Thursday, 9 January 2014


I'm tea-obsessed. I think most British writers are. A few years ago my boyfriend lived in Winchester. This was the same time that the tea shop Char opened. I drank a lot of crazy teas that year, and then he moved away and it was back to cheap tea bags. Save for the few interesting tea-gifts I received from friends and family, I've not been particularly adventurous since. Until...

Autumn last year, my boyfriend found the Char website and realised you can mail-order their tea online

My Christmas list featured a lot of tea. My boyfriend's family mostly got tea for Christmas. Christmas should be re-named The Great Tea Exchange.

Char are sneaky (in an awesome way) and they include a few samples of similar teas to the ones you order. There's a massive list of so many different teas, and it would be expensive to try something new just to find you don't like it. Char have realised this, so their policy of sending samples is spot-on.

Two sample teas I will now be ordering in greater quantity include Winchester Caravan, which is an amazing blend of smoked black tea, green tea, oolong, rose petals, osmanthus (not even sure what that is!) and Jasmine. I'm a huge smoked tea fan and my favourite Char tea is probably Smoky Gunpowder. The Winchester Caravan is very subtly smoked, not at all overpowering; perfectly balanced.

The other tea they've hooked me onto via their samples is the Evening Calm infusion, which is a blend of chamomile, nettle, lemon balm, peppermint. I went through a big chamomile phase about five years ago and overdid it to the point that I couldn't drink anything with chamomile in anymore. The Evening Calm infusion has plenty of chamomile in, but the other flavours create such a good balance that my taste buds don't do that "ew, this is so 2009!" thing and I can now enjoy a calming hit of chamomile without taste-association overload.

(all images above are from the Char website)

So from Autumn, myself and my boyfriend were drinking loads of loose leaf tea, but we didn't have a teapot*. All we had was an infuser. So if we both wanted the same tea, we had to brew it twice over.

I'm studying in Bath, and my favourite place to go for tea and lunch is Jacob's, near the Pump Rooms. They use the For Life (stump) brand of teapot: a really stylish design (stylish enough that Tate Modern stocks it in their shop). It comes with a metal infuser and an attached lid. I asked my mum for such a teapot for Christmas, and she bought me a lovely lime green coloured one (the best colour if you ask me). I cannot express how much this has revolutionised my loose tea drinking. There's something about a stylishly designed thing that makes it a pleasure to use, and I'm always excited to make a fresh brew (I know I'm a loser).

* I did actually have a teapot before, which I purchased from Char back when my boyfriend lived in Winchester. I don't know if they still sell this set because it was a few years ago now: it's ceramic Japanese style and comes with four cute cups with little lids on. I only use this set for green tea because I worry that if I infused smoked or strong flavoured black teas it might nestle into the pores of the ceramic and affect the flavour of later delicate green tea brews. Also, it's so Oriental in style it feels wrong to have a strong Western-style tea in there.

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