It’s January, we aren’t exactly being abstemious, but it’s the perfect time to try out the new range of loose leaf tea at Hopscotch. It’s also been very cold, so a variety of warming cuppas have been going down a treat.
Let’s face it, most of us habitually grab a tea bag for an instant brew, but there is something rather special about the ritual of using tea leaves. Rather than having to always use a tea pot, there are many infusers on the market allowing you to make a single cup of tea. I have a Bodum tea strainer which also works well for tea pots as it’s easier to tip the used leaves into the food waste. There are lots of smaller infusers around, but this is bigger, allowing the leaves to move around and do their thing. Hopscotch stock some good ones and other useful accessories.
Tea bags do a good job given the limitations of space – finely cut leaf in a cramped space, however, there are now environmental and health concerns about them. Most tea bags are not entirely biodegradable as, along with hemp and wood pulp, about 30 percent polypropylene is used in their manufacture to seal them. If you’ve spotted a white mesh in your compost, that’s what it is. There’s also the issue of this plastic content leaking toxins when it’s in contact with hot water. However Teapigs, Pukka Tea, string and tag bags (Tetley’s catering range and Clipper) and Twinings pyramid tea bag range are all plastic-free.
So, there are plenty of good reasons to try loose leaf tea. Hopscotch’s new range is impressively comprehensive and, being a local shop, you don’t feel the need to stock up in one go. Buy small amounts to see what you like and go back for more. Alice or Michael will talk you enthusiastically through the range and let you smell them, and I came away with four scoops for about £8. As I write this I am sipping some Yerba Mate, Brazil’s national beverage. It’s a herbal tea, fresh and cleansing like green tea, but a little less bitter. It certainly tastes healthy. Rather more indulgent is the Winter Cocoa Herb Blend. It contains cocoa peel, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, star anise, almonds, cardamom and safflower. Warmingly spicy and chocolatey, it’s perfect to take to bed with you. I love it. I also bought some Earl Grey with Cornflowers as my daughter and I so like a fragrant brew and I’ve also been enjoying the rather beautiful Blood Orange Fruit Tea, based on orange peel, apple, hibiscus, rose hip and safflower. The longer you steep it, the more dominant the rose hip and hibiscus become, so play around with this one. It would probably be good iced, too.
Each tea comes in a resealable bag with an informative sticker and Alice suggested keeping them for next time. She also gave me a little sachet of Chinese Green Sencha Wild Grey as we like our Earl Grey. I’m not generally a fan of green tea but with the other flavours bergamot, orange blossom and lemon peel and a splash of milk, it was pretty good. On my list for next time are Darjeeling, Pu Erh, Oolong and my winter favourite, Lapsang Souchon or “barbecue in a cup” as my husband calls it. I also like the idea of creating our own bespoke “house” blend. Great stuff.