5 Short Cuts to the Perfect Summer Party

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Here in the UK, especially in the North, we all know that the weather can be somewhat varied and unpredictable. Looking at a weather forecast is futile and guaranteed to bring disappointment in some form. Whether it be the crushing disappointment at seeing little animated rain clouds next to every day of the week (especially weekends), or the horrible feeling of being spectacularly let down when it promises sunshine, only to dash your hopes when you plan a barbecue a week in advance and it pours down on you, your disgruntled friends and your sausages!

Winter is easy. It’s cold, it rains. Party indoors and everyone stays safe. But Summer is different. We are all striving for that Holy Grail: the perfect summer party. Balmy evenings, fine wine, good friends and endless fun in the sun. A night you’ll never forget, mainly because you won’t have another like it for about four years!

When you get so little of something, it’s only natural to want to make the most of it. Once temperatures hit higher than 25°C in the UK, anything is fair game. Pulling a sickie from work is no longer taboo, it’s expected of you (your boss wants to play out too, you know!). Kids are allowed to play out later, clothing is optional rather than mandatory (even in some town centres, although this could be specific to Lancashire…) and mid week partying in some form is absolutely expected. No one wants to be that person sat indoors looking at everyone else’s sunny good times on Facebook, while watching soaps and prepping for an early night. In the UK, sunny days are a blessing, and we should treat them as such. “Make the most of it.” they say, “It won’t last!” And although that may be considered a pessimistic view, it is most definitely true. As I sit here writing this, basking in 32°C heat in Chorley (yep, that’s Chorley Lancashire, you did hear me correctly), I can hear the weather report on the radio telling me that tonight brings a storm that will dump 3 months worth of rainfall in 24 hours. I look up at the clear blue sky, not a cloud in sight, and find it hard to believe. But I do believe because this is England, and sometimes Summer really does only last for one day. So it’s even more important to seize that day and show how grateful we really are, and also to gloat to my Australian family who are currently experiencing their Winter (don’t feel too bad, it’s still 17°C and sort of sunny over there!)

Never knowing when our day in the sun is coming means we can do very little to plan ahead, but over time I’ve found some little ways to make those hurriedly planned, impromptu celebrations turn into a night to remember. So whether it’s a barbecue with friends, an al fresco dinner, a night in the beer garden, a full blown garden party, or a picnic in the park, break out these simple ideas to give it a finishing touch to turn it from a hastily organised dinner into a spectacular summer evening….

1. The Kilner Drinks Dispenser

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Well, it had to be didn’t it? Ever since the famous Kilner Drinks Dispenser was introduced in 2013, it has been a must have accessory for any party. But it is especially great for a summer party. No one wants to be to and fro-ing from the kitchen to the patio for drinks all the time when the aim of the game is to relax and have fun. Load it up with ice, and a cocktail or juice of your choice and while away the evening without ever having to shift your bum off your sun lounger.

Since the launch of the classic 8 Litre Dispenser, we have seen a variety of different shapes and sizes hit the market. They all look fantastic and are sure to make it look like you’ve gone the extra mile to make a good evening absolutely great!

Have a look at all our dispensers in the Drinks Dispenser section.

2. Handled Drinking Jars

Match your drink ware to your dispenser with these great Kilner handled jars. You may not always want to be risking your finest stemware outdoors, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have to serve in style. Keeping a handful of these bad boys in your cupboards is a simple but effective way to impress guests. The handled jars are tough and durable, dishwasher safe so your clean up is easy, and the matching lids help to keep out dust and insects. They are also suitable for all drinks so whether your guests prefer cocktails, beer or soft drinks, you only need one type of glassware.

For the full collection of handled jars, including coloured versions (do not put them in the dishwasher or you might as well just buy clear ones), vintage shapes and miniatures, check out our Handled Drinking Jars section.

3. Enamelware

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Stay stylish without risking your crockery with lightweight enamelware. Enamel is so hot right now and absolutely perfect for picnics and al fresco dining. Originally designed with camping in mind, retro enamelware has made a huge comeback and is now seen in trendy restaurants and bars across the country. Keeping a handy stash of enamelware means no need for flimsy, ugly paper plates. This retro style dinnerware range offers plates, bowls, mugs, trays and pie dishes so you can make sure al fresco table is dressed to impress. And if you’re going on a picnic? This lightweight crockery is way easier to transport than hefty ceramics, and it is all dishwasher safe so still easy to clean up.

For our full range of gorgeous enamelware, check out the Living Nostalgia Vintage Enamel section.

4. Miniature Serving Solutions

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Okay so this is a bit of a cheat, because these items are a must-have for any dinner party, not just a summer one, but the fact remains, these are a fantastic little finishing touch to keep in the cupboard at all times, ready to break out and impress your guests. There is something about food being served in miniature pots that we as humans just adore. Restaurants and gastro pubs focus more than ever on presentation these days, serving on slates, wooden boards, in glass jars and miniature serving pieces. I use the robust Master Class Artesa 6.5cm Copper Mini Saucepans with brass handles to serve up sauces, vegetables, starters or anything I can think of, and trust me, it goes down a storm every single time!

There is a vast array of different shapes and sizes to choose from, so have a look at what would suit you best in our Mini Serving Pans section.

5. SteakStones

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And the pièce de résistance: the Steak Stone! The sun’s out, your friends are coming for an unplanned dinner, you’re at work and have no time to prep. Fear not! SteakStones are a simple but seriously effective way of creating the perfect outdoor meal without too much fuss on your part. All you really have to do is buy the meat. The stones can even be heated on a barbecue if you want to really make the most of being outdoors.

Once hot, your guests can then cook their own steak to their liking, at the table. Not only is the pressure off you, but it makes for an entertaining dining experience that won’t be forgotten in a hurry! I used my SteakStones for a Come Dine With Me evening once and was afraid my friends would accuse me of cheating because technically I wasn’t cooking. Once we got started, however, they seemed to forget we were ever in competition and now turn up with the finest cuts of steak every time they come over, demanding that we repeat the experience. I can’t guarantee you’ll be treated to expensive cuts of meat on a regular basis, but I can guarantee you’ll be a sure fire hit!

Just be sure to purchase the SafeHands gloves if you’re handling hot lava stones. Burning through an oven glove or tea towel does not always make for the most impressive party trick!

Have a look at our full range of SteakStones here.

So there you have it: my top five ways to cheat my way into making it look like I’ve gone to a lot of effort when actually, I’ve been sat enjoying the sun for most of the day. Well….got to make the most of it haven’t we? 🙂

Lancashire Summer 2016: 18.07.16 – 19.07.16

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Top 5 Healthy ‘Unhealthy’ meals

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You’ve probably noticed that more and more people are paying attention to what they put in their bodies. We’re a nation inundated with faddy diet-plans and strict fitness programs, fat-loss pills, weight-loss teas, cellulite creams all of which supposedly hold the ‘secret’ to getting the bod of your dreams. I am no health expert but the idea of a quick fix just doesn’t sit well with me, call me a fuddy-duddy all you like but I’m doing it the old fashioned way.

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The Top 5 Reasons We Think You Should Go Organic

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Organic… It’s the word plastered across rows and rows of food at our local supermarkets, but now products like socks, lotions and feminine care products are even claiming to be ‘Certified Organic’. I’ll be honest here and say I’ve never given the topic much thought. I mean, we all have a general understanding that organic produce is healthier, but do we really know why? If, like myself, you don’t actually know the nitty gritty about why you should spend that little bit extra on organics, then please keep reading!

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Top 5 Spring/Summer Cocktails & Canapés

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Winter hibernation time is over and us home-birds are now unfortunately going to have to leave the nest and socialise. I know, awful right? I’m personally not that chuffed with the idea of this for a few reasons.

Firstly, I’ve been getting a little too creative with my meals! By this I mean that rather than your average 3 possibly 4 meals a day, I now have around ten (so yes, I’m carrying a little holiday weight) and also, I’m not willing to listen to my friends whinge about all the New Year’s resolutions they started and promptly dropped. I won’t bore you with my other excuses, I think the main issue is that I get too comfortable in my own home. And it’s this thought that sparked the idea for this blog, as I’d like to believe I’m not the only one who feels this way.

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The Real Reasons You Should Use Coconut Oil

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If you’ve read any of my other blog posts then you have probably gathered that I have an addictive personality. I know this sounds awful and you might be thinking, ‘Why are you telling us this and not your therapist?’, but I personally don’t see it as a negative thing, and let me tell you why. So, I don’t smoke or drink to excess, I just get obsessed with health products (and fads). Yes I know how ridiculous that sounds but hear me out. It all started when I got the gym bug a few years back and I began to follow a few health blogs. Instantly, I was inundated with healthy recipes and exotic foods that claimed to help you get 6-pack abs in 3 weeks or less. A few weeks later I realised that I was adding chia seeds to everything and chugging down clumpy green sludge (juices) that claim to make you ‘glow from the inside out’. I was turning into the cliche internet health-junkie, consuming anything and everything that I saw on the supposedly healthy instagram accounts of the rich and famous. A couple of years later and I’m still chugging the juices, munching on anything you can add avocado to and smothering everything (and i mean eeeeeverything) with coconut oil. Yes, you guessed it, my latest craze is: coconut oil!

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The Bitter Truth About Sugar.

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If like myself, you pay the slightest bit of attention to whats going on in the world then you will have probably heard all about our newest enemy: Sugar. There’s been such a kerfuffle about the stuff, I felt I had no choice but to investigate. So I set down my white chocolate mocha with extra whipped cream (18 teaspoons of sugar), and got to work.

The first thing that popped up was a questionnaire entitled ‘Are you addicted to sugar?’. As a relatively fit & healthy 19 year old (bar my Starbucks addiction), who never takes sugar in her tea and rarely orders dessert when at a restaurant, I really thought I’d sail through this one. The first question read: “Do you struggle to walk past a sugary treat without taking ‘just one’?”

I pondered this one for a second. I do like the odd treat. I didn’t hesitate when opting for a large drink this morning. “Start as you mean to go on,” I told myself. I’ll say ‘yep’ to this one.
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The 5 Most ‘Instagrammable’ Healthy Recipes of all Time.

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I would like to begin today by sharing my new, self professed title: ‘Instagraddict’, and by this I mean that it has become habitual to mindlessly scroll through my news feed for a significant amount of my day, gazing at photos of pugs and crushed avocado on toast. I knew I’d got it bad when I was deep into the settings on my phone and decided to check my battery usage. To my shock horror, I spent an alarming 78% of my battery on Instagram. Bear in mind that I probably post around once a week from my own account, this means that the rest of the time I’m just stalking other accounts.

Personally, I love the variety of the content on instagram. You can get inspiration for your home decor, fitness routine, make-up or fashion, what pets are trending (pugs, obviously pugs) but most importantly- what to eat. Perfect lattes with beautiful milk swirls, smoothie bowls with concentric circles of berries, poached eggs on anything and everything, open the app and you’ll be inundated with trendy ‘health’ foods.

I still question how it all began. Did a business minded avocado farmer think “aha!” whilst whacking the Valencia filter on his avocado on toast pic, uploading it, only to see his sales shoot through the roof? Or is it a clever way of the health guru’s making it the ‘in-thing’ to eat well through Insta-inspiration. I guess we’ll never know!

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The Way the Cookie Crumbles

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So, as promised, I have spent the last week baking batch after batch of cookies in order to discover the deepest and darkest secrets as to why the nation’s favourite baked goods can fail so dramatically when we attempt to make them ourselves. I’ve tweaked the ingredients, the baking time, the method, the dough resting time and so on. In all honestly, I thought my family had lost their minds when they sat me down and begged me to “Stop baking cookies!”

Who actually wants somebody to stop baking cookies? What’s not to love about them? I mean seriously, they’re fun to eat, fun to bake, fun to dunk….What was I saying, again?

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Pancake Day: Stacks on Stacks on Stacks

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If you were to argue that Shrove Tuesday is the nation’s favourite day, I can’t imagine that anybody would argue with you. Quite frankly, I would be seriously concerned if somebody didn’t enjoy a National Holiday that requires you to eat copious amount of pancakes. Whether you’ve got a sweet tooth or you prefer your savoury foods, there’s a pancake recipe out there somewhere for you.

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Tea Total?

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From an early age I have been an avid tea drinker. My mum even says she used to put it in my bottle instead of milk (at least I know who to blame for my addiction!) I don’t know whether it’s the comfort and relaxation that comes with a good brew or the fact that you can get a speciality tea for pretty much any problem, emotional or physical, that you may have! In the depths of winter, we drink it to warm us up. In summer, we drink iced tea to refresh and cool us down. However you like to look at it, tea really is the perfect drink.

It all began in China 1700 BC, during the Shang dynasty, as a medical drink. Today, every country in the world has their own special way of drinking their cuppas. After some extensive (and quite frankly shocking) research, I have gathered a few different tea traditions from all around the world. So, lets begin with the obvious: us Brits love our brews milky and with a nice biscuit (or six!), but believe it or not, some countries still cant get over the ‘disgusting’ fact that we use milk in our tea. Little do they know, eh?

Price & Kensington Berry & Mint Teapots PR

Japan

Ever wondered why the beautiful women in Japan have such flawless and glowing skin? Well, let me put your minds at rest. The Japanese actually drink a special kind of powdered green tea called Matcha Tea. This thick, paste-like drink has 137 times the antioxidants that come in a regular cup of green tea! Matcha is grown in the shade to ensure its high levels of L-theanine, which is an amino acid proven to aid physical and psychological stress and boost focus and memory; it was even used by Samurai Warriors during battle to help them perform. I know what you’re thinking, ‘Where oh where can I locate this magical green powder?!’ Well, its actually available from many speciality tea companies. Although it’s not the most budget friendly brew, Matcha from The East India Company Matcha Tea will always be a personal favourite of mine!

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How To Make Matcha Tea:

Ideally, you should drink your matcha from a bowl. But if you prefer a teacup, then why not try one of our beautiful new Price & Kensington Speciality Tea collection teacups?

1) Take your Matcha tea ladle and scoop 1½ teaspoons of the tea powder. Scoop the tea into a sifter and swirl the Matcha around so that no clumps form in your tea.

2)Pour near boiling water into your teacup. If you have a whisk, use this to foam up the tea. If not, a fork will do the job.

You may be surprised to learn that foamy Matcha tea and smooth Matcha tea have slightly different tastes! The flavours and the aromas differ a little.  Just make sure to whisk for 10-15 minutes until the tea gets a vibrant green colour.

3)Then, pour the tea in your teacup and drink immediately. This is something you have to remember about Matcha tea, you always have to drink it immediately after making it. Otherwise, the Matcha tea powder will settle at the bottom of the teacup after some time.

Tibet

Moving on: Tibet! I won’t pretend that I’m some super-tea-guru and know all about every type of tea there is. This one blew my mind as much as it will blow yours! Bitter butter, salt and tea all mixed up to make a steaming, bright yellow cup of Po Cha. Yes, you heard me correctly, butter…in tea! The Tibetans brew a crumbled serving of ‘brick tea’ for several hours to get the signature ‘bitter’ taste (erm yum?), its then churned with butter and salt before serving. It’s most popular in the high altitude areas in the mountains of Tibet, most likely due to the high calorie count which keeps energy levels up. Its also said that it prevents chapped lips and aids digestion. In my opinion, this tea is not for the faint hearted (probably due to the cholesterol in the butter..), but if you’re feeling adventurous, why not give it a try?

You Will Need

  • 4 cups of water
  • 2 black teabags
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/3 cup half and half or milk
  • one Churner

This Po Cha recipe is for two people — two cups each, more or less.

1)First brew four cups of black tea and leave for a couple of minutes.

3)Add a heaping quarter teaspoon of salt to the tea and then take out the teabags.

4)Add 1/3 to 1/2 a cup of milk to the mixture, then add about two tablespoons of butter and put it all into your churner.

5)Churn, blend or shake the mixture for two to three minutes then drink your steamy Po Cha!

Taiwan

This next tradition really has taken the world by storm, it’s now served in cities everywhere: Taiwanese ‘Bubble Tea’. The name Bubble Tea is not actually from the bubble-like balls of jelly that sit at the bottom of a glass of Boba, it comes from the bubbles that form at the top after shaking the mixture. The balls are soft and chewy Tapioca Pearls, cooked in a sugar syrup; this is then mixed with any tea of your choice and finished off with a splash of milk. This tea is delicious but very sweet, so unless you have a strong sweet-tooth this may not be your new go-to cuppa. So, whilst I’ve been going on about all the health benefits of Japanese Matcha and Tibetan Po Cha teas, this Bubble Tea actually has a bad reputation for its ‘health properties’. It has been believed to contain lots of harmful chemicals and questionable substances. In April 2015, an incident occurred at a Bubble Tea shop in the Philippines, resulting in the death of two customers! It was originally suspected that the ingredients of the tea caused the incident to occur, but was later discovered that the syrup used contained lethal amounts of Oxalic Acid! Although it may not actually be the tea’s fault, I think I’ll stick to tea with out jelly balls for now.

Despite all the fuss, Boba/Bubble tea is still delicious, and if you do want to make it at home, you can be sure that it is Oxalic Acid free. Try this:

You Will Need

  • 1/4 cup dried boba tapioca pearls per serving
  • 1 to 2 tea bags per serving, any kind
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • Milk, almond milk, or sweetened condensed milk
  • Fruit juice or nectar (optional)
  • Saucepan
    Bowl for holding the cooked boba
  • Measuring cups

1) Combine the boba with water: Measure 2 cups of water for every 1/4 cup of boba being prepared into a saucepan. Bring the water to a boil over high heat. Add the boba and stir gently until they begin floating to the top of the water.

2)Cook the boba: Turn the heat to medium and cook the boba for 12 to 15 minutes. Remove the pan from heat, cover, and let the pearls sit.

3)Prepare the sugar syrup for the boba: While the boba are cooking, make a simple sugar syrup to sweeten and preserve them once cooked. Bring 1/2 cup of water to a boil over high heat on the stove or in the microwave. Remove from heat and stir in 1/2 cup sugar until dissolved. Set aside to cool.

4)Prepare a strong cup of tea: This can be done either while the boba are cooking or ahead of time. Allow enough time for the tea to cool completely before making the boba. Bring 1 cup of water to a boil. Remove from heat and add the tea bag (or bags); use one tea bag for regular-strength bubble tea or two for a stronger tea flavor. Remove the tea bag after 15 minutes and chill the tea.

5)Store the boba until ready to assemble: Once the boba have finished cooking, drain them from the water and transfer them to a small bowl or container. Pour the sugar syrup over top until the boba are submerged. Let sit until the boba are room temperature, at least 15 minutes, or refrigerate until ready to use. Boba are best if used within a few hours of cooking, but will keep refrigerated for several days. The boba will gradually harden and become crunchy as they sit.

6)Make the bubble tea: Pour the prepared tea into a tall glass and add the boba. Add milk for a creamy bubble tea, juice for a fruity tea, or leave plain and add a little extra water. Sweeten to taste with the simple syrup from soaking the boba.

Not so Tea total? – Green Tea

I’d like to say huge congratulations to all those avid new years resoloutioners who’ve managed to sail through Dry January with out even a sip of alcohol. You really do deserve a pat on the back! I however, have suffered the dreadful self-inflicted pain of the “beloved” hangover. There’s only one way for me to actually relieve a little of the pain, yes you guessed it, tea of course! I remember one particularly groggy Sunday morning, when my wonderful friend Elliot insisted on me downing a large cup of green tea. I did as I was told and 20 minutes or so later, to my amazement, I really did feel 100 x better! So, by this point I was thinking the only explanation must have been that green tea was sent from the Gods to cure the hangover; sanity then kicked in, so I decided to do some research into why it actually made me feel so great.

Before you read on, may I suggest putting the kettle on, you’re going to want a brew after reading this…..

Weight loss

In green tea there are special antioxidants called Catechins or epigallocatechin 3-gallate (EGCG) and they mop up free radicals in the blood, preventing weight gain. Scientists at Penn State University have done many experiments on the effects of green tea on weight loss, they found that one cup a day can have some effect. We personally love anything that the more we consume, the more fat we lose!

Cancer

Yes, thats right, Cancer. The Catechins I just mentioned have been shown to shrink cancerous tumours by 50%. If thats not a reason to stock up on green tea then you may as well stop reading this blog, because I really can’t top that.

Pearly Whites

Despite what your Granny told you, tea isn’t going to make all your teeth the colour of soil. In fact, studies show that drinking green tea can fight the bacteria that cause cavities, due to an antioxidant called Polyphenols. This also prevents bad breath, so smile, its a win-win eh?

What was that?

EGCG (that antioxidant I keep going on about) was given to mice in an experiment by Chinese scientists. The mice were trained to find a hidden object in a maze; the mice that did not have EGCG took more time to complete the task than the ones that did.
The study suggested that the EGCG boosts learning and memory by improving recognition of objects and spatial memory.

And that’s just green tea. there’s a whole world of different flavours and brews out there. Personally, I think Green tea is a gateway tea. Once you start drinking it, you get the herbal tea buzz. One of our favourite companies, Price & Kensington have just launched a Speciality Tea collection. They are renowned for their beautiful teapots (I’m sure whether you realise it or not, you will have come across one at some point!) So when I heard that they were launching a collection specifically for herbal and loose leaf tea, I could barely contain my excitement. It includes everything from tea strainers, drip trays, teapots and teacups. My personal favourite piece is the novelty infuser, you simply fill it with your loose leaf tea of choice and plop it in your teacup then leave it to infuse! It looks great and works even better.

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So, you’ve got access to all the tea drinking equipment you could possibly need, now you need some tea! Out of all the millions of companies selling herbal tea’s, two really stand out from the rest. The first is The London Tea company. Founded in 2003, they pride them selves on their diverse range of beautiful brews, top top it of, they are also a Fair Trade company. My particular favourite of theirs is the loose leaf chunmee tea, “A delicious pure green tea with a fresh clean flavour.”

The other company that I’m slightly obsessed with is The East India Tea Company. A little more pricey than your regular brands, but totally worth splashing the cash for. In beautiful packaging, with an even more beautiful taste, their collection of teas will blow your socks off. If you enjoy the occasional coffee as well, they have a great range. Check out their biscuits and preserves whilst you’re at it.

Whilst doing my Christmas shopping a few months ago, I went into their little shop in Covent Garden, London. The staff were extremely helpful in assisting me to find the prefect tea for me. Admittedly, I spent far to much of my savings on their range, but it was totally worth it (dont judge me, I told you about my addiction). My absolute favourite tea of theirs is a range specifically designed around there Chakra. ‘A holistic system of caffeine-free herbal infusions’. The Chakra is the seven centres of spiritual power in the body, this collection has a tea designed for each energy. Bliss, Intuition, Expression, Love, Balance and Life-Force. These teas are designed to restore the balance of your mind, body and soul; and let me tell you, they work! Check them out here!

So, there you have it, may you all inherit my obsession (addiction) with tea. Check out the beautiful Price & Kensington collection for some speciality tea equipment, be sure to message us on Facebook or Twitter with your creations/favourites. I’m off to go have a brew, thanks for reading! -Emmie

Price & Kensington Speciality Tea Tools PR
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