Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Tea Horse Review - The Monthly Tea Subscription Box

April 2013 Tea Horse Box

Fellow tea freaks rejoice! You can now have a monthly tea box packed with four premium quality loose teas from all around the world delivered direct to your doorstep thanks to Tea Horse... Huzzah!

Part recycled & fully recyclable box
I'm a self confessed tea addict; I drink tea nearly every hour of every day without fail. Tea is something of a tradition and ritual for me - I come from a family of tea lovers and I love to start and end my day with a brew. I drank it from such an early age I can't even remember that first sip, it's just always been that way. I love to try new teas and there are so many different varieties nowadays that it's nigh on impossible to have tried them all, so what better way than to get a little box with four new flavours to try every month?! 
The Teas
So What Is Tea Horse?

 The inspiration for the name 'Tea Horse' came from an ancient trade route called Tea Horse Road where men would bravely travel through arduous trails and valleys carrying tea from China to Tibet to trade for a horses. Tea Horse aims to be like the tea porters of china in delivering fine quality loose leaf teas to be enjoyed by anyone and everyone. It also aims to rid the stereotypes of loose teas being 'stuffy or pretentious' as they can now be easily enjoyed by anyone and aren't necessarily more expensive than other types of tea. 

Subscription Price List 

1 Month - £11.95
3 Months - £35.00
12 Months - £120.00

You receive four 15-20gram packs of loose leaf teas expertly chosen by Tim Clifton, the Master Tea Taster with over 30 years experience in the tea trade and Director of the UK Tea Council. Yes, there is a tea council - tea is a very serious business don't you know!  These packs should give you 10-30 cups each. Some teas are fine for a second dip and go further than others and will be stated on the instructions. You also get 40 biodegradable and unbleached filters for your teas! The teas come carefully packed in a part recycled box and are presented in zesty lime coloured paper. Understated and eco-friendly, all it needs.
Top Left Clockwise: Darjeeling 1st Flush Jungpana Upper, Green Mint, 2nd Flush Assam and Four Seasons Oolong 
I just love the look of loose leaf teas...
So I had myself a little tea tasting party over the weekend and here's a recap of my thoughts on each tea that I got to try. Let the tea tasting commence!
The Teas - Top Left Clockwise: Darjeeling 1st Flush Jungpana Upper, Green Mint, 2nd Flush Assam and Four Seasons Oolong
Darjeeling 1st Flush Junpana Upper - One of my favourites from the box! I love how the slighlty nutty/tangy flavour is harmonised with notes of rose... If you know me, then you know I am mad for anything floral in my food and drink where possible. Turkish delight, anyone?! But this really is a lovely refreshing drink and quite distinctive with that slight spice hidden in it.

Green Mint - The first thing that hit me about this tea upon opening was that beautiful minty bubblegum scent! This is due to gunpowder green tea being mixed with peppermint leaves. I was worried the minty flavour might be too strong but once brewed it was quite delicate. I love a good green tea and this flavour is just yummy! I'll be slurping lots of this stuff to hopefully get me bikini ready alongside lots of Pilates ;)

2nd Flush Assam - My absolute favourite of the four! My all time favourite teas are breakfast-y/assam teas so this was always going to be a firm favourite. I love the full bodied malty flavour and that rich amber colouring. I actually added a splash of milk in the end - and only a splash, I love assam teas to keep that strong taste. Perfection.

Four Seasons Oolong - This was the most unusual tasting one, I found. Very pale and light tasting but that scent of freshly cut grass is very prominent. It leaves a lovely buttery aftertaste which I've never actually come across in any of the teas I've ever tried, which is why I found unusual. This is a very apt choice now that spring has sprung. 

All you need to tea booklet
I love how you get a little booklet that tells you all you need to know about the teas that have been selected for you, so very comprehensive, interesting and not at all boring. The instructions are on the packets also but here they are summarised at the bottom with the symbols for quick referencing. Never underestimate the importance of brewing time! Leave your tea for the full amount of time or you won't do the flavours any justice. On the back of this booklet there is a page for notes so that you can write what you liked and didn't like for example. I think i've been very lucky to have received a box with four teas that I loved - I was almost certain there'd be one I was at least 'iffy' about but nope! All have been very enjoyable and tasty.

My tea-tasting notes
 I managed to catch up with Ali Silk, founder of Tea Horse, and asked her a couple of questions...

What made you start up a monthly tea box?

The idea behind Tea Horse came when I first got really serious about loose tea. I'd tried a few that I was utterly in love with, and a few I really didn't like - and had spent far too much money on. I realised I wanted to learn more about all the varieties, but didn't know where to start. The only tea shop near me was very daunting - quite high brow, very expensive, a specialist shop that I didn't feel was 'for me' - it was like a really fancy wine shop, when you don't know what you're doing sometimes one can feel uncomfortable.

Then I realised that if I purchased online, I would face the same problem - descriptions of teas I'd never heard of, for quite a lot of money. How could I just try these teas without spending lots and ending up with packets of tea in the cupboard I didn't like? (Everyone I know has a tea cupboard stuffed full of teas they've bought but never drink, along with their trusted favourites!). So I teamed up with Tim Clifton, a Master Tea Taster who's been in the trade for 30+ years (he was the Director of the UK Tea Council previously) in order to source the world's best teas each month, then select and package four of them and then send them out to people. This way, people can sample lots of teas for low cost - and find those they love (and those they don't!). When they love a tea, they can then purchase more of it, without the worry or risk. Everyone also loves getting post that isn't bills - and what's better than a gorgeous package of teas each month? To help people learn more about tea generally and the teas they're drinking, we put together a set of notes on each of the four. That way, when someone is next looking for a tea, they understand the differences, they know what they love, and they know where their tea comes from (provenance is so important to us all, and especially foodies and tea drinkers these days).

What tea(s) would you recommend to aid cleansing & detoxing pre bikini season?

I'd recommend all teas! Whether it's green, black, white or any other type, all teas are good for you and packed full of antioxidants that help fight disease and look after different parts of the body. But different teas do help in certain ways:

For great skin – Green and white teas are packed full of antioxidants called catechins. Using loose leaves (rather than tea bags), you’ll get even higher levels – three cups of green tea are said to have 8 times more antioxidants than one apple! These antioxidants combat free radicals in the body, fighting the signs of ageing and protecting against skin damage caused by the sun or the environment. 
For a happy (and flatter) stomach – Mint helps digestion and soothes the stomach, great after a big meal or if you’re feeling a little bloated after winter indulgences! Our herbal Mint Detox tea contains peppermint, aniseed, liquorice and fennel, a potent combination for cleansing the body of toxins, improving digestion and relieving bloating. To get the benefits of both peppermint and green tea, our Green Mint is perfect! A happy stomach also helps with gaining a flatter stomach. The antioxidant EGCG in green tea has been found to help boost the metabolism, which can burn around 70 extra calories a day – so as part of a healthy diet and exercise, may help us increase fat loss. Oolong teas are also shown by research to be beneficial to weight loss, boosting the metabolism, reducing the levels of cholesterol and concentration of fat in the body. 
The alkoloids in green tea also promote energy - which is great if you're on a pre-summer exercise regime!
In terms of balancing the mind, black tea contains L-theanine, an amino acid that works on the brain to increase serotonin, dopamine and GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), helping to bring levels of the stress hormone back to normal and reducing mental and physical stress, whilst also boosting concentration and even helping symptoms of PMS.

To answer your question more directly - I'd recommend that you reach for the oolong tea and green tea to help get us ready for bikini season!
The Verdict

Ali certainly knows her stuff when it comes to tea and I shall definitely be taking her advice with the oolong and green teas! I can't tell you enough how chuffed I am with my first EVER tea box, I can't believe it never came to me sooner to look into something like this as I've been purchasing beauty boxes for a few years now. It makes such a lovely change and I really love how it's like a little tea party in a box being delivered. Unlike my beauty boxes, nothing has or will be wasted! I love the surprise element to monthly subscription boxes! The box was spot on and would be perfect for any budding tea tasters out there :) 

Do checkout the Tea Horse website... It has a wonderful blog that covers everything to do with tea; seasonal sips, interesting tea facts and information on how to get the most from your teas! Really worth a look, if like me, you're a bit tea-tastic! Of course, it didn't take me long to discover the section of the website which hosts a compilation of recipes for 'Tea Cocktails'! Yes, you heard me correctly... I've experimented with cocktails before but never with tea as an ingredient, so this is something I will definitely be trying in the near future. 'Cider With Rosie' sounds perfect for a balmy summers day and includes Silver Rose white tea, gin, cider and apple juice... Mmm!

Click on this link to start your monthly tea subscription with Tea Horse!
You can also follow Tea Horse on Twitter to keep up to date with what's happening in the wonderful world of tea...

Monday, 29 April 2013

Teapigs Organic Matcha Green Tea

"No airs. No graces. Just fine tea..."

My Matcha Concoction - Vita Coco Tropical Coconut Water + Matcha
If you haven't heard of Teapigs already (where have you been?!) the brand was founded in 2006 when two self confessed tea addicts already working for a big tea company realised that with so many variations of tea there was just too many that wasn't getting the attention that they deserved. You can learn more about the Teapig story and meet the people behind the teas which has steadily grown and even includes Harvey the Teapig dog on their website - Teapigs.co.uk! Read on for a 15% off Matcha code...
Matcha Sample Pack
So what is Matcha? 

100% natural AND organic. Essentially it's Green Tea but not as we know it... just one serving of this super powerful organic green tea powder gives you the antioxidant boost that you would only get after drinking 15 cups of ordinary green tea! WOWZA! If you're like me then you probably struggle to try and drink the suggested 5-6 cups of ordinary green tea so I'm very excited to with the idea of tripling my goal with just one cup of Matcha!
Matcha Recipes 
The perks...
  • Can boost metabolism for the day
  • Mega high in antioxidants...1573 per gram as opposed to Goji Berries who flail behind at 253 according to the ORAC analysis
  • Raises energy levels
  • May protect your ticker from heart disease
  • Voted best slimming and fitness product 2011 by 'Your Healthy Living' readers
Organic Matcha waiting to be mixed...
Discovering Organic Matcha was perfect timing for me - it's just over a month until my holiday so anything that might help me feel energised whilst giving me a massive antioxidant boost was always going to be much appreciated. I work out 3-5 times a week and i've started running more regularly on the build up to bikini season so I need all the energy I can get!
Just looking at a cup of this stuff makes me feel fresher and detoxed! I LOVE that you can add this powder to pretty much any of your favourite daily drinks for a boost... I decided to try my first cup of Matcha mixed in with Vita Coco's pure coconut water in the tropical flavour. I was kind of dubious as to how this might end up tasting but was pleasantly surprised! I actually really like the taste, very unusual but the green tea doesn't over power the tropical coconut juices just adds a bit of a grassy scent and taste to it. Tastes better than it sounds, you have to trust me on this one ;)
I also tried Matcha brewed for 2 minutes in hot water (see below) and like my ordinary green tea I found I enjoyed it both hot and cold... I always make a drink and barely have chance to drink it before it's gone cold. Check out my Vine recording after brewing a cup of Matcha in hot water here! Love seeing the green tea powder swirling around my cup :)
Matcha + Hot Water 
Did Matcha work for me?

After trying just one mug every morning for the past few days I can definitely feel a difference in how awake I feel throughout the day, I just feel like i've got my get-up-and-go in me and today I ran my best time and distance so far! This of course could just be my positive thinking pushing me through but there's no denying that Matcha is pretty unbeatable in the antioxidant department and I love green tea so this is just the natural next step up for me. I'm definitely going to try Matcha with lots of other things such as sprinkled on yoghurt or making a proper Matcha iced latte when I get a whisker to make it nice and frothy. Perfect for summer! 
Matcha Tea Storm!
 Teapigs sell Matcha in the following sizes:

  1. 2 gram sample - £2.00 (£1 a cup)
  2. 30 gram box - £25.00 (83p a cup)
  3. 80 gram box - £50.00 (63p a cup)
You can find Matcha green tea powder in other places such as Holland & Barretts and it may be cheaper but I really love how passionate Teapigs are about tea and they really do put a lot of thought and effort into finding and choosing the finest quality organic Matcha. I absolutely love it and I can safely say Teapigs Organic Matcha has gained a new fan...

So what are you waiting for?! Why not join Teapigs and celebrate 'Matcha May'... Use discount code BLOGGERS12 to treat yourself to 15% off* and feel fresher and fitter in not time! P.S, don't forget to send me your recipes and/or pics of your favourite way of enjoying Matcha :)

*Code doesn't include gifts or already discounted items...

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Guerlain Météorites Perles & Brush

I had to review one of my favourite Guerlain purchases... The Météorites Perles in Teint Beige 02

Pretty Perles...

The pretty pearls come in a gorgeous decorative tin and aim to subtly illuminate the complexion and allow your face to look radiant and fresh all day long. I've been looking for something to do just that to my lacklustre winter skin for a while now and after swatching in store I was sold. The pearls come in a variety of colours and each do their own little job to enhance and brighten your skin.

The Perles & Brush

I went for 02 as I found that the 01 version is a little too brightening and 03 was ore bronzing which I wasn't looking for. The pearls are also lightly scented with a lovely floral/violet scent that seems quite strong if you take a wiff straight from the tin, but trust me, once applied it's just a delicate scent that doesn't give you a headache. Also, don't be worried about the pink pearls making you look overly rosy - I don't suit rosy tones much so i was wary of this, but it didn't come out pink, at all!

Subtle Shimmer

I love the look of this product, it's so pretty sat on your makeup desk. 10/10 for being aesthetically pleasing! The brush is perfect for the pearls... and the only thing I use to apply them as I feel it picks up just enough product to give the desired illuminating effect without overdoing or vice versa. I tried it with my Bobbi Brown powder brush and it didn't seem to collect enough. I'm sure there's other brushes that will give the same effect but personally I love this one.

Swatched - lower picture shows once blended in a little. Applied thick for picture purposes...

I swatched the pearls on my finger tips by swirling them in the pot a few times so that you can actually see the product, as it's pretty much invisable if applied to the face with the powder brush on a camera. This isn't to say it won't show up - you can see it with the eye, and I think it's a good thing as it's just very subtle and sometimes you can go OTT with the shimmer/brightening products and end up looking sweaty or shiny - not a good look!

I would really recommend this product, it works and is a pleasure to use!

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Aromatherapy Associates - Hydrating Rose Face Mask Review

Aromatherapy Associates Hydrating Rose Mask £36
I came across a 50ml tube of the hydrating rose face mask by Aromatherapy Associates in this month's issue of Red Magazine and it had to come home with me... In fact I got a bit carried away and bought two copies with the mask in them which essentially meant I had the full size for £8 instead of £36 for 100ml RRP and a free magazine - BARGAINOUS!

I was tempted to get the Rose Cleanser from the range instead of 2x masks but I've got so many to use up already and I just love a good face mask. So in all, you could get with the Rose Face Mask (50ml), Rose Cleanser (30ml) or the Rose Moisturiser (30ml), the latter being the most expensive at £54 for 100ml whilst the cleanser comes in at £24 for 200ml.

Clear water-like texture
I've never previously tried anything from AA before so I was pretty excited and this is the one product that I would have bought first if I'd have made a purchase beforehand. I've read lots of good reviews and seen it in a few magazines so my hopes were high indeed.

The texture of the mask is very liquid-y  and almost turns to water open applying. Nothing wrong with this, I quite liked it. Like water also it's transparent completely which was one of the key features for me as it was a big contender for my in-flight pamper session that i've got planned. It spreads easily and you don't need much to cover the entire face. It looks very much like you've splashed your face with water once applied but this dries relatively quickly - around 3-5 minutes until it has disappeared and gone invisible - no shine or residue. To be honest it doesn't look or feel like you need to wash anything off! The only negative thing is that it leaves my face rather tight once applied and when washed off. Odd considering it is supposed to 'moisturising and renewing'... Having said that I did enjoy using it and my skin felt clean and toned with a subtle rosy scent lingering. The aroma for me is just right - I love rose scented products but if it's too strong they end up making me feel nauseous or give me a headache so a big thumbs up for getting the scent spot on.
Just applied - gone within 5 mins
Unfortunately i'd have to rate this mask 5/10 when i was almost sure it would have been an 8 at least, it sounded perfect. The main point was that it was supposed to be moisturising and I really felt like this made little or no difference to my moisture levels but it was a pleasure to use and did sooth my face.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Seafolly Festival Bikini S/S13

Bikini Brights

I've become totally obsessed with swimwear this year and already have perhaps too many to consider taking away with me but it doesn't stop me lusting over this Seafolly bikini from their s/s13 collection. It's like nothing I own or have have ever owned, I love the bright clash of contrasting colours and to me this just screams that it wants to be my Miami bikini as it makes me think of the neon lights you see on on the art deco buildings around South Beach. 

I usually stick to safe pastels or just plain bikini's but I think it's time that I experimented with colour a bit more ;) 

Seafolly Festival Triangle Top £39.50

I love the first two pictures of the official Seafolly model in the bikini, it definitely better on tanned skin...

Seafolly Festival Hipster Pants £39.00 

Classic Triangle VS Booster Bandeau Style (bandeau £59.00)

Quick question: would you go for the triangle or booster bandeau bikini top? I can't decide if the bandeau style looks a bit big and I'm not exactly big in the boobage dept :P

They were pretty hard to find, and most websites only stock one or two of the range instead of the whole lot - there are quite a few variations in the bottoms and tops not to mention a maxi skirt and coverup, so i've listed a few places where you can find items from the range. 

  • I recently discovered Odyssey Boutique located in Edinburgh stock the triangle top and hipster pant and are super friendly and helpful. 
  • ASOS also stock the hipster pant and a halter bikini top, the latter i'm not so fond of. They currently have the skirt cover up too.
  • Simply Beach have a good range of most the collection and some bigger cup sizes
  • Last but not least, Figleaves have the hipster pant and bandeau top and usually have a discount floating around!