We met up at the home of Tea-Rex & Tea Genie, hugely excited about seeing her vast collection of tea and looking forward to having a good old rummage in her tea drawers! We weren't disappointed. She has all her teas organised by brand, and the bags, boxes and tins are so pretty to look at and all so tempting...
She had laid the table for us - teapots, cups and saucers, and some pretty matcha biscuits - and offered us the choice of any tea that we wanted to try. Overwhelmed by the options we asked her to recommend something, and because we are all geeks as well as tea enthusiasts, she pulled out 'Weeping Angel' from 52Teas. Never have we been more afraid to blink when sipping a cuppa! This is a mild and quite sweet tea, described as 'buttered toffee caramel corn flavoured black tea'. Very pleasant. But if you're reading this and thinking 'I must have some' then you might be disappointed, as 52Teas blend a new type of tea each week, all in small batches, and when it's gone it's gone. You can, however, request that they re-blend it and notify you, and (presumably) when enough people have expressed an interest they'll make up a new batch and you'll be able to buy some. Scared yet?
After squeeing over her amazing range of novelty tea infusers (I think my favourite was the 'Teatanic'), and coveting her tea accessories and tea-themed goodies, hunger got the better of us and we decided it was time to head out for lunch.
Our first stop was the tea room at Dunsley Farm, just a short walk from the town centre and easily accessible on foot as well as by car. Accessed through a nicely stocked farm shop, the tea room is tiny but clearly rather popular. It offers a range of filling meals - a hefty ploughman's, jackets, sandwiches and rolls made to order - as well as cakes and desserts, gluten-free biscuits, and a nice selection of teas and tisanes. Tea-Rex and I decided to share a pot of London Tea Company 'Rooibos, Nutmeg and Vanilla'. This was a nicely mild and subtly flavoured tea to have with lunch, and - extra points! - came with a pot of hot water so that we could top up for seconds.
For lunch I ordered a vegetable tart with salad, very reasonably priced at £3.20. However, on arrival - and luckily before digging in - I spotted a rather large hair, baked right into the pastry crust. Not ideal. However, the staff dealt with it politely and promptly, and served up a hot replacement that was tasty and full of fresh veg. Upon payment I was also given a discount on my bill, and the situation was handled sufficiently well that it wouldn't put me off eating there again.
Feeling rather full we rolled out into the sunshine and strolled back into town.
Our next stop was The Espresso Lounge, an independent coffee shop and eatery whose ethic is Fairtrade, organic, free range, locally sourced, and seasonal. Commendable indeed. Since they specialise in coffee I was pleasantly surprised to find that they also stock a fair range of Twinings tea and herbals. Needing a bit of a post-lunch pick-me-up I went for a Lapsang, whilst the Tea Ladies tucked into generous helpings of dessert. As we paid up I briefly considered taking home one of the giant Jammy Dodgers on display at the till, but the OH is trying to cut down on sugar and it would be mean to tempt him with something so delicious. Maybe next time eh?
Next on our tour was Harmony - an organic and natural product shop that Tea-Rex told us sold a huge selection of tea. And - oh my! - she wasn't lying. Blacks, greens, whites, rooibos, herbals, things I hadn't heard of before, stacked from floor to eye-level, all kinds of brands, and all very reasonably priced. No chance of anyone in Tring running out of tea whilst this shop is open!
Bags full of tea, and with just twenty minutes until closing time, we made a dash to our final destination on the tour: Anusia Cafe. Situated in an unlikely location at the back of a bakeware and hardware shop, Anusia Cafe is one of those hidden gems that you could easily and regrettably miss if you didn't know it was there. Fully vegetarian, and with an emphasis on social responsibility, Anusia is an absolute delight.
We were too late to order a meal (and having now looked at what's on offer, I need to go back soon!), but there were some sausage rolls still available, and the staff were happy to serve us tea. I chose a pot of Storm Tea 'Red Berry and Rose', fruity and mellow for the end of a long day. I also picked up some sweet treats by a company called Moral Fibre. The Figberry Balls (so yummy!) and the Raspberry Cocolossal Balls (I'm saving them for later) both boasted 'no added sugar' on the packets, and I just had to give them a try. The company makes several other types of healthy sweets and as someone who avoids foods laden with added sugar I'm keen to try them all.
The cafe itself is bright and pretty, with lots of natural light, real plants on the windowsills, paintings for sale on the walls, and little artistic flourishes everywhere. Outdoor seating beckons from the tiny and well-maintained courtyard garden. We were still drinking our tea when closing time ticked around, but the staff just swept up around us with a smile and let us leave in our own time. I will definitely be going back sometime soon, and I recommend you pop in if you're in the area.
Our tea tour nearly over, we headed back to Tea-Rex's place to pick up our things. But as one last treat for the day she offered to make us all some Teeccino. Tee-what now? Teeccino: a herbal alternative to coffee. Now before you screw up your face in disgust let me tell you that this really is one that you need to try before making your mind up. Made from a base of carob, barley and chicory root, it comes in a range of flavours including French Roast, Hazelnut, and Almond Amaretto. You can make it in a cafetiere like normal coffee, or you can buy it in bags and brew it like tea. And it contains absolutely no caffeine. We tried the Almond Amaretto, and considering that it contains no actual coffee, no caffeine, and no alcohol it tasted pretty bloody amazing and incredibly close to the real thing. I need to get my hands on some more of this!