Did you watch the excellent 2017 drama Taboo which aired on BBC One last year? “Not for the all tea in China” is a phrase that has remained lodged in my subconscious since I watched Tom Hardy grunt and mumble his way through the atmospheric series. The producers have already green-lit the second season, with an effusive Ridley Scott thanking the BBC just last week. Dark family secrets, a trade war and revenge with a hint of Gothic is always going to be a winning combination; add to that the elixir that is tea, and you’ve got a sure-fire winner.
Circling back to tea, I found myself at The Great British Tea Festival a short while ago. Tea is the first drink I sip when I arise. Yes I love coffee and drink around three cups a day (circa seven if I’m pulling an all-nighter), but I need a good cup of tea first thing in the morning. Piping hot, masala chai with fresh mint leaves, ginger matchsticks and a quarter teaspoon of my mom’s spicy masala. Have you ever had masala chai*? It is sweet, creamy, warming and altogether delicious. I’ll post a recipe of my masala tea soon, do keep your eyes peeled for it.
At The Great British Tea Festival, stalls were packed with tea in all variations including leaves, bags, herbal, black, fruit and herbal flavoured – and that was only in the first two stalls.
The Roundhouse was the venue, and the layout with stall flush to the wall, and an inner circle in a horseshoe formation with the tearoom at its heart. Having this cute operational tea-room serving hot beverages, plus quartet playing classical music was a nice touch and definitely made browsing more pleasurable (I love classical music and consider it Tai Chi for the ears).
This summer I embraced cold brewed tea, where I bought a reusable glass bottle, various fruit infusions and tried mixing it up on the hydration front (plain water is good, but can sometimes get a little bland). When I wasn’t using the glass bottle, I bought a two litre bottle of diet lemonade, dropped a tea-bag in the bottle, let it steep for 2-4 hours, then found I had a whole bottle of deliciously fruity liquid.
I was on the lookout for more fruity infusions, and there were plenty to peruse. One of my favourites was Unitea Blends (see here for my original review), and I was even more pleased to meet the founder Jay. Convivial, chirpy and very passionate about tea, it was a joy to speak with Jay about tea and how Unitea Blends has evolved over the past few years.
It was all in all, an impressive roster of exhibitors, including Twist Teas, Elements Tea, Balaggan Tea and Royal Crown Derby.
I loved the versatility of this event, which was carefully considered and planned. Not only could one buy tea at this very cool festival, but tea paraphernalia, ceramics, pastries and coffee too. Check out these quirky teapots by Elisha Morton, from Weird and Wonderful Ceramics Ltd. They would make an excellent Christmas gift with a twist – I actually rang a girlfriend whilst at the stall to ask if she’d like a teapot as a gift (I’m a good friend like that).
I love standing out from the crowd, and unique crockery is one way to go. If you’re in an office where your mug is prone to being borrowed without your permission, then owning a one-of-a-kind mug is imperative. I loved the cute yet very cool mugs by Mark Dally Ceramics, which were gorgeous to look at and a joy to hold.
Colourful crockery caught my eye at the Royal Crown Derby stall. I would use these as elegant biscuit jars, and I have my eye on the aqua green jar for a special Christmas treat from me to me.
Also in attendance was Steve Booton Ceramics whose Japanese influenced work made me yearn for a return trip to Kyoto. Steve focuses on shino glazes and wood firing, and his attention to detail is evident in his stunning range that includes tea bowls and sake bottles.
I love learning more about things I love. If you want to educate yourself about tea, then the Tea Acade
I had great fun chatting about tea and stocking up the larder. Thank you to Elements Tea for the kind invite. They have recently opened a café in Derby city centre, and I will be sure to pop in later this week. If you have been, I would love to know how you found it at Elements Tea.
*P.S. this is a polite note to cafés and coffee shops – it is masala chai, never “chai tea”, because that is like saying “tea tea” which is frankly very silly indeed.