Friday 18 September 2015

Whittard's of Chelsea Tea Tasting

I should introduce myself, I'm Katie, the London correspondent of the Transatlantic Blonde family. It makes me slightly further away from those beautiful babies, but I love London, almost as much as I love them. It also means that I get the chance to check out some cool London events, just like this one.

To add to the previously mentioned loves, I also love tea. I'm a green in the morning, white in the afternoon kind of girl, who still loves a good cup of builders. When the invitation came through from Whittard of Chelsea to join them for a private tasting session of their new range, I knew this was my kind of night out.

I went along to the Whittard Tea Bar on Regent Street on a cold, very rainy night to see what they had to offer. As I first stepped in and knew it was going to be perfect. The huge tea canisters that line the wall are beautiful, without even being opened. I loved the look of their range. At this point, I didn't know it was part of their very clever rebrand. They have updated the packaging of all the teas so you can find what you like, very easily. Each variety of tea comes in a different colour of packaging and each type (loose, tea bags, large leaf) in a different style.

Kate, the Whittard tea expert, met us and explained that we were going to taste one of each type of tea, one infusion (which is a fruit 'tea' to the rest of us, but actually contains no tea!), before being allowed to go wild and taste anything from the range. Kate was a brilliant host. She didn't just throw out lots of interesting tea facts, like black, green and white tea comes from the same leaf but is treated differently after picking, she has actually visited many of the plantations across the world, so she added plenty of little anecdotes along the way. Her enthusiasm made it hard not to be excited!

We tasted White Peony, Marrakesh Mint, Regal Blend and Mulled Wine. They were all delicious, and the loose leaves looked really pretty. My favourite from this bunch was the Marrakesh Mint. It was a great combination of a really fresh mint flavour, with a bit of a green tea kick. This has fast become my new morning tea of choice - it's a great wake-up when you are a bit sluggish! With each one, Kate showed us the differences in the leaves and gave us tips on the making the perfect cup. Interestingly, one of them was not make tea with boiling water, always to let the water cool slightly because the prime temperature for tea is about 75 - 95 degrees depending on the tea. Who knew?! It was also pretty cool to see the leaves before and after they've been brewed - I didn't realise some were so tightly rolled that they would end up pretty huge!

Aside from Marrakesh Mint, my favourites are Orange Blossom and Milk Oolong, which has an incredible slightly fudgy taste. All the teas have their own identification number with a quirky or cute story behind it, like Whisky Tea being 251 for Rabbie Burn's birthday or Coconut Truffle being 44 for the 1944 classic song, 'I've got a lovely bunch of coconuts'! So when you choose a new tea, make sure you ask for the story behind the number!

I could spend hours telling you about how amazing these teas were but instead, I'll just recommend that you get yourself to Whittard of Chelsea. There are stores across the country and all stores will allow you to taste tea before purchase so you can find the perfect tea and with the range increasing from 24 teas to 100, there is something for everyone. That doesn't even cover the coffee range or the new flaked hot chocolate, which looks and smells amazing. No surprise given that it's made from shaved pieces of chocolate instead of a powder!

I usually think that a book shop is the perfect place to spend cold, rainy autumn nights, but with beautiful setting, incredible smells and a massive list of tea I want to try, I think my new spot could very well be one of the Whittard of Chelsea Tea Bars!

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Transatlantic Blonde were provided a tasting for the purpose of this review but all opinions are our own. I mean come on who'd lie about tea?

Saturday 12 September 2015

Iolla Prescription Eyewear

I've been wearing prescription glasses for the past 22 years (you decide what age I got my first pair!) but in that time I've only had 5 pairs of glasses. Prescription glasses can cost and arm in a leg with frames, lenses, thinning, special coatings--if I'm honest confusion as well as cost played a big role in my lack of eyewear. Luckily Iolla have come to save the world from confusing and expensive eyewear.

Iolla is a new brand of prescription eyewear that aims to revolutionise the traditional optical market. Glasses are designed and assembled in Scotland to provide higher-quality, better-looking eyewear at a fraction of the current price. £65 gets you fabulous frames, thin lenses and anti-glare and anti-scratch coating if your prescription is between certain parameters. I have a strong prescription and have a slight astigmatism and that was included, too!

I popped in to the Iolla showroom on a Saturday with Baby Girl unannounced; I had an appointment scheduled later in the week but had some time to kill and was passing by. Stefan, one of Iolla's founders, was so patient and helpful. It will come to no surprise to anyone who knows me that I tried on just about every frame in the showroom. Iolla have a variety of frames, all named after famous Scots, to suit every face shape and come in multiple colours. I went back and forth between a few different frames but in the end decided to go for a pair that were the complete opposite to my glasses I've had for the past 2 years.
blonde girl blue glasses

I love my new Stevenson frames in light blue crystal! They really make my eyes pop and are just so far removed from my big black frames. I love that at only £65 you can have glasses that are truly a fashion choice and not just functional. In fact I loved my Iolla glasses so much I went back 2 weeks later for another pair!

Can you believe in 22 years of wearing glasses I have never had prescription sunglasses? For me they were just an expense I couldn't justify so it meant always wearing contacts when it was sunny or using these gigantic sunglasses my Dad gave me that go over your existing glasses so you look like a glaucoma grandma!

My Bruce sunglasses in plum are far more stylish and made sunglare worries on my morning commute a thing of the past. I honestly can't believe I went this long without prescription sunglasses!

blonde girl purple sunglasses

Iolla frames can be purchased online and shipped straight to your door or you can pop in to the showroom on Argyle Street in Glasgow if you like to try on your frames before you buy. I love supporting local businesses and it's even more amazing when the local business service and product is better value for money than the corporate conglomerates!

All Iolla eyewear are at £65, with additional costs for multi-focus.

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Transatlantic Blonde was provided a pair of frames to review, but then loved them so much we bought a second pair out our own pocket. If that doesn't tell you our opinion is honest then what will?