My Top 5 Teas: The Health Benefits of Tea

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The New year is nearly upon us, so most will be looking for ways to detox and start 2016 with a healthy spring in their step. Here are my top 5 teas, with details on their health benefits, to help you get started on the right path:

1) Lemon and Ginger Tea
With vitamin C in the lemon and anti-oxidants in the ginger, this immunity boosting tea has helped me fend off the colds and bugs so easily caught in the festive season. The tea is also known to be great for skin and healthy hair growth.

2) Green Tea
Another tea full of anti-oxidants, widely publicised research suggests green tea aids weight loss and reduces the risk of some cancers, alzheimers disease and dementia. Green tea is also known for improving energy with its caffeine content. Yes, it does contain caffeine! My favourite tea to start the day. High quality tea leaves are best, but don’t have too many cups until you know how your body reacts. It’s powerful stuff!

3) Chamomile
My top health benefit of chamomile tea is its ability to calm and sooth for a peaceful sleep when taken before bed. Stressful day at work? This caffeine free cup will get you back on track.

Research also suggests Chamomile tea can help with skin conditions and inflammations, such as acne and eczma.

4) Peppermint
One too many mince pies? Peppermint tea is known to ease bloating and discomfort in the stomach. With a hint of liquorice, Aussie brand T2 ‘Tummy Tea’ is focused on exactly that.

5) English breakfast
A tea that’s good for the soul and the perfect match for a slice of cake. You can imagine my delight in discovering black tea is believed to reduce cortisol levels (stress hormone). No wonder it brightens my day so much!

As with anything, tea is best enjoyed in moderation. Much to my disappointment, excess of anything is never a good idea!

Happy sipping and Happy New Year!

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Sip while you shop at Annabel’s in Chislehurst

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Londoners who read the Property section of last Wednesday’s Evening Standard may have noticed a two page spread on Chislehurst (Kent), a town just up the road from me. The article highlighted all the perks of living in the area with a special mention and photo of Annabel’s – a shop come tea room. Annabel’s just happens to be one of my favourite local shops, where a good friend is both manager and buyer, so I thought I’d add some details behind the picture in the paper.

First and foremost, Annabel’s ticks all the boxes in my top tea room criteria. This includes: delicious cake, tasty scones, pretty china, tea leaves, little forks and tablecloths. What more could you ask for? We had the carrot and the orange cake followed by scones – ’tis the season to treat yourself after all!

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Secondly, Annabel’s stocks a range of wonderful luxury English gifts and household items from picture frames and teapots to scarves and handbags. Christmas is a great time to pop in and I left with a bag of gorgeous decorations trumping all those available at Christmas Markets I’ve recently visited.

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There are two Annabel’s stores in Chislehurst: a boutique in Royal Parade and the shop mentioned (including tea room) in the main high street. Personally I love the latter with the option of sipping while I shop. It also has this gorgeous window seat, with the design of the window itself adding to the English charm of the store, where you can look out over the pond.

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Alexander House Hotel, Spa & Festive Afternoon Tea

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For my Mum’s 60th Birthday her request was to stay in a Spa overnight. I wanted to make it special so spent time researching the net for somewhere not too far from London, not too modern (we love a bit of tradition) and with a mixed target market making it suitable for a Mother-Daughter retreat. Alexander House in East Grinstead seemed to fit the bill, so I booked us in for their Renew and Refresh Spa package. After returning, I am delighted with my choice.

On arrival at Alexander House Doormen greeted us and took our bags before we’d had the chance to shut the car door. We accepted the offer of a hotel tour, including details of its history, and were given the choice of their two best tables for the Festive Afternoon Tea which I had booked as a surprise for our arrival. We opted for a stunning table right next to an open fire.

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The tea itself was very festive indeed with turkey and cranberry sandwiches, mulled wine jam and mince pies in the mix. Even without the well matched menu it’s hard not to feel festive with fireplaces, ceiling-high Christmas trees, wreaths and lights everywhere you turn. We opted for the Chrysler black tea which was perfectly strong for us. The reviews for the afternoon tea online were mixed, but personally I think it was fantastic so will be sure to add my own view to the abundance on Trip Advisor.

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The friendly manager Kirsty was well aware it was a special occasion and went out of her way to give us the best weekend possible with complimentary champagne with our tea and an upgrade from the luxury room I had booked to a suite. We were so grateful and needless to say, with countryside views and enough room to throw a good party, it was one of the best rooms I have ever stayed in.

All in all a very successful stay and I will be sure to return next time I have an occasion special enough to justify spending the pennies! If you decide to visit, do speak to the hotel staff as well as the sales team before your stay. It makes a real difference speaking to those that are based in the hotel itself and dramatically improved my customer service experience.

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Ready, Steady, Icing…! Gingerbread Event at Christmas

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I love baking around the Holidays and making festive themed treats is a great way to get in the Christmas spirit. Gingerbread is one of my favourite things to make as they’re good fun to decorate and look so cute once finished! See here for the recipe.

 

If you want to take the festive cheer of gingerbread to the next level, you can host a gingerbread evening like my good friend Jo. Every year a gingerbread army is baked ready for an icing competition; a large group of us hurry round her place, donned in our finest Christmas jumpers, hats and sparkly earrings, ready to grab a glass of mulled wine and take each other on for the grand prize.

 

We are usually given categories which we need to follow (e.g. occupation, Christmas or nationality) with three prizes given for the most creative biscuit. This year we upped our game with two teams competing for the best gingerbread house, with the below based on our local pub (complete with bouncer) taking the victory.

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Yes we are all in our late 20s and yes it is still festively fab fun. I’m excited for next year’s event already!

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How to make Gingerbread Biscuits

 

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Gingerbread men are festive, fun to make and a cute little gift to give people over the Holiday period. Presented in a pretty jar or wrapped in a clear bag tied with gingham ribbon, they go down a real treat!

Here’s an easy recipe to follow:

You will need:
• Electric hand whisk/ food processor
• Wooden spoon
• A rolling pin
• Biscuit cutters (gingerbread man shape/ other)
• Baking trays (ideally 2)
• A clean surface/ plastic chopping board
• A fork, tablespoon and teaspoon
Ingredients:
• 350g plain flour (plus extra for rolling the dough)
• 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
• 2 tsp ground ginger
• 1 tsp ground cinnamon
• 125g softened unsalted butter
• 175g light soft brown sugar
• 1 large egg
• 4 tbsp golden syrup

To decorate:
Whatever you like, but I recommend:
• Colour writing icing
• Smarties
Method:
1) Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda, ginger and cinnamon into a bowl. Add the softened butter and mix until it resembles breadcrumbs. The ginger flavour is not too strong in this recipe, so you may want to add a dash more ground ginger if you’re a big fan.
Top Tip: a food processor can be used here. If not, scrunching and crumbling the mix with clean hands will help speed up the process.

2) Add the sugar and mix briefly.

3) Crack the egg into a separate bowl and whisk lightly with a fork. Add the golden syrup and mix with the egg before adding to the main bowl with the flour.

4) Pulse the mixture together using an electric whisk or food processor until it comes together to form a dough.

5) Preheat the oven to 160 Fan oven/180C or Gas Mark 4.

6) Line two baking trays with greaseproof paper.

7) Dust your chopping board/ surface with flour, tip out the dough and knead until smooth.

8) Roll the dough out to around half a centimeter in thickness and cut out your shapes.
Top tip: the syrup makes the dough very sticky, so don’t be shy with adding flour to your rolling pin and the surface.

9) Place the shapes on the baking tray, keeping a space between each, and bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes until golden brown. You should end up with around 20 biscuits.
Top tip: you will be amazed how much the biscuits grow in the oven so do keep them a fair distance apart (about 6 to a tray) and opt for a smaller cutter.

10) Leave to cool completely before decorating. The classic bow-tie and smarties look is my favourite!

Contact The Elderly Afternoon Tea

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Contact The Elderly  has been an established charity for over 50 years, with the aim of combating loneliness and social isolation among older people. How do they do it? With the help of fabulous volunteers who either host afternoon tea at their home, coordinate the monthly Sunday events or offer support as a driver.

I am very fortunate that my organisation sponsors Contact The Elderly by hosting a tea party for 25+ guests each Christmas. I am co-lead on the organising committee and love seeing the same guests return each year. I can’t think of a better way to spend my Friday afternoon than hearing all the stories of our guests over a pot of tea. If you’re interested in volunteering, in my experience, this is definitely a cause worth your time. See my post on top tips for hosting a tea party to help you get started, though for this particular afternoon tea I think your time and company are the key!

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Check out the crowd pleasing Yule Log from our Afternoon Tea last Friday!

 

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