It’s Christmas Eve! And that means every single one of my Bird and Blend Teabag Advent windows is now open!
That’s how close to Christmas we are, people!
It’s been great fun counting down the days until Christmas with tea different kinds of tea. I look forward to doing it all again next year.
This is going to be a funny sort of Christmas. A stripped down, Covid-secure, Tier 4 sort of celebration. But it’s still Christmas. And some of the people I love are locked down with me and some of the people I would normally see at this time of year are locked down elsewhere.
2020 has been both a year to remember and a year to forget. But, touch wood, I’m safe, the people I love are safe and with any luck 2021 will see us all squashed round the Christmas table together once more.
I wish each and every one of you the best possible Christmas you can have the year. In just over a week’s time, we can all tell 2020 to fuck right off forever.
Now, on to the tea!
This one really ought to have been on the last day of the advent calendar. It was basically an after dinner mint in a teacup.
In fact you could probably do a whole Christmas dinner with Bird & Blend teas. Start with carrot and coriander soup-flavoured tea, move on to a roast dinner with all the trimmings green tea infusion, then mince pie tea, some cheese and crackers tea and then round it all off with this one. OK, most of those tea flavours may not actually exist but we still have six windows still to open and I have remained as unspoilered as possible so, you know, it’s still possible.
Peppermint cream tea is made with Quangzhou oolong and cocoa shells along with generous amounts of peppermint. Even without milk, there was a pleasing creaminess to this drink. This might be the taste of Oolung, the powers of suggestion or possibly a bit more Christmas magic.
(Friday’s guest book was Culpeper’s Complete Herbal, the seventeenth century guide to everything you need to know about herbs and stuff. According to Nicholas Culpeper, peppermint is “useful for complaints of the stomach such as wind, vomiting &c” and “is good in poultices and fermentations to disperse curdled milk in the breasts.” So that’s a handy bonus.)
Poppin’ Xmas Sweet ‘n’ Salty
Everything about this teabag made me cross. Firstly, it’s a popcorn themed tea. We’ve already had one of those! And the previous one was toffee-flavoured and therefore more Christmassy than this.
The novelty of having toasted rice and puffed quinoa in my bag isn’t so novel now. We’ve had weirder stuff since then. (I refer you to previous teas’ pine needles and coffee beans.) You can’t wow me this time with popcorn-looking grains.
As for the taste, I was a bit excited about the inclusion of salt in an otherwise sweet beverage. I’m a sucker for salty chocolate bars, salted caramel and the like. Sadly, you can’t taste the salt at all here.
The liquorice in the ingredients list might have posed a problem given that liquorice in my least favourite tea ingredient. But, hey, you can’t taste the liquorice her either.
In fact, this tea just tastes like a perfectly pleasant cup of green tea. If I was served this after a meal in a Chinese restaurant, I would be quite happy.
As a supposedly Christmassy treat, though, it was a disappointment. With only five windows left to open. I wanted to be wowed by Winter Wonderlandness. I wanted my Christmas socks knocked off!
(Saturday’s guest book was The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson because I needed another novel with a movie tie-in cover to match the last popcorn tea.)
I complained (somewhat petulantly) the day before that sweet and salty popcorn flavour tea wasn’t Christmassy (or popcorny) enough for my liking. I challenged Bird & Blend to do better and, well, would you know it, they absolutely pulled a gingerbread rabbit out of the hat with Gingerbread Chai. That’s remarkably swift service from the tea people (especially given that this calendar was packaged and delivered months ago).
This was a gorgeous gingerbready tea. It’s made from Rooibos, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger and mallow flowers and tastes like a big warming cup of freshly made ginger biscuits. I have completely changed my mind this year about how I feel about Rooibos tea. I didn’t think I particularly liked it, but it turns out that if you put the right things with it – in this case all my favourite spices – then it really becomes something special. Best served with a crackling open fire and a cheery Christmas playlist.
(Sunday’s guest book was The Green Witch by Arin Murphy-Hiscock.)
The Christmas-Bakery-In-A-Cup theme continues with today’s marvellous Panettone tea. I really liked this one. It tastes of spice and fruit and general festive loveliness. I really appreciate the thought that goes into these blends. December the twelfth’s Christmas Cake was a black tea-based blend whereas today’s uses Chinese Sencha green tea. Panettone is a much lighter cake than the British version and it requires a much lighter tea.
(Monday’s guest book was The History of Western Philosophy by Bertrand Russell. Because of the Italian connection. I have to admit that, unlike most of the guest books, I haven’t actually read this 800-page philosophical tome. I fully intended to when I bought it but, you know how it is, I’ve been a bit busy.)
I thought I was familiar with all the different colours of Bird & Blend teabags – black for black tea, red for rooibos, green for green tea, blue for white tea and orange for the fruity tisane nonsenses that always leave me a bit disappointed. But it turns out, there’s another one as today’s tea bag is purple! Because purple means it’s a “hand blended herbal infusion and great before bed”.
I didn’t wait for bedtime to partake in this spearmint, coconut, eucalyptus, aniseed, pine needle and cornflower concoction. I’m not a delayed gratification sort of person.
I think peppermint and coconut should work quite well. Like a combination of coconut ice and a Kendle Mint Cake. In fact, I’ve been racking my brains to think of a coconut/peppermint combo sweet because I’m sure it must exist. I’ve come up empty though so this tea may well be the first time I’ve ever the two together.
My main feeling was that I wish the tea had been a bit more coconutty. There are so many different ingredients here but sadly this tea mostly just tastes of garden mint. The coconut – when it does manage to get a word in edgeways – is rather pleasant. As far a hot-beverage representation of the personification of ice and winter goes, well it’s probably the best one out there.
I really hope there’s another black tea soon. Herbal infusions are all well and good but we have had a proper cuppa since the 15th of December with the Assam/Sri Lankan tea/Kenyan tea based Butter Brew. There are only two windows left to open so I am keeping my fingers firmly crossed.
(Tuesday’s guest book was my very well-loved Encycolpedia of Herbs and Herbalism edited by Malcolm Stuart.)
The bafflingly-named Movie Rebels teabag packet asks “Orange, choc or coffee… which flavour did you get?” Well, squire, given my amazing powers of being able to read the ingredients list, I happen to know for a fact that all three of those things are in here.
This one is presumably named after Revels, the Mars chocolate confectionary product. I LOVED Revels when I was younger. Six different flavour chocolates all in one little bag. It was like the glamour of a box of Milk Tray but at pocket money prices.
You could make a whole tea selection based on Revel flavours: one each of orange, coffee, raisin, toffee, no-nonsense milk chocolate and Malteser flavour. The Malteser one would presumably taste a bit like chocolate Horlicks. You could get really retro and include the discontinued coconut and peanut flavours as well. According to Wikipedia, there was (briefly) a Turkish Delight flavour as well. Who knew?
As you can imagine, a combination of Rooibos, black tea, cocoa shells, coffee beans and orange peel, was a big win as far as I was concerned. I’m not really counting this one as a black tea though as it is mostly Rooibos and comes in a red packet. I’m not even freaked out by the presence of coffee beans in my tea any more. Bird & Blend have certainly expanded my tea horizons this year.
(Seeing as we were being rebels, Wednesday’s guest book was On Anarchism by Noam Chomsky.)
It’s Christmas Eve and Father Christmas did not grant my Christmas wish of having a black tea as my last Bird & Blend Christmas tea. In fact it’s an orangy tea and I think I’ve been quite rude about fruit-based teas in the past month.
But not today! Because this tea, my friends, HAS GLITTER IN IT! Oh yes!
And sparkly gold bits are truly what Christmas is all about. Well, I guess the true meaning of Christmas is love, family, friends, (socially-distanced) togetherness and the very human need for high days and holidays. But it’s also about glitter!
I think I may have done Fairy Dust tea a disservice on the 14th of December. I bemoaned the fact that my fairy dust tea was full of sediment. And, to be honest, this Bucks Fizz tea just looked a bit bitty when I made it in a teacup. But then I poured it into a glass to see what it would look like and WHOA glitteriness! Maybe if I had done the same experiment with Fairy Dust it would have returned similar results.
So, sorry Fairy Dust. I take back everything I said about you. I’m like Eberneezer Scrooge on Christmas morning, making amends to all the teas that I have wronged in the past.
I take back everything mean I said about any of them. My Bird & Blend teabag calendar was SO MUCH FUN. And I enjoyed every one of my daily tea experiences. Even the ones that were a bit pointless and/or weird.
It’s Christmas Eve. All is right with the world (or at least as right as it can be in this very strange year) and I have shiny sparkles in my tea! Merry Christmas to each and every one of you.
(Today’s guest book this is the BEST CHRISTMAS BOOK EVER. (Sorry, Charles Dickens but yours is in second place.) This is my original copy of Dr Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas given to me by my parents in 1978. It’s done a fair few Christmas Eves, I can tell you. After we put out the mince pie and sherry for Father Christmas and hang stockings at the end of the bed, reading the Grinch is absolutely de rigueur in our household. My daughter is now in her her twenties so the ‘preparing for Father Christmas’ isn’t such a thing any more. But this particular book has served two generations of children so far and maybe one day it will be read to a new generation as we discover – as we do every year – that “maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”)