Black Cat Bytes

Tea reviews for the common cat!


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Tea Descendants’ Earthy Rich Aroma Tea

Hello, tea pals! πŸ™‚ It’s nearly time for me to return to the USA! As of late I’ve found myself staring bewildered at my tea shelf quite often, wondering just what in the world I am going to do with all of my tins and loose teas before I go. Some of it will certainly come back with me, but an EPIC sipdown is still necessary if I’m to have room for anything else in my suitcases in only a month’s time. πŸ˜› The more tea I guzzle down, however, the more reviews I’ll scribble down- so it all works out!

Today I’ll be having a look at a rather mysterious tea, “Earthy Rich Aroma“, sent to me by theΒ  lovely folks over at Tea Descendants! ERA (as I shall now call it) came only with a tiny taste description and no brewing guidelines, so I’ll just have to fumble around a bit and hope for the best. I’ve opted to use my push-button glass teapot to extract the most flavor from the tea. Let’s do it!

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The dried leaves smell earthy and toasty, and remind me quite a bit of roasted peanuts! I can’t help but be reminded of hanging out in Comerica Park with my uncle, munching peanuts (shells and all o_O) and watching the Tigers play. Opening Day is only a few weeks away!! WOO! Anywho, since the leaves look so tightly packed, I opted to only put a small amount in the infuser basket since I figured they’d open up and fill the pot after a few good steeps.

My Brewing Method:

1 tsp per 200 mL / 2 minutes first infusion, +1 minute for subsequent infusions / 212 F 100 C

1st Infusion

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Interesting! The brewed tea smells of wet leaves, almost like stuffed grape leaves!! Not something I have ever experienced from a tea before, leaving me quite intrigued and very hungry for some Greek food. πŸ˜› The taste is a far cry from the peanuttiness of the dried leaves – it’s really buttery and thick, and leaves a faint, sweetly floral and leafy aftertaste.

2nd Infusion

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The 2nd steep results in a taste that is still buttery and leafy, though this time with a slightly smokey aftertaste! The taste remains thick and full without any astringency, but I am starting to feel a bit thirsty after each sip, like I’m eating something salty! The peanuts appear to be making a sneaky comeback afterall! πŸ˜›

3rd Infusion

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The brew is a lot lighter this time! Reminds me of a clementine, yum! The taste is still leafy and buttery, though not nearly as distinctive as in previous infusions, and with a slight astringent aftertaste that sticks to the back of one’s throat. I’m glad for the respite from saltiness, but I think it might be time to put this tea to bed. πŸ˜›

Thoughts

ERA feels like a tiny meal in itself, so much so that you may wish to have a little glass of water near you during your tea session.Β The savory, salty flavor profile of this tea is one that is best sought out for the chilly, dark days of winter. It tastes a bit too heavy for me now, but I can certainly appreciate when I would be in the mood for these types of flavors- like after spending an hour in the cold shoveling snow, perhaps! πŸ˜› Hopefully.. that won’t be for a while yet. Bring on the sunshine!!!!

Thanks again to Tea Descendants for sending me a sample of Earthy Rich Aroma for review!

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Curious Tea’s Xue Ya Snowbud White Tea -February 2016

Hello, tea friends!! It’s been a crazy last few weeks! My parents came across the ocean for the first time ever to come visit us in London! I got engaged! I’m trying to find a flat to rent in London for one month that will not cost us an arm and a leg! O_O Exciting times! πŸ˜› My life’s been pretty flip-turned upside down at the moment, but in the happiest way! I haven’t had much time to sit down and properly enjoy a good cuppa lately, but I’ve realized that it is something I must make time for. Let’s get back to the relaxation, shall we?

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Today I’m going to be having a look at Curious Tea‘s Xue Ya Snowbud, a white tea offered in their February 2016 subscription box. This will be the first white tea I’ve ever had from Curious Tea, and given the heaving mass of black tea varities I’ve begun unintentionally hoarding as of late, drinking something different is quite a relief. πŸ™‚

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The leaves are light and floofy, with just the right bit of fuzz that gives the snowbud variety its name, and have a rather vegetal, corny scent. Not entirely expected, based on packet’s description! Interesting :o~

I’ve decided to brew up this tea with my cute little speedy gaiwan-like button pitcher thing, so I’ll be using slightly modified brewing instructions:

70 C / 158 F – 2 tsp per 150 mL – 40 second initial steep with 20 second increments after

First Steep

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As the tea brews, a sweet, grassy fragrance rises up from the leaves. There’s a bit of corn tagging along as well! The first sip has a slightly syrupy mouthfeel, but tastes light and fresh-Β  a nutty and lightly floral flavor with playful hints of peachy sweetness that linger on the tongue. This tea is so refreshing, with no astringency at all.

Second Steep

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Look at these gorgeous leaves ooomgggg

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The brew is a bit darker this time- a mysterious limey amber color! As the color darkens, the taste strengthens as well: now a bit toasty with stronger floral notes and some astringency. Noooo~ However, there is still that little tease of peachiness in the aftertaste that taunts me to learn to keep a closer eye on my steep timer πŸ˜› Every second counts when you’re brewing gongfu style, seriously! Blargh. Let’s try one more time~

Third Steep

Ohhh yes, yes yes yes- the brew is lighter this time! Success! I forgot to take a picture of the brew color because I was too busy first marveling at the beautiful leaves again, and after, just drinking the tea! πŸ˜› This tea is so sweet and grassy, and I’ve finally managed to pull out the brunt of that peach flavor that has eluded me up to this point. The drink is so smooth, with all of that toasty and corni..ness.. gone at last. It warms my senses- not in an overwhelming or nauseating way, but similar to how a light cotton blanket might protect you from lazy gusts of wind on a beach somewhere. I quiver with delight at the thought ❀

Curious Tea’s Snowbud is a lovely embodiment of spring time, breezy and sweet, with all the exciting promise of beautiful things to come. πŸ™‚ You’ve gotta be careful getting your steep times right (short, multiple steeps are your friend! corny taste (in my opinion) is not!), but if you treat this tea lovingly and brew the leaves as many times as possible, you’ll end up with quite a pleasant taste adventure. πŸ˜› I’m grateful to have had my spirits lifted by this delicate tea on such a gloomy (typical) London day.

Great pick as usual, Curious Tea! πŸ™‚

 

Til next time! ❀

Robin

 


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Jollybrew’s Rhubarb and Custard Black Tea

Good day, tea folk! Hope January has treated you well and that you are all looking forward to a sweet Valentine’s Day. πŸ™‚ The weather here in London has been rather frightening as of late! Windy and spooky and stormy, feels more like Halloween than nearly spring! But not to worry! All of this bad juju is simply water off a duck’s back for me, as I’ve been keeping happy and cozy with Jollybrew’s Rhubarb and Custard tea! ‘Rhubarb and Custard?’ I hear you say, ‘Robin, how British of you! I am intrigued!’ Read on, friend. Read on. πŸ˜›

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Good gravy pancakes, the scent of this blend is exquisite- Jollybrew has nailed the scent of custard so well here, with just a tiny kick of tart rhubarb. A quick whiff instantly teleports me to my boyfriends’ parents’ house, where a steaming bowl of rhubarb crumble smothered in custard is seated in front of me after a belly-busting Sunday roast.

Brewing Guidelines: 100 C/ 212 F | 2 tsp per 250 mL | 3-5 minutes

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Just as I had hoped, this blend tastes like vanilla custardy heaven, with a teensey bit of smokiness from what I assume is from the base black tea blend. The flavor is simple, warming, and authentic, and I heartily recommend taking a deep whiff from the surface of the brew before taking a sip in order to allow your senses to fully indulge in this tea.

As much as I adore the flavor and scent of this tea, I don’t get quite as much of a rhubarb kick from the brew as I would like. However, I understand balancing a flavor as savory and sweet as custard with the zippy, tangy rhubarb is rather hard to achieve with a black tea base. Might there possibly be room for a tisane or white tea version of this blend in the future? That’d be awesome! But, if not, this blend is still a lovely sweet treat and a great, guilt-free way to indulge in the evenings as the wind howls and stirs outside.

 

Tea sample sent to me by the lovely folks at Jollybrew for review. Thanks guys!

 


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TG Green Teas Review/Giveaway

Hello, teafriends! I have series of three byte-sized reviews for you today, along with the first ever giveaway I’ll be featuring on this blog! Yay! πŸ™‚ This post is made possible by my fantastic friends at TG Teas, to help celebrate the opening of their online tea shop!

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These could be yours!! *drumroll*

More details on the contest will be made available at the end of this post. First, I encourage you to read my tiny reviews of the three loose leaf varieties TG Green Tea currently offers:

Green Tea

Brewing Guidelines: 80C, 2-3 minute steep time

Ingredients: Green Tea

Whenever I have bagged loose-leaf green tea lying around, I can almost guarantee it is what I will reach for the most when I’m looking for a quick cuppa above anything else I have. Therefore, it is quite important to be that that green tea be delicious! πŸ˜› TG’s Green Tea fits the bill nicely- it is a simple, unassuming blend of Chinese green tea leaves with a toasted, nutty taste and sweet finish, and I love to dose it with a touch of honey when brewed both hot and cold to balance out the earthy flavors. Delicious! πŸ™‚

Jujube & Osmanthus:

Brewing Guidelines: 80 C, 2-3 minute steep time

Ingredients: Green tea, Jujube Fruit, Osmanthus Flower

Having never tasted osmanthus flower or jujube in my life, I was definitely curious (and admittedly a bit cautious!) when trying this tea. The results were both surprising and soothing: the brew retains a strong toasty, savory quality from the green tea leaves with a light touch of fruity, cherry-like taste from the jujube berries, while the osmanthus flower contributes to the sweet, light aftertaste. I’m so pleased with the natural flavor of this tea- the green tea is the star of the show, while the jujube and osmanthus bits offer playful hints of springtime sweetness that really round out the body of the brew. This is a great morning or evening brew!

Ginger & Lemon Zest:

Brewing Guidelines: 80C, 2-3 minute steep time

Ingredients: Green Tea, Ginger, Lemon Peel

Yowza!! Just the scent of this tea’s dried leaves pack a serious, zingy punch! The brewed cup is just as fragrant with a serious emphasis on ginger goodness. The taste of the tea actually isn’t as intense as I was expecting, but to me, I actually find this to be a relief. As it should be, the taste of the green tea is most prevalent with an added citrus zing from the lemon pieces, while the bite of the ginger remains as an aftertaste warm on my tongue between sips. Sometimes I find the intense flavors and scents of most lemon & ginger teas to be a bit overpowering, especially given the fact usually the only time I really reach for them is when I have a sensitive stomach. It just seems like a bit of a contradiction! However, I believe TG’s Lemon & Ginger variety is the perfect marriage of the potency of lemon and ginger with the smoothness of green tea so that the ingredients bolster each other, rather than one masking the other. I can just imagine how comforting it would be to sip this tea if I was curled up in bed with the flu, though I hope I won’t be able to confirm that anytime soon. πŸ˜›

Contest is now closed! Thanks to everyone for playing! πŸ™‚


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Tea From Vietnam’s Ta Oolong Tea

I’ve found myself drowning in an endless ocean of black tea these days. Not as if that’s an entirely terrible thing, but something about the bleakness of northern winters makes me reach for a deep, malty honey black brew time and time again. After doing a bit of rummaging around in my stash to find something that wasn’t black tea, I was pleasantly surprised to find this pristine packet of Tea From Vietnam’s Ta Oolong Tea nestled in the back of my shelf. A beautiful image of an orchid gracefully adorns the sachet; the tea promises the luscious scent of the exotic flower, and a mellow, creamy taste. Dearest Ta, please take me away to springtime and sweet garden blossoms!! My body is ready!!

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The tiny emerald spheres carry a toasty, sweet, and nutty scent- I’m not quite getting the floral notes yet, but I am perfectly happy with what I can smell!

Brewing Guidelines: 85 C – 1 tsp per 250 mL – 3-4 minutes

Ohhh my gosh I wish I had a glass gaiwan to watch these little guys unfurl. As I type this, I’m allowing the tea to steep with the teapot lid off because I just love to watch the way tightly rolled leaves toss and turn as they return to life. After the first steeping, the leaves are still rather curled and compact, so I know this tea has a lot more to give in future infusions.

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A little poorly illustrated.. but you can sorta see the way the leaves are twitching to life! Maybe I should start making little gifs to put in my reviews? πŸ˜›

My first whiff of the brew is quite similar to the scent of the dried leaves, nutty goodness, and I still can’t get any of that flowery scent I was promised. Darn! The tea brews up a lovely gentle amber color, with a subtleness I did not entirely expect from such densely compacted, dark leaves. Oolong teas never cease to surprise me!

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WOW. Speaking of surprising! The brew is an endless bounty of flavors to be enjoyed: upon my first sip, I could taste that strong nutty note I was anticipating, though I also tasted a potent earthy, cinnamon flavor and finally got a glimpse of some floral sweetness as a mellow aftertaste accompanied by the faintest hint of astringency. Subsequent steeps really emphasize that cinnamon flavor that I am now officially obsessed with. I don’t think I’ve ever brewed a tea, even a flavored one, with such a rich and authentic cinnamon taste. Haha! It seems like no matter what tea I brew, I can’t seem to stray far from winter flavors πŸ˜‰ Not that I’m complaining!

After the second infusion, the leaves have expanded to the point they’re bursting out of the top of the infuser basket! That incredible cinnamon flavor of the first steeping has diminished, though the floral notes of the brew have strengthened with a sweeter, slightly licorice aftertaste. The leaves clearly have quite a lot more to give, but for the sake of leaving this review short and sweet, I’ll leave the remaining steeps to your imagination. πŸ˜›

Ta Oolong is actually a bit more expensive than most teas I review (but is certainly still VERY affordable, I’m just a bit of an ol’ miser!), but the incredible bouquet of flavors and high quality, whole leaves that allow for multiple infusions are well worth the price tag. I’d say this tea perfectly embodies the transition period we’re in as we finish winter and eagerly await the spring- the cinnamon flavor might remind one of happy Christmas memories, while the sweet floral notes that emerge with further infusions bring the happy promise of April showers and May flowers.

Ta for now!!

..you know I’ve wanted to write that since I first sat down to write this blog.

Love you all πŸ˜‰

Many thanks to Tea From Vietnam for providing this sample for review!


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Jollybrew’s Super Spiffing Strawberry Black Tea

It’s certainly been a while since I last reviewed a flavored tea! Like many tea enthusiasts, I think I’m quite cautious of them, especially with abundance of the incredible tasting straight teas I’ve been enjoying as of late. If the tea leaf ain’t broken, why fix it?

However, when I first viewed the photo and description of Jollybrew’s Super Spiffing Strawberry, I was intrigued.While the tea admittedly contains natural flavorings, it also boasts pieces of real strawberry and papaya fruit, as well as lime and blackberry leaves. Papaya and lime leaves, huh? Sounds so tropical and lush! …and into my shopping cart it went. πŸ˜›

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Lovely, isn’t it? The leaf quality is what I would expect for a flavored tea at this price point, but those papaya chunks are numerous and I love how I can see the seeds in the strawberry pieces as well. The smell of this tea may just be my favorite thing about it- it smells so REAL! Beautiful, luscious strawberries, plump with goodness at the peak of summer. Any reservations you might have about flavored teas will disappear the second you get a whiff of Super Strawberry, I promise you. πŸ™‚

Brewing Guidelines | 100 C : 1 tbs per 200 mL : 3-5 minutes

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The scent of Super Strawberry continues to blossom while the blend steeps, making for a serious feast of the senses! The strawberry flavoring with each sip isn’t quite as strong as the aroma, allowing for the natural flavor of the tea to shine through as well. Jollybrew doesn’t indicate what specific type of black tea this is, but I’d venture a guess it’s a blend of Ceylon/Assam teas. Crisp and malty with a light bit of astringency in the aftertaste. A solid base!

Honestly what draws me back to this tea to brew up after cup would have to be its scent. It astonishes me that Jollybrew was able to so masterfully replicate such an idealized bouquet of fresh strawberries.. it brings a happy gust of summertime to my senses that I cannot get enough of. Honestly, I really cannot see how this blend could be improved upon- this is easily only strawberry black tea anyone will ever need in their cupboards. Seriously, Jollybrew, well done.

Check out Super Spiffing Strawberry for yourself!

Happy drinking! πŸ™‚


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Tea From Vietnam’s Fish Hook Green Tea

Hello friends! πŸ™‚ Happy New Year! I hope you’ve had a lovely festive season, and wish you a happy 2016. One of my new year’s resolutions is to focus on drinking more tea (something about living in London has gotten me hooked on Coca Cola, ugh), so I’m looking forward to filling this year with delicious and healthy iced and hot teas! To kick things off on this most happy New Year’s Day, I will be having a look at Tea From Vietnam’s Fish Hook tea.

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According to the packaging, Fish Hook earned its name from a simple description of its unique appearance. Pretty accurate, I’d say! The leaves are delicate, fluffy, and have a strong vegetal scent with a fresh citrus finish.

Brewing Guidelines: 80 C | 2 minutes | 2 tsp per 200 mL

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Oh my goodness, look at that beautiful spring green color! So lovely and calming- this tea is working wonders on me before I even have my first sip. πŸ™‚ The brew tastes far more delicate than the scent of the leaves first hinted, with a grassy, buttery taste and a delightfully sweet finish that lingers long on your tongue.

The sweetness of this tea inspires slow, thoughtful tasting, and inevitably the brew has cooled rather significantly by the time I’ve finished the pot; however, the tea becomes especially refreshing once it’s hit room temperature. I cannot wait to try Fish Hook iced in the summertime- I can imagine taking it with me to the beach, beads of condensation dripping lazily down the walls of the jar as I sip and happily let the waves tickle my feet. Perfection! πŸ™‚

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I can’t get over how much I love the look of these leaves! I feel like I should have them for lunch as a little salad! I may have to look into that. πŸ˜›

To me, Fish Hook embodies everything I believe a green tea should be- refreshing, light, and with a simple flavor profile. It is the essence of spring and summertime, and inspires relaxation and fun. Get your swimsuits ready! Warm weather will be upon us before you know it. πŸ™‚

 

Many thanks to Tea From Vietnam for providing this sample for review!