Saturday, October 30, 2010

"I love meeting other people who are a bit mad"

Sam recently took a road trip over to Manchester for her annual pilgrimage to worship the shiny things on sale at the Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair.

This is a fabulous event. Everything on sale is handmade and is generally being sold by the artists or makers. From sublime gold, silver and precious stone jewellery to modern wall hangings made with fluorescent plastics, hand thrown & glazed pottery - this is an Aladdin's cake of treasures.

This year Sam particularly liked the jewellery that liked frogspawn and the Orange felt hat that looked like the Sydney Opera House.

But the one stall that knocked our socks off completely was Helaina Sharpley's wire work.

Helaina Sharpley makes 2D and 3D wire sculptures/pictures. Her particular inspiration is "everything related to tea and tea drinking - tea cups and saucers, tea sets and tea parties are the artists main passion (verging on obsession!)"

Helaina had a wonderful collection of life sized, perfect wire cups and saucers. She had gorgeous 3d pictures which were mounted on tea trays. Her biggest piece (which took five weeks to make) was an intricate, massive building, the road up to which exploded away from the base frame and extended towards the viewer, making you feel like you could step into the picture and get totally wrapped up in Helaina's wire world.

We had to stop and express our admiration, and we found out that: 1. Helaina lives in Huddersfield, and thus is highly likely to be able to make some of teaandcake's future tea parties (where she will, of course, be guest of honour). 2. Helaina brews up approximately every half hour and takes tea with her everywhere (she had a very fetching gingham thermos hidden away on her stall)

We told Helaina about teaandcake and her immediate comment was "I love meeting other people who are a bit mad". This is exactly how we felt about you, Helaina.

Check out more of Helaina's work (which includes functioning clocks and Georgian architecture as well as teacups and cakes) at

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Twinings Tea Tests!

Twinings very kindly sent teaandcake a bundle of their teas. We’ve been taking them out and about to our events this summer to gather feedback and see what folks thought about each.

Blackberry & Nettle

The packet said: “A fruit flavoured infusion inspired by Autumn. Blackberry’s distinctive sweet taste and aroma takes on a rich quality in this infusion. Its richness is perfectly balanced by the peppery taste of nettle to create a satisfying refreshing drink”.

Three testers tried this and were most impressed.

A most agreeable tea which I shall buy. Ross

Fruity and warming. Perfect for autumn. Maybe a bit weak. Sam

It’s good – better than most fruit teas. Lacks that edge that some fruit teas have – it’s very easy to drink. A good alternative to a caffeinated tea if you fancy something hot and fruity. Janine.

Blackcurrant, Ginseng & Vanilla

The packet said: “A luscious infusion – with blackcurrant and subtle spice flavour. This rich combination of sweet blackcurrant, ginseng root and vanilla has a delicious taste. It has an exquisite rose blush colour… it’s particularly perfect for a touch of warmth as evenings get colder”.

One tester tried this and liked her choice.

Very smooth and refreshing. Relaxing on a summer afternoon. Would have been even better if slightly stronger. Claire

Blossom Earl Grey

Possibly the most popular tea we had for testing – 10 people tried it, all of the liked it and all of them would consider picking up a box of it to take home.

The packet say: “A delicate tea, blended with bergamot and the floral taste of orange blossom. A black tea that brightens your day and warms you from the inside out”.

Our Tea Testers' Quotes:
Lovely Earl Grey, one of the nicest I’ve tried. Nice rounded warm taste with a hint of orange (but not too overpowering). Adam

Hint of orange was interesting but generally I’d prefer regular earl grey (especially since I prefer earl grey tea with milk, but we couldn’t see that sitting well with orange). Anna

I’m not usually a fan of every earl grey. I’m having this without milk and enjoying it. It’s quite floral but not overpowering. J9

A great tea. Richard.

Nice perfumed taste. Daz

Soooo good! Susi

Nice and light and refreshing. Kenny

Good flavour. Well balanced. Refreshing. Jane

Camomile & Spearmint

One tester tried this, and was very happy with it:

The packet says: “Camomile – known for its relaxing properties – is balanced with cooling spearmint for a clean yet refreshing taste. This bright, golden infusion is ideal for drinking throughout the day and into the evening”.

V. refreshing – delicious! Siobhan

Green Citrus Tea

One tester tried this and said that they would happily take another cup (if not a box).

The packet said: “A refreshing green tea with a hint of citrus. We’ve taken high quality green tea leaves and added the natural flavours of zesty lemon an lime, balanced by the juicy sweetness of orange.”

A very refreshing tea! Ross

Green Tea with Apple and Pear

One tester tried this – they’d consider taking another cup, but not a whole box.

The packet said: “A refreshing balance of green tea and mellow, orchard flavours. The natural flavours of crisp, red apples and smooth, ripe pears create a delicious combination when blended with high quality green tea leaves.”

I liked the way the fruit brightened up the green tea, but the tea aftertaste was a bit too strong and wiped out the fruit. I would try it again.

Green Tea & Cranberry

One tester tried this and gave it the thumbs up.

The box said: “We’ve blended top quality green tea leaves and natural cranberry flavour to create this tea’s golden colour and juicy taste”.

Pleasnt aroma, nice taste

Green Tea with Orange & Lotus Flower

One reviewer tried this and liked it, but wouldn’t go out and buy a box.

The packet said: “A lightly aromatic green tea with a delicate scented flavour. This distinctly oriental blend combines the zesty flavour of lotus flowers, which have long been associated with purity in China.”

It’s surprisingly nice considering I don’t really like orange! Steve

Golden Oolong

Three people out every four liked this and might buy it again – the fourth would prefer something else, please.

The packet said: “A sunny and sweet Oolong tea with a fragrant taste of spring.

Our Tea Testers' Quotes:

Don’t leave the teabag in too long. Paul

Could be a bit stronger. Olga

Lovely rounded warm taste. Adam

Green tea for beginners! JM

Quite bitter and I didn’t like the scent. Brewed quite strong and quite quickly too! Sam

Tastes quite like a white tea but with quite a strong aftertaste. Rosemary

Light taste, refreshing. Easy to drink. J9

Nice scent. Indifferent flavour. Jane


Two testers tried this and both declared that they’d be happy to have a box in a cupboard at home.

The packet said: “A refreshing infusion with a clean, fresh taste. The cool aroma of mint is refreshing and peppermint leaves have traditionally been used to soothe the stomach and aid digestion. The peppermint leaves, with their naturally high essential oil content give this infusion its really refreshing taste”.

Very refreshing!

Nice smooth drink! Sandra

Peppermint & Nettle

Four people tried this – three would go out and buy a box, and one was unconvinced.

A lovely surprise!  I’ve had these flavours separately but was surprised when I saw them in one, as I couldn’t imagine the combination. It proved to be a really nice mixture that I really enjoyed.

Matches the description perfectly. Nettle is peppery and peppermint is minty. Nice subtle tea.

I liked this blend – nettle alone can be bitter, and peppermint can be a bit sickly, but together they balanced out very nicely. Anna

Rose Garden

12 people tried this, and most liked it and would consider buying some. There was a bit of a split, with some tea testers liking it with and some without milk.

The box said: “A light black tea with the sweet scent of rose. Make a cup, take a moment and prepare to be wooed”.

Our Tea Testers' Quotes:

Turkish delight in a cup! This is like marmite – you’ll either love or hate it. JM

Fruity rather than rosy. Better without milk. Lynn

Peculiar! Nicer with a drop of milk. Robert

Subtle flavour, light on the rose flavour, nice aftertaste. Nice light black tea for a non-tea drinker. Phil

Surprisingly well balanced without overpowering florals. Quite tasty! Improved by a dash of milk – much smoother! Kirstin

Where can I buy it? Not seen this variety anywhere. Excellent! Ursula

This is stupendous!! Make it more available! Tim TW

Definite taste of rose without being overpowering. Might be nice iced! Amanda

Spring White

This tea split our eight tasters - some liked it and others were not in favour.
Those who liked it said they might pick up a box.

The box said: “An easy and light white tea made from spring picked buds, this is tea at its purest. Handpicked while the dew glistens to create a delicate, refreshing flavour bringing a little hint of crisp dewy mornings with every sip.”

Our Tea Testers' Quotes:

Little bit too “earthy” for my taste. Adam

Don’t leave the tea bag in too long! Paul

Aftertaste too bitter. Daz

Light, clean flavour.

Tasted like English breakfast but vastly inferior. Richard

Refreshing but tasty. V nice!

Nicer than green tea. Delicate taste.

Twinings Voyage Russian Tea / Russian Taiga – available overseas and brought to this tea party by a tea tester!

3 people tried this – two liked it a lot, and one was indifferent.

Soft, touch of citrus. Low tannin. I could drink this all day. JM

Palatable black tea, not overpowering with the lemon flavour which is good. A tea to be enjoyed slowly, and no perfumed aftertaste. Phil.

Very good – a strong crisp tea. Refreshing with a hint of lemon. I would love to see this range introduced into the UK.