The Alternative Nightcap

Counter Culture presents Me, Myself and I for May 2018. We’re stepping behind the counters of our independent boutiques to bring you stories and inspiration around this month’s theme exploring the world of wellness.

Whatever happened to tea? What was once the UK’s national drink has made way for its caffeinated counterpart; a 2017 survey by Monin showed that 61% of British people prefer coffee to tea, spending over £600/year on average on their caffeine fix. However, while coffee culture is certainly booming, there is a quiet revolution in the (boiling) waters. Shops and cafes specialising in loose leaf teas are cropping up all over the UK, offering their expertise to those searching for an alternative to the ubiquitous flat white.

Tea is an age-old drink surrounded by rituals and legacy; it originated in Southeast China in the 1st century BC, and came to European soils in the 16th century. Traditionally, loose leaf tea is prepared by pouring hot water over tea leaves and allowing them to infuse; different blends may take anywhere from one to five minutes to brew. In our increasingly fast-paced lives there’s something refreshing about a drink that encourages us to take the time to prepare, taste, and appreciate its nuances. This can be particularly beneficial in the evening, when many of us are looking to unwind after a busy day; the ritualistic routine of preparing a loose leaf tea can help signal to our brain that it’s time to start slowing down in preparation for sleep. What’s more, a lot of herbal teas are naturally caffeine-free, and a great many more boast significant health benefits that can get to work on our bodies overnight.

We asked four of our specialist tea boutiques to suggest their favourite night time blends for soothing the body and mind. We then divvied them up at Trouva HQ, sending eight of our tea-loving team members home with a blend to taste and review before they went to bed that evening. Keep reading to see what the Trouva team thought of these alternative nightcaps, and whether they truly lived up to their promised effects.

Good & Proper Tea

Good & Proper Tea started its life in 2012 as a mobile tea van captained by founder Emilie, but soon found a permanent location in Clerkenwell. Emilie and her team craft all of their artisanal blends in-house, promising their dedicated following of regular customers the perfect brew every time.

Lemon Verbena – £4.00/30g

Brass strainer – £18.95, gold coffee spoon – £9, marble and mango wood board – £24.50, mug – stylist’s own

Why Emilie recommends this tea:

Our Lemon Verbena tea produces a bright yellow cup with a smooth, creamy and refreshing flavour. This caffeine-free herbal tea is well-known for its digestive and muscle-relaxing qualities, making it ideal after an evening meal.

What did Trish think?

“The Lemon Verbena tea wasn’t as strong as I expected, but it provided a bright, earthy, and herbal hit with subtle citrus tones.

The tasting notes suggested the deep yellow brew would be refreshing and creamy. For someone on a self-imposed dessert ban, I was hoping for the creamier end of the spectrum and it didn’t quite deliver, but it was definitely refreshing and delicious.

I absolutely loved the smell, which tugged at memories of tropical holidays and gardening at my mum’s house in Sydney on hot summer afternoons. The more I drank, the more I was convinced it will definitely be the next addition to my tea stash.”

– Trish, Customer Support Lead

Peppermint – £4.00/30g

Ceramic tea set – £60, teak serving spoon – £9, book – stylist’s own

Why Emilie recommends this tea:

Our peppermint tea produces a deliciously fresh, peppery cup with a cool, minty finish. Naturally caffeine-free and well-known for aiding digestion, this is the perfect cup for after a meal.

What did Chloe think?

“This tea was packed full of flavour, which I loved. The flavours weren’t overly complex, but they didn’t really need to be – this is a simple tea and felt very cleansing. The peppermint taste was delicious and naturally sweet which made it a good choice for after dinner.

Peppermint tea is known for helping digestion (which is another reason that people drink it in the evenings) and while I wouldn’t say it’s the ultimate digestion aid, it can’t hurt to try! I found this tea easy to drink and it left me feeling very refreshed.”

– Chloe, Talent and Culture Partner

The Gilded Teapot

Speciality tea boutique The Gilded Teapot is located in the town of Lymington and was founded by tea aficionado Jo. A champion of craftsmanship, provenance and exploration, Jo puts huge efforts into sourcing the finest tea leaves from across the globe, an endeavour which helps to support a number of independent organic tea growers and local craftspeople.

Sleep Well – £5.25/50g

Tea set, board and scissors – stylist’s own

Why Jo recommends this tea:

This is by far our most popular herbal blend. Chamomile is the central flavour, and has been used as a natural sleep aid for centuries. The second key ingredient, lemon balm, has been celebrated by many tea drinkers over the years for its ability to soothe stress and feelings of anxiety.

What did Hugo think?

“For me, my night time tea is as important as my morning coffee; I want to end the day peacefully and hopefully get a good night’s sleep. While I was initially reluctant about using a loose leaf tea, I actually found the process simple and in fact quite enjoyable. I also thought the tea tasted great, with strong notes of chamomile and a lemony undertone.

The next test was the most important, did I sleep? Yes! I had a wonderfully peaceful night. I got into bed feeling very calm and drifted off easily. The process of making loose leaf tea was just as relaxing as drinking it and would fit nicely into an evening bedtime routine. I will definitely be drinking this again.”

– Hugo, Commercial Director

Rosebud Tea – £4.95/30g

Glass teapot – £25, glass tea cup and saucer – £12, horn spoon – £7, wooden tea tray – £68

Why Jo recommends this tea:

The first joy of this tea is its sweet, almost Turkish Delight-like scent, which is just sublime. It’s said that rosebud infusions can help calm the central nervous system, and many tea lovers who pop into our tea shop adore this tea at the end of a long day.

What did Kate think?

“I’m a huge fan of loose leaf teas and floral flavours, so to say I was expecting great things from this tea is an understatement. When I first tasted the tea I was surprised to detect herby notes underpinning the rose flavour. It wasn’t as sweet as I had hoped for, but once I made my way through my cup I realised that this was a good thing – a whole cup of a sweet rose infusion would have been too much. The subtlety of the flavour made it much more drinkable, and it really was delicious.

As someone who suffers with sleep problems I wondered if this blend would help – and it did! I fell asleep much quicker than usual, which I imagine was because the taste and the scent of the tea were so relaxing. It was like the adult equivalent of a warm glass of milk.”

– Kate, Editorial Executive

Tiosk

Tucked away in London’s bustling Broadway Market, Tiosk is a specialist tea boutique that aims to transform the way people consider this ancient drink. In 2014 owners Natasha and Nicola gave up their corporate fashion jobs to pursue their passion for tea, and haven’t looked back since. Featuring a vast array of loose leaf blends that could convert even the staunchest coffee addict, Tiosk aims to bring a little luxury to the everyday.

Honeybush – £7.00/50g

Tea set and scoop – stylist’s own

Why Natasha recommends this tea:

Honeybush, the sweeter sister of Rooibos, is a South African herbal gem. Bursting with health boosting antioxidants, it can  stimulate the immune system, and possesses anti-inflammatory qualities that soothe the senses and encourage a calmer body and mind.

What did Kat think?

“I loved this tea! It’s a lovely sweet, lighter version of Rooibos – a good one to satisfy sweet cravings after dinner. Though it was light it was also full of flavour which I appreciated, as I feel that many herbal teas can be a little lacklustre. Honeybush is famously caffeine-free which is why it’s supposed to be a good tea for drinking before bed. After drinking this tea I slept well – I can’t necessarily attribute that solely to the tea, but I would 100% build this into my tea repertoire. I thought it was great and would definitely drink it again.”

– Kat, Business Development Executive

Chamomile Flower – £7.00/50g

White pebble tea set – £85

Why Natasha recommends this tea:

Chamomile is a delicate floral infusion that is naturally caffeine-free and imbued with a myriad of health benefits. Known as the ‘all-round comforter’, it possesses anxiety reducing properties as well as anti-inflammatory qualities that can soothe everything from the digestive system to your skin.

What did Catalina think?

“I am by no means a regular tea drinker; if it’s not to make a fully caffeinated cup of Joe, I usually don’t bother with boiling water. That being said, it was a nice treat to try something a bit different. As someone who has only really had chamomile tea from a prepackaged bag, I definitely noticed a difference in the quality of the tea. The sweet smell hit me as soon as I opened the box, which translated to a mellow floral flavour that didn’t fade before my cup was through. I drank the tea in the evening after dinner and I can say that after my cup of chamomile I felt calm, relaxed, and just a bit sleepy. It was a warm and cosy end to the day.”

– Catalina, Partnerships Manager

Eteaket

Edinburgh boutique Eteaket is an innovative tea shop founded by Erica and Stuart in 2008. The aim? To rekindle the nation’s love for tea, providing opportunities for people to slow down and connect with each other. Eteaket now exports its unique blends all over the world, and has garnered a cult following as far afield as China and Japan.

Sea Buckthorn – £7.95/100g

Glass gaiwan and cups – £14.95, wooden board – £42 for two, dishes and scoop – stylist’s own

Why Erica recommends this tea:

Sea Buckthorn is a wild plant is found along Scottish coastline, and one that we feel is greatly overlooked as it contains an array of vitamins, minerals and bio-active substances. Here, we’ve blended it with antioxidant-rich cranberries and soothing hibiscus. Drink this tea in the evening and you can sleep peacefully knowing it’s working its magic.

What did Jonny think?

“I don’t actually like fruit teas, and when I opened the packet I was instantly hit with a strong aroma of summer berries which reminded me of this fact! However upon tasting my first impression was that the flavour wasn’t as powerful as I had expected. It was definitely sweet and tart, but in a subtler, more sophisticated way than other similar teas I’ve tried before.

I drank the tea just before going to bed and it certainly helped me to feel relaxed. The flavour is distinct enough to distract your mind pre-sleep yet subtle enough to not leave you overstimulated. I can’t speak to its other health benefits after just one mug, but being a big believer in the healing properties of antioxidant rich berries, I know that my body would thank me for including this in my regular tea rotation.”

– Jonny, Customer Support Executive

Isle of Harris Gin – £7.95/100g

Mug, dishes, scoop and board – stylist’s own

Why Erica recommends this tea:
The Isle of Harris Gin tea is a herbal caffeine-free blend, packed full of health-boosting botanicals including juniper, coriander, angelica root, orange peel, liquorice root, cassia bark and sugar kelp. It truly is a blend unlike any other.

What did Poppy think?

“As an infrequent loose leaf tea drinker I really enjoyed how pretty the tea was, with all the elements on display. The smell was earthy and very strong, so the clean taste of the tea was a pleasant surprise. All of the strong ingredients are noticeable but work well together, meaning even if you really dislike liquorice (like me) it’s still lovely to drink.

I’m not sure I noticed a difference in the overall health and balance of my body, but I did feel more comfortable after drinking. The tea also claims to be good for restful sleep, and after a cup I certainly felt more relaxed.”

– Poppy, Customer Support Executive

Is tea your go-to night time drink? Let us know your favourite blends in the comments below.

Kate Richmond

2 thoughts on “The Alternative Nightcap”

  1. Can’t beat a good cup of tea! And always on the hunt for caffeine-free versions so might have to try the ‘Isle Of Harris Gin’ version for myself.

  2. Have always been a committed camomile-drinker but these other teas are seriously swaying me, especially the sea buckthorn

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