What will you drink on National Tea Day this Friday?


Time for tea on National Tea Day


I love a cup of tea. Whether it’s National Tea Day or not, I love tea.

If I had to choose between tea and coffee for ever more, then tea would win hands down. Perhaps it’s my northern upbringing, but I can’t start the day without a cup of tea.

Unless I’m in Italy. In which case it’s pointless drinking the tea. Likewise in the USA.

But what kind of tea? Well, it depends on when.



Bellevue Belter for a good strong cuppa


I’m a bit of a traditionalist, and it’s usually Yorkshire tea here. That said, I’m also partial to the Bellevue Belter too, which is a good strong black tea. Both will get your day up and running.



Make your own black tea kit from Bluebird Tea Co


I guess I can take two routes here, depending on what time of year the afternoon falls. For these lighter, occasionally warmer, afternoons, then I like an Earl Grey type. If you want something just a little different on the same theme, then I like the Lady Lavender tea from Bluebird Tea.

If the weather turns cooler, or as we head into winter, then I love the smokiness of Russian Caravan tea. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, literally, but I love the aroma and the dark, smoky taste.



Chinese Treasures from Bluebird Tea


I have to admit to not drinking tea after about 6pm, as even decaf seems to cause sleepless nights. There are plenty of good options, if you like fruit or herbal infusions. Certainly Bluebird have over half a dozen different options which might set you on the right track for a good night’s sleep.

So, morning, noon or night, tea can be there all the way, on National Tea Day or beyond. You need a decent mug (back to my northern upbringing, cups and saucers only happen on trips out) and preferably somewhere cosy to get curled up with your tea.

And then, possibly, a decent biscuit, or two to go alongside a marvellous mug of tea. So, what will you choose? What’s in your tea mug?



Who would win my great gift awards for food lovers?


Who would your winner be?


Someone asked me earlier this week who I thought did food gifts really well, doing something a bit different.

Well, it’s like my Mastermind specialist subject. And I could have kept them all day, but didn’t. So, these are my definitely the winners in my book, for when you’re looking for something just a little bit different for a special food lover on your list.

Bluebird Tea Co


Make your own black tea kit from Bluebird Tea Co


I know, I write about these guys a lot, but I love them and what they’re doing, have done since we met on a front lawn of a country house years ago. Their gifting is inventive and imaginative, and their tea is top notch. I think I could find something for everyone from Bluebird, and at every price point. Love them. Buy direct from them, or there’s a large selection on Not On the High Street.


Artisan du Chocolat


Milk Chocolate Salted Caramel Honeycomb


I’ve always had their salted caramels on my wish list (and it’s the one thing that’s always got taken notice of, lucky me). I love that you can do proper, grown up, single estate, high percentage cocoa with them, and you can do things like salted caramel honeycomb. So essentially a posh Crunchie. My idea of heaven. Chocolate for every budget and every taste, but always incredibly tasty and beautiful looking.


Master of Malt


Ginvent 2016 Advent Calendar


I love these guys for alcohol gifts with edge and interest. I loved them when they started out with the sample sets, I think they’ve been brilliant at the advent calendars, never mind just the mind blowing collection of whiskies, gins, liqueurs and other spirits. They do tasting sets, which can help educate and develop your palate. Or just have some good evenings in. Great choices.


The Snaffling Pig Co

Pig N Mix Christmas Gifting

I love businesses with a passion and a focus, and that’s definitely true here. It’s all about the pig, starting with the pork scratchings. The jars look great, and definitely make a great looking, tasty gift. The Pig Night In also includes their own beer, so definitely one to sit back and enjoy. And it’s not too late to get hold of their advent calendar either. Twenty four days of pork scratching gorgeousness.




Craft Gin & Tonic Hamper


Brilliant source for beautifully curated gifts from the best artisan producers around. Supporting a small business supporting other small food and drink businesses has to be a good thing, and they have such lovely selections. Again, something for every budget and kind of taste. It can be drink, it can be store cupboard, it can be fresh food.


So, five great businesses that I reckon could fulfill many of your food and drink gift options for all kinds of people at all kinds of price points. If you could only nominate five places to shop from great food and drink gifts, where would you pick?


The best Advent Calendars for food and drink lovers


The countdown is on!


Advent calendars have come along way since I was a kid, and the excitement of finding you got a picture of a robin, or a snowman. Then we upgraded to chocolate, and that was that for quite some time.

And then all of a sudden there’s every kind of calendar around, and I think they just get more interesting each year. So, here’s my roundup of the ones I love this year:

Christmas Chocolate Lovers CountdownHow about advent and then some? Simply Chocolate’s “Countdown to Christmas” adds some extra chocolate into your advent countdown. I mean, who doesn’t want to celebrate a few half days? That could brighten up your lunchtime. Not only that, but you get some interesting chocolate flavours, including Crunchy Coco and Misty Martha. Which is something to do with hazelnuts.


Snaffling Pig Pork Scratchings Advent Calendar


Who says advent calendars have to be about sweet stuff? Snaffling Pig have created what I think is the first pork scratchings advent calendar. Six different flavours to work through, a mini bag behind each door. If it’s their kind of thing, then this is going to make their December.


Bluebird Luxury Tea Advent Calendar


The calendar also doesn’t have to generate huge calorie counts before the big Christmas feast. I love Bluebird Tea’s advent calendar, packed full of amazing tea as you’d expect but also some nice surprises (also low calorie) such as mini candles and pin badges. Oh, and some chocolate. But just a little.


Ginvent 2016 Advent Calendar


There again, could have a daily indulgence, and in my case my favourite option would be gin. The Ginvent Calendar is right up my street, and perfect for any fellow gin lover. The selection includes some more unusual artisanal gins, and gives you enough to work out if you want to splash out on the full bottle or not. Possibly it’s not quite the done thing to sample these ones first thing in the morning though.


Charbonnel et Walker Advent Calendar


Of course there is absolutely nothing wrong with a good chocolate advent calendar, and Charbonnel et Walker have a rather lovely one.  A little more than a chocolate shape each day, you’ll be treated to things like their classic English rose fondant creams, or even some fudge for a change. Beautiful looking too.


Craft Beer Advent Calendar


Maybe beer is their thing, and maybe just a small indulgence each day is a good thing. Honest Brew has produced a calendar of craft beers, containing a whole range of beer styles including pilsners, porters and stouts, and from a variety of different small brewers. Again, a nice way to sample a variety of different producers.


Fortune Cookie Advent Calendar


Finally, combining two trends, Cracking Cookies offer something a bit different, in that this is an advent calendar of fortune cookies, and then personalisation, as each cookie contains a message from you. I guess you could build this up into revealing a big surprise, so a series of clues perhaps, or just 24 things about the person eating the cookies. Different, but not cheap at £44.99, so maybe leading up to a surprise is the best thing. I’m thinking a very big, good kind of surprise…though Eastenders could rewrite this as a lead up to a Christmas Day departure in a taxi kind of surprise.

I think these are lovely, but I do slightly struggle with these a bit, in terms of some of them are quite expensive, for something that isn’t actually a gift to give on Christmas Day. It’s one heck of a treat to yourself in the run up to Christmas for sure. Maybe if we do end up back in austerity measures then we’ll all be back on lovely picture calendars by next year. Love to know your thoughts on these.


Brewing up great gifts for tea lovers


Time to treat the tea lovers with great gifts


Whilst there have been plenty of stats on the decline of tea, I think it’s still fair to say that in the UK we are still a nation of tea drinkers. Personally, I can’t start my day without a cup of tea, it’s a daily gift so here’s some great Christmas gifts for fellow tea lovers.


Breville 5 temperature setting kettle


Can’t make a good tea without water, but not necessarily boiling. This lovely looking kettle from Breville has 5 temperature settings, making it perfect for the perfect brew for every colour of tea. Great for a tea lover with a wide variety of tea tastes, or just general geekiness for a good gadget.


Christmas Tea Bauble Gift Set from Tregothnan - perfect gift for a tea lover


I do love the fact that there are quite a number of tea plantations around the UK now, and that some of them are even exporting tea to China. Tregothnan is, I think, the best known of our home grown plantations. For a festive treat from them, I like this Christmas Tea Bauble gift set, and you can choose which two teas to go in there, including their Jasmine, Earl Grey Blue Flower and Classic.

Dazed and Dazzled teapot from T2

Great tea deserves a great tea pot, for those times when you’re not just chucking a tea bag into a mug (I know, but let’s be real about this). I really love T2, one of my favourite finds on my trip to Australia. They have really good ceramics, and I love this teapot, really bright and vibrant to brighten up any morning brew. You’ll find matching mugs as well if you really want to splash out.


Make your own black tea kit from Bluebird Tea Co


Fancy yourself as a bit of master tea blender? Well, with this kit from Bluebird Tea Co then you can make your very own blend of black tea to your hearts content. With different types of black tea, and then some additional flavourings, you can have a number of combinations all before the turkey is cooked on Christmas Day.


You Complete Me Gin Mug


Tea needs a mug in my view. And this one is perfect for me, for MFL and for every other gin lover out there. Enjoy.


Green tea with cat tags

This gift hits so many different types of people. Green tea lovers. Those with a love of all things Japanese. Crazy cat ladies who will love the cat shaped tags on these tea bags. People that you have in the office secret Santa and know nothing about. Or just generally because you fancy some cute green tea tea bags.


Fika Teapot from Oliver BonasAnd if you’re going to be brewing green tea, then not only do you need a kettle that will get it to the right temperature, but you might like something like this to brew it in. This is the Fika Teapot from Oliver Bonas, and there are matching cups as well.


Personalised Tea Tin Gifts from Bluebird


Personalised gifts are always a lovely surprise, particularly when they are as good at these ones from Bluebird Tea Co (yes, I’m very fond of them as a tea supplier). You get two lines of message to personalise as you like, and you can choose which blend goes in here, from something festive like Christmas Cake or Snowball to something like the Great British Cuppa. You can even add the perfect tea spoon or a collapsible tea infuser as well. Great idea, great tea.

So, get the kettle on, make yourself a brew and decide what to get the other tea lovers in your life. Christmas needs good tea, not just turkey!


When tea gets personal


Personalised tea tin gifts from Bluebird Tea Company



I love my tea, as anyone who reads this very often will know. I also really like Bluebird Tea, I’ve written about them quite a lot and I love how they continue to develop their range.

New for this year are these personalised tea tin gifts, so you can really spell out why someone is special to you. The standard tea is their Great British Cuppa, but for another £5 you can make this a gift of something like their Gingerbread Chai, Earl Grey Creme or Honey Bee Beautiful.

You get 30 characters to make a name for your tea, and then 100 characters for your message so can really tell the recipient something special.

They get about 100 cups of tea worth of tea, and probably a smile every time they make a brew. Available directly from Bluebird’s website, or through Not on the High Street if you’re shopping for other gifts too.


Chinese New Year time!


Celebrate Chinese New Year in tasty style


I think it’s well documented on here that MGG and I love our Chinese food, particularly dim sum. And we don’t really need an excuse, but with Chinese New Year just around the corner, then a few extra things might sneak into the cupboards.

Crispy Chinese New Year Cookies - great gift for a food lover

Wai Yee Hong is a fantastic source of good stuff for your feast, particularly if you are in the Bristol area, but they do online as well. You can get the red lanterns, the red envelopes, the firecrackers and also something like these crispy New Year cookies.


Chinese Snack Taster Selection from Sous Chef - great gift for a food lover

If you fancy something to snack on whilst you’re cooking up your favourite Chinese dish, then how about this Chinese snack taster box from Sous Chef? Certainly some unusual bits to keep your guests talking! Though I think I can leave the beancurd jerky.


Chinese Treasures from Bluebird Tea - great gift for a food lover


Need a cuppa? How about Chinese Treasures from Bluebird Tea? This is their Ba Bao Cha, an ancient herbal medicine tea. Combining green tea and ginseng then this might just ward off winter bugs. Or just be a very nice cuppa.


Personalised Chinese New Year Lucky Mug - great gift for a food lover


In case you need a nice mug for the tea to go in, then how about a personalised lucky mug to celebrate the start of the Year of the Monkey? With the Chinese symbol for monkey on the front, and your choice of name on the back, then you can start the year off in style.


Lucky Buddha Beer - great gift for a food lover with a taste for different beers


And to toast it in with something a little stronger, how about a Lucky Buddha beer? Probably worth it just for the bottle, but I hear the beer is pretty good too.

I wish you Gong Hei Fat Choi, may the year of the monkey be a good one for you!


How to make the perfect tea hamper this Christmas in 7 simple steps


If you fancy putting something together yourself for a tea lover in your life, then I thought I’d show you how, thanks to the team at Bluebird Tea Company. Love these guys, first met them on the front lawn at Vale House when they were just starting out, and been great to watch just how many great new ideas they’ve had since. Here’s how to do it:

Step One – the base


How to start off the perfect tea hamper

First select your container. This was a great wicker tray, or you could use something like a nice wooden tray (multi purpose, perfect for carrying tea back to bed). You probably need some kind of shred or tissue to stop things rolling around and make it all look pulled together.

Step 2 – the big boys


Add your choice of tea to your hamper

Now add in your main items, in this case two different teas. There’s the Snowball, which is a black tea with coconut, chocolate and mini marshmallows, and the Gingerbread Chai, which is back by popular demand. I can just make a cup of this and sniff it, and it smells like Christmas in the kitchen.

Step 3 – a little surprise


Something a little unexpected on the tea front

How about something a little unexpected next? In this case it’s the Mulled Wine Cocktail DIY kit, which you just add red wine to, and leave to infuse overnight and then heat it up the next day. If that’s not quite their thing, they also have an Earl Grey Creme Gin Cocktail or a MojiTEA tea cocktail.

Step 4 – something festive


Now for something a little festive!

For a little festive treat, then they have a great Christmas Tea Bauble. Bit of fun, with 10 tea bags inside.

Step 5 – it’s almost in the bag


Everyone needs a good shopping bag

A canvas shopper makes a good add on, and is quite easy to fold up and slip into a mug, which is also a useful add into the hamper. There’s also a collapsible in cup tea infuser, useful if you love loose tea but just want to make a cup at a time.

Step 6 – perfect little additions


Pretty much there, looking like the perfect tea hamper to me

Looks like a great hamper to me, and with so many choices then you can really personalise this to the taste of the person you’re giving it to.

Step 7 – the finishing touch


Ta Dah! All dressed up and ready to go!

One big bow, and you’re done. Although if you’re going to wrap it up then you could wait and put the bow on the wrapping, or just double bow.

My thanks to the team at Bluebird Tea Co for this lovely lot Christmas loveliness. I really recommend them as a company, and there’s lots of lovely things to work your way through. If you don’t want to work through the seven steps, then you’ll find they have some good ready made gift options for you to choose from too.


Time for iced tea?


In the middle of the week, I definitely thought the time for iced tea was here, but at the moment I’m writing this bundled up in a jumper, socks on and heating too. But in the hope that the forecasts are wrong, and the clouds soon part, I hope the time for mid afternoon iced tea drinking will be back.


Strawberry Lemonade tea


I’ve been a fan of Bluebird Tea for a long time, and I would definitely think you’re spoilt for choice with their selections to make a delicious iced tea. Strawberry Lemonade Tea is one of their best sellers, this is sunny and fruity, and perfect for long, iced sipping. Check out the cold brew cup, taking tea to a whole new level as well.


Tea Jay


Whittard’s have been doing this kind of thing for a long time, and there’s a whole range of flavours to choose from. I do like the look of the Tea-Jay though, which is apparently how you become a master of iced tea mixology. Keep it neat and innocent, or add a drop of the hard stuff, but this is a great bit of kit for brewing and pouring.


Queen of Berries


If I was going to give some tea as a gift, then the Queen of Berries from Tea Palace would certainly be a beautiful looking gift. I can remember getting a parcel from Tea Palace some years ago, and it was such a treat to look at. No style over substance though, delicious tea and I’m sure this blend of black tea, strawberries, raspberries and blackcurrants would be perfect for an afternoon brew in the garden.

Of course, you can make any tea into iced tea. My mum always made what she called Russian tea, which was regular black tea, lemon slices and ice. Although I seem to remember making it with just a proper cup of tea, milk and all, as well. But happy memories of summers gone by. Summers when the sun used to shine. Ah well, fingers crossed.


Brewing up for Christmas


I love my tea, and a day that doesn’t start with a good mug is not so good. And I’m a bit boring, in that my tea of choice in a morning is a cup of Yorkshire tea (you can take the girl out of Yorkshire…!) But as we’re coming up to Christmas, and there are some lovely choices around, then how about something a bit festive?


Winter Apple


My kitchen smelt lovely as I brewed up two new teas from Tea Palace. The Winter Apple probably just edged it for me, with the mix of apple, winter spices, orange zest and cardamom.  And a big dollop of honey didn’t go amiss either! The Spiced Pear is a little more delicate, and I can actually see this one working better as an iced tea. But I might wait till it gets warmer to try that theory!


Gingerbread Chai


I don’t know which of the Christmas Collection from Bluebird Tea to choose if I’m honest. Gingerbread Chai is a rooibos base, so is going to be lovely and warming. But for something different in every aspect then it has to be the Christmas Cake tea. So yes, it has lovely black tea with the addition of vanilla, cloves and orange. But it’s really the pretty snowflake sprinkles that do it. Sucker for pretty things!


Sweet Orange Rooibos


I really like Bellevue Tea, and even sent my team Bellevue Tea gifts one year, when I had a team that all drank tea. I know, hard to believe there are people who don’t! For something a little different, and for a calming moment in amongst the madness, then I’d try their Sweet Orange Rooibos. Sweet, nutty and zesty. Sounds familiar.


Spice Imperial


If you need to do a last minute high street dash (or if you’re organised and order online now) then Whittard’s still with us, and you could try their Spice Imperial tea. This is a black tea, with flavours of citrus and mulled wine. Perfect if you’re not big on actual mulled wine. Or are needing to recover from an excess perhaps!

So, perhaps it’s time to shake up the teapot contents to be something a little more festive! I mean, Christmas cake needs something to go with it!