304 Tasting Notes


Ok, so I was totally sold as soon as I saw the name of this one – Black Orchid is a SPECTACULARLY AWFUL two-part Doctor Who serial starring Petey Davison and his gaggle of ducklings. It has a special place in my heart. Plus, I’d just come from interviewing some contemporary Doctor Who luminaries at the BBC and happened to be passing the vicinity of Selfridges, so I thought it would be criminal not to pop in. How serendipitous, or something.

And the tea is gorgeous, too. Similar to Vanilla Shortbread from Whittard, but a touch more caramelised, I think. I’d expected a slightly darker brew than the burnt orange I got in the cup, but it certainly delivered on flavour, and the base plays beautifully with the rich vanilla-ness of it. Nom. This was a good idea.


I love this tea!


love this one.


This one has been on my list for a long time.


i have some i can send if you haven’t tried it my swedish chef

Sami Kelsh

Oh yes, it’s fit!

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This tea is basically the essence of Christmas tastes to me, in the best possible way. It’s like drinking a warm winter pudding, redolent with soft warming spices and a rich fruitiness from the currant and orange peels, set against a robust breakfast tea base.

And it’s not too heavy on the cloves, which have a tendency to make me grumpy when they’re TOO overbearing, which they can be in some holiday-flavoured things. I mean, they’re there, but so is a good measure of ginger and cinnamon and cardamom. Bang-on, old skool holiday goodness.

(Though I do remember in my cooler, pre-asthma days, when I’d smoke those fantastically goth black clove cigarettes – like, a whole two a week, mostly in the interest of socialising with the other academics who smoked – so many people would comment that they smelled like Christmas time. I found myself sharing a sidewalk with somebody who was smoking one a few weeks ago, and it is a really comforting scent. I just don’t like too much of it in my tea.)

But I digress. The bad news is that my work just sent an email that I’m due to be auto-enrolled in the university’s pension scheme, even though I’ve literally opted out of it FOUR BLOODY TIMES THIS YEAR, and I thought they were supposed to give it a rest for a few years if you say no the first time. I’m sure this will mean there will be a chunk of change missing from my next pay packet that I’ll have to wrestle back from them a month later, which is pants because it’s Christmas and my pocketbook is so strained I’m scared. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAERGH

/nervously sips tea

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Ok – full disclosure, as a journalist who sometimes writes about/interviews people about certain tv shows, I sometimes have to watch things ahead of broadcast.

That being said, in spite of this being the case for the latest Doctor Who episode, and having watched it again on Saturday, I AM STILL NOT OKAY AND I KEEP MAKING THESE VERY STRESSED FACES ABOUT IT because like, it was some beautiful writing and acting, and I still think it was a really frustrating way to end this character’s run.

(The tea’s still jolly good, though – and everything this season is best with a good measure of warming cinnamon, so it’s some little solace I guess?)

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Great news! I fell down the stairs getting off the bus today! My shoulder and back definitely feel like they’re going to be massively messed up tomorrow! I am so grateful I still have a stash of the Canadian back pain pills you can’t seem to get from pharmacies anywhere else!

THANK YOU CANADA FOR RECOGNISING YOU TOTALLY DON’T NEED A PRESCRIPTION TO NEED THE HECK OUTTA ROBAXACET PLATINUM plus I am so tired right now (falling down the stairs getting off the bus probably didn’t help) that I crawled under my desk for a few minutes to see if it would be a good place to nap.

In other news, the pile of Things I Need To Write seems to continue to grow exponentially, and in my current state of being, I have no confidence whatsoever and may have to chop a longish opinion piece down to like 300 words and some quotes from people whose opinions are more important than mine. Ugh. The life of an almost-not-paid-at-all journalista on her quest to, I dunno, get invited to the same parties as Peter Capaldi? Getting paid would be nice, too.

Oh yeah, tea. I was SO nervous about trying a banana thing, because when banana is done badly, it’s massively unpleasant. The last thing anyone wants is to take a sip of something that, it turns out, is a dead ringer for that banana medicine they give you for ear infections and stuff when you’re a kid. Or any kind of readymade banana milkshake. That’s that kind of fake flavour that I think I actually only acknowledge as banana because that’s what I’m told it’s supposed to taste like, rather than bearing any meaningful resemblance to my very favourite source of potassium. NO.

Not so with Monkey Chops. It’s subtle, which is definitely for the best, and really didn’t make a massively banana impression on me until a few sips in. The mouthfeel is creamy with a dash of sugar and skimmed milk, and the soft baked banana flavour is more reminiscent of banana bread than anything else, with lovely bread/cake notes and enough tea-ness that you don’t forget you’re drinking tea. And I do love banana bread. So this is good. I’m very glad I tried this one.


Oh no! I can relate to wanting to crawl under the desk to knap, but am so so sorry you fell off the friggin bus! my goodness.


Oh geez! Well, glad my country can help you out but damn those stairs.

You can totally pull off all that work. Yes, you can, yo.

And you make me even more stoked about this tea.

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This is one I’ve been wanting to try for ages, and I’m really glad I got it as autumn is in full, blustery November force. Perfect.

I’m not getting masses of bonfire, but I’m fine with this as smoke has a tendency to make itself the only thing I can taste if it’s been applied with too heavy a hand. This, however, is positively buttery. Like, I’m getting a really lovely, buttery mouthfeel from this as well as toffee flavour. That buttery toffee seems to come in first, enveloping a lovely taste of sweet apple.

In other news, it’s far too windy out there, and I’ve literally just remembered an essay I need to write for a forthcoming book that I’d COMPLETELY forgotten about, on the eve of the release of another book I wrote an essay for being released. Yippee!


(Oh my Gosh I have such a full writing schedule for the next few months I might throw up)

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Decaf is important. I’m grateful to have a nice, bright lemony brew to gently send me to what I hope will be a sound sleep tonight. It has to be. I’ve been nervous for so many days, and then oddly anxious this weekend, even though my scariest work is done.

Yeah, so on Friday, I got up at like 5 in the morning to rattle down to the BBC in London to interview Mark Gatiss, Peter Capaldi, and Steven Moffat. How I managed to say questions and make conversation and not just sit there slack-jawed and gibbering, I have no clue. Lovely gentlemen, all of them. Details to follow.




w00t glad it went well for you. I knew you would kick ass!

Sami Kelsh

Oh man, it was terrifying and great. So great, though. Thanks! :3


Amazing! I grew up with Tom Baker as my Doctor and passed my love on to my kids. Hubby caught up with us. I made my youngest daughter and the dog Tom Baker scarves, as authentic as I could get it, using the site that tells how it changed through the seasons. Two years ago, my eldest took youngest to London and they each had their photo made with a Tardis.


Oh, and youngest loves Pertwee the best! She prefers the old Doctors!

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drank Candy Apple by Adagio Teas
304 tasting notes

Ok, I’ve had this cute little tin of this tea sat in the back of my office desk drawer for nearly 2 months, and I’ve finally got round to trying it.

Made it this morning with a few sachets of sugar and a splash of somebody’s milk (sorry, some other department in the building) and it’s actually really autumnal and lovely. There’s a sort of top note that reminds me slightly of a buttery flapjack, with a mouthfeel that becomes juicy as the apple flavour comes in (and it’s definitely cooked apple, but there’s a touch of sharpness, so it isn’t cloying), and the finish is lingering caramel. A warmth from the cinnamon hums over the blend without bringing masses of spice, and the hint of soft tannin is surprisingly nice. I dunno, I liked it.

Also, tomorrow I have to get up at like 5 to go to the BBC in London to interview some people who are VERY IMPORTANT and I’m utterly terrified. So that’s a thing.


Holy shit, exciting! Best of luck on the interviewing tomorrow.

And you make this tea sound like awesomesauce.

Sami Kelsh

OMG seriously I have felt like I’m going to throw up all day because I have to sit at a table with a handful of journalists and try to ask clever questions to like SOME VERY IMPORTANT PEOPLE and it’s not like I’ve never interviewed anybody before but this is scary.

Also seriously, I really liked this tea.

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Apparently my Bluebird order went through twice – a quirk of the way that your shopping basket times out if you haven’t done anything with it for a while, I think – but because I’m a muppet I only noticed that the total was oddly high after it had shipped, so what’s done is done. I don’t mind terribly because obviously I love Bluebird tea, but I am a bit poor, and half of that money was what would otherwise have been earmarked for my November bus pass. Crap. I am a sad Kelsh.

So, uhh, tell your friends there’s free shipping and $5 off in my society6 shop? (egregious spammy self-promo goes here: https://society6.com/samikelsh?promo=8JNJ6ZRQJY3J)

But I digress. Made this as a latte with supermarket value range almond milk. I can see why it’s value range, but the tea continues to be basically my favourite ever and the perfect spicy drink. OM NOM NOM NOM NOM NOM.

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drank Caramel Pop by T2
304 tasting notes

I just… I just can’t go to London without coming home with tea. It’s literally impossible. Especially as they’ve opened a T2 on Regent Street and it was directly en route to Broadcasting House, where I was attending a radio taping.

(November 16th, Radio 2, The Peterford Golf Club is very funny and you might well hear me laughing in the audience. High fives to Mister Farnaby for going out there and making funnies!)

But I digress. Sampled this one in-store, as it’s part of the caramel range they’ve got going (I already brought home a box of Caramel Brownie I have yet to open, but is SO GOOD) and I actually liked it more than I was expecting, as I’ve always had a bit of a meh relationship with genmaicha. That bit of caramel sweetness is a delightful counterpoint to the toasty, dry flavour of the tea. It was nice.

I still didn’t buy it, mind – but I did manage to blow like £24 on stuff. Whoops.


oh man…. caramel teas make me happy

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I like when things are decaf and I make them early enough in the evening that it means I won’t wake myself up at 1 in the morning needing the loo.

And also, it’s like a more mature, hot, drinkable version of a Solero – layers of creamy vanilla with lashings of orange and mango. A perennial favourite, K-9. He’s a good boy. Yes he is. Yes he is. Affirmative!

ALSO, I’m at a loose end in London for most of tomorrow, and as such need recommendations as to what things I might blow some little wodges of cash on at the Mariage Freres counter in Selfridges, and possibly also T2 as I think I pass it on the way to Broadcasting House anyway, which is dangerous and great. Thinky thoughts? Help Kelsh!

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My Time Lord name is the Brewmaster. Currently working on People Of Who, an exhibition of portraits of the people who made Doctor Who happen. Professional dilettante. Literary enthusiast, frustrated sometime writer. Knitter of things.


Probably a small grey sofa in Oxford



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