Best of the best in 2017

tea n book quote

I’ve had another wonderful year of reading and managed to finish 120 books.  From the 120 books read 52 of them were from new authors to me, so you can say 2017 was the year of discovering new talent.

It’s always very difficult for a book lover to choose their favourite reads of the year.  I enjoy many books from a wide variety of genres and tend to rate them by my overall enjoyment.  However, I would like to highlight a few that I particularly loved:

The Wild Warriners series by Virginia Heath.  Mills and Boon Historical writer Virginia Heath created a new series for us this year and I completely fell in love with it.  The Warriners are four brothers trying to escape the bad reputation that their late father has left them with.  We have been introduced to two of the brothers to-date and shortly in the new year we will be treated to another instalment from the Warriners.  I would say it’s like a 19th century rural middle England ‘Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.’

the-bear-and-the-nightingale

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden.  The Bear and The Nightingale is a grown up version of a fairytale set in Russia dealing with loss, grief, family struggles, forbidden love with a wonderful mystery of mythology and unknown magical creatures.  This book and it’s story would look impressive with a big movie budget bringing all the characters and creatures to life, a blockbuster in the making.

all the good things

All the Good Things by Clare Fisher.  A very moving, insightful story that was full of real life raw emotions, there was no sugar coating around the edges of life’s turbulent at times bumps in the road. A wonderful, inspiring debut that I feel should be read by all that have any involvement with young people. The words from this book will stay with me for a long time.

bamboo heart

Bamboo Heart by Ann Bennett.  The author, Ann Bennett, wrote with such passion and honesty. She left no scene without telling the shocking truth of a young man’s struggle to survive in the most terrifying of ordeals. The story sounds quite oppressive but it wasn’t as you were dealing with real people’s emotions and even during times of war love always found a way to bring sunshine and hope to your days.

the woolly hat knitting club

The Woolly Hat Knitting Club by Poppy Dolan.  This was a joy to read.  Poppy Dolan has created the most delightful, charming romcom that leaves you with a wonderful warm cosy feeling.

summer of impossible things

The Summer of Impossible Things by Rowan Coleman.  This novel got me from the start to the finish. I was captivated by this almost other worldly love story. A story of a love between a mother and a daughter; a story of a love that seemed almost impossible to believe but the consequence of never feeling the strength of this love is almost too heart breaking to think about.

the secret life of alfred nightingale

The Secret Life of Alfred Nightingale by Rebecca StonehillThis was such a profoundly moving novel that evoked many emotions in me. A story cleverly told in two different time frames from two generations of one family going through a pivotal time in their own lives which would leave a lasting impression forever.

walking wounded

Walking Wounded by Anna Franklin Osborne.  This was such an emotive story that deeply moved me, at one point I had to stop reading due to the tears blurring my vision.  The author takes you on a very emotional journey, one that millions took that had no choice but to ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ but behind the smiles lay troubled souls and broken hearts.

teacup border

As many of you will know I love my loose leaf tea and some my favourite blends this year have been:

  • William Wilberforce Blend by The Tea Shop, Hull.  A lovely blend of African black teas.  To find out more details and buy http://teashophull.co.uk/
  • White Bellini by The Tea Experience, UK.  A gentle white tea that’s fruity and refreshing.  To find out more details and buy http://www.teaexperience.co.uk/
  • Cinnamon Bun by Jollybrew Tea.  A festive blend of black tea with a warming taste of cinnamon.  To find out more details and buy https://www.jollybrew.co.uk/
  • Ceylon Decaff by Tea Shirt Tailored Refreshments.  A lovely well-rounded black tea without caffeine.  To find out more details and buy https://tea-shirt.co.uk/
  • Lemongrass and Ginger by Chai Kai Tea Company.  This is a perfect combination to drink at any time of the day but especially comforting when you are suffering with a cold.  To find out more details and buy http://chaikaitea.com/

I’d like to thank you all for the support I’ve received this year sharing the love of reading and books.  Wishing you all a wonderful, happy, healthy 2018.

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Darjeeling Tea Taste Test

darjeeling tea pickers

Following the success of my Earl Grey Taste Test last month I and a fellow instagram tea drinker decided to conduct a Darjeeling Taste Test.

I have a great informative Tea book, titled The Tea Book by Linda Gaylard, the following is an extract regarding Darjeeling tea.

The Darjeeling region of India may cover only 181sq km (70 sq miles), but it produced one of the most famous teas in the world.  Cool temperatures and high altitudes produce leaves with aromatic flavours that are highly acclaimed.

Located in the state of West Bengal in north India.  Darjeeling sits at the edge of the Himalayas.  A well-established tea-growing region, some of its 87 tea estates date back to the mid-1800s.  Darjeeling produces only 1.13 per cent of India’s total output of tea, but it is of such high quality that it is protected by Geographical Indication.

Var. sinensis is grown here along with some var. assamica hybrids.  The high elevation, q1,000-2,100m (3,280-6,890ft) influences the flavour of the finished tea.  The leaves grow very slowly because they are constantly shrouded in cool mist. During the growing season, the plants respond well to warm days and cool evenings. These conditions help to create intense flavour in the leaves.

Tea is harvested three times a year with a dormant period between each picking seach.  Each ‘flush’, or surge of bud growth on the tea plant, has a distinct flavour character.  First flush if the most piquant, second flush has a complex profile, while autumnal flush has deeper maltier flavours.

This test had 11 very good quality looseleaf tea contenders from 6 different UK tea merchants consisting of:

I wanted to do a blind taste test so I numbered cups with a corresponding tea infuser/teapot against the numbered list of teas.  I used just less than a teaspoon of tea for each cup and used 200ml of boiling water and steeped for 2 minutes.

This resulted in eleven cups of varying colours of amber liquid.

darjeeling ready cups

Sipping each one I took notes on colour, taste and aroma and must admit it was quite a task.  All the teas were very drinkable but there were three that stood out for me.

darjeeling star

The runners up were Darjeeling from Canton Tea Co; a 1st Flush Makaibari Darjeeling from The Tea Experience UK and my favourite today was an Autumnal Flush Darjeeling from Northern Tea Merchants.  The Autumnal Flush from Northern Tea had a lovely aroma with a full flavoured Darjeeling taste, the colour of the brew was a golden amber and it was just lovely and mellow to drink.  I would happily drink all of the eleven teas I tried and would like to thank the tea merchants for bringing this tea to the UK for us all to enjoy.