SOLD TO BE SAVOURED
AHH SUMMER, MY TOES ARE OUT AND SAND IS A PERMANENT FIXTURE TO THE SOLES OF MY FEET, THE SMELL OF FRESHLY CUT GRASS LINGERS IN THE AIR AND I AM NOT OFTEN WITHOUT A PISTASIO ICE-CREAM IN MY HAND. SUDDENLY A TEA OUT ON THE TERRACE IS THE MOST BLISSFUL EXPERIENCE – AN ICED TEA OR A LOOSE LEAF BLEND, MAYBE EVEN A MATCHA GREEN LOLLY!
Summer needn’t be the end of enjoying your daily brew. Delicate, fragrant blends can be incredibly refreshing during warmer months so why not try a cooler version of your favourite leaves? There is something pretty special about turning your tea of choice into an ice-cold tea, with the addition of a seasonal garnish. A few months back I discovered Exeter Tea Merchants – home to some of the finest loose-leaf teas and inspiring house blends - perfect for doing just this. Or equally great, enjoyed the traditional way in some of their exceptional handcrafted teaware. Hot or cold, the leaves are sold-to-be-savoured.
The House of Hope & Mercy in the Jungle is a Tea House extraordinaire, based in Exeter, Devon. Owners James Penzer and Jane L.Ostins cite themselves as being ‘champions of proper tea and creative adventures’.
The Tea House is home to a unique selection of stunning whole leaf teas encompassing a wide range of single-origin tea and house blends, from pure White leaves right through to Pu erh.
The couple have been running their own tea venture for the past five years, having started out at markets and events, providing their diverse tea selection, along with an array of homemade cakes, from their Bakfiet Dutch bicycle.
Finest leaves are masterfully displayed in the beautifully transformed shop-front, a unique space where tea-lovers can fully embrace the finest blends, with its original layout, striking aesthetic and quirky packaging, its perfect for browsing and sampling as much as it is geared to buying. The shelves are filled with beautifully presented, hand-illustrated teas - a hand built adventure of the senses with warm wood panels, red rugs, green jungle-painted murals and a gold ceiling, fragranced with beautiful tea.
The Tea House provides high-grade, whole leaf tea, sourced from the far reaches of the globe, selected through rigorous tasting and research, working together with independent growers, factories, importers and wholesalers the world over.
James and Jane seek out the finest large leaves, high-grade with provenance and amazing depth of flavour. The extensive range includes all the different tea types from English Breakfast through to Pu erh, to balance the collection, specifically designed to cater for all tastes.
The original packaging is designed to capture people’s attention, but it’s the whole large leaf tea - selected by tea drinkers for tea drinkers that gets people excited to trial.
Exeter Tea Merchants is a small but growing business, appealing to tea-lovers far and wide and hopefully enticing some newbies, those who don’t favour tea, to try something new. Later this month, there will be the addition of regular Chinese Tea Ceremony events with Yujia Xu, as well as some tea-tasting workshops including ‘An Introduction to Tea and ‘Tea Blending’, all bookable through the website.
James and Jane will continue to work alongside local makers, including Potters, Bethan Jones, Jacob Bodilly and Harry Anderson, who each design and create stunning, delicate handmade tea ware with Rosie Brewer carving some unique wooden tea caddy spoons, the perfect accompaniment for a traditional tea ceremony.
The tea-loving duo also hope to offer a bit of knowledge for those looking to learn more about the nations most-loved beverage.
‘There is a science behind tea - the provenance and terroir of the plant has a large influence on the finished product. The soil, air, rain of every individual area reates a unique flavour profile for each tea. With the different types of processing the variety is nearly endless,’ James tells me.
I leave the Tea Merchants, with a much wider knowledge of my beverage-of-choice, inspired to research future tea purchases and excited to trial some new leaves.
I also had the pleasure of trialing some of the finest single origin and house blended brews from Exeter Tea Merchants, I’ve listed my picks for the perfect summer’s afternoon tea below.
My Picks for a perfect summers day
White Peony – this is a delight, such a delicate flavour, large flat leaves containing a woody element, along with the lightly fragranced scent of peony.
Jasmine Dragon Pearls – a beautiful White tea, infused with the delicate scent of Jasmine flowers.
Phoenix Honey Orchid - a beautifully fragrant Dan Cong Oolong tea, from ancient wild trees. Floral and fragrant, typically like peaches or lychee, it is perfect for enjoying late in the day, particularly after supper.
Devon Duchess – an absolute fave and the newest home blend, this one has a slightly sweet tang to it, a delicate yet highly fragrant tea that is best enjoyed over cake with friends.
Legend of Myanmar – this is such a gorgeous tea, a rosy black tea from Burma that should be enjoyed any time of day. It has a slightly smokey aftertaste. *Add a spoon of honey to enhance the depth.
Anji Bai Cha – a super delicate green tea, this one is designed to be drunk in the afternoon sunshine or alternatively, get creative and make an iced tea or summer lolly with the addition of some lemon and lime zest.
IT PAYS TO BUY GOOD TEA.. It really does.
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