partial to a bit of cake and a nice cup of tea....I also love a good natter and enjoy crafting and learning new skills. These are all things that I will be able to participate in at our monthly WI meetings and sub-groups.

This WI has been set up by local lady Cat Hoare, and there is a group of us who have volunteered to form the committee to get things up and running and organise the monthly meetings. Our joint vision is to uphold the traditional values of the WI but give it a modern twist....more cakes, crafts and cocktails than jam and Jerusalem (although Cat's not ruling out a spot of jam making!)

This week we held our very first meeting.....we're not technically set up as a WI yet as we haven't signed the constitution, but we needed an initial meeting to vote on forming the group and also....very importantly....our name! Cat managed the meeting information on Facebook where we got considerable interest.....but I don't think any of us expected the 60 wonderful ladies who joined us at the first meeting to find out more!

The preliminary meeting of the Farnham WI - 60 lovely ladies meeting for
cake, bubbles and to find out more!

I'm pleased to report that our first meeting went well, we were given a general introduction to the group from Cat and also WI information from Ann Heward. There was plenty of literature available about the WI, the campaigns they are involved in (current campaigns include SOS for Honeybees and More Midwives).

Ann Heward giving an introduction to the WI

.....and of course 
there was a lot of homemade cake, bubbles and a little tea consumed during the evening.......

First scrummy bakes from the Bake, Natter and Roll (Farnham WI) ladies!

We voted on our name....and Bake, Natter and Roll (Farnham WI) won by a landslide! 

We also put our names down for sub-groups that we might be interested in.....not surprisingly the pudding and wine tasting groups were really popular....the cycling group however wasn't quite so popular!

Our WI will officially form in January 2016 and I am really excited to be part of this group of like-minded women. If you happen to live in Farnham (Surrey), why not pop by our Facebook page and take a peek at what we've been up to. 

Are you already a member of a local WI? We'd love to hear all about your group - leave us a comment below!

The most amazing Brownies made by Lydia!
Thank you for popping by today,

Friday, 20 November 2015

The Friday Review.....JING Tea - Part 1

Hello there,

Happy Friday! I hope you've had a fab tea-filled week!

This Friday Review we are taking a peek at a couple of teas from JING Tea. Launched in 2004, JING is drunk in 75 countries around the world. Their range of loose teas and whole leaf teabags includes authentic examples of Asia's greatest teas, from China, Taiwan, Japan, India and Sri Lanka. And their hand-blown glass teapots and cups are just beautiful!

JING Tea teaware - photo from JING website

I was given several different JING Tea whole leaf tea bags at a tea event recently and looked forward to trying the teas.

JING tea bags

JING pack their whole leaf teas and herbal infusions into large teabags to allow maximum room for the leaves to expand and infuse. I decided to try the Earl Grey and the Jasmine Silver Needle tea bags first...

Silver Needle is a white tea from China. Its buds are picked and sun dried in April, in the mountains of China’s Fujian Province. In August, the tea is laid beneath a bed of fresh jasmine flowers for seven consecutive nights, combining the sweet white tea with a fresh, fragrant jasmine aroma.

JING recommend drinking this light tea at lunchtime or in the afternoon.

JING whole leaf tea bags

This tea should only be brewed for 2-3 minutes as its a light, fragrant tea. Once brewed the tea had a very pale yellow colour and the aroma is a very subtle jasmine.

Jasmine Silver Needle - JING tea 

The tea was light with a very refreshing flavour - the jasmine is distinct but not overpowering and I agree that it makes a lovely tea for afternoon drinking.

The classic Earl Grey is a Ceylon tea, scented with natural bergamot, from Sri Lanka. The tea also features blue cornflower petals, making it a very pretty teabag! It's a robust cup of tea, which once brewed is a lovely dark colour and has a smooth flavour.

Earl Grey - JING tea

The flavour of bergamot is obvious, but not overpowering - again its a refreshing cuppa! I would probably prefer to drink this in the morning as its a more robust tea than the Silver Needle.

For more information about JING tea and to see the other teas in their range pop by the JING tea website....you should also take a peek at their gorgeous teaware while you're there!

JING tea teaware - photo from JING website

Do you have a favourite JING tea? We'd love to hear from you if you do - leave us a comment or contact us on Twitter or Facebook.

Thank you for popping by today,

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Time for Tea....an afternoon tea adventure with a frustrated tea-loving American

Hello there,

Welcome back to Tea With Me and Friends - we hope you've had a tea-riffic week!

As you know, we love to feature the afternoon tea adventures of our readers as they enjoy a spot of tea....wherever they are in the world! Earlier this summer I was really excited to meet Valarie from Portland, America....we enjoyed a spot of tea at The Goring and Valerie promised to let me know when she went on her next American afternoon tea adventure. Valerie did warn me about the lack of tea drinking opportunities at home....she packed an impressive amount of London afternoon teas into her visit over the summer!

Well guess what.....today we have a wonderful post from Valarie and her recent afternoon tea adventure at Heathmans, describing an experience most British afternoon tea lovers would shudder at....

The Heathmann Hotel, Portland

The afternoon tea at the Heathman Hotel in Portland, Oregon, serves mascarpone with their scones. Not clotted cream - mascarpone. And yet, I've returned to this tea many times, and am already looking forward to the next visit.

Afternoon tea scone - The Heathmann, Portland

Let me back up.......

If you've ever seen the TV show Portlandia, which pokes fun at our "farm-to-table" food culture, you might assume that, somewhere among all the food carts, pop-up restaurants and bike-powered smoothie bars, someone would have created an afternoon tea that emphasizes fresh, local produce and artisanal breads to be enjoyed in some kind of fun or funky environment. Sadly, you would be wrong. 

The U.S. is coffee country. If a friend here offers me tea, my options are almost exclusively herbal, green, Lipton's (east coast) or organic black tea that looks and tastes like dishwater (west coast). (Assam tea and breakfast blends are my jam.) And Portland is ground zero for American coffee culture, with more coffeehouses per capita than any other U.S. city except Seattle (home to Starbucks), a short (in west coast terms) three-hour drive north. 

Valarie enjoying a spot of afternoon
tea at The Goring

But there are other matters that complicate the procurement of a quality afternoon tea here. Portland is a young city (founded in 1851) that offers only one Fortune 500 business; since we don't have the history and wealth of economic and political centers like New York, Boston or Washington D.C., we don't have the kind of opulent, traditional hotels that are most likely to host an afternoon tea in the U.S.

We also have very little sense of ritual out here. Weddings are far more likely to be outdoors as in a church; they typically last just slightly longer than it takes for the bride to toss the bouquet. Funerals might consist of a traditional service, but they could just as easily be a memorial held a month - or even a year - after the loved one has died ... if an event is held at all. In many ways, I particularly enjoy this kind of freedom from the past, but there are times when I miss the formality and tradition I experienced growing up on the east coast, just north of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 

The few teahouses we do have in Oregon are mostly in Portland's suburbs and are either Asian, featuring snacks like dumplings and edamame, or precious, fussy, Victorian-style parodies, overflowing with doilies and offering hats that women can dress up in for their tea. Well, no thank you.

So when I have tea at the Heathman Hotel, a classic hotel with a tea court that features an elegant Austrian hand-cut chandelier and a roaring fireplace, you may understand why I'm willing to overlook transgressions such as the mascarpone scone spread. 

My dearest friend-in-tea Becca and I have been going to the Heathman's tea for years to enjoy the many things that I do like. Their buttermilk scones (with currants) have a toasty outside that I love. 

Afternoon tea - The Heathmann, Portland

They send out a selection of savories that not only feature a variety of textures but also pull back on the carbapalooza at most teas, offering one sandwich (cucumber) along with creamy goat cheese on crunchy crostini, a sun-dried deviled egg, smoked chicken salad in a small pita and smoked salmon profiteroles, which could use a little more oomph (perhaps salt? capers? dill?). The desserts are also quite delish, offering a similar variety of textures, even if chocolate dominates. I particularly love something called a feuilletine, which is a sort of napoleon that features a nice little crunch amidst layers of smooth chocolate and peanut butter. There is also a lovely chocolate mousse, a marshmallow, a devil's food cupcake and a lemon tart, which brings a welcome acidity to all the sweetness.

Afternoon tea savouries - The Heathmann, Portland

But there are still things I wish they would change, and I'm not just talking about the mascarpone. For one thing, the tea itself, made by a company called Fonte (the logo on the menu says it's a "micro coffee roaster"), is weak and uninspired. In a town like Portland, why not feature some local teas, particularly the spectacular Steven Smith brand? (Steven Smith makes a tea called Brahmin that is the only American tea I know of to rival its English cousins.) Becca and I also frequently wonder about the banana bread, which is placed on the same tier as the scones. It's tasty, but unnecessary, and we both agree that we'd rather have an extra scone or savory in its place. And one small thing: the cucumber sandwich should be placed on the tier with the savories, not on the same tier as the scones!

Afternoon tea sweets - Heathmann, Portland

Becca has also wondered if the Peter Rabbit tea ("for littler sippers") couldn't offer a more traditional tea for her small children. While she's grateful they have an option for children, she wishes it could be just a smaller version of adult teas, rather than things like cheese slices, Goldfish and carrot sticks. 

Most of all, I wish they would change up their menu, which has been essentially the same for years. What about featuring seasonal teas? The place is mobbed for their holiday teas (which, incidentally, features exactly the same menu as their non-holiday tea), so why not give people reasons to keep coming back? With Portland becoming known as a foodie town, why not have a local chef curate a week of teas? What about tying it in to big events, such as Portland Fashion Week? The Heathman Hotel has a renowned library, with many first editions signed by authors who stayed there for readings given at Powells (the world's largest new and used bookstore). Why not use the week before Wordstock, the city's giant, one-day literary celebration, filled with workshops and readings with local and international authors, to host a literary tea that ties in with their library?

I appreciate the Heathman's teas and the effort they put into the occasion. With just a few key changes, they could honor the tradition of afternoon tea while celebrating the uniqueness of Portland. If they would just think a little more creatively, it could be something special.

I know how much Valarie appreciates a great cup of tea and a well thought out afternoon tea....so it makes me sad to think her local tea houses and hotels don't offer her the kind of tea experience she craves for (Valarie - you will just have to start planning your next trip back to the UK!).

A big thank you to Valarie for sharing this afternoon tea adventure with us, if you've had an afternoon tea you'd like to share with us please get in touch.

Thank you for popping by today,

Friday, 13 November 2015

The Friday Review....Williamson Tea

Hello there,

Happy Friday! We hope you are well today.

Today we are featuring a tea from the Williamson Tea range - we might have spotted Williamson Tea in the shops....they are the tea with the elephant image as part of their logo. They also produce some rather unique tea caddies.....

Williamson Tea
Elephant Tea Caddy

Williamson Tea is a fifth generation tea farming business committed to growing the highest quality sustainable teas to the benefit of Kenya, its communities, wildlife and environment. As tea farmers their teas is grown on their own farms, which means they control the quality of the product all the way from bush to cup.

We were recently lucky enough to be sent a lovely goodie box from Williamson Tea, featuring their Mint Garden tea and a lovely enamel cup....

Williamson Tea #keeponwandering

The caddy contains loose leaf tea pyramids, as soon as you lift the lid of the caddy you are met by a fresh minty aroma....

Mint Garden tea - Williamson Tea

This tea blends green tea with fresh mint leaves. 

Once brewed the tea has a lovely light minty aroma and is a pale yellow/green colour. The flavour of the tea is very refreshing - a very light mint, which I found ever so slightly sweet. All in all a very pleasant cup of tea.

Williamson Tea - Mint Garden

The Williamson Tea Foundation is very proud to support the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. The DSWT is the most successful orphan-elephant rescue and rehabilitation program in the world and one of pioneering conservation organisations for wildlife and habitat protection in East Africa. 

Currently £1 from the sale of every elephant caddy purchased on the Williamson Tea website will be donated to the charity, which offers the hope to the future of Kenya’s elephant and rhino populations.

To find out more about Williamson Teas and to take a look at the Elephant Caddies (each has a rather beautiful design) pop by their website.

We'd like to thank Williamson Tea for sending us these goodies - but please note that this gift has not effected our taste buds and all opinions expressed here are our own.

Do you have a favourite Williamson Tea blend? We'd love to hear all about it!

Thank you for popping by today,