Bailin Gong Fu Black Tea – Teavivre

This is one of the most enjoyable red/black teas I’ve had from Teavivre. I’ve made it several ways – in a glass slider, gaiwan, and glass teapot. Each time the taste has been very satisfying, and the tea is one that I can definitely recommend.

The tea, which is of the highest quality, was picked in April of this year from Da Bai and Da Hao trees at Mt Taimu in the Fujian province. The leaves were thin, like pine needles, and they were a mix of black and gold which was very pretty. I always like to see the gold coloured leaves/tips because then I know the tea contains a good amount of the pekoe leaf buds.

The great thing about making tea in a glass slider (or a glass teapot) is that you can watch the water change colour which can look very pretty on a gloomy day this time of year. I used filtered water and boiled it before letting it cool just slightly. I seem to have got into the habit of doing this – I think it’s because I’m afraid of over-boiling the water, and when it’s so hot it is harder to touch the tea making equipment as it burns my hands when it’s full of piping hot liquid. Anyway, it seems I’ve been making the tea along the right lines because Teavivre suggest brewing the tea at a temperature below boiling (194℉, 90℃ if  using a western style teapot or 185℉/85℃ if making tea Chinese gong fu style).

The dry tea leaves smelled sweet and treacly, and I put a couple of teaspoonfuls into the glass slider. The water became a lovely caramel colour. The reddish brown liquor looked very inviting, and of course if you have a sweet tooth then your mind can wander to treacly sponge puddings and other delicious sweet treats.


I shared this tea and some feedback I got on tasting was that it tasted like dark chocolate orange. I found this to be very interesting as it shows how differently the taste can be perceived by others. I thought the tea tasted of sweet treacle, but on hearing that it tasted like dark chocolate orange I began to pick out those kinds of notes too. It was a very smooth, melt in the mouth kind of tea.

I still have quite a stash of tea I need to use up a bit before purchasing any new ones, but I think this is one to order in the future. Having a good tea to reach for in the cupboard is always a good thing to have, especially for those days when one needs cheering up a bit and a special treat is required. There’s something very warm and comforting about this tea, and those I shared it with were also very enthusiastic about it.

Thank you to Alison from Teavivre for the sample. I really enjoyed this tea.


Jasmine Raw Pu-erh Mini Tuocha – Teavivre

I’m never quite sure what to expect when I drink any kind of pu-erh tea for the first time, and I generally associate it with having quite a strong earthy taste. I was quite excited though to get to try this jasmine raw pu-erh mini tuocha from Teavivre.

The tea leaves come from the large leaf species of tea trees in Lincang, Yunnan in China that were produced and harvested in 2014. Pu-erh is one of those teas which supposedly gets better and better with age, and that also makes it more expensive as it ages.

The dry leaves were a kind of dark green to brown colour, and flecks of orange pekoe could be seen  amongst them which were, strangely enough, a slightly orangey colour. The dry leaf had a good earthy aroma, together with gentle whiffs of jasmine that permeated my nostrils from time to time.


It was actually quite a long time since I’d drunk some pu-erh tea so I decided to go the extra mile and make it in a yixing teapot for the occasion. The instructions for making the tea were to brew the tea at a water temperature of 212℉ but I went a bit under that and let it brew for less than the stated time of three to five minutes. I was worried the taste would be too strong for me so I lowered the brew time to about two and a half minutes.

The first brew was much as I thought it would be – a nice earthy taste with a comfortable amount of jasmine taste. It was quite a light jasmine taste and the tea had a slight tang. The liquor had a nice yellowish colour



The second brew was stronger so I kept the brew time short thereafter. The aroma and taste was light enough for me with shorter brew times and there was a nice sweet taste to the tea. With each subsequent brew the tea seemed to get just a little bit sweeter, and the jasmine taste gradually faded more to the background. The sweetness from the sheng gave the tea a very pleasant aftertaste.

The wet leaves were fresh and sweet smelling with a nice beach/ocean aroma. There was definitely that airy smell of the ocean.

I recently tried a tea from another tea company which had jasmine tea blended with citrus, sage, and lavender. I was intrigued to see what the tea would taste like if it was blended with some lemon, sage, or lavender, or any combination of those. Maybe that will be a project for the future. I could see myself drinking this jasmine pu-erh again, but probably more as a blend with fruits, herbs, or flowers.

All in all I did enjoy this tea, and the quality was superb as always from Teavivre.

Thank you to Alison for allowing me to try it.

The Sunshine and the Magic of Heatwave

It was with great sadness that I learned about the passing of Rod Temperton, my favourite songwriter from my favourite band of all time, Heatwave. I don’t know what it is about this year, but we have lost so many of our well loved singers and musicians. Rod, who came from Cleethorpes in the north of England, was only 66, losing a battle with cancer after a short illness.

Heatwave was my favourite band during my teenage years. In fact it still is, and every once in a while I like to go down memory lane and reminisce.  The joy upon listening, the feelings the songs evoke in me just lifts my mood like no other. I remember going to the disco with my friends, and hearing so much great music. I naively thought good music was a given, that it would always be so good  – just like it was throughout the 1970s and into the 1980s. And when I heard a Heatwave song, I felt really, really good. 

Rod wrote most of the songs for Heatwave before going on to write for many other artists, including Michael Jackson. He wrote many of the songs on the famous ‘Thriller’ album and ‘Off The Wall’. He really was a great and prolific songwriter, and he was also an arranger and producer. Whenever I picked up a vinyl record and saw that Rod Temperton was the songwriter I just knew it was going to be a good song. Holding a record in my hand with his name in the writing credits was like holding gold dust. And my Heatwave records were just like that, magical and golden – my musical sunshine. They always came sprinkled with a good dose of positivity and uplift.

Heatwave were an international band based in England comprising the Wilder brothers, Keith and Johnnie from Dayton, Ohio who fronted the band and who were the lead vocalists, a Spanish bass guitarist called Mario Mantese, a drummer from Czechoslovakia called Ernest (Bilbo) Berger, Eric Johns on various guitars, and Rod on the keyboards. I loved the diversity of talent that came together to make the sounds. There are plenty of stories on the internet that describe how the band was formed, so I won’t duplicate that information here.

Rod’s songwriting, combined with Johnnie’s beautiful, angelic voice was mindblowing. It literally took my breath away. And those harmonies as well…even watching the videos now on youtube leaves me spellbound – Heatwave could put on a performance. I just cannot adequately express just how much the songs affected me, and still do.

Heatwave made five fabulous albums and I’m the proud owner of every single one:



This was the first album released and contains many of my favourite songs: the funky ‘Ain’t No Half Steppin’, ‘Too Hot To Handle’, ‘Boogie Nights’, and ‘Always and Forever’. ‘Boogie Nights’ was the first song to become a big hit, followed by ‘Too Hot To Handle’ (I bought both of these singles). ‘Boogie Nights’ has a lovely, unusual intro with a harp which leads into an upbeat dance track. ‘Always and Forever’ was another huge hit, a slow love song which Johnnie sings so effortlessly. It has become a classic.



This album is full of funky songs: ‘Put The Word Out’ and ‘Central Heating’, and it contains yet another of my favourite songs ‘The Groove Line’ which was a big hit and which is a funky upbeat dance tune. I remember hearing this at the disco, and just taking in and soaking up the atmosphere and sound. Something within was connecting so strongly with the music, and that snapshot of time resides deeply in me. I bought the single and played it over and over again. It’s one of the few singles I still have in my record collection alongside ‘Too Hot To Handle’.



By the time this album came out Rod had left the band to go and work with Quincy Jones and Michael Jackson, but he continued to write songs for Heatwave and for all the subsequent albums. Tragedy had also struck – Mario Mantese, the bass guitarist, was stabbed in the heart and his injuries meant he could not play bass again. He was replaced by Derek Bramble. A year later Johnnie was in a car accident which left him paralysed from the neck down.

Although this album was really good (I love ‘Therm Warfare’) a lot of people felt that it did not quite live up to the first two albums. The producer was different this time also (Phil Ramone and not Barry Blue, who produced the first two albums).

CANDLES (1980)


Johnnie, although paralysed, never lost his beautiful voice, and was still able to record songs – though on stage he was replaced with JD Nicholas (who also went on to sing with the Commodores). Johnnie was so brave, and used to sing from behind a curtain when the band was on stage. He still wanted to be part of the band, though not visible. Rod still wrote some of the songs. ‘Posin’ ‘Til Closin’ and ‘Jitterbuggin’ were catchy. ‘Gangsters of the Groove’ was another hit song. The album was produced by Johnnie and James Guthrie.

CURRENT (1982)


This was the last album which contains the uptempo ‘Lettin It Loose’, my favourite song from the album and which was another Rod song. He still wrote most of the songs, and Barry Blue was back to produce the album. Although this was still a good, solid album, so much had changed after Rod left and the tragedies happened. Heatwave finally came to an end.

Mario recovered from his injuries, and is now an author of spiritual books. Johnnie began a gospel career and made two albums. He died in 2006.  Heatwave reformed later on but Keith is the only original member, and still tours.

I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if Rod had stayed with the band, and if the awful tragedies hadn’t happened. It is quite well known that Johnnie actually turned down the song ‘Rock With You’ from Rod for whatever reason, which then became a monster hit for Michael Jackson. But these things did happen, and we still got five wonderful albums – five albums of magic and sunshine. The songs were like bright beacons of light to lift you out of the gloom – they were about going out and having a good time, and it was like hearing a lot of mini soundtracks to life in general.

Thank you Heatwave for the joy that you brought. Thank you Rod for the songs – you’ll never know how much those songs meant, and still mean to me. Whenever I feel down I turn to those songs – musical sunshine to my ears and to my soul.

Leave your worries behind
‘Cause rain, shine don’t mind
We’re ridin’ on a groove line, tonight

A Year’s Supply of Pukka Tea – Part 3

Continuing on with my tea tasting from the range of Pukka Teas.

Lemongrass & Ginger, Lemon & Mandarin, Elderberry & Echinacea


Lemongrass & Ginger

A pleasant, refreshing balance of lemon and ginger in this tea containing lemongrass (48%), ginger root (28%), liquorice root, lemon verbena leaf, lemongrass essential oil flavour (4%).

I love this type of tea in general, and it was most enjoyable – a nice lemon tang followed by the ginger. A good balance of ingredients.

Lemon & Mandarin

I was expecting quite a fruity taste to this tea but it was surprisingly very mild and gentle. This is good for people who need a more subdued fruit flavour, but I thought it lacked any oomph to it. There was the initial taste of lemon and mandarin, but overall the sweetness from the liquorice and sweet fennel seed were the dominant features of this tea. There was  just a hint of lemon and mandarin but nothing leapt out. I do like balance to a tea which I thought this one lacked. It needed more fruitiness to give it a more refreshing taste.

Ingredients: licorice root, sweet fennel seed, orange peel, reshape, hibiscus flower, lemon balm leaf, lemongrass, lemon verbena leaf (8%), lemon myrtle leaf, lemon whole (4%), mandarin essential oil flavour (4%).

Looking at the list of ingredients it was surprising that I felt the way I did about the tea. However, the tea would be ideal for many people who need a gentler type of infusion.

Elderberry & Echinacea

I loved this. I could taste a moderate amount of elderflower and elderberry, two of my favourite ingredients for blending with tea or other ingredients.

It contained: licorice root, ginger root, echinacea root and leaf (10%), beetroot, aniseed, elderflower (8%), peppermint leaf, orange peel, elderberry (6%), rosehip, acerola juice flavour, orange essential oil flavour, natural blackcurrant flavour.

This was another favourite from the range. Very refreshing and full of juicy fruit flavours which balanced beautifully with the main ingredients.

Night Time,  After Dinner, Relax


Night Time

A good night time infusion to help you wind down containing chamomile, lavender, lime flower, liquorice, tulsi, oat straw flowering tops, valerian.

This was very calming and soothing. I thought it tasted very much of oats and overall it was a bit on the bland side. When I brewed the tea longer than five minutes though I thought the overall flavour improved a lot, especially when it was brewed in a teapot. It had a nice, clear taste and a good meld of flavours came through. I think this tea would do its job and help prepare one for a good night’s sleep.

After Dinner

This tea really hit the spot. It contained roasted chicory root (24%), aniseed, sweet fennel seed (20%), liquorice root, cardamom pod (8%), orange peel, ginger root.

The combination of these ingredients really worked well together. Usually one would associate an after dinner tea with having some kind of mint in it (which this one did not). However, it felt like this was an after dinner blend and the blend of ingredients was tasty  and effective. I think it was the aniseed that livened up the taste.

This was another favourite.


I’m afraid this one was a bit bland for my taste buds. It tasted quite oaty with not a lot else going on. I’m sure this would have the desired effect of making one relax though.

Ingredients: organic chamomile flower (18%), sweet fennel seed (12%), marshmallow root (10%), oat flowering tops, liquorice root, bitter fennel seed (12%).

I think I need to try this again, maybe in a teapot and see what results I get. I do like to give a tea several chances before making my mind up. The list of ingredients doesn’t inspire me though.

Silver Jasmine Green Tea – Teavivre

Silver Jasmine Tea (Mo Li Yin Hao) is a very popular tea in China and I was fortunate to receive a sample of it from Teavivre. This one is a green tea from Fuding in Fujian, China which comes from premium Da Bai and Da Hao trees grown in Mt Taimu, and it is processed with jasmine flowers.

The tea comprises pure tea buds and new leaves which are dark green and quite wiry. Interspersed with these leaves are pretty little jasmine flowers.


I’m not the biggest fan of jasmine tea or tea scented with jasmine but the aroma was quite intoxicating. It was fresh and lively, and the jasmine, though distinctive, was not overpowering. It was rather lovely and made me feel as if I was in a spring flower garden. There was a mellowness to the aroma and it was actually quite calming.

I made the tea gong fu style using filtered water that had been boiled and then allowed to cool (the optimal temperature is 194℉ or 90℃, but I try and guess). The brews were fairly short in the gaiwan, somewhere between 20 and 25 seconds initially. To brew it in a teapot 1 – 5 minutes are recommended with a water temperature of 203℉ and 95℃.

The tea liquor was a very pale yellow colour. It had a refreshingly mild taste which was delicate and light. There was more jasmine taste than green tea taste, but just like the aroma, it was not overpowering. It tasted clean and clear, and it had a gentle sweet taste.

I found this tea to be very relaxing and it was nice to sit outside on an early autumn day, as it was today, and reflect on the past year whilst sipping it. The gentle green taste of the tea with the jasmine conjured up images of spring and summer, and it was a nice little escape from the sometimes humdrum routine that is integral to life.

I’ve had some good teas this year flavoured with jasmine, a Ceylon green jasmine tea I had this summer comes to mind which was spectacular. The few jasmine teas or teas blended with jasmine that I’ve had from Teavivre have been consistently good, and of the highest quality. I can honestly say since having the opportunity to taste good quality teas/tea blends with jasmine, I’m really beginning to enjoy the taste of jasmine, and not just the aroma.

If anyone were to offer me a jasmine green tea that tasted like this one or the one I had in the summer I wouldn’t say no! With tea buds and new leaves – I’ll take it!

Thank you so much to Alison from Teavivre for allowing me to sample this tea.

Here is the link to the range of teas on the website:

Raising My Glass To You


Thirty years have gone by

since the day you were born

The sun dazzled that day

in the September sky


Yesterday’s dreams

turn to hope for the future

How will it all play out?

and what is the theme?


Find who you are

Search for your answers

Find your way

Follow that star


Whatever the day

And wherever you are

Loving thoughts are with you

Just a heartbeat away

Coconut Almond Black Tea – Paromi Tea

I came across this tea whilst visiting the local Whole Foods in Bellingham. I initially went in there to get some dates to add to an apple crumble to make that night, and also just to have a nice quiet browse on my own. I’d been to Whole Foods a couple of times to eat some of their delicious stone baked pizza, but when in company it’s hard to get the chance to really see what there is in the store. So on a beautiful sunny Tuesday afternoon I decided to go there alone.

Whilst in the tea aisle I noticed there were some different tea brands that I hadn’t come across before. I had a really nice conversation with Jo, the sales assistant, who had just finished doing a demo for some jasmine tea. It was clear we both shared a love of tea and we were both curious to know what Paromi tea tasted like. Imagine my surprise when Jo very kindly offered to let me take a tin home to sample! Paromi tea is not the cheapest tea you can buy so I was very grateful to have the opportunity to try one of the flavours before buying. I wanted to see if the tea was actually worth the price tag of $10.99. I chose the Coconut Almond black tea.

The tea was in an opaque glass jar which is different to how tea is usually presented or packaged and there were fifteen silky looking pyramid sachets inside. The next thing I noticed was the full leaf tea inside the bags with visible slithers of almond and coconut shreds.


Often flavoured black teas have a really bad artificial taste and aroma, but not this one. It smelled very natural like there was an opened bags of almonds in front of me, and there was also a fresh aroma from the shreds of coconut. It was very pungent and definitely woke up my senses. I’m sure the glass jar ensured that the tea stayed fresh and fragrant. I noted that the tea was an assam tea, handpicked from the Nahorhabi tea estate in North India. The almonds were from California and the coconut from Indonesia. Natural coconut and almond essence were also listed in the ingredients. I’d had a few savoury teas lately so this blend was going to be interesting.

According to the instructions on the jar the tea should be brewed in 10 – 12 oz of boiling water. I used filtered water and used less than the stated amount, around 8 oz (I wanted a more condensed taste). In my haste to taste the tea I just let the teabag brew in a cup for four minutes rather than make it in a teapot. The tea liquor was a reddish brown colour and the aroma emanating from the cup was delectable.


The taste was striking because it was so fresh and natural, and quite unique. The base black tea tasted full but not too strong even though assam is quite a strong type of tea. Maybe this was because the sachets weren’t overly filled and there was plenty of room for the leaves to unfurl. So often I’ve had flavoured tea blends where the black tea has pretty much overpowered the other flavours and effectively killed off the taste and enjoyment of the blend. The almond in this blend was the strongest or most distinctive of the two nut flavours – it was exquisite and the coconut taste was as if someone had cracked open a shell of fresh coconut. The blend was lively and flavourful with a sweet taste which was satisfying and such a treat. The balance and fusion of flavours was very clever and I got two good brews from the sachet.

I drank the tea without milk the first time to savour the fullness of the flavours. I also tried it on another occasion with milk which made it more of a dessert tea – just the job when you want to satisfy a sweet craving without the calories. I would like to have tried the tea with almond milk or coconut milk but I didn’t have any around at the time. The tea was equally delicious with or without regular milk added, but I have a feeling the addition of almond milk in particular would take the tea to yet another level.

I can honestly say that this tea is amongst the best I’ve ever tried when it comes to sachet/teabag teas. I wouldn’t say it would be a main, everyday tea to drink because  it has a very different taste than is usual, and I’d consider it as more of a luxury. Some of the other flavours in the range may lend themselves to the respective teas being drunk more frequently though such as the camomile and lavender, but it is all down to individual tastes and preferences. I can say this tea would be great for giving oneself a special treat once in a while, or for giving it as a gift to a tea lover. So, in a nutshell (pun intended!), I think the quality of this tea blend does justify the price tag.

To view the range of Paromi tea here is the link:

I’m very grateful to Whole Foods, and especially to Jo, for allowing me to try the tea. In fact, the customer service was excellent throughout the whole store and there was a nice vibe. Thank you Whole Foods! I can thoroughly recommend this store to anyone and I shall definitely be back!