Sunday, August 11, 2013

Ahmad Tea: Keeping Tea All In The Family

It's been too long since the Darjeeling Darlings have done a write up on a brand of tea. But we couldn't think of a better way to get back into the swing of things than by introducing Ahmad Tea to our readers. Not only do we love their tea, but we can't help but give them one giant gold star for the way they do business too. As we've said before, there's nothing the Darjeeling Darlings love more than drinking tea to support a good cause.

Lizzie waves with Ahmad Tea at hand

When one samples a variety of teas from a given company, what do you as the consumer use as a standard test of quality? Do you compare how their version of "Earl Grey" stands next to your go-to brand's version of "Earl Grey?" Do give more credit for how many different kinds of tea a company offers or is tea leaf quality more important? Since the Darjeeling Darlings are professional serious tea enthusiasts and reviewers of tea, we try to look at the whole picture a tea company has taken, or maybe not taken, the time to paint for its potential buyers. We look at medium, composition, texture, color, and all the other components that make a painting great. So how does Ahmad Tea look when broken down piece by piece? Let's start with tea quality and taste.
Ahmad Tea's "Earl Grey"-perfect for an afternoon cup any day

It's always good to take a flavor you drink on the daily for a test drive when exploring a new frontier. We sipped "English Breakfast" to do the trick and found Ahmad Tea's version to be a green light to start brewing their other teas. It's a tricky thing, does one want all "English Breakfasts" to taste the same from brand to brand, or does a little ingredient variation between companies provide a nice taste twist to keep things interesting? Personally, the latter suits our fancy because we find subtle differences to be a pleasant surprise and relief from the predictable and expected. Ahmad Tea's "English Breakfast" gave a softer spin to the standard eat-with-your-toast-and-jam morning tea and that's okay. Most days you rely on that bold morning tea to launch you into your to-do list, but other days you just need a morning tea to gently coax you into productivity.

Lizzie believes breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Although the kitchen was fresh out of Ahmad Tea's "English Breakfast" (her new favorite), she found "English Tea No. 1" to be a lovely substitute.  

As it is still summer, we'd like to point out that there's no better time to serve hot fruit flavored teas at high tea. Raspberry, peach, blackberry ginger, passion fruit...the list goes on. We sampled Ahmad Tea's "Blackcurrant" and "Mixed Berries" while braving the heat of the South this July. What gems we found them to be! We always find it to be a plus when teas don't need any extra sugar added because that means the tea leafs are of good quality and well matched to the intended flavor. And what fun when a tea advertised as berry flavored produces a deep violet color to match, as was the case for "Mixed Berries." Blackcurrant really is the winner among the two though. It smells like an English countryside garden full of Verbena, Chrysanthemum, Peonies, and lush shrubbery summer blooms. If the staff of Downton Abbey served a tea to the Crawley family while they overlooked the garden mid day, it would be "Blackcurrant." What more can be said?

"Cardamon." Just thinking about it gives us a hankering for tea with a bit of kick to it. Are you a fan of Chai tea hot or iced? Pippa is. a borderline addict. This black tea composed of leaves fresh from Sri Lanka can actually be used to make Indian Chai tea according to Ahmad Tea. But for Chai lovers, just the hint of exotic spice will win you over. However, it truly sits as the happy medium between black tea and Chai for those bored or disenchanted with either. And with chilly weather approaching fast, what better tea to have saved for the fall?

Let's examine a couple other components of Ahmad Tea, namely how they run their company. Ahmad Tea was founded in 1986 and has remained a family business to this day based in Hampshire, UK. Not only are they family owned, but they've grown to serve tea to 70 countries around the world. Did we mention they're a member of the United Kingdom Tea Council too? We find their website pretty inviting as well. Not sure what tea to buy next? Try their "tea finder" that will help make a selection based on flavor and mood. Have a tasty tea recipe you're just itching to share? Or maybe you're looking for something new to bake for a tea party? Take a gander the tea recipe page where you'll find all kind of new treats to try.

We've saved our favorite part of Ahmad Tea for last though, which is their various charity work in health care, child welfare, education, community, and environment around the world. Ahmad Tea has close ties with Sri Lanka being that they've used tea leaves from the area for decades. It's no surprise then that Ahmad Tea plays an important part in the Razavi Project, an effort to improve services and facilities at the Sri Lanka National Cancer Institute. But Ahmad Tea also does work in Russia, Niger, and the Ukraine to support teenage orphans, bring water to drought-prone communities, and improve access to higher education.

All this being said, we hope Ahmad Tea continues to provide fine teas around the world while keeping their fingers in various charitable causes. With success like they've had, why not keep tea all in the family?

Until next time!

~The Darjeeling Darlings

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Downton Abbey Tea at Crest Hill Antiques and Tearoom

Every true tea lover has standard tearooms that they like to return to. Mine is quickly becoming Crest Hill Antiques and Tearoom in the Plains, Va.  I first discovered Crest Hill last summer and was extremely pleased with my visit. I made sure to like their Facebook page so I would be in the loop for special events. I noticed back in January that they were throwing a Downton Abbey themed tea. I immediately called to reserve my spot and am so glad I did!

Since Downton Abbey is a staple Sunday night show in my family (even my dad enjoys it, although he pretends not to), we needed to find away to celebrate the third season's premiere. Crest Hill Antiques and Tearoom provided the opportunity that we needed with their "Downton Abbey Tea". My mom and I decided that we would invite some friends that are fellow Downton lovers. This was my second visit to the tearoom so I hopeful it would be as great as the first!

Since this was a specialty tea, there was a Downton Abbey inspired menu. All of the recipes came from The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook.  We were given the choice of soup or salad for our starter. I decided to go with the soup and found myself wishing I could have another bowl. For the sandwich course, we were served four different types of sandwiches.  My favorites were Lady Mary's Crab Canapés  and Grand Gougere with Cheese and Sweet Pimento. They were both extremely rich and utterly delicious. For desert, the choice was easy. We were given the option of Mrs. Patmore's Madeira Pound Cake or Tweeny's Tipsy Cake, a chocolate espressos treat. I went with the pound cake since I am not a fan of espresso. The cake was warm and heavenly.
Creamy Butternut Squash Soup 

Spinach Salad, with Pears, Cranberries, Walnuts, Crumbled Feta, and Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing
Lady Mary's Crab Canapés
Cousin Isabel's Smoked Salmon
Classic Egg Salad Tea Sandwich
Grand Gougere with Cheese and Sweet Pimento 
Mrs. Patmore's Madeira Pound Cake
Tweeny's Tipsy Cake

The Downton Abbey Tea Selections

Overall, I was extremely delighted with the event. The tea and food were are extremely delicious, although everything on their menu is. Everyone in our group had a great time at the tea and Mary, the teahouse owner, provides with the perfect setting to celebrate the new season of Downton Abbey. If you are ever near the Washington, DC area, make sure to plan an afternoon at Crest Hill. You will not regret it!.


Monday, April 22, 2013

Happy Birthday, Lizzie!

The Darjeeling Darlings are wishing Queen Elizabeth a Happy Birthday! 
Happy Birthday, Lizzie!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Lizzie on Holiday

For those of you who have followed the Darjeeling Darlings this year, you know that we pride ourselves in our Lizzie doll mascot. Lizzie accompanies us on all of our travels, tea room visits, and even helps approve new teas. However, in December Lizzie got the chance to do some of her own traveling sans Pippa and Jules as she crossed the pond to see the great United Kingdom.

Our good friend, Jurga at London Office Space extended the invitation to have Lizzie packed and flown to London for a few weeks of sight seeing all about the great city. We'd be fibbing if we said we weren't envious of her given that the Darjeeling Darlings have yet to see England! Jurga made sure she got to experience it all and we are so grateful for her hospitality. Lizzie even made the London Office Buzz page as the royal visitor from Texas! 

Buckingham Palace

Big Ben

The London Eye


Card Shopping

The Tower Bridge

Red Police Box

At the Queen Elizabeth Conference Center

Westminster Abbey

Leaving London!
Lizzie arrived back home safe and sound last week and is enjoying a warm February in San Antonio. London Office Space was even kind enough to send her back to the States with a couple boxes of royally themed English Breakfast tea and a lovely post card featuring Her Majesty the Queen. Hopefully our Little Majesty will be back in London one day to show the Darjeeling Darlings around!

Best Wishes from London Office Space

~ The Darjeeling Darlings

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Chah "Dragon Well" Longjing Tea: China's Finest?

            How many of you Tea Enthusiasts out there maintain that green tea is your favorite leaf of choice? Do you drink it every day or with a certain meal? Do you enjoy a particular type of green tea leaf only?

              These are the things I wondered as I taste tested Longjing green tea called "Dragon Well" by Chah out of the U.K. If you're a regular reader of the Darjeeling Darling blog, you know that green tea is not our....well, not our cup of tea. We typically stick to black, red, and white teas when it comes to reviewing a new brand. But if you're a regular reader, you also know that we are always game for trying something new. It really never hurts to try.

             Unless you're my Dad. His experience with any kind of tea is limited to the medicinal kind he drinks while battling a cold. For him, coffee is the only source of caffeine one needs because it's easily accessible and a machine makes it for you. But I've encouraged him to branch out. Unfortunately his attempts thus far have resulted in bad experiences that literally left a bad taste in his mouth. The first was our trip to the Tal-Y-Tara tea house in San Francisco....we all remember how poorly that turned out. The second occurred this past Monday and we met for our weekly lunch at our favorite sushi restaurant. It was a particularly wet, cold, and grey January day and yet Dad had walked to lunch from his office with just a rain coat on. (I'm convinced he does this so that I can give him a ride back to the office a couple blocks down and we can extend our lunchtime conversation). So, given the dreary weather conditions tea was a must with our food. However, being that this was a sushi restaurant they only served straight green tea in small porcelain "shot-like" glasses. Of course I knew what to expect with the light, grassy tea that I feel one must acquire a taste for, but dear Dad did not. The situation was only made worse by the absence of honey he wanted to sweeten the taste. But I can't say I didn't warn him. Now it is all too obvious that I need to start at the basics with him.

              The Chah tea company first began shopping tea leaves in Southeast Asia five years ago. They now carry some of England's favorite green tea leaves from Zhejiang, China. The "Dragon Well" in particular is low caffeine rolled tea leaf that is grown in the high elevations of the Chinese mountains. Speaking of which, did you know that expert tea tasters can distinguish the elevation tea leaves are grown at? They must have quite the set of taste buds. This Longjing green tea is actually said to the favorite among the people of China.

Antony Rogers, Director of Operations and Mandarin speaker, checking out tea leaves fresh on the farm

             That being said, I wish I could appreciate its taste more if it truly is the cream of the crop when it comes to green tea. I'm afraid I can't see paste the Alfalfa smell and light grass taste. However, there is a hint of a sweet aftertaste that I felt needed to be helped with the add-in of sugar and the smallest touch of honey. When drinking green tea, one has to keep in mind that even the longest brewing times of six to seven minutes will still only produce a light flavor matched by a light-colored liquor.
                 So, my conclusion is this: if you are a green tea fanatic and really know your green tea leaves, check out Chah's selection. You would probably find the "Dragon Well" blend to be of the finest quality and at least to your liking. If anything, we would love to have reader input to further our green tea education. However, if you are an occasional green tea drinker, I would stick to the brands and blends you already love. Unless of course you are looking to branch out-by all means, do branch out to the new and undiscovered!


Sunday, January 6, 2013

Downton Abbey


       One thing that I am pretty excited about in 2013 is season 3 of Downton Abbey! Today my mom and I went with some dear friends to a Downton Abbey Tea at Crest Hill Antiques and Tearoom to celebrate tonight's premier. I will post a review in the coming days but I did want to share the trivia that Crest Hill provided for us. So go ahead a test your memory from seasons 1 and 2!

1. In what part of England is Downton Abbey supposedly located?
a) Hampshire    b) London    c) Derbyshire    d) Yorkshire

2. Where are the Downton location scenes actually filmed?  
a) Crawley House   b) Highclere Castle   c) Blenheim Palace   d) Woburn Abbey   

3. What historical event first sets the series in motion?
a) Turn of the 20th century   b) Start of World War I    c) Sinking of the Titanic   d) The Irish Rebellion

4. What did Matthew Crawley do for a living before becoming the designated heir?
a) Solicitor    b) Engineer   c) Accountant     d) Architect  

5. What caused Lady Cora to suffer a miscarriage?
a) Hereditary illness    b) Fall down the stairs   c) Slipped on a soapy floor    d) Shock from bad news     

6. Which Crawley said the following: “Don’t be defeatist, dear; it’s very middle class.”
a) Lady Violet      b) Lady Mary      c) Lady Edith    d) Cousin Isabel           

7. Why does John Bates limp?
a) Birth defect   b) Shrapnel from the Boer War    c) Hunting accident   d) O’Brien tripped him

8. Thomas the Footman did all of the following, except:
a) Hide Robert’s dog   b) Steal wine from the cellar  c) Blackmail Bates  d) Dabble in black-market goods    

9. How did Vera Bates die?
a) A blow to the head    b) Drug overdose      c) Strangulation     d) Poison    

10. How did Lady Mary’s ex-fiance Sir Richard come by his fortune?
a) Family inheritance     b) Newspaper publishing      c) Political blackmail     d) Real estate investments

11. All of the following were stricken with Spanish Flu, except:
a) Carson    b) Lavinia          c) Mr. Mosely          d) Lady Cora

12. Who convinced Daisy to marry William on his deathbed?
a) Mrs. Patmore     b) Mrs. Hughes     c) William’s father   d) a, b & c

12. D

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- Jules