Bluebird

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Disclaimer: Yes yes, it’s the #1 blogger cliche, this is a blog about TEA! Hopefully I am offering a new-to-the-internet slant on it though, as this post is all about life after caffeine and how tea can still be just as exciting and exotic without the buzzy stuff.

Regular readers and fact finders may remember that last year I gave up caffeine. Prior to this I was a tea fiend, as you can see in this blind tea tasting post from the archives. I’ve now been 6 months caffeine-free and it has been an awful lot easier than I first expected. The main reason for this is that you can substitute pretty much all your standard coffee-ordering choices with Decaf. You can replace your daily brews (my daily tea consumption is 24 cups!) with rooibos or decaf, even sticking to your beloved brand (Yorkshire tea, obviously). But after 6 months, I’ve been starting to feel a bit stale. Something I absolutely LOVED when I was a caffeine-aholic was ordering unusual flavoured coffee beans; every weekend started with a cup of chocolate & raspberry or cookie crumble coffee. It’s hard enough finding nice decaf coffee, although Illy coffee do a lovely roast option, let alone anything with a jazzier flavour.

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Then I discovered Bluebird Tea Co! I initially started following them on twitter after my friend Steph posted about them and her revelation at the world of rooibos.  After a quick browse of their website, as well as falling a bit in love with their name, design and tone of voice, I noticed they had a caffeine free section. And it wasn’t just the dregs, this was a seriously BIG section! I had no idea there was so much un-caffeinated tea love to be had, and so Bluebird kindly sent me some samples of… well… all of it! Thanks Krisi and Mike for the very generous bundle. Nick & I spent the afternoon with our faithful friend Tea Sub plunging, stirring and boiling… and here are our thoughts on our favourite picks.

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(Thanks for naming a tea after me!)

Type: Rooibos – meaning you can have it without or with milk, which is definitely my preference.

Thoughts: As you might expect this is a sweet, flowery cuppa. The honey flavour works perfectly and makes for a really decadent brew with every mouthful feeling like a power-nap in a meadow.

Highlights: The tea blend even has little flowers in it, making it delicious AND pretty.

Best For: People who are trying to wean off having sugar in their tea. It might be too sweet for some (Nick for one) but it was my favourite tea of the day.

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Type: Rooibos

Thoughts: This might be one for those who aren’t keen on the quite specific rooibos flavour as I found this tastes more like a regular black tea. The Mint Choc flavour is subtle, with just hints of it rather than an overwhelming flavour. Nick wisely reckons this brew felt like a real indulgence, so could be a saintly alternative to a hot chocolate.

Highlights: The fact the tea shaped itself into a smiley face! I can’t promise this will happen every time…

Best For: An office worker who needs a trip to the seaside. This drink will have you imagining ice cream vans, pebbled beaches and splashy sea in no time.

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Type: Herbal (No milk here)

Thoughts: According to Bluebird, Dozy Girl is all anyone needs to send them off into the land of nod. Nick’s very scientific initial thoughts were “it smells like my nan’s house!”. Despite the eau de draw-liner, this is one seriously tasty tea. It packs more of a punch than a standard chamomile and felt instantly warming and comforting.

Highlights: It definitely does what it says on the tin, as I was yawning my way through the cup. Although this could also partially be down to the fact I had just sat through 119 minutes of mind-boggling Looper.

Best For: Bedtimes & emergencies.

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Type: Rooibos

Thoughts: Growing up next door to the rhubarb triangle means I have a real soft spot for this pink celery twin. The tea smells SO amazing that I could quite happily have spent hours with my snout stuck in the packet and would purchase it for this pleasure alone! Luckily (unlike a lot of herbal bagged tea) the smell matches the flavour. One gulpful and I was back in the newsagents in my childhood town watching Rhubarb & Custards being weighed & bagged ahead of a long car journey! It’s such a distinctive flavour and I’m so impressed and happy that Bluebird have captured it in tea-form.

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Highlights: The fact it gave us the amazing Roobard & Custard theme tune in our head for the whole time we were drinking it. Which somehow then led Nick onto making me do different gun noises (which I was terrible at) and him introducing me to Girls Making Gun Sounds. Great brew drinking entertainment!

Best For: Nostalgics, romantics or as something to sweeten every day.

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Type: Fruit (No milk here either)

Thoughts: This tea treat is basically a piña colada! To the point that it tastes creamy, despite having no dairy anywhere near it. It’s definitely stepped up the game of fruit tea and I’ll never look at a tired ole bag of lemon & ginger in the same way, as this has so many levels of flavours. We were both mmming our way through this mug.

Highlights: It tastes like a cocktail, that you can legitimately drink in the work place. That’s kind of unbeatable.

Best For: Pretending to be Don Draper.

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Inspired by the beautiful nature of the tea, we spent the rest of today lazing in a patch of long grass on the heath and admiring the buttercups. I still have more tea to try so if you have enjoyed this most scientific of posts, there may well be a sequel with mixes such as Cococabana Cooler, Raspberry Beret and Strawberry Lemonade still to try. In the meantime I’d highly recommend you seek out some Bluebird of your own, especially if like me you are attempting a decaf life, as I feel really inspired by my tea drinking future. Soon I’ll have enough variety to make every SINGLE one of my 24 daily cups a different flavour…

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I have lived in London for so long I have actually lost count. It’s either 6 or 7 years. Anyway, in that whole entire time, I have never been to Chelsea. I have skirted around the edges a couple of times, getting off the tube at Sloane Square & spying on the Sloane Rangers or going for dinner at the tail end of the Kings Road but I haven’t done Chelsea.

My friend Craig and I were chatting about this (and our guilty pleasure love of the channel 4 show Made in Chelsea) and decided that we would get a date in the diary to get serious glammed up and hit the Chelsea nightlife, and that night was Friday! Now, I have be completely brutally honest; I was looking forward to and dreading the night in equal measures. I had all these preconceptions (mostly based on MiC where I love to hate EVERYONE) and was expecting a night that filled with eye-watering prices, side-eyes from locals and generally feeling out of place and awkward and needing to dive into some serious amounts of shots to survive it. In reality, our night in Chelsea was actually one of the best nights out I have ever had, and so amazing that we instantly booked in a sequel just to revisit our favourite discoveries and hit some of the places we didn’t manage.

We set out on our Chelsea adventure armed with an actual itinerary (geeks!)  that was actually mostly based on discoveries from this helpful “where the stars eat and drink article ” I was wearing some of my highest of high heels so one rookie error was… there is a reason the Made in Chelsea bunch constantly get cabs everywhere. Chelsea is quite inaccessible on paupers public transport! The bus would have taken ages, so I got off the tube at Fulham Broadway, and then spent the next 30 minutes tottering and tutting at myself towards for not packing emergency flats to our first location which was Bluebird.

Bluebird is a beautiful building, which needs to be seen in daylight to really do it justice. White arches give the architecture a (fitting) bird-cage type effect and there is a bar, shop and then the cafe which is tucked in the corner. We settled down waiting to recoil in horror at the menu prices, only to discover it was SO reasonable. I had the best Club sandwich of my life (it toppled my previous number 1, The Warming Hut in San Francisco) and a huge portion of shoestring fries for £8! This gave us the perfect excuse to splash out on a bellini and a rossini to toast our night and the gorgeous surroundings. The Bluebird is an instagram heaven of decor; a plate sculptured wall, black and white tiled floor, just the right amount of kitsch and the service was also a dream. Not a side-eye in sight!

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After such a successful start we cynically pondered whether we had just stumbled into a Chelsea anomaly and whether the braying rah girls and bolshy rugger boys were waiting for us at our next location which we actually went off-piste (it was not on the itinerary!) and snuck into as it looked so pretty from the outside. Eight over eight is a beautiful art-deco look restaurant first and foremost, but the front is fondly referred to as the snug where those lucky enough to bag a seat can sit by the open fire slurping cocktails from their extensive menu. I was amazed that at 9pm on a Friday night we could just swan in and get a seat, but the bar remained just the right-side of busy and buzzy the whole two hours we stayed there. It was so cosy and the drinks were so good that we just couldn’t leave, and we also got stuck into some juicy tipsy gossiping at this stage. The theme to my drink ordering for the night was definitely martinis. At Eighty Six I sampled for the first time ever the rose petal martini, which was so delicious I could barely drink it as I didn’t want it to end. The prices were really reasonable again (especially if you are used to drinking in Soho like me) – martinis and classic cocktails were £8, house specials and fizzy cocktails were £10, and this included table service and they were obviously very professionally made. Far superior to vodka-rev standard. Once more the clientele were lovely. I even got chatting to a girl when she nearly left her scarf behind and although her accent was awfully-poush she was very friendly.

Lets also just take a moment to acknowledge the fact that I was dressed more like something out of TOWIE than a classy MiC bird. I just bought this amazing pink tutu dress in the ASOS sale and have been desperate to wear it with my clashing nude heels. I then thought since I was already pretty Barbie ish, I’d add my Pat Butcher leopard print coat and entirely give up on trying to fit in with the designer labels and just embrace my natural TOWIE.  I am a sucker for anything backless, and adore the silver shimmery straps on this dress, it makes it even more like a ridiculous tutu that you would wear doing primary-school ballet classes.

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Craig on the other hand opted for the Chelsea class, with a white shirt and black braces and tie. He looked pretty sharp and I was proud to be on his arm for the night! Our final destination for the night was Eighty-Six where after a few false starts and Google map disasters, we headed down to Fulham Road. The 10 minute walk took us past what I would consider the real Chelsea, beautiful townhouses and quaint streets dotted with antique lamp-posts. We took a few photographs outside our ideal homes and it was the only time we felt like lowly out-sider tourists! As we approached Eighty-Six there was a heavy door staff and I got the sudden fear that we’d be turned away for not being classy enough (!) but we were let through the velvet rope instantly and hit the bar for yet more cocktails. Eighty Six has a simple decor, bare lightbulbs and tons of plush leather sofas, and yet more toasty log fires. There were a labyrinth of stairs leading to other parts of the building but we were told that was to the restaurant (which I imagine is not cheap).  Standing at the bar I suddenly heard a whimper from Craig and followed his eyeline to the bar staff as we noticed he was wearing EXACTLY the same outfit as their bar uniform! I guess white tie + black braces really is classic. So he quickly whipped his braces down and pocketed them, and all was right with the world again. There always was going to be more chance that we’d see someone in his outfit than mine. At Eighty-Six we couldn’t have been made to feel more welcome. The chatty (fashionable) bar staff, the door staff and the other (mostly handsome men) that seemed to be dotted around. There was also a brilliant DJ who mostly played mwam-mwam housey stuff but did drop in Children by Robert Miles for a last hurrah, which I have alot of respect for!

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& With that, we tottered back up to North London, giggling frozen air into the cold night and exclaiming at our surprising Chelsea experience. As you can tell, I would highly recommend anyone to take a night out in Chelsea. I usually end up drinking in Soho and whilst it has a place in my heart, the crammed bars and drink queues and noise and chaos can get a bit much. I felt Chelsea was the perfect tonic, as it was still buzzy, busy and alive but there was always space to take a seat and settle down for a proper chat. Also the joy of Kings Road is that there is an endless choice of places to pop in for a drink that you don’t have to travel far from bar to bar and can be spontaneous about where to go. (Our map and printed itinerary was definitely not necessary!) I feel a bit mortified at the stereotypes I had bought in to, and have to remember that Made in Chelsea is a television show and not actual real life… even if it pretends to be. I’m very glad this post can be so positive and un-scathing! Although there wasn’t a Cheska or Binky or Spencer in sight… so I wonder where they really do go on a Friday night?

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(DRUNK!)

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