To add to the previously mentioned loves, I also love tea. I'm a green in the morning, white in the afternoon kind of girl, who still loves a good cup of builders. When the invitation came through from Whittard of Chelsea to join them for a private tasting session of their new range, I knew this was my kind of night out.
I went along to the Whittard Tea Bar on Regent Street on a cold, very rainy night to see what they had to offer. As I first stepped in and knew it was going to be perfect. The huge tea canisters that line the wall are beautiful, without even being opened. I loved the look of their range. At this point, I didn't know it was part of their very clever rebrand. They have updated the packaging of all the teas so you can find what you like, very easily. Each variety of tea comes in a different colour of packaging and each type (loose, tea bags, large leaf) in a different style.
Kate, the Whittard tea expert, met us and explained that we were going to taste one of each type of tea, one infusion (which is a fruit 'tea' to the rest of us, but actually contains no tea!), before being allowed to go wild and taste anything from the range. Kate was a brilliant host. She didn't just throw out lots of interesting tea facts, like black, green and white tea comes from the same leaf but is treated differently after picking, she has actually visited many of the plantations across the world, so she added plenty of little anecdotes along the way. Her enthusiasm made it hard not to be excited!
We tasted White Peony, Marrakesh Mint, Regal Blend and Mulled Wine. They were all delicious, and the loose leaves looked really pretty. My favourite from this bunch was the Marrakesh Mint. It was a great combination of a really fresh mint flavour, with a bit of a green tea kick. This has fast become my new morning tea of choice - it's a great wake-up when you are a bit sluggish! With each one, Kate showed us the differences in the leaves and gave us tips on the making the perfect cup. Interestingly, one of them was not make tea with boiling water, always to let the water cool slightly because the prime temperature for tea is about 75 - 95 degrees depending on the tea. Who knew?! It was also pretty cool to see the leaves before and after they've been brewed - I didn't realise some were so tightly rolled that they would end up pretty huge!
Aside from Marrakesh Mint, my favourites are Orange Blossom and Milk Oolong, which has an incredible slightly fudgy taste. All the teas have their own identification number with a quirky or cute story behind it, like Whisky Tea being 251 for Rabbie Burn's birthday or Coconut Truffle being 44 for the 1944 classic song, 'I've got a lovely bunch of coconuts'! So when you choose a new tea, make sure you ask for the story behind the number!
I could spend hours telling you about how amazing these teas were but instead, I'll just recommend that you get yourself to Whittard of Chelsea. There are stores across the country and all stores will allow you to taste tea before purchase so you can find the perfect tea and with the range increasing from 24 teas to 100, there is something for everyone. That doesn't even cover the coffee range or the new flaked hot chocolate, which looks and smells amazing. No surprise given that it's made from shaved pieces of chocolate instead of a powder!
I usually think that a book shop is the perfect place to spend cold, rainy autumn nights, but with beautiful setting, incredible smells and a massive list of tea I want to try, I think my new spot could very well be one of the Whittard of Chelsea Tea Bars!