Thursday, April 17, 2014

Katherine Duchess of Cambridge aka Princess Kate enjoying Tea Tonic tea in Australia

Katherine Duchess of Cambridge aka Princess Kate toured the Sydney Royal Easter Show this morning. For those of you from far away lands Royal Shows started as agricultural shows where farmers came to have their cattle and produce judged, have horses compete in competitions and where the ladies would bake a sponge and make jam to be judged. They have evolved into huge expos of just about anything and everything involving amusements, side shows, rides, show bags full of lollies, candy and cheap plastic toys. They are great places to sample local produce and discover great local businesses. There are 'shows' in almost every city in Australia large and small at some time though out the year.

The Sydney Royal Show held traditionally over Easter was visited by Her Royal Highness Katherine the Duchess of Cambridge. She was lucky enough to be treated to a sample of fantastic tea from boutique Australian company Tea Tonic.

We have previously written about Tea Tonic teas here. This is fantastic exposure for Tea Tonic and I'm sure they will reap the benefits of the 'Kate Effect' and deservedly so.


If you are looking to sample some lovely Tea Tonic tea but can't decide we recommend the sampler box which includes all 21 flavours. Our personal favourites are Coconut Tea, Apple Tree Tea and Oriental Twist - a delicious green tea blend!

We will be off an a royal adventure next week hoping to catch a glimpse of the happy couple. In the meantime, buy your Tea Tonic before it sells out!

Friday, April 4, 2014

It's been a while between blogs...

It's been a while between blogs, don't worry I'm still drinking tea, probably even more than before. There's nothing I look forward to more after a long day at work and managing eight month old twins than a lovely cup of tea. The problem is I drink my tea and fell asleep. There hasn't been much time for writing or adventuring lately. That is all set to change!

I am hoping to bring you a blog per month, maybe more if I can!

What would you like to read about? Tea reviews, tea place reviews or just tea in general???

Let me know. It's difficult to find the motivation to write when you don't know if anyones there. Like giving a speech to an empty room, although it's not, the listeners are hiding under chairs.

This blog is for you, what do you want to read?

Friday, November 29, 2013

2013 Christmas Gifts for Tea Lovers: Gifts under $20

So perhaps you got that quiet lady who sits in the corner for your office Kris Kringle or perhaps you have a friend or family member who loves tea or perhaps you'd like to get someone addicted to tea! Either way, I have trawled through the best of the net to bring you the ultimate tea lovers gift giving guide. This year, to ensure we stick to our budgets and because I found sooooo many lovely things, I'm going to bring you a series of guides based on price. Today it is the best gifts under $20! Enjoy!

Mulled Wine Tea $9.83 by Bluebird Tea Co.
Who doesn't love a nice big mug of mulled wine or even mulled cider when it's chilly outside. Ok, so maybe not for an Australian Christmas but if like me you do enjoy those flavours then this might be a great tea to try. If you like chai then you'll probably enjoy this tea too! Heed caution with customs as this tea contains some fruit pieces.

Miniature Spoon Necklace $9.02 by Hannah Makes Things
How adorable is this cute little necklace pendant. It would make a great gift for a quirky jewellery lover who also happens to enjoy tea and possibly antiquities, or should that be an-tea-qui-teas!

Blue Tea Cup Earrings $9.93 by Jodie Anna
Continuing on the jewellery theme how about these cute but quirky tea cup earrings! Or...

Gold Tea Cup Ring $19.85 by Lisa Angel
...This very Alice in Wonderland golden tea cup ring.

Earl Grey Lipbalm $5.86 from Sweet Cecily's
Umm, yum! Tea that you can wear and smell and maybe even kiss! What tea lover wouldn't appreciate tea flavoured lip balm. What a lovely invention and it sure beats your regular run of the mill flavoured lip balms. 

Christmas Cup Cosy $10.80 from Cookie Crochet
Does someone you know never get to finish their tea because by the time they get around the drinking the rest it's gone cold? If so then this is the perfect gift. This crochet cup cosy fits over disposable cups and the good news is that if this holly design doesn't do it for you they (Cookie Crochet) have tons of other designs, including some cute dogs and a cheeky monkey!

Tea Tote $17.95 by Snowdon Design and Craft
Let your tea loving friend share their passion by sending the world a tea-lightful message of hope. Where else would you put a message of hope than on a lovely multi-use canvas tote! Book bag, laptop bag, shopping bag, it's uses are only limited by your imagination.

Mr. Tea tea infuser $14.95 from Heart & Heim
I know you've often thought it would be cool to brew tea using your pants right? Well now you can, but not with your pants, with Mr. Tea's pants. Fill his silicone pants with your loose leaf tea, allow him to recline in your cup and pull him out when your tea is done. This would make a great gift along with some nice loose leaf tea.

Wedgewood English Breakfast Tea Caddy $7.95 from David Jones

Wedgewood is a brand synonymous with china, quality and lets face it, expensive old stuff. This pretty little tea caddy in the lovely shade of what's commonly known as Wedgewood blue would make a lovely little gift for someone and they'll never know it was under $10!

Dream tea cup and Saucer $14.95 from Myer

This whimsical little cup and saucer comes in a range of pastel colours. It is dainty and sweet perfect for a really girly girl tea lover or just someone who loves a lovely cup!

20 Times to Shine tea sampler $20 from T2
Got a $20 budget? This is perfect! Your receiver gets to sample 20 of T2's most popular teas all individually sealed to ensure freshness and no cross contamination. Just to name a few you'll get Chai, Chamomile, Gorgeous Geisha and Melbourne Breakfast. A great variety box!

Tielka Tea Collection $20 from Tielka

This beautifully presented gift collection of three lovely loose leaf teas from Tielka actually gives twice. Apart from being organic it is also Fairtrade which makes it a great gift for the ethical tea lover. Tielka are also an Australian based company and it's great to support home grown small business where possible. This collection comes in three varieties; dark, light and Rooibos. My favourite is the light collection which includes Moonlight White Tea, Rose Moscato Green Tea and Midnight Blossom Oolong.

Twinings Christmas Tea in tea caddy $10 from Woolworths

If you're in a rush for a gift and you have a $10 limit then this might be the gift for you. Presented in a nice keepsake tin is this christmasy black tea blend. There is also a caffeine free spiced apple Christmas blend in your gift receiver prefers a herbal blend.

Tea Time with Sophia Grace and Rosie $16.98 from Book Depository

Get them started young with this lovely book about taking tea by those two annoying British girls who seem to be on Ellen every day. Ok so maybe some people find them cutesy wootsy but I'm not one of them but that doesn't mean you can't buy this book for your little princess and share it over a cup of tea with her and ted!

Hopefully I have inspired you with these gift ideas under $20. Do you have a gift you need to buy for someone but you're not sure what to get? Let me know in the comments and I'll see if I can include it in my next post!

Stay tuned for gifts between $20 and $50 but in the meantime enjoy your tea!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Mr. Hamilton's Tea Room at Painshill Park, Surrey - A Tea Place Review

As far as tea rooms go, there really is nothing special about Mr. Hamilton's. It will never win any awards for cuteness and you wont find meticulous hand decorated delicacies; in fact it's really not a tea room at all. I'd call it a cafe or even maybe a kiosk. So why am I bothering to write about this place?
It's simple, read on...

Mr. Hamilton's Tea Room is located within the grounds of what we in Australia would call a Botanic Garden or Botanic Park. Painshill Park in Cobham, Surrey is a giant landscaped park that was built in the mid 1700's. This park was built before the First Fleet landed in Australia, just to give you some perspective on its age. Built by nobleman Charles Hamilton, Painshill's landscape architecture was said to be inspired by Renaissance artworks. This park contains man made lakes, wooded areas and 'follies'. Now I'm not expert on the 'folly' but I'd say it's just that, a bit of a novelty. For example there is a recreated ruined abbey and a man made grotto. Sadly we didn't get to see the grotto, it was closed for Santa Claus! This park was for the gentry, the noble people. It was where they walked and socialised, away from the rest of the 'normal' people. Oddly enough the parks Royal Patron is Prince Charles. What is it with me and Charles lately? You can read about my encounters with the prince here and here.

We ended up at Painshill as we were visiting this lovely old church in the next village over, Stoke D'Abernon. What an adventure that was. Little did we know that the church and graveyard have been engulfed into the grounds of a posh private school and we just happened to time our visit at the end of the school day. It was chaos! Now it's a bit random to just visit a little old church because lets face it, there are tens of thousands of little old churches in England. What makes this church special was the fact that it is the last recorded, or should that be first recorded, place that my ancestors can be traced back to. A christening record from the very early 1800's states that my 6x Great Grandfather Henry was christened here. He later went on to migrate to Australia and he and his family were responsible for the early establishment of Melbourne's suburb of Brighton. There is even a plaque dedicated to them. They owned the land around where Chadstone Shopping Centre is now located. I knew there was some other reason that I felt so connected to that shopping centre! I scoured the graves but sadly there were no graves with my family's surname that I could find. Some headstones were so old you could no longer read them.

St. Mary's Church, Stoke D'Abernon

When it was decided we were going to England the decision was made that this time I wanted to get out of London and do a little of my own 'Who Do You Think You Are'. For all my research this church and that Christening was as far back as I could go. It would appear that prior to this record keeping was scant. I found it rather difficult finding a marriage record for his parents and couldn't find any record of his mother. On the other hand, there appeared to be a rather well to do big shot with my 7x Great Grandfather's name living in Guildford, a larger town about a 30 minute car drive away, however considering they didn't have cars it would have made it a longer journey. He however had a wife that was accounted for and some children. It did cross my mind that maybe Henry was born from an illegitimate relationship, however with no evidence I couldn't do more than speculate. Perhaps if I had a team of historians I might have had a different story to tell.

So, that brings me back to Painshill. I wanted to visit the area and this park particularly as it would have been there when my ancestors were. They would likely never have visited Painshill as my ancestors were just normal everyday run of the mill people. If only they had known that for a tidy sum they could purchased a piece of Scotland on the internet and then been called Lord or Lady. Oh well, you win some, you lose some!

Driving through the area and looking at the houses and buildings, especially along the main street was really a funny feeling as I knew that Henry had been here. He might have walked past that house or that shop a hundred times and here I was 200 years later having travelled to the other side of the world standing there too. I felt strangely connected in a eerie kind of way.

Back to Painshill and Mr. Hamilton's Tea Room. We arrived at the park a little early, about half an hour before opening time and struck up a conversation with one of the volunteers as we were waiting. She asked if we had come far for our visit today and I said 'yes, Australia'. She was shocked so I explained the story. She was so kind as to let us enter the park early. We were very thankful. It's hard to describe to a British person just how an incredible experience walking through this park was. Parts of the lake were frozen and there were squirrels running everywhere. I guess to a non Australian a good comparison of feeling might be seeing wild kangaroos on a pristine white sandy beach. I only wish we'd had more time to wander and that we'd been able to access more. Lots of the paths were terribly muddy and I wasn't exactly shod for that. If I'd had some wellies we'd have been set.

We popped into the well situated tea room and thankfully amongst their range of nibbles they had some pre-packaged gluten free biscuits. I ordered some chamomile tea and was surprised to get a tea pot. The cafe would be lovely in warmer weather with the doors open onto the courtyard and the park. So whilst the tea room on its own was nothing too special the park and what this area meant to me was. For this reason I would gladly return.

For more information on Painshill please visit their website

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Tea and Human Rights: A Blog Action Day Blog

Today is Blog Action Day, a day where bloggers unite to highlight important issues. This year's issue is 'human rights'. Ok, ok, don't stop reading, it's not some hippy dippy grab your signs and protest kind of blog, after all I'm not that kind of person! There is something however that I think is important for tea drinkers to know, it's something we can all do to make life a little brighter for people who may not have the same opportunities as we do.

Human rights means a variety of different things to different people. Straight forward, human rights can be considered as every human being treated with dignity and having equal rights. This is seen as the foundations for freedom, justice and peace in our world. You can read The Universal Declaration of Human Rights here.

So, what does this have to do with tea you ask? A few years ago I didn't think at all about where my tea came from, I actually had no real idea what Fair Trade was. I just thought it was some Oxfam thing where poor people got jobs, which is pretty ignorant. It wasn't until I watched the BBC series Blood, Sweat and Luxuries that I realised what Fair Trade really meant and could see how it would seriously change peoples lives. This series sent half a dozen young Brits to third world producers of goods we readily consume such as gold, gemstones and coffee. It was a real eye opener. I believe that we take a lot for granted living in the first world, like a minimum wage, safe workplace and access to education. We have opportunities that so many others simply don't have access to. 

For example, a boy works in a gem mine, which is just a hole in the floor of someones house. He's lowered down the narrow hole on a makeshift pulley. There is no safety. His air is pumped through some plastic bags that have been joined together by a man waving a bag in the wind outside. At the end of the day his employer will take the gems to the local buyer. He might receive $20 for them and the boy who found them might receive $2. The buyer, who generally has some education, will then sell the gems on to be cut and polished. He might receive $100. The corporation that cuts and polishes the gems then sells them to jewellery manufacturers for say $3000. The finished products are then sold to consumers for around $10,000. It is a similar story in industries such as gold, leather, coffee, electronics and tea. When we want a cheaper product it's not usually the large corporations where money is lost from, it's those lower down the chain.

Initially I thought, well that's the person down the bottoms problem. They should go to school and get a better job. The thing is, this simply is not possible. These people do not have the chance to further themselves. The small amount of money they receive is spent on housing and food and they have no time to attend classes as that would result in a loss of income, which they simply can't afford. Essentially they are trapped and that's the way many manufactures would like to keep it to ensure a steady supply of cheap product. What really hit me was when the young Brits asked one of the workers what he would like to do with his life. His reply was that he would like to finish school and study to become a journalist. The interesting thing was that nearly every worker they spoke to wanted to go to school, they wanted to be better than what they were. The sad reality is that the majority will be stuck in that position, so will their children and most likely their grandchildren.

So what does this have to do with human rights? Article 26 of the declaration relates to education:

Article 26.

  • (1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.
  • (2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.
  • (3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.
The fact is these people who produce our favourite product -tea- don't have equal access to higher education, regardless of merit however as they generally don't have an opportunity to attend high school this would rule out higher education opportunities. In addition, many parents are unable to offer their children education let alone choose their education.

What does this have to do with Fair Trade and tea? Fair Trade sees the workers having an equal share in the business. Instead of paraphrasing I'll just let Fairtrade Australia and New Zealand explain it:

 Fairtrade provides farmers and workers in developing countries with a fair price (the Fairtrade Price) for their produce, helping protect them from damaging fluctuations in world market prices. They also receive an additional sum of money (The Fairtrade Premium) for investment in social, economic and environmental development in their community, such as educational and medical facilities. Fairtrade Certification standards also prohibit the use of forced and abusive child labour.
Fairtrade delivers a better deal for farmers and producers in the developing world through:
  • A fair and stable price for their produce
  • Security of long-term contracts
  • Investment in local community development
  • Improved working conditions
  • Environmentally sustainable farming methods
  • Support in gaining the knowledge and skills needed to operate successfully in the global economy
So, when you see this logo you know that what you are buying is certified Fair Trade and you are supporting the people who help to make your beautiful cup of tea possible. This means that they can send their children school, their communities have better access to education and healthcare and they are able to be treated equally and with dignity. Some tea companies claim to be 'ethical' tea producers however unless they have this logo they are not certified.

So where can you get Fair Trade tea? It's actually not that prevalent in most supermarkets. There is more unethically produced tea in our supermarket isles than Fair Trade product. I think that's a real shame. Some of our largest tea manufacturers, who could and should be running Fair Trade operations aren't.

Some great products to try include Qi Tea. They have a full operation in remote China where the villagers are able to be educated within the industry and have secure and fair employment. They recently opened a new building where 40 more people now have jobs in processing and packing. You can buy their tea in most supermarkets or from their online store.

You could also try loose leaf tea from Tielka. They are on my list of teas to try as the blends sound delicious.

I've said it before and I'll gladly say it again. Ethical tea just tastes better.

You can find out more about Fair Trade here. So buy Fair Trade and support peoples basic human rights. It's a no brainer!

Back to Blood Sweat and Luxuries. The girls on the show stayed with a young girl in India who worked in a clothing factory. She didn't want to work there but had no choice. She lived in a house consisting of one room no bigger than my bathroom. The girls asked her what she would do if she had the opportunity? She couldn't financially afford night classes. She wanted to be a chef. The girls banded together and for a few of their own dollars they paid for her to attend night classes to train as a chef. Unfortunately we can't do that for everyone but we can help them by supporting Fair Trade organisations.

Happy tea drinking and happy Blog Action Day