My collection of teas is dwindling, mainly because we haven’t travelled anywhere ‘tea-worthy’ for some time. It thus came as a lovely surprise when a friend invited me to tea and opened her box of Co-op Earl Grey Fairtrade tea bags that she had received as a gift. Fairtrade is a word that has become synonymous with ethical products. To quote from the box “Fairtrade means fairer trading conditions and opportunities for producers in developing countries to invest in their businesses and communities for a sustainable future.” It is also stated on the box that the leaves come from strictly monitored plantations – which includes the monitoring of employee working conditions. Good for the conscience that.

We are always up for something new, and while this may be a supermarket brand in the UK, it is an ‘exotic’ brand to us. The blue and grey packaging with the sketches of leaves, flowers and an old-fashioned teapot appealed to us both.

While there is nothing new in the ingredients – we assumed the ‘natural ingredients’ referred to was the bergamot – it is always interesting to taste the different combinations of teas blended by different manufacturers. We know that both Malawi and Kenya produce delectable teas in their own right, so the truly ‘exotic’ part of this tea would be the addition of leaves from South India.

We sat outside, enjoying the warm breeze of a late autumn afternoon, savouring both the warmth and the taste of the tea. It is delicious: we enjoyed the full flavour of slightly smoky black tea infused with oil of bergamot. A calming drink, it was the perfect backdrop to a wonderful afternoon of catching up and enjoying each other’s company.

As this tea is not available in this country, we made the most of it – and poured another cup!



On a day such as today, with the temperature rising to 30°C and above while a strong, gusty and warm Berg Wind blows, Twinings Blackcurrant tea is the one to reach for. Its flavour is fulsome, rounded and rich. With or without milk, it is a refreshing drink that requires no accompaniment at all.

This very fine black tea has been expertly blended with the juicy flavour of blackcurrants to create a tea with a strong, fruity aroma and the characteristic sweet and tangy taste one would expect of such a fruit.


Today is cold, grey and damp so what better tea to reach for than this delicious, caffeine free Lime and Ginger Sensation by Twinings. As with so many teas in my collection, this was a gift from a dear friend.

Do not add milk to this tea; steep it for about three minutes and allow the ginger to tingle on your tongue. Although the box boldly states the main ingredients as lime peel, ginger and tangerine, the small print includes the addition of rosehips, blackberry leaves, lemongrass, white hibiscus as well as lime flowers. Who would have thought so many ingredients would be required to create this zingy flavour!

If you do not have this delicious tea at hand, a standby on a very chilly day would be root ginger infused in boiling water with a drop of lemon juice – or a slice if you prefer.


This is the turn of a gift from France: Irresistible Lady Lipton tea. The eye-catching hot pink box is intriguing and looks beautifully feminine.

Open the box and the visual sensation continues.

As does the reverse of the box.

And the contents? Well this is Lady Grey tea under a different guise and so one would expect hints of bergamot and citrus flavours. I prefer to let it steep for up to three minutes to allow the stronger flavours to come through along with the deepening of the amber colour of the tea. The tea is touted as an ‘aromatic affair’: the aroma is good, yet I find that even steeping it for longer, the tea remains a bit ‘thin’ and on the weak side. As sensuous as the box might be, and even the refreshing quality of the tea itself, I admit to preferring the more robust quality of Twinings Lady Grey.

I may nonetheless use Irresistible Lady Lipton as the base for an iced tea – roll on summer!


It is always a little sad for me to reach the end of a delightful variety of tea that I know I am unlikely to get hold of again. Today it was the turn of my box of Tregothnan Tea, a gift from England. Well, of course it would be – it is called GREAT BRITISH TEA after all!

The tea grown in England is an interesting by-line for that is an unusual image – tea-growing being associated with China, Sri Lanka, India and even Africa. According to the information leaflet inside the box, the tea is grown near Truro in Cornwall and the Boscawen family have been supplying England’s first and only tea since 2005.

It is a pleasantly full-bodied tea, more malty than English Breakfast Tea, which makes a refreshingly satisfying drink. If it were readily available in this country, I would certainly purchase another box. It is interesting to note too that the sale of this tea benefits the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund.


I have just enjoyed a pot of delicious Sasini tea whilst catching a wintry sun in the garden. This is a time when I can be contemplative and enjoy watching the birds in peace – and what a variety there were too!

First, the tea: this packet of very fine loose tea leaves was a gift from a friend after a visit to Kenya some years ago.  Sasini is one of the major tea producers in that country, so I was pleased to try it out at the time and continue to dip into it now and again. Do not make the mistake of following the traditional recipe of one teaspoon per person and one for the pot if you are not fond of strong tea: this tea is strong, smooth and creamy to the taste. It is a perfect tea to drink slowly while watching birds, reading or enjoying good company. I like it with a splash of milk.

Then, the birds. I was outdoors for only half an hour and in that time noted twenty species of birds. First up was a Blackheaded Oriole drinking from the nectar pub. This was also visited several times by a pair of Forktailed Drongos and a number of weavers – both Cape Weavers and Village Weavers.

Laughing Doves abound as usual and this morning were joined by a pair of Redeyed Doves, a Cape Turtle Dove and the Rock Pigeons that live in our roof.

A Cape Robin cautiously inspected the apples on the feeding tray before it was ousted by a cheeky Blackeyed Bulbul and an overbearing Olive Thrush. The apples were also a drawcard for a Boubou, some Common Starlings, a Fiscal Shrike, and a Blackcollared Barbet.

A flock of Bronze Manikins feasted on the fine seed in the ‘bird house’ feeder and, as I was about to come indoors, a Knysna Lourie made its rasping call from the fig tree.

What has all of this got to do with money? A lot. You see, while I was sipping my tea and enjoying the birds, I got to thinking about how fortunate we are: even though we are in the grip of drought, the crassula is blooming,

Plumbago flowers are putting on a brave show, the air smells fresh, the garden is filled with the sound of birds, and the clear sky forms a beautiful backdrop for the emerging flowers of the Erythrina caffra. Not bad for a drought.

And then … I happened across this quotation by the filmmaker, Alanis Obomsawin:

When the last tree is cut, the last fish caught, and the last river is polluted; when to breathe the air is sickening, you will realize, too late, that wealth is not in bank accounts and that you can’t eat money.

Yes, I thought, we can’t eat money despite so many people pursuing it at all costs. We can, however, become stewards of nature – even in our own gardens.


There is vanilla tea and vanilla tea. I have mentioned before how much I enjoy the delicious, aromatic flavour of vanilla tea and that I purchase a box of it whenever I can get hold of it. It was a friend of my daughter who first introduced me to vanilla tea by bringing a few tea bags for us to try one day – many, many moons ago. Twinings Vanilla Tea is truly delicious – and is the only variety I have found in the shops here – so let me not ‘put it down’ as it were.

The accolade for the champion of vanilla tea must, however, go to Bois Cheri Vanilla Tea Gold Label. The fact that my box contained loose tea leaves may account for it – loose tea always has the edge over bagged tea.

This Mauritian tea was a gift that I have eked out for as long as possible. Today is the last time I was able to savour the fine tea leaves of this exquisitely flavoured tea – I drank a pot of it to the last dregs! The taste is warm and ‘round’, with the aromatic flavour of vanilla lasting long after the tea has been drunk. ‘Pudding’ tea … middle-of-the-morning tea (with no cake or biscuits to interfere with the flavour) … afternoon tea … even last-tea-of-the-day tea.