Bird & Blend – A sweetie shop for tea lovers

I have to be a bit careful with caffeine. Although studies have largely shown the buzz-giver doesn’t contribute to heart palpitations, I’ve found tea and coffee always give me the jitters. Which, frankly, has made me alien – especially in places like Italy, where shots of espresso with water chasers imbibed throughout the day are practically religion.

I remember getting tutted at in a Spanish café for requesting herbal tea. It’s just not the ‘done thing’ guys.

At work I’m the boring oddball who asks for boiled water on the tea round. But that’s only because my desk (now hot desk) surely couldn’t handle the sheer breadth of fruit infusions I’ve collected over the years.

From Seville marmalade tea, to a gorgeous Turkish mint blend infused with creamy yoghurt pieces (those make all the difference), I’m a proper tart when it comes to ‘alternative’ teas. Don’t even get me started on the collection of strainers and infusers hiding about the kitchen. I found a flamingo tea infuser, unused, stuffed in a handbag recently.

My adoration and appreciation of caffeine-free tea led me to discover a few years ago Brighton-based Bird & Blend, which now has 12 outlets across the UK.

These guys, founded in 2012, are what I would pitch at Tea Pigs’ younger, funkier, edgier sister. Their expert teasmiths have conjured around 100 unique blends, available from single serve, compostable tea bags (ideal for trying before you commit) through 20g sachets, up to cool, reusable tins. There’s something for everyone, from the ardent builder’s tea drinker, to fruity folk like me, and bendy yoga-loving health nuts driven by green tea. All the ingredients are completely natural. And with flavours from Carrot Cake to Chocolate Digestive, Cherry Bakewell and Candyfloss, trust me, you’re never going to get bored.

They ship across the UK, but if you visit a store you can get rewards for bringing in your own containers to decant the leaves, and feel pretty darn good about yourself if you buy a takeaway – they plant a tree for every cup used.

In addition to its eco credentials, Bird & Blend launched its ChariTEA programme two years after opening, and has donated over £25,000 to 30 causes nominated by staff in the last six years.

Admittedly, the brand had fallen off my radar until recently, which is why I’m giving them some Eat Great Britain love today.

During a fit of sleeplessness I ‘accidentally’ ordered sufficient tea to fuel my hot drink desires likely to the end of 2021. Two working days later, the parcel arrived on my doorstep and I have to say, I was mightily impressed.

1. All the packaging was eco-friendly.

2. There was a personal, written note inside thanking me for my purchase.

3. They’d thrown in some free samples.

4. They included a slip detailing how to make the perfect iced tea and cold brew.

5. Most importantly of all, they gave me a sticker. Who doesn’t love a sticker? My kids may eschew them as ‘for babies’, but I’ll take one any day. Thanks Bird & Blend.

The taste test

Firstly, let me just say the scent of each of these teas is phenomenal. Herbal and fruit teas can be a bit samey, but each of these blends had its own unique, heady aroma with a freshness I’ve yet to encounter with any other company. The pouches have a seal on them. To ensure you encapsulate all those flavours they’ve worked so hard to magic up, make sure you seal these babies properly.

Earl Grey Crème - How sophisticated does this sound? Definitely one for pulling out when you’ve got folks you want to impress - ‘Fancy a cup of Earl Grey Crème darling?’ The Great Taste Award winner combines Ceylon black tea with vanilla pieces and cornflowers. There is a whoosh of potency when you open this one. A feisty whack of bergamot that earl grey fans will more than appreciate. On tasting, those vanilla pieces help to round those sometimes overly acidic citrus tones, with a light, pleasing creaminess. This is heaven in a cup alongside a slice of lemon drizzle cake.

Pear Cider – This won’t get you drunk – unless you’re necking Magners on the side. It’s a clever fruit infusion that swirls together pear, apple, rosehip, orange peel lime leaves and jasmine blossom into something closely resembling a pear drop both on the nose and on tasting. That hint of jasmine gives it a grown-up edge. One for cold brewing and serving over ice.

Strawberry Lemonade – One of Bird & Blend’s best sellers, fusing apple, hibiscus, elderberries, rosehip, lime leaves, strawberry pieces, sunflower petals and orange peel. There’s only one thing I can liken this to. Strawberry lace sweets. Enough said. Children will adore this as a cold brew alternative to sugary squash.

Nearly Nirvana - Brew this mix of Chinese Jasmine green tea, Jasmine silver needle white tea, spearmint, jasmine blossom and orange blossom, find a quiet spot, and breathe. There’s something truly special and almost mindful about this one. The jasmine is bold and perfumed, with whispers of mint and orange washing every mouthful.

Peppermint Cream – Oolong tea is known for its almost milky, creamy nature (most marked in milk oolongs). And the Peppermint Cream blend takes advantage of this nature, pairing the leaves with sweet peppermint and cocoa shells. The smell and taste is somewhere along the lines of an After Dinner mint and a mint chocolate Viennetta. I’m doing the 5:2 diet, and a cup of this on a fasting day made me feel (slightly) like I’d had a treat.

Birthday Cake – Anyone who puts sprinkles in a tea blend is a genius in my book. Open the pouch of this one and you’re going to be surrounded by the scent of jam sponge and Bakewell pudding. A creamy almondy flavour is created by the mix of rooibos, black tea, sprinkles, almond pieces, vanilla pieces and mallow flower. A great birthday gift for tea fans. And lovely served alongside an afternoon tea.

Jelly and Ice Cream – Sampling this took me right back to the late 80s/early 90s when any birthday party worth its salt served this pud up for afters – alongside Swiss roll, Party Rings and pink wafers. Wow, the scent is totally spot-on. Rooibos, coconut, strawberries, apple, hibiscus, elderberries, rosehip, vanilla and cornflower come together for a party in your cup. Add a touch of sugar to highlight that jelly and ice cream flavour.

Eton Mess – I felt this one was quite similar actually to the Strawberry Lemonade tea, with which it shares largely the same ingredients. However, a touch of liquorice, gives it’s a little more je ne sais quoi.

Retro Ted – If, through anthropomorphism, Fruit Salad sweets could sit on a beach drinking Malibu, this is what the over-riding smell and taste would be. All juicy, with apple, coconut, pineapple, rose, orange and lemongrass. I could drink this summery fruit infusion all day long. And I shall. I think this’ll be my summer blend of choice for 2021.

It’s worth noting that in July Bird & Blend will be releasing several teas at 70% for what it calls its ‘legendary’ Christmas in July sale. The line-up includes Blue Raspberry, Banoffee Rum-Ba, Christmas Cranberry Pie, Moondrop Dreams, Honey I’m Comb and Peppermint Hot Cocoa.

Find out more and order here.

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