Essential oils are hard to produce, and they grow their own. That's a massive deal. They smell amazing. I’m so excited!
You ‘survived’ Veganuary together and feeling healthier and happier you have extended your pact to enjoy a meat free diet for the rest of the year. But the next big challenge is find something extra-special to imbibe this Valentine’s Day.
So you were never a great fan of Milk Tray, but nonetheless the challenge of buying a cruelty free gift is a little harder this year. So in place of a dozen red roses - which have a low originality score and high carbon footprint - we suggest nine blooming nice presents.
But you’re not going to just take our word for it - so we have instigated a special quasi-peer review process with two anonymous independent testers who will give their personal view of each of ideas. The first is a mother of two from Devon and the second is studying a PhD in romantic literature in London.
We can’t think of a better way of waking up on Valentine’s than with a luxury tea. Newby London, the luxury tea makers, have brought out a three even more luxurious boxes of their brews. Our favourite is the Dutch Roses Edition: Silken Pyramid Selection Box. The company says: “The three editions each overflow with four luxury blends of Newby’s award-winning Silken Pyramids, individually wrapped in dazzling sachets.” Our first tester says: “They are delicious.” Our second tester days: “It would make a perfect breakfast in bed.”
The multi-billion pound cosmetics industry will make a fortune at Valentine’s but in almost all cases make-up is unlikely to put a smile on the face of an ethical consumer. But there are exceptions, and we have found them. Neek is a small vegan brand with a big grin, and we’ve tested its new Mystify and kiss me kiss me lipsticks.
The company says: “Like all the lipsticks in our range, kiss me kiss me is 100 percent natural and vegan. It's nourishing base of shea butter, jojoba and avocado oils keeps your lips hydrated, while the natural micas and pigments makes your pout pop.” Our first tester said: “This is a brilliant company and the lipsticks are free from everything bad. It’s subtle and a little waxy.” Our second tester said: “This would make an extremely thoughtful gift”.
We’re sticking with the morning makeup routine for now. And we’ve been testing the Face Brush Kit with four brushes from So Eco. It seems completely strange to us that other companies would pluck the hair from a badger - who we presume relies on it quite heavily - to produce a makeup brush which is not so essential. But apparently that’s the way things are. We tried out the four brush Face Kit.
The company says: “So Eco is a range of ‘eco-friendly’ makeup brushes, with the unique emphasis on components being 100 percent responsibly and ethically sourced”. Our first tester said: “These are completely vegan. Wow. It's very very hard to get vegan brushes. It's not made of badger hair. I would rate that 11 out of 10. It's really good value for money.” Our second tester said: “I don’t use makeup everyday and I didn’t realise a brush would be made from animals - but now I am this would be a great gift for me.”
Time for elevenses and what better than another new tea? Valentine’s is about indulgence and perfection, and that’s what we found with Jing teas. Our favourite is the 30g Matcha Japanese Green Tea. The company says: “Our teas are always direct from the source and, by having such strong relationships on the ground, we’re able to secure some of the best of Asia’s teas. Our authentic Matcha is a wonderful grade of this tea – sweet, creamy and without a hint of bitterness.” Our first taster says, “This is extremely high quality, the best I have tasted”. The second taster said: “I absolutely love tea, and I thought I had tried everything. But this is really special”.
Lunch on Valentine’s may be a fancy meal out. But it's even better if it is fancy chocolate. The Cadbury family are world famous for making chocolate but James has gone on his own adventure into the most refined of markets. His company, Love Cocoa does 80g Organic Dark Chocolate and Maldon Sea Salt Organic Dark Chocolate, among many varieties. Our source tells us Love Cocoa is “reinventing chocolate classics with a contemporary touch being free-from: refined sugars, gluten, palm oil and other nasties. They also donate 10% of their profits to charity.” Our first tester said: “It’s lovely - but perhaps not salty enough”. Our second taster said: “It’s crunchy and then slowly you get a wonderful wave of flavour.”
Chocolate for lunch. And chocolate for dinner. It’s Valentine’s. Divine Chocolate is becoming ubiquitous. It has launched 70 percent Dark Chocolate Hearts for Valentine’s. And it’s approach to producing chocolate is still unique. The Kuapa Kokoo farmers’ co-operative in Ghana owns 45 percent of the company and is represented on the board. The company says, “In autumn 1998, Divine, the first ever farmer-owned Fairtrade chocolate bar aimed at the mass market was launched onto the UK confectionery market. In an exciting new business model, the co-operative of cocoa farmers in Ghana own shares in the company making the chocolate bar.” Our first tester said: “My favourite”. The second tester said: “It’s warm, deep, smooth, complex, fruity and sumptuous”.
We have not exactly recommended a balanced diet for Valentine’s day so far, but being healthy is often the very reason people go vegan. And hearing endlessly that you might be lacking this or that vitamin can get seriously dull. So for the health conscious loved one, you could always try Garden of Life’s MyKind Organics Vegan D3 Organic Spray. The company says, “The Vegan D3 Organic Spray offers a potent and active form of vitamin D for the body from organic and Non- GMO Project Verified sources. And, since Vitamin D3 is a fat-soluble vitamin, Vegan D3 delivered in a lipid base of organic pumpkin seed oil and organic cranberry seed oil for better absorption.” Our first tester says, “This is extremely exciting and looks wonderful for your health.” The second tester said: “I am deeply sceptical about any health claim, including vitamin supplements. And I am not a scientist. But the ingredients do seem impressive. This is a gift that says someone really cares.”
And then for a nightcap. The Small Batch Victoria Pink Gin from Gin Lane 1751 is gin. But it is also juniper, orris root, Seville oranges, angelica, Sicilian lemon, star anise, cassia bark and coriander. And they claim this is the “only authentically-made Pink Gin on the market”. The company says: “Created by The Bloomsbury Club, Gin Lane 1751 is a quintessentially Victorian style of gin, with a bold, juniper-rich profile. Small-batched distilled in Clapham, London, Gin Lane 1751 is a ‘gin for gin lovers’.” Tester one tells us: You have to dwell on how smooth, warming and fruity it is.” Tester two says: “The bottle is beautiful, the label is beautiful and the gin is beautiful. This really is an ideal Valentine’s gift.”
The perfect Valentine’s evening. Candle light. Classical music. Massage oil. And we think Indigo Botanicals has made the perfect massage oil. We have 100ml of Aromatherapy Massage Oil Erotic Spice for Men and Aromatherapy Massage Oil Intimate Bliss for Women. The Indigo Herbs website says of the men’s: “This aromatherapy oil blend is a wonderful mix of the seductive essential oils of Ylang ylang, the uplifting Bergamot, the exotic Cinnamon and the stimulating Black pepper.” And the women’s: “This aromatherapy oil blend is a wonderful mix of the seductive Ylang ylang, fruity and uplifting Bergamot, sweet and mellow Fennel and Aphrodite's own plant Myrtle.” Tester one says, “Essential oils are hard to produce, and they grow their own. That's a massive deal. They smell amazing. I’m so excited.” Tester two says: “The smells are enveloping and deeply stimulating.”
Price: £6.99 each.