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all the tea in china

All the tea in China 

Last night I travelled back to China.

Not literally.

In my minds eye I returned.

Leaving behind the creature comforts of old Blightly, we ventured forth across that vast country. It felt liberating to travel with little more than a ruck sack on our backs. Terribly foreign was the other overriding sense – I could not manage a word! Let’s agree to say nothing about, well, you know, the facilities!

But fear not my dears, there was one little luxury that I did not have to do without – lovely tea. I did not let you down and drank all that I could lay my hands to – a noble sacrifice for research purposes only as you will understand and appreciate.

I was absolutely ruined. None of your run of the mill dust there, it was all beautiful leaf, gloriously flavoured oolongs, delicate greens, not to mention the odd restorative puer. Ladies pushed large vats of the stuff through the warm parks to an expectant retired crowd focused on their next game of mahjong.

It was quite the tea adventure!

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Enamel Tea Pot

Enamel Tea Pot – Ideal for Traveling

I was not planning on buying a new tea pot, it just sort of happened. I am unable even to profess the need for a new teapot – the word need is such a subjective word mind you…….

In any event, I do have a new year policy – one in, one out. So there’s a decision to be made for the clear out – although to be honest I think there is a need for a rule change – I will clear out and donate something to a worthy charity, it just may not be a like for like exchange…….I can see the way this will go…….

“surrounded by beautiful teapots with not a plate to eat on, she was none the less totally contented, the only issue was the struggle to eat a meal out of a teapot instead from a plate”……….mmm….I am sure it won’t some to this……….

At this point, you could be forgiven for asking what has this to do with the new year? Well, as well as the year, my tea pot is new and signals a few resolutions for the new year

– to be grateful that I am able to buy things that I consider beautiful and practical.

– to remember all the wonderful shared moments I have spent sharing (and not) a lovely cup of tea

– to relish change and things that herald the beginning of a new year

But I digress – this practical purchase is for a specific purpose and it is this – picnics in wonderful places while travelling the world where a tea girl cannot possibly be without the ability to maker a proper cuppa. After quite a dilemma with a lovely red tea pot, I have chosen classic white with a blue rim for my tea ware which I adore.

I confess I have brewed tea in some unlikely places much to my travelling companions frustration – then he takes his first sip and has to concede, reluctantly he’ll be the first to tell you, but none the less concede that a cup of tea is just what he needed, yes needed!

So, my dears, if you have plans, or no plans at all, make 2014 the year you reflect on all that you have already and think about your new year resolutions and strive to have a go of at least some of them – what are we waiting for? I know you will wish me luck with my travelling tea pot – which you can see I have already chipped – I anticipate more chips along the way!

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Swan Hotel Newby Bridge guides the way with its Tea pot lights

In 1623, near Lake Windermere, the foundations of the now very elegant Swan hotel were laid. Luckily for all us tea lovers, they are not only using tea pots for very stylish lighting. Big brown tea pots with their house blend compete for table space at breakfast as well as serving a really wonderful range of leaf tea at other times of the day  – spectacularly meeting the hearts desire of any self respecting leaf tea fanatic. I adore the decor and would very happily copy  any aspect of their beautiful interior design. Tea with Mary Kate will be rushing back to this gorgeous venue.

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An enchanting Ryokan that transports you to the essence of authentic Japan

You’d walk passed it if you did not know it was there, hidden behind high walls and a very plain door, but once you’re inside, you’re transported instantly into the heart of ancient Japan, into the traditional & aesthetic environment of a Ryokan. The Hiiragiya Ryokan, founded in 1818 is, without a shadow of a doubt,  my favourite place in all the world to stay! Walking into the entranceway, suddenly everything has slowed down, you’re surrounded by tranquility, in an oasis of calm from the bustling Kyoto outside.

Stunning Japanese decor and faultless service

Your luggage is whisked away, with the ryokans  trade mark holly leaf labels. You are shown to your room by a kimono wearing host, it makes you feel like returning family. The room is beautiful, stunning beautiful in that very minimal Japanese way, with screens, amazing art, tatami mats, traditional flower art, all just how it ought to be.

All is ready for your arrival….including the relaxing wooden hot tub

Overlooking the Zen Garden, your robes have been left for you to change into something more comfortable after you have taken a bath. The bathroom is a traditional, one where you wash with a small wooden stool and bowl, before you get into the bath to soak. Your wooden hot tub has already been filled, ready for your arrival. I adored this place because it was like coming home, with every comfort already prepared in anticipation.

Traditional Japanese bathroom

Superb Kaiseki cuisine  is served on beautiful Kyoto ceramics and lacquer ware

The evening meal is served discretely by the beautiful ladies in kimono’s. Each of the 17 course dinner is presented on a different style of Kyoto crafted ceramics & Japanese lacquer ware to display it at its best – this is the aesthetic of food at its very finest, an art form, and I relished every delicious morsel, even though it looked too beautiful to eat! Tray’s of decorated bowls, some with the signature holly leaf pattern, others more simply embellished, are a feast for the eyes, as well as displaying the amazing Kaiseki cuisine.

Beautifully presented dinner

Best tofu ever at Breakfast

Almost too beautiful to eat

I love Japan, it still remains foreign, different, with it’s own very distinct architecture, language & culture.

Do visit Kyoto – Nijojo Castle and Kinkaji, the Golden temple, are two of my favourites but there are so many more! Nara and Nikko are World heritage sites that are on my “totally unmissable” list. Exploring Tokyo is also well worth it, with an excellent metro system as you’d expect. I loved Ginza, and the sneak peak of the Geisha. We also experienced Matcha – Green tea in the traditional Japanese tea gardens, where the  frothy & bright green brew is served in big, beautiful bowls, the surface still bubbling from being freshly whisked.

Japanese tea ceremony

Visit during Spring and if you time it right, you’ll see the lovely cherry blossom, a rare treat. These beautiful trees are everywhere, with their blossom drifting in the air like confetti. It’s still a very important cultural ceremony for Japan and one I hope that endures.

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If you’ve come across Wolsey Lodges, then I’ll be already preaching to the converetd. If you have not, you’re in for a real treat.

Sir Archie & Lady Orr-Ewing have opened the doors of their amazing home Cardross House, Port of Menteith, Kippen, near Stirling, Scotland. We are so the luckier for it. The quiet of the place is enchanting. The entrance hall is breathtaking. Tea is served in the elegant formal drawing room & I felt like visiting royalty, such were the amazing surroundings.

Beautiful Cardross House

Traditional & beautifully decorated rooms

Our room was simply beautiful, sumptuously decorated, very comfortable & you were made to feel like you were staying with friends. There is also the option of an evening meal served in the Georgian panelled dining room which was really lovely. Breakfast was served next to the Aga with their charismatic pet dogs – I’m hoping we can return very soon.

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The Eco Hotel that is truly environmentally friendly

The Scarlet is a luxury eco hotel in the UK, sister of Bedruthen steps, smaller than its sister, but with a non child policy (the older sister prides itself on being the opposite). It’s a nice contrast, which will appeal to a certain group, with fabulous views over a quintessentially beautiful Cornish beach. Definitely not just lip service to the eco bit either – recycled grey water for the loos – & I was not brave enough to have even dipped a toe in the non heated naturally filtered outside swimming pool

…..ok, so I did dip  a toe & that freezing cold encounter convinced me to go for the hot tubs….

Two Scarlet bright red Hot tubs beckon on the edge of the lovely garden – views of course views to die for (as mentioned previously) but the experience of being absolutely freezing cold, then slipping into water warmed by wood burning stoves (seaweed infused if your heart desires)  is heavenly – you have to do the cold bit to get the nice bit (we are talking Winter here, but hey, this is the UK, maybe you’d get just the same exhilaration in summer!)

Red hot tubs

Gorgeous locally grown leaf tea from Tregothnan awaits your visit

So the hotel has very cleverly decided not to give you tea bags in your room – I initially thought this was a bit of a downer but instead, the Scarlet have sourced fantastic tea from the local Cornish tea estate Tregothnan – yes, really, tea from Cornwall! I thought it was just the blending but no, they are growing real tea plans – & it’s a lovely, deep flavoursome tea! You have the joy of tea leaves & boiling water to savour next to the fire, looking out, & I know the web site says this, but it is a truly awe-inspiring view of the beach. This was a nice touch that really resonated with me and I’m sure with fellow tea aficionados.
Their anytime, anywhere  menu is a brilliant idea
The soup was divine – we had butternut squash when we first arrived – it was gorgeous! Another thing I loved was choices at breakfast – & this was not just the same menu every morning – although that’s a solid tried & tested approach, but everyday, I revelled in a new decision having to be made – I found myself looking forward to the choice rather than thinking “ shall I have the porridge or the muesli!” And of course, the wonderful Tregothnan tea.
Take a healing journey at the Scarlets amazing UK Aruvedic Spa

A really very special highlight is swimming in the indoor pool at dusk, as the spa cleverly doesn’t blast the lights down, it felt very healing & magical. A unique aspect of the spa is that it offers Aruvedic journeys. I’m really very interested in this ancient health treatment that seeks to heal the body mind and spirit.

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