Life’s rich tapestry means that all of us have more than one passion. Boxing and ballet. Rowing and rockabilly. Archery and anal…hopefully not at the same time. I am no different. My achilles heels are TEA – if the astute amongst you hadn’t already guessed – and big, fat, juicy PENS. Plus anything remotely pen paraphernalia related, excluding those with ‘is’ on the end (work it out). Those of you who follow me on Instagram have probably suspected this for a while, as I have surreptitiously mashed up pics of cuppas with gratuitous stationery porn. So, to embrace my love of sipping whilst scribbling and truly embody my nickname of ‘Pauline Pens’ in the Witchy household, welcome to my new monthly feature: Steep & Stationery.
What is it?
S&S (desperately tried to cram in an ‘M’ to that acronym) is a once a month feature on the blog where I pair up three of my favourite teas from that month with three of my favourite stationery items. Whether that be fountain pens, inks, paper, pencil cases, journals…if I can stick a pen in it, it is fair game. Think similar to lifestyle bloggers’ ‘monthly favourites’ without the make up, irritatingly perfect backdrops and patronising presenter.
Why are you doing it?
Sorry, didn’t I make it clear above that I bum tea AND pens? I want to legitimise my orchestration of BREW-PEN ORGIES. In all seriousness though, many readers who follow me on PictureBragBook AKA Instagram have shown an interest in the analogue tools I use to write my tea reviews. I want to share my second love alongside my first, and see if the stationery community are as receptive to awkward puns, x-rated language and good, honest reviews when compared to liberal tea drinkers.
But I only like tea. Won’t I want to stab my eyes with matchsticks when the pens make an appearance?
Chill your mugs. There will still be tea. Shit tons of it. It will just be mixing with new inky friends. And not the annoying hipster friends with top knots, a philosophy degree and a cult-esque love of coffee that make you feel crap about yourself. No. Our tea will be hanging out with awesome pen friends who also love Game of Thrones, boardgames and eating carrot cake at 1am to celebrate the arrival of the weekend. Trust me, you’ll enjoy it; you might even find you are inspired to pick up a mark making tool whilst you are waiting for your cuppa to brew, rather than picking your nose and eating it like you normally do.
Alright. I’ll stick with it for a month. as long as you promise not to insert pens where they aren’t wanted?
…can’t promise that one. Soz.
And so, te-pe friends, herein begins the first Steep & Stationery of the year! Let me know what you think.
My first delightful couple this month is not Kanye and Kim K, but Tea Leaf London’s No.8 Rooibos Blend and my trusty stealth pen, the Lamy Al-Star Matte Black. Let’s start with the cuppa – baby steps after all.
The delectable Katya and Darren at TLL sent me a much needed care package as I took on the temporary identity as a 60 a day jazz singer named Desiree…or more specifically spent two weeks in bed with the worst chest infection of my life. Their No.8 was the the first cuppa I cracked open to ease the phantom elephant sat on my chest, and boy did it hit my tea-spot. Combining South African rooibos with plum pieces and cinnamon (plus slick packaging), this rapidly became my go to dessert replacement in the latter half of January. The quali-tea of the ingredients shone through as the rooibos was so rich, earthy and full bodied, and the overall blend tasted mind-blowingly FRESH. Both literally and in the youff rhyming patois meaning ‘rather excellent new stuff’. Juxtaposed against the deep, fruity flavours of plum, TLL’s No.8 is the most interesting, well blended and original rooibos I have tasted in a long time. Watch this space for a full review of my TLL haul soon.
On now to our first stationery item. Those of a nervous or stubborn ‘I’m only going to read about the bloody tea’ disposition, may look away now.
My go to writing wand of choice this month has been my gangsta looking Lamy Al-Star with an EF nib, inked up with the delicious turquoise of Pelikan Edelstein Topaz. (For my tea readers, I appreciate that sounds like Klingon to you. Basically means, ‘nice pen with very thin sticky end and a funky coloured ink.’ Stay with me.) Firstly, I think this pen is FIT. It looks sleek and mean in its understated matte black, and balances well in the hand that makes for an enjoyable writing experience. Secondly, the EF nib is smooth to write with despite being tighter than a badger’s arsehole, and can even cope with my handwriting size, technically referred to as ‘Borrower sized’. Finally, DAT INK THO! Pelikan Edelstein Topaz is just the right size of turquoise that you can use it at work without being considered an outlandish stationery Liberace, but has enough shading to make one swoon with delight whilst writing with it. No? Just me? Moving on…
Second up as a favourite brew this month is – begrudgingly – a Dorset Breakfast Blend tea bag (don’t lynch me). Following my week of teabagging, I found myself coming back for more of this spritely, fruity and more-ishly malty breakfast blend to the point that I had to buy a box. AN ACTUAL BOX OF TEA SACS. Excuse me whilst I scrub myself raw with tea leaves whilst being whipped with infusers. You can read more about my shock tea bag conversion here, but safe to say, Dorset Breakfast Blends are my go to ‘I cannot take this Gantt Chart any more’ brew on my desk at work.
My next stationery item that I crushed hard for in January is Tomoe River Paper – big thanks to Tony at Pocket Notebooks for hooking me up with sample sheets to rub all over my naked…desk. Yes, my desk. Tomoe River Paper is thinner than a ‘skin feel’ Durex, yet can take fountain pen ink incredibly well with minimal show through on t’other side and a smooth feel when writing. It is the same paper found in my Hobonichi Techo journal that I post pictures of on Insta, where I write quotes and pretend to be more enlightened than a sexually frustrated 14 year old boy. Although, I don’t think I’m convincing anyone. Anyway, I can’t believe that something so delicate and thin takes such a heavy pen bashing. Much like Keira Knightley.
My third and final pairing for January is T2’s New York Breakfast Tea and Wick and Hide’s monthly ink subscription. Thank you to Reece from W&H for sending me a complimentary sample – look at me sounding like a proper profesh blogger and that!
It’s no secret that my love for T2’s NY Breaky knows no bounds, from the moment it was served up to me in latte form by a flame haired goddess in T2’s Tottenham Court Road store, to mourning the end of my box as it ran out on January 27th. Yes, I remember the date. You can imagine my joy, delight and inappropriate display of affection when my BFF Nick brought up a fresh box on a recent visit from the Big Smoke. One of my top teas of 2015, this gorgeous black tea, vanilla and cinnamon blend tastes like liquid maple syrup pancakes/molten sex. A cup of this in the morning is more regular, ritualistic and required than snogging my other half before leaving the house in the morning. Yep, THAT good that I snub the love of my life to taste its irresistible nectar.
I’ve also been enjoying inky fingers this month by trying out different shades of ink in my burgeoning, beloved but bombastically embarrassing pen collection. What better way to look like I have aggressively fingered a Crayola crayon than ordering a swathe of ink samples to try (or more accurately, spill everywhere). Wick and Hide were kind enough to indulge me in this by sending across a taster of their February ink sample box.
£8 for five decent quality inks is a pretty good deal compared to Big Wig pen retailers who offer the same service for £10-£30. The inks provided were appropriately themed for the day that capitalism laughs at us for believing in its invention: Valentine’s Day. Three of the five inks provided were stunning – see my picture below for a closer look. Unfortunately the other two – namely Diamine Red Lustre and Pelikan Ruby – will remain enigmas as they exploded in the postal bag on the way to me. Nevertheless, I had great fun pretending that I had got a little too friendly with a pen on its period. Always a silver lining.
Packaging issues aside, Wick and Hide ink samples are a great way for fountain pen enthusiasts to explore new colours without shelling out for a whole bottle of ink, or holding the postman to ransom when waiting for ink samples to be delivered from the USA. Use the code WICK01 to try some for a 20% discount, or treat yourself to some candles for your cuppa date nights instead.
Now then, that wasn’t too painful was it? We’ve had a lovely chat about tea and introduced some nice, new inky friends who weren’t THAT loud, brash or casually racist. What d’ya reckon, should we hang out with them again next month?