Saturday 29 April 2017

A Subtle Colour Change

Two months ago, I spent a Sunday revamping my hair colour with my go-to hairdresser, Ellenora. We were able to try out L'Oréal's brand new #Colourfulhair range, a selection of eight bright, semi-permanent, professional colour products designed to provide thousands of different colour options - a huge bonus for those who love to let their colour do the talking (like me!).

I've tried many different shades in the past, but after years of experimentation I've found out that cool tones suit me best, because they complement my cool-toned skin (if you need help on finding out whether you're cool or warm-toned, or neutral, a quick method is to look at the colour of your veins - green = warm, blue = cool, somewhere in between = neutral). This applies to makeup and clothing, too; however, as I see my hair as my best asset, it's important for me to get it right.

With this in mind, Ellenora suggested a mix of dark blue and green shades, and as I trust her expertise, I was happy to go ahead.

My hair was dyed before this experiment, so I had the colour removed using a stripper, followed by a Smartbond treatment to restore moisture and strengthen, before the #Colorfulhair was finally applied. We used Electric Purple (dark, purply blue) and Iced Mint (blue-green) in alternating strips to create the look, and although it wasn't a major change, I really loved how it looked - especially in natural lighting, where the colours were extra vibrant.

Maintaining this look was a lot easier than the saga I've endured with other semi-permanent dyes. I thought this would wash out straight away, but the vibrancy lasted for around six weeks - that at least twelve washes, for me. My routine during this time involved using a professional shampoo, followed by an at-home Smartbond treatment; I then gently towel-dried my hair and applied eight-to-ten pumps of L'Oréal's Mythic Oil to my hair, before blow-drying straight. If I wasn't going anywhere special, I'd leave it at that - however, if I was preparing for an event, I would curl my hair, which made the colour even more vibrant due to the light bouncing off the curls.

Do I prefer this to permanent colour? Probably not. Although I adore the vast range of hues available within the #Colourfulhair range, the fact that the dyes stain everything they touch is a negative for me. I've had to bleach and scrub my shower floor every week, as well as change my pillowcases every couple of days (although I decided that using a sleep cap was far less effort). 

Another downside is that this range is salon-only. If I had short hair, I wouldn't really mind, as I could strip or change the colour as soon as I was bored with it. However, as I have long hair, it's just not cost effective for me to keep getting my hair done at the salon every time I want a colour change. For those of you with shorter hair (especially blondes) who love to change their colour in-salon, I would really recommend #Colorfulhair, as a talented colourist could make some really stunning, out-of-this-world colour combinations!

Monday 17 April 2017

A Great Big National Tea Day GIVEAWAY!

Although many of us rely on a morning coffee to get us through the day, I know very few people who would turn down a cup of tea when offered. There's just something about this drink that seems familiar, comforting and satisfying - after all, we brew a staggering 165 million cups of tea daily in the UK. Perhaps we love tea because of Britain's longstanding involvement in the tea industry, or maybe it's the little kick of caffeine that keeps us awake through the rest of the afternoon - or maybe it's the narcissistic pleasure of having a cuppa brewed to your exact specifications. Whatever the reason, the cup of tea is a Great British tradition, and it feels only right to celebrate it on National Tea Day.

Taking place on 21st April 2017, National Tea Day gives us the chance to recognise why this drink is loved by so many. Whether you'll be drinking your trusty favourite breakfast tea or trying out some new flavours, this nationally recognised event is the perfect chance to make the most of your brew. You could do this by:

1. Treating yourself to a tea-friendly treat

If you're popping by the shops, spend a few extra pennies and treat yourself to your favourite indulgence to pair with the perfect cup of tea. For me, this would definitely be a cinnamon bun (I'm salivating just thinking about it), but for you it might be a luxury pack of biscuits or a slice of cake from the bakery.

2. Booking an afternoon tea

I always seem to enjoy tea more when it's brewing away in a vintage teapot, in the comfort of a relaxed setting, with a plateful of pretty treats. Visit for a comprehensive list of afternoon teas available around the country.

3. Taking part in a tea tasting session

The best way to get to know the different flavours of tea is to try them for yourself! If you're open to trying new brews, book yourself a tea tasting class and learn all about the library of tea that awaits you. There are various tea tasting and brewing classes held across the country, but If you want to go all out, Claridge's hosts the ultimate afternoon tea masterclass for £250.

4. Entering the English Tea Shop's giveaway

Speciality organic tea company EnglishTea Shop is joining the National Tea Day festivities by giving away Luxury Organic Gift Tins to 50 lucky tea fans on their social media channels. The Luxury Organic Collection contains 72 individually wrapped pyramid tea bags and features a diverse range of classics to more unusual herbal varieties. The range includes:

Organic and Fairtrade English Breakfast: A pure Ceylon black tea sure to quench any thirst for a proper English brew
Organic and Fairtrade Earl Grey: A quintessentially British tea delicately flavoured with bergamot
Organic and Fairtrade Green Tea: A delicate and refreshing blend of 100% organic and Fairtrade green tea
Organic and Fairtrade Peppermint: A revitalising and delicious tea packed full of antioxidants
Organic Chocolate, Rooibos & Vanilla: Caffeine free, naturally sweet and antioxidant rich rooibos deliciously blended with vanilla and chocolate notes
Organic Black Tea Chai: Organic black tea entwined with cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and orange peel
Organic Lemongrass, Ginger and Citrus: An understated classic packing a citrus punch! Notes of Lemongrass and citrus infused with a tingle of ginger will refresh any palate
Organic Green Tea Tropical: Made with the finest organic green tea combined with mouth-watering tropical herbs and fruit flavours
Organic Super Berries: A delightful blend of classical herbs and aromatic berries - tastes as delicious as its aroma

All English Tea Shop teas are created using time honoured healthy ingredients. The range includes nature’s most revitalising herbs, spices, fruits and flowers for the most beneficial infusions and naturally cleansing teas. Steeped in tradition by using the finest quality tea leaves and using age-old practises English Tea Shop works with the finest organic and Fairtrade farmers.

The Luxury Organic Gift Tin is available to win on the English Tea Shop Facebook and Twitter channels, all you need to do is comment, re-tweet and follow to be in with a chance to win!

*Sponsored post

Sunday 9 April 2017

What happened when I did a coffee flavour challenge

London Coffee Festival by Jen Lou Meredith

'I am a coffee fanatic. Once you go to proper coffee, you can't go back. You cannot go back' - Hugh Laurie

When I was growing up, I lived in a house where the smell of coffee lingered throughout, all day, every day. My dad was involved in the coffee industry, and often brought back packets of wholebean and ground coffee from London, and samples from his week long trips to Brazil. Our garage was crammed full of boxes, bags and tubs of coffee, and for a child who was only interested in riding her bike (which was, consequently, always trapped behind the mountains of coffee), this was a bit of a hindrance for me.

Whilst some kids in a similar situation grew up to become baristas or, at least, coffee lovers, I despised the stuff. I couldn't understand how adults could drink this hot, brown, bitter liquid, and even more how some adults relied on the stuff. I remember asking my dad about it and he said, 'your tastebuds change over time. Someday, you probably won't like cakes or hot chocolates because they're too sickly sweet, and instead you'll enjoy a nice cup of coffee'. I screwed up my face and disregarded this explanation, telling my dad that I wouldn't ever dislike cakes or hot chocolate. 

Ten or so years later, and I still like my sweet stuff, but I do appreciate coffee a lot more. The smell alone makes me nostalgic, and I really do enjoy my lattes, and the occasional espresso when I go to continental Europe. However, I've always bought my coffee from major brands such as Starbucks and Costa - I never thought to engage myself in the world of the independent barista. I'm sure there are many people like me; we stick to the big brands because it's what we know. What if we tried something from an independent cafe that we didn't like? It might put us off. So we go to our local Bucks and order our daily flat whites because it delivers that same, comforting feeling every single time.

I wanted to remove myself from this routine, and try something that was out of my comfort zone, for once. I was given tickets to this year's London Coffee Festival in Shoreditch, so I decided to go along and expand my knowledge. 

London Coffee Festival by Jen Lou Meredith

Walking into The Old Truman Brewery, I'll admit I was a little intimidated. Here was a huge group of people who know pretty much everything there is to know about coffee, and drink it like it's water. I walked around the entire place once, speeding up a bit when someone looked like they were about to talk to me (hey, I didn't want them to think I was stupid or wonder why I was there), before sitting down at the bar with an espresso martini.

Whilst I was drinking, I thought that everyone here, at some point in their lives, knew nothing about coffee. We all have to start somewhere, whether that's with a cup of Nescafe Original Instant or plunging right into the deep end. 

I finished my drink and, with a little bit more confidence (mostly from the vodka), I walked around the venue again - this time, taking in all that I could. 

I stopped at the Union Hand-Roasted stand. This was a large area where people seemed to be congregating around one bar. I made my way to the front to see what was going on, and was asked if I wanted to take part in a flavour challenge. I was given four cups of black coffee, and asked to match them to four different flavours: Chocolate & Caramel, Fruit, Nuts & Spices, and Citrus & Floral. I don't have a great sense of smell, so unfortunately that part of the challenge was wasted on me - but the tasting part was where the fun really began. I must have changed my mind so many times, rearranging the cups around between tastes to establish the right order, but I just couldn't put my finger on the flavours. I guess I didn't have an experienced palette, so I couldn't quite pick out the details, and I ended up getting just one right - the distinct Citrus & Floral.

My name didn't make it onto the winners chart that hung on the wall, but I did come away having learnt a whole lot about how the location and processing affects the way that coffee tastes.

London Coffee Festival by Jen Lou Meredith

After that minor defeat, I couldn't help but stop by the Latte Art stand. I wanted to visit the stand earlier in the day, but there was a huge crowd blocking my view. That afternoon, there was still a huge crowd (people now seem to have a huge fascination with coffee art thanks to Instagram) but I managed to glimpse the work of an Autralian barista who was demonstrating the well known rosetta design, as well as more challenging techniques.

A volunteer was asked to come behind the bar and try the art for herself, but the milk pretty much blended with the coffee and you couldn't make out the design. Turns out that the baristas make this skill look so much easier than it is, when in reality it requires much more practice than people give credit for.

London Coffee Festival by Jen Lou Meredith

Following this session, I decided that it was time to head to the Hotel Chocolat stand, where I could get my sugar fix. They were handing out 100% cocoa hot chocolates, as well as a brand new white chocolate and vanilla drink - both of which were to die for. No word on the release date for the latter as yet, but as soon as it arrives on shelves I'm going to have to bag myself some! 

In the middle of the room stood a huge statue made from real chocolate: stacks of huge pieces, possibly the size of the average laptop. People were invited to scrape off a bit for themselves to pair with their hot chocolates. I politely declined. Me, being the hygiene freak I am, thought about how long that chocolate had been sitting there and just how many people had touched it. Everybody looked like they were enjoying it, though.

London Coffee Festival by Jen Lou Meredith

Finally, after a good look around the festival, I decided it was time to go home. I was a little overwhelmed with the amount of info I picked up, but I was intrigued at the very least. In a goody bag, I was kindly given a packet of wholebean coffee - which I've now got to find a way to grind and brew! Any suggestions on reasonably priced grinders and coffee makers would be much appreciated!

Sunday 2 April 2017

Healthy Tea? Count Me In!

Now that spring's finally here, and we've fully emerged from winter hibernation, now's the time to start reintroducing fresher and more invigorating flavours to your food and drink to really wake your tastebuds up for the new season. If builder's tea has kept you going throughout the dull weather, your body will thank you for moving away from the heavy stuff and onto lighter herbal and fruit teas instead.

Since November last year, I've been picking up the nearest thing I could find to eat for breakfast - mostly croissants, pan au chocolats, bagels - whatever I could find that I could eat in five minutes on the way to work. However, now that spring's here and the mornings are lighter, I've starting getting up twenty minutes earlier, having prepped some nutritious overnight oats, and using the extra time to indulge in a cup of Heath & Heather tea. 

If you haven't heard of Heath & Heather before, they're stocked in Holland & Barret and they have been producing herbal and infused teas since 1920. I'm currently addicted to their newly released Organic Super Teas range, which comprises five different teas:

  • Organic Energising Morning Time Tea
  • Organic Relaxing Night Time Tea
  • Organic Supportive Root Remedy Tea
  • Organic Detoxing Slim Tea
  • Organic Digestive Super Seeds Tea

What I love about these is that they all have a different purpose, for example, the Energising Morning Time Tea is perfect for waking you up when you're feeling groggy, while the Relaxing Night Time Tea is ideal for times when you need a little help settling down before bed.

I get bored drinking the same tea all the time - one day it'll be English Breakfast, the next day, Rooibus, and the next, Earl Grey - so I'm really loving this selection of teas for its variety. There's literally a tea for every working day of the week!

However, I have developed a liking for the Detoxing Slim Tea. As the name suggests, this metabolism boosting tea is ideal for assisting natural weight loss by aiding bowel movements with fibre, detoxing the gut and curbing food cravings. It tastes like a nutty green tea thanks to its infusion of green yerba mate, guarana seeds and rooibus - so if you like the sound of these ingredients, I recommend giving this tea a go!
© Jen Lou Meredith | All rights reserved.
Blog Design Handcrafted by pipdig