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The Exotic Teapot Blog

Amazing Tea and Teaware to wow your senses.
JUN
04

Discover the world of tea with our beautiful tea sets


I love introductory sets. Everything is there for you. It’s a gift in the truest sense because the essential ingredients for an experience have been assembled with care and knowledge for you to receive or give. With this in mind, we’ve put together a range of Discovery Tea Sets, pitch-perfect introductions to loose-leaf tea combining an artisan teapot with a tea of your choice --and cups too if you wish.

How to pick a tea set

Your first question: what kind of teapot?

To answer this you should start with the main type of tea you want to brew, or the type of gift you are giving. We’ve put together a guide to help you:

- Glass teapots: essential for flowering teas, but they can also be used with any type of tea. Bear in mind they lose heat more quickly than ceramic or cast iron teapots, so if you are buying a larger teapot you might consider a teapot warmer stand. They are dishwasher safe. All our teapots have either a strainer coil or sit-in glass infuser, to prevent tea leaves getting into your cup.

- Ceramic teapots: a classic all-rounder. They conserve heat but don’t tend to over-brew delicate teas. They are less fragile than glass teapots, and lighter than cast iron teapots. They are not dishwasher safe, but are easily cleaned by hand.

- Cast iron teapots: they keep the tea warmer for longer, and you can use them directly on a gas stove, brewing the tea directly. Our cast iron pots have an enamel lacquer, so they don’t damage the flavour of more delicate white and green teas. They are easily cleaned by hand. They are extremely durable and will be a long-standing tea companion.

Your second question: what size teapot do I need?

A Teapot for one is approximately 300 - 450ml, and for two, 600ml. 900 - 1000ml is for groups of four to enjoy. Remember the size of your cup also affects the amount of tea you get from a pot. Chinese tea cups are naturally smaller, and a Gong Fu Cha style tea set will include even smaller cups for sipping (traditionally a Gong Fu Cha teapot is about 450ml but it can be larger if there are more people).

Our Lotus, Prestige and Classic glass teapots come in two sizes, either small, medium or large (400ml to 1000ml). The double-walled glass cups to accompany these teapots are 80ml each.

Our ceramic teapots, Jun and Ru Crackle, are both 700ml, ideal for 2-3 150ml (large) cups.

Our cast iron teapots range in size between 600 - 900ml. Cups are sold separately and are 100ml each.

Mug infusers

Another option you may want to consider is a mug infuser. Our bespoke glass infuser mixes modern aesthetics with function: the infuser sits in the mug snugly, so its roomy enough for flowering tea to unfurl, and afterwards you simply remove the infuser and drink straight from the mug for a longer tea.

A mug infuser might suit someone who doesn’t have much space, or who wants to enjoy their tea at work or on the go. It’s neat & tidy and melds traditional tea drinking with a modern lifestyle.

Tea flask

We even have a thermal flask infuser perfect for enjoying loose leaf tea at work. The Wushu porcelain tea flask is hand-painted in traditional porcelain art. A flask fit for emperors commuting to London.

Accessories, gift wrap & personal messages

All of our Discovery sets come in a handmade flower-pressed box, an exquisite object in itself made by a skilled craftsperson.

You can have your box gift-wrapped by us for a small extra charge. We can also include a personal message on a card from you.

The final choice

The final choice may just come down to a particular teapot you really like, or what looks best on your dining room table. That’s fine too. We’ve included some photos and links to some of our most popular tea sets to get you started.

MAY
28

Iron Dragons - Tetsubin cast iron kettles


Called tetsubin in Japanese, these heavy, ornate kettles are intricately linked to Japanese culture & history. Centrepieces of the household, these artisan objects were handed down generation to generation: they were central to social life, and the handicraft & care put into making them shows how revered the customs of tea were in early to modern Japan.

I like to think of them as the iron giants of the tea world. They dominate the breakfast table, throwing out heat, pouring out steaming hot tea into your cup --the weight of the pot and the ornate design lending a certain pomp to the occasion (it’s certainly hard to make adding milk to Weetabix as ceremonial).

In order to understand the cultural significance of the cast iron teapot, we need to first look at the invention of sencha tea in Japan.

The relationship between tetsubin and sencha

Tetsubin arose in Japan on the back of a highly significant innovation in tea production: sencha green tea. Green tea was introduced to Japan from China by travelling monks, and was initially only drunk in the form of matcha (powdered tea leaves whisked into hot water).

An elaborate tea ceremony grew up around matcha, called chanoyu, and it was adopted by the ruling military class. The objects used in this ceremony were very expensive & rare, and consequently the tea ceremony became a loci for receiving important guests, conducting business and political negotiations.

Tea even spread to the samurai, and its disciplined rules for serving were valued for focus and meditation. It wasn’t all about strictness however; a thirst for tea parties grew where it was common to compete in tea-naming --imagine drunk samurai hitting quiz show buzzers, but without the buzzers.

Eventually a new way of processing green tea was invented in the 17th century; this method created whole leaf tea that was steeped in water. After plucking, the green tea leaves were steamed to prevent oxidation (the step that differentiates green tea and black tea), creating a fragrant tea that required much less preparation.

All because of a monk - Baisao and the rise of sencha tea

The popularity of sencha was cemented by a nomadic monk nicknamed Baisao (the old tea seller). He would travel the countryside with his tea utensils slung over his back. He only asked people to pay what they could afford for his tea, and the ease of making infused tea lent itself to his trade on the go.

This new method began to spread across Japan. It was also adopted by the intellectual class at the time, in a cultural move against the ruling shogun class where chanoyu was still predominant.

Sencha tea became, to an extent, a tea for the masses. It was drunk informally in households. A range of teaware was developed that was inexpensive compared to the luxury items used for matcha tea. Over time, sencha became the informal cuppa you offered guests who came to visit.

And so the tetsubin was born…

A beverage of such social importance required a new kind of kettle, and so the tetsubin was born. Many believe that the tetsubin were based on copper water kettles in use at the time, but adapted for the new method of infusing tea leaves. Cast iron kettles were originally heated over charcoal or a fire. Some of the iron leached out into the tea and it was realised this improved the flavour, making a sweet fragrant tea.

Tenshi TeapotChoose your unique teapot and let it be your companion

Cast iron teapots are made by pouring molten iron into a mould. This method allows for a huge variety of styles, patterns and symbols. There is a teapot for every taste. Colour can also be applied to the outside relatively easily, further expanding the range of designs.

There is a teapot out there just for you and because they are so hard-wearing, it will accompany you through many years of tea drinking.

Modern production methods

The modern cast iron teapot isn’t strictly speaking a tetsubin (which was almost always used primarily to boil the water), and modern variants have a enamel coating on the inside. This layer spreads the heat out evenly, extracting excellent flavour from the tea but ensuring that it does not damage more delicate teas.

Dedicated craftspeople make our teapots, and there is quality control at every stage. Just enough modern technology has been injected into the process to speed it along, meaning you get a high-end, artisan product at an affordable price.

Modern tetsubin-style cast iron teapots include a steel infuser, that sits in the pot under the lid, preventing tea leaves from travelling down the spout into your cup.

Advantages of cast iron teapots

• They keep the tea warmer for longer
• Heat is distributed evenly, extracting better flavour from the tea
• They are very durable
• They are stunning, aesthetic objects to handle & enjoy
• They give a grandeur to tea making, encouraging you to get the most out of the experience
• Surprise guests when they come for tea, making your own tea ritual with friends & family
• They can be used on a gas stove like a regular kettle
• Because of the enamel lining no iron will leach into the water (although for some this may be considered a disadvantage)

Kasumi TeapotSome of the teapots in our classic tetsubin-style range

Kasumi Cast Iron Teapot
Available in a rich orange, black, or dark emerald this striking teapot has a subdued grace, decorated in just a bold, expressionistic pattern of lines. This teapot is 800ml, enough for four large cups.

Guzu Cast Iron Teapot
A recent addition to our cast iron clan, this grand & stately pot has a copper sheen, giving a slight metallic shine against the otherwise burnished look. This teapot is 600ml, serving 2-3 large cups.

How to look after your teapot

• Clean with warm soapy water, but don’t be abrasive
• The infuser is dishwasher safe
• After it has been washed, pat dry the inside and place it upside down to dry out
• If, after a long period of time, you notice some rust on the outside, don’t worry. This is natural and won’t affect your tea on the inside
• If you want to remove some rust, use a mix of water and vinegar and scrub lightly with steel wool
• Our cast iron teapots can be used on a gas or wood stove but not on an electric hob
• We highly recommend using a trivet to stand your teapot, as they get quite hot during use

MAY
06

How to make the perfect ice tea

iced tea
As the weather starts to warm up, most of us will be looking at ways to cool down and refresh ourselves. One great way to combat the heat is with a glass of iced tea. Iced tea can come in a variety of different flavours, and unlike its warm and milky cousin, it is a refreshing and thirst quenching drink for a hot summers day. One thing that often puts people off the idea of making an iced tea for themselves is that they are not sure how to go about it. So, we are here to help. We have put together our top tips for making the ideal iced tea. Making sure that you have a tasty and cool drink to enjoy out in the sunshine.

The basics of making iced tea
What is great about iced tea is that it is pretty much personalised to your tastes, you can make it just how you want to.

Before you start to get creative with your iced tea, you should make sure that you understand the basics. It is best to make your iced tea in a heat proof pitcher, as this means that you don’t have to worry about transferring the liquid between different containers. The perfect ratio is 2 teabags to four cups of boiling water. This needs to be left for around 3 to 5 minutes to properly infuse. After removing the teabags, you can sweeten the iced tea with sugar (adding as much as you want). After this it is time to add in 6 cups of ice cubes, stirring them until they have melted (or 4 cups of cold water if you don’t have any ice around).
Fancy some citrus zing? If you do, then add some lemon slices for a citrus zing and then pop the mixture into the fridge to cool down.

Experiment with flavours
Okay, so now you know how to make the basic iced tea mixture, you might want to make it your own, adding different flavours. Fruit works perfectly with the basic flavours of iced tea. If you want to make it tropical then you can add fresh peach, kiwi or pineapple as well as a half a cup of sugar syrup. You could also make the ideal summer drink by adding fresh strawberries, lemon juice and powdered sugar.

Ultimately, iced tea can have a variety of flavours added into the mix, using up your fruit bowl and creating a beautiful drink that you will love to enjoy! So, grab your kettle and teabags and see what you can create!

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APR
22

The best way to make matcha tea

Japanese tea ceremony
It is no secret that matcha tea is great for you. There have been plenty of studies into the power of matcha, and just what this powerful green tea can do for you. But one thing that is a bit of a pain about matcha, is making sure that it is made perfectly. Just to make sure that you can enjoy your delicious cup of frothy matcha as and when you want to, we have put together our top tips on the best way to make matcha tea.

Have the right tools
When you see matcha being made in a traditional tea ceremony in Japan, they often have a vast array of different tools to hand. Whilst you can recreate this in our own home, the truth is that you really only need a good quality bamboo whisk, a tea strainer and a bowl to make the ideal cup of matcha.

Sift the matcha
Not a big fan of finding lumps in your matcha? If not, then you need to make sure that you sift the powder in. This can be done using a tea strainer, placed above the bowl. The powder can be popped into the strainer and sifted through, making for a smooth and lump free mixture. You should aim to use around 1-2 teaspoons of matcha powder.

Add the water
For the best matcha, it is a good idea to use water that is just past the boil, that way it is still nice and hot, but that it isn’t going to scald the powder. You will need to add around 20oz of water to your teaspoons of matcha.

Whisk it up
Once you have added your water to the powder, it is time to get mixing. Whilst a spoon is okay with normal tea, matcha needs something a little more heavy duty to make sure that it is perfectly mixed up. This is where the whisk comes in handy. You should try to whisk nice and vigorously, using a zig zag motion. This will make sure that the tea becomes frothy, which is exactly the result that you will want to achieve.

Drink it
The last stage is probably our favourite. After all that prep it is time to dive in and enjoy your perfectly made matcha! You have definitely earnt it.

If you are in a hurry, then you can make matcha in a cup, simply mixing the powder with hot water. However, if you really want a high quality cup of matcha, then take the time to prepare the matcha and you will really feel the benefit.

MAR
24

The world’s most expensive teas

Dahongpao tea leaves
What could be better than a nice hot cup of tea? No matter what the situation, the problem or the issue, the British way of approaching a problem is to grab for the kettle. For the majority of us, the idea of a simple cup of tea is enough to satisfy, but there are those around the world who have much more expensive tastes when it comes to their favourite brew. Wondering just how expensive tea can be? Here are some of the world’s most costly teas.

Da-Hong Pao
Thought to be the rarest tea in the world, the tree that grows the Da-Hong Pao tea is few and far between. The ones that are around are to be found perched high up on the Wuyi Mountain, protected by armed guards on temple land. It is thought that this powerful tea is highly medicinal and in fact cured the mother of the Ming Dynasty emperor from her illness. During 2002 a wealthy tea-collector paid almost £22,500 for just 20g of the original form of this tea. It is valued as much as 30 times its weight in gold and a single gram of this Chinese Oolong tea is worth £1,359.

PG Tips Diamond
PG Tips may not be a name that is instantly thought of as being an expensive beverage. However, during 2005 the British tea company decided to celebrate their 75th anniversary in style. They launched a range of hand-crafted tea bags, each of which were studded with 280 diamonds and filled with Silver Tips Imperial Tea. This tea is grown in the Makibari Estate and is the most expensive Darjeeling tea in the world. Sold for charity in Manchester, these diamond studded tea bags cost £12,000.  

Panda Dung Tea
Not every expensive cup of tea is one that you may want to sample for yourself. As the name suggests, Panda Dung Tea is one of these options. As the name suggests, one of the main ingredients of this particular type of tea is Panda poo. The pandas eat the wild bamboo and only absorb around 30% of the nutrients, it is this dung that is used to fertilise the tea crops and adds in the health boosting properties of the tea. For 500g of this tea you will be expected to pay as much as £28,000. Which means you should try your best to use this tea sparingly!

Vintage Narcissus
A rare form of the popular Oolong tea, named after Narcissus which is a famous mythological figure. It is only fired once every two years and harvested from the Wuyi Mountains. It is oxidized to about 60% and has a floral, wooden and chocolate flavour. A flavour that improves with age. A kg of this tea costs £5,000.

So, have these teas whetted your appetite for a nice brew? Why not look at the teas we have in our range and see if you can find a lower cost, but also just as delicious brew?

 

 

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MAR
02

The history of tea production in India

tea india
We love to enjoy a warm cup of tea, but how many times do we pay attention to where they come from? Chances are... not very often. Tea is grown around the world, however if China have the biggest tea production in the world, India isn’t far behind!

When did tea production start in India
Tea production in India was introduced under British Rule, when a native variety of plant was discovered in the state of Assam by a Scottish traveller Robert Bruce.
Bruce worked with a local merchant who was called Maniram Dewan, looking at the way that the local Singpho tribe cultivated and enjoyed these wild plants. The tribe would remove the leaves from the plant, before allowing them to dry in the sun, as well as being exposed by the night dew for 3 days.  They would then place the dried leaves inside a hollowed out bamboo tube and develop the flavour using a smoking process.
Bruce realised that these local plants could be the ideal alternative to the Chinese production, and set about transferring the process used by the local tribe, transforming it into a more commercial process. With his efforts, the first British led commercial tea plantation became established in the Assam region during 1837.

The rise of the tea industry
It didn’t take long for the tea industry in India to take off. In fact, the industry took shape in 1840. This saw the introduction of Chinary tea plants to the more elevated regions of India, such as Darjeeling and Kangra. These tea plants hadn’t been able to flourish in the Assam region, but it seemed that they really took root in these regions, growing healthily.
From 1841 onwards more and more people in the area tried to grow their own tea plants, with even the first superintendent of Darjeeling planting some for himself. It was during 1847 that the first official tea plant nursery was established in Darjeeling and 3 years later, in 1850, the first commercial plantation, the Tukvar Tea Estate was created.
The production of tea in India and China have both flourished since this time and recognising the benefits of both local varieties of tea, there have even been attempts to create hybrids between the two types. These are grown in the low-lying tea regions of India and enjoyed throughout the world.

So, now when you sit down to enjoy a steaming hot cup of tea, why not spare a thought for where it came from, and the process that has gone into creating that delicious mug?


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FEB
16

The history of tea in England

tea in england
If you think about the English way of life, then chances are that one of the first things that comes to mind is a good old fashioned cup of tea.
Whilst tea has been claimed as an utterly English drink, it did not start in England. In fact, whilst the Chinese were enjoying tea as early as the 3rd Millennium BC, it didn’t make its way over to England until the mid 17th century. Tea drinking spread across Europe from China but it was a slow process. It eventually landed in Venice around 1560, and we have to thank both Portuguese and Dutch traders for first introducing and importing our precious tea into Europe.

London, the home of tea
It may be a surprise, but England was first introduced to tea via London coffee houses. One of the very first merchants who offered tea was Thomas Garway in around 1657. He sold not only dry tea, but also liquid tea to the public and he even created advertisements selling tea to help with keeping the body “lusty” and “active”. It comes as no surprise to those who love a nice cup of tea that it soon became a popular choice at those coffee houses. By 1700 over 500 coffee houses were known to offer it to their customers.  However, not everyone was a big fan of the introduction of tea, tavern owners in particular, were irritated and frustrated that their sales of gin and ale were reduced due to the availability of an alternative (and non-alcoholic) drink. By 1750 tea was the drink of choice for the lower classes, and the government noticed that their revenue from liquor sale taxes were significantly reduced.

Tea tax
After noticing the lack of sales for liquor, the government realised that they needed to get on board the trend for tea. Before this, however, they decided that they would try to halt the growth of tea sales, by first forbidding it to be sold in private houses. When this never took off, a 1676 act was put in place to tax tea and also make sure that anyone selling it would need to apply for a licence. As it rose in popularity, so did the tax that was charged. In fact, by the mid 18th century, when tea drinking was to become an increasingly common habit, the tax duty was a rather ridiculous 119%. This tax was not dropped until 1784, when it was realised that tea smuggling was a much larger problem than the loss of money from tax and the level was dropped from 119% to a much more manageable 12.5%.

No matter where tea came from, it has become a part of everyday English life. Relaxing after a busy day, catching up with friends, or simply waking up in the morning has all been made better thanks to the delicious cup of tea that we are all more than happy to have!



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JAN
23

Tea Bricks, a Chinese currency

tea brick

It is no secret that here at The Exotic Teapot we love drinking a variety of different teas. After all, when they taste this good what else would you do with them? The same can’t be said for the rest of the world. Whilst many countries do enjoy their own take on a cup of tea, there are those that have found alternative uses for tea. One example of this are Tea Bricks, they have been used as a form of payment since the 9th Century. Some of the places that used tea bricks include Siberia, Tibet, Russia, Mongolia and Turkmenistan. However, one of the most well known countries that used this alternative currency is China. In fact, the Chinese Emperor himself was known to be a driving force behind the production of tea bricks.

The quality of tea bricks
There are 5 different types of quality of tea brick. They vary in colour, proportion of wood to leaf and their fermentation too. Each one is represented with a particular stamp. The best quality tea brick are those that are dark brown, these bricks contain fermented tea leaves. The poorest quality is dark yellow, these will contain soot, wood shavings and twigs. The most common tea brick that was seen was the third level of quality.

How tea bricks were made
It takes a number of different stages to make tea bricks. The first stage is picking the tea leaves and leaving them in the sun to dry naturally. Once they have dried out, the leaf is removed from the stem and then they are sifted through to make sure that they are separate. These separated leaves are put into a bag, which is steamed over boiling water. These perfectly steamed leaves are then placed into a metal mould, where rice water will regularly be used to moisten them, and avoid any air bubbles from forming. During this stage, beef blood, flour or animal dung is added to bind the mixture and keep the brick in its form. The final stage is to place the brick through a fire, which ages it and gets it ready to be used.

How tea bricks were used
As a tea brick was split into sections, it could be used bit by bit, not all at once. It was also popular because it was easy to keep fresh and easy to carry around. They were perfect for trade across regions, and because they were edible, they were a popular and useful method of payment. Whilst they were more commonplace in the areas where they were produced, decreasing their value, as the production centres became further away, the value of tea bricks significantly increased. Tea bricks were often the standard which other trades were judged against, and were a huge part of trade across different countries and communities.

They may be a fascinating part of history, but here at The Exotic Teapot, we think that we may stick with simply indulging ourselves in a delicious cup of tea, rather than using it to buy our shopping!



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DEC
07

Some tasty Matcha Smoothie recipes for you to try

matcha smoothie
One of the best things about matcha is that it is really versatile. Not only can it be used to make a warm or iced cup of green tea, but it can be used in a variety of different recipes. A great way to enjoy the benefits of matcha is in a smoothie. Stuck for smoothie ideas? Why not try out some of these amazing recipes and see if you can feel the benefit of matcha?

The still tasty basic smoothie
Want something quick and easy to make and delicious to enjoy? If you do, this basic green tea smoothie is great for you.
All you will need is 1 cup of milk (you can choose whatever variety you prefer), 1 banana, 5 ice cubes and 1 teaspoon of matcha.
Blend the banana with the ice cubes and then add the milk and matcha, blending it until it is smooth.

Fruity fresh blueberry and coconut smoothie
Blueberries are known to be a bit of a super fruit, packed full of antioxidants that are known to boost your health and immunity. They are also tasty little beasts! Want to enjoy matcha and blueberry together? A great smoothie idea is to blend 1 cup of frozen blueberries with 1 cup of coconut water, 1 banana, ½ cup of fresh spinach and ½ teaspoon of matcha.
You just need to blend all these ingredients together and you will have a fruity and flavour packed smoothie that you are sure to enjoy.

Immunity boosting green tea and ginger smoothie
There is a reason that ginger is used to treat a variety of different illnesses such as the common cold and arthritis, it is known to be a good boost to your immune system. When used in this smoothie recipe, not only is it great for your health, but it tastes pretty awesome too.
To create this smoothie you need to blend together 1 teaspoon of matcha, 2 tablespoons of ginger (fresh, grated or chopped will be fine), ½ juice from a lime, honey to taste.

The chocoholics matcha smoothie
Do you love a chocolatey treat? This smoothie is a great way to sate your sweet tooth, without worrying about over indulging.
Take 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder, ½ cup of oats, 1 banana sliced, 1 cup of almond milk and 2 teaspoons of matcha powder. Blending them together you will create a sweet and delicious smoothie that you will love to enjoy. You can even add a pinch of vanilla or sea salt if you want to make a delicious alternative flavour.

Here are some ideas for you to create your very own amazing matcha smoothie. There are a variety of different recipes for you to try out there, in fact, you can use matcha as a base to create a wide range of smoothies and drinks that you can enjoy!

NOV
23

How much caffeine is in your tea?

How much Caffeine

A healthy adult should never consume more than 400mg of caffeine every day. But the chances are that you simply do not know how much caffeine you drink. Especially if you are a fan of a variety of different teas. Tea comes in a variety of different forms. Oolong, white, black or green. All of which are different in their flavours. This is thanks to their oxidation which is how the enzymes in the leaves react to the oxygen in the air. It is down to different production processes such as steaming, rolling or firing the leaves. The oxidation process doesn’t have an impact on the amount of caffeine that is in the tea.

So, how much caffeine is actually in your favourite tea? We have put together some of the most common beliefs on the caffeine in tea, and look at whether they are true or not, as well as which tea contains the most caffeine.

White tea is caffeine free

Many people believe that white tea doesn’t contain any caffeine at all. But this isn’t true. White tea contains caffeine in some form, although some varieties have a much lower level. White tea in general contains 15-39mg of caffeine per cup.

Steeping the tea removes the caffeine
This is in part true, however, it would take around 8 minutes to get rid of the caffeine in your favourite cup of tea. This means that you will be likely to have got rid of all of that beautiful flavour too! Not exactly what you will want to achieve when you settle down to enjoy a brew.

Which is the most caffeine rich tea
Want to know how much caffeine is in your favourite cup of tea? Then read on.
    •    Black tea contains around 16-58mg caffeine per cup
    •    White tea contains 15-39mg
    •    Oolong comes with 12-49mg
    •    Fruit and Rooibos are caffeine free

It is important to remember that caffeine isn’t always a bad thing. If you drink below the recommended amount for an adult, then it can help ensure that you stay focused and alert. It is when you reach the levels or go over that you can start to encounter some of the associated problems often seen with caffeine intake.
Here at The Exotic Teapot we are proud to offer a variety of different teas for you to sample. Most of our teas are perfect for everyday drinking, whilst others you will want to save up for a special occasion. No matter when you drink them, one thing is for sure, tea is a delicious treat and a great way to relax and unwind after a stressful day!


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