Newby Tea

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Product review – The renaissance of the luxury tea

Luxury teas seem to be all the rage at the moment, and the ever increasing demand for only the best in quality is slowly being met by the best in the industry. There are few companies who value the grandeur and richness of tea culture more highly than at Newby, a luxury tea company born at the turn of the century with a mission to provide only the best in tea.

Nirmal Sethia, the vibrant founder of Newby, describes his love for tea thus: “Tea is like a beautiful woman not only recognised for her appearance, but also valued for her character’. In a post-industrial world of mass consumerism, where tea is often made on the cheap and then heavily supplemented with artificial flavorings, slogans and marketing, Newby stands out by providing tea with integrity. As a member of the Ethical Tea Partnership, a global organisation committed to improving the lives and environment of tea workers throughout the world, Newby actively contributes to making tea production fairer and more environmentally sustainable.

I’m not often called a romantic, but Newby feels like more than just a profit driven business. The success in transforming this once-flailing company into a worldwide success should come as no surprise however, when undertaken by a man whose family has three generations of experience in tea making as well as various enterprises in banking and real-estate investment. From a personal history in tea that started out many decades ago, Sethia’s interest in this particular venture feels like something born out of passion, and fueled by a devotion to a love lost and then regained. As well as personally tasting every single variety of the hundred-strong tea collection at Newby, Sethia is also responsible for amassing more than 1000 rare tea artifacts under the ‘Chitra Collection’, named and inspired by Sethia’s late wife.

Having researched the history of the brand and the personal accomplishments of its founder, the quality of the products that I’m trying out seems to have that much more meaning. All of the teas are picked from first and second flush of the prime harvest seasons, often through ‘fine handpicking’ to ensure that only the bud and top two leaves are used. The purity of the tea is then carefully preserved through a multi-layer foil case which protects the delicate leaves from excessive light, moisture and contaminants.

Newby offers a cacophony of different types of tea, tisanes, miniature flowering teas and larger tea buds. The ‘Gourmet Collection’ from Newby features loose leaf teas contained in jewel-toned tea caddies, which are beautifully pressed into undulating lattices. I’m trying out the deeply fragrant Supreme Jasmine tea from the Gourmet Collection which instantly takes me back to a childhood of pressing my face into the white blossoms of trailing jasmine flowers, draped across the garden woodwork that my dad made, that my mum loved. I’ve not had a jasmine tea like it before.

Silken tea pyramids can also be purchased from Newby; try the strawberry and mango tisane with a few cubes of ice on a hot summers afternoon, or a cup of calming chamomile just before bed.

For the more visual among you I’d recommend trying out one of the flowering teas from Newby, available as larger blossoms for a large teapot or as miniature flowers for individual use. The rose flowering tea set features rose buds and green tea leaves carefully hand sewn together to form a cocoon. The best way to enjoy these is in one of Newby’s glass tea cups; pop a bud into freshly heated water and watch as it slowly unfurls and fragrances the air with flowers.

The tea at Newby is expertly sourced, blended and preserved, and the variety on offer is seemingly endless. Perfect for a gift, the Gourmet Collection Caddies cost between £20-£35, or plump for a silver-plated caddy at £110. The flowering rose tea (of around 20 flowers) can be purchased for £40.80, and the loose leaf tea pouches start at £7.55 for 100g.

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L’Orchidee

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Afternoon tea at Westfield Shepherds Bush

6.5/10

Since opening a few years ago, Westfield Shepherds Bush has fast turned into my go to shopping spot, and I am embarrassingly familiar with it. I know exactly where everything is and I have a set ‘route’ which I always take – a roadmap of shops to hit for maximum efficiency. Although I don’t usually go to Westfield to eat (for obvious reasons), the gorgeous macaron display at L’Orchidee has always caught my eye.

Located in the posh ‘Village’ parade of shops, this boutique patisserie sits like an island in the main walkway and is surrounded by high end designer shops. Cakes are served as well as a humble selection of savouries, loose leaf tea, cocktails and a few varieties of Champagne.

Afternoon tea at L’Orchidee consists of a three tiered tray of simplistic finger sandwiches, scones with jam and a modest selection of cakes. The highlight is by far the macarons which have an almost impeccable texture, and which are available in a number of interesting flavours. The cake tier of the afternoon tea consists of one macaron each plus a couple of mini desserts.

If you ask nicely then the staff might let you pick out the macaron flavour you’d most like to try, in which case I’d recommend going for the sesame-speckled watermelon kind. Rose and pistachio macarons also rock my boat.

If you really want to take the macarons for a spin then buy them for £1.80 each, or pick box sets of 15 for £27 or 20 for £36. The afternoon tea itself starts at £20 pp, rising in price if you fancy a glass of bubbles.

Tube: Shepherds Bush
Address: Westfield, Shepherds Bush
Tel: 020 3086 9920‎
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The Glencairn Glass

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Product Review – Perfect little round-bottomed glasses

You might have noticed my newfound interest in trying out luxury products and sharing them with you. Just today I got a set of whisky glasses from Glencairn Glass, uniquely crafted following the traditions of master whisky blenders and connoisseurs. The Glencairn Glass is something of a fixture in the world of whisky, and is said to be used at distilleries from the Glens of Speyside to the paddy fields of Yilan County. Isn’t that a warming thought?

If you generally like my blog and my ambling prose, then you’re probably the sort of person who is open to a little… experimentation. I’ve recently been cultivating a tea habit that has no end in site, and these round bottomed glasses from Glencairn are the perfect little vessels in which to sip them.

The shape of the glass has been carefully developed to enhance the appreciation of single malt whiskies and aged blends, but the same principles could also be used for a luxury tea. The elegantly tapered rim of the glass allows an ease of drinking which is not normally seen in traditional nosing glasses, such that the fragrance of the tea ‘liquor’ can be appreciated that much better. The curvy bottom is perfect for a little meditation; imagine cupping your Glencairn Glass with its rich golden liquid and giving it a little swirl. The sipping of both a whisky and a fine tea is nothing if not contemplative.

The Glencairn Glass is described as the definitive vestibule for the enjoyment of a Scotch whisky, and those standards translate well when used for a little tea drinking. Each glass costs just £6 and is available to buy online, and you can also personalize the glasses with bespoke engraving.

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Jadu Tea

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Product Review – Luxury tea from Jadu

As my twenties slowly start to peel away, so do some of my old eating habits. My fridge is witness to the things I’ve chosen to abandon; at the moment it’s groaning under the weight of cans of soft drink bought en masse, testament to my unbound fizzy drink habit that has thankfully fizzled out. Instead of ready meals and store bought sauces there are fresh herbs and vegetables, instead of dairy milk there is good quality dark chocolate. Sausages out and salmon in. So this is what it feel like to be an adult! I’ve also gotten better acquainted with the enigma that is herbal tea, available in a diversity of styles and food-pairing possibilities that are guaranteed to keep me busy for years to come.

There are teas and then there are teas. Luxury tea is increasingly available to try and it would seem that we are fast growing an appreciation for it. Our rich tea drinking history has evolved to a contemporary British tea culture, which gravitates towards the finer varieties of tea like those at Jadu.

Jadu is a London-based luxury tea brand with a worldwide following. Named after the ancient Sanskrit word for ‘magic’, their tea is certainly proving to be alluring. This morning I’m sipping on a cup of the charmingly named ‘Mademoiselle Grey’,  a twist on the Jadu Earl Grey tea blend which has a Sri Lankan Uva black tea base. Presented in fine silk pyramids which are contained in a royal blue suede gift box that is embossed in gold writing, this certainly feels like an indulgence. The silk bags are individually sealed such that opening one for the first time releases a wonderful aroma, flecked with something that I can’t quite name. As per the instructions I leave it to brew for 3 minutes, it’s floral fragrance strengthening as the minutes tick by. As first sips go this one is glorious – literally beautiful. The first citrusy taste from the lemongrass and lime peel then blossoms into sumptuous bergamot and red cornflowers.

Next up are silk pyramids of ‘Chinese Green’ tea from the Yunnan province of China, one of the oldest tea growing regions of the world. The Chinese are said to have discovered the magic of tea some 5000 years ago, when a few wild tea leaves drifted down into a cup of hot water. Fast forward to today amd  my cup of steaming green from Jadu is one of the more delicate varieties of green tea that I’ve had, with a subtle sweetness and the secret promise of antioxidant goodness. Fight the free radicals!

The Chamomile tisane is an old time favourite of mine for a bit of calming power, and the Jadu blend successfully combines it with Linden Blossom, Elderflower, Echinacea, Milk thistle leaves and Lavender. The Jadu Crème Brulee blend is perfect to combine with a pudding, and is based on the South African Rooibos combined with Calendula petals, cinnamon, caramel pieces and hazelnut.

Perfect for an indulgent gift for a loved one or treat for yourself, the selection of tea from Jadu is brilliant. The gift boxes contain twelve tea envelopes, and both the ‘China Green’ and ‘Mademoiselle Grey’ cost £16 each. Re-fill packs of the loose leaf Chamomile and Roiboos Crème Brulee are priced at £9.50 each.

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