Black Cat Bytes

Tea reviews for the common cat!


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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! 😛 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. 🙂

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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-  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 😛 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! 😛 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. 🙂 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. 😛 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! 🙂

 

Til next time! ❤

Robin

 


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Curious Tea’s December 2015 Subscription Box

Hi guys! A slightly belated Merry Christmas to you all! Now that the holiday season is (nearly) over, it’s time to settle back into our comfy chairs, enjoy a nice hot cuppa, and wait for winter to finish its tyrannical reign of.. curiously mild weather.. hmmm 😛 Screw it, let’s brew up some tea anyway!

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Today I’ll be having a look at Curious Tea‘s December mixed subscription box, featuring Dian Hong Black Pagoda and King Ginseng Oolong. At first glance, both sound like they have the potential to be seriously intense teas based on the rather imposing sound of their names, but only time (and a few sips) will tell their true nature! Let’s get started! 🙂

King Ginseng Oolong

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The appearance of this tea reminds me quite a bit of a Tie Guan Yin with it’s cute little tightly-wrapped balls of emerald goodness. KGO smells powerfully fruity and sweetly floral, a rather peculiar profile I have never found in a tea before! Pardon the cheesey phrase, but it’s like.. a full- bodied tropical bouquet of scents! Candied flowers and luscious fruits! A little research on Curious Tea’s blog reveals this particular tea is made using high grade milk oolong leaves specially infused with small amounts ginseng, hence its name. No wonder KGO seems so unique!

Brewing Guidelines: 80 C : 1 tsp per 250 mL : 3-5 minute steep time

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With my first sip, the taste of candied flowers is most prevalent with a slight grassy taste following behind. As expected, the flavor is highly potent, though it is actually a bit sour as well! A second steeping yields a highly similar flavor profile, though a bit more sour and with an added licorice aftertaste. I believe this tea is best enjoyed in small, thoughtful sips, and paired with a sweet treat on the side- leftover Christmas cookie, perhaps? 😉  The unique, powerful taste of these leaves will command your attention and admittedly may take a bit of getting used to.

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KGO is exactly the kind of tea I want to receive in a tea subscription box- a bit weird with unique flavor, and of unmistakably high quality- something I would never be able to source on my own. Awesome! 🙂

Dian Hong Black Pagoda

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WOW! I hadn’t checked the description of this tea before I opened the packet, and was actually a bit startled by the appearance of the leaves when I first looked inside! I thought they might be tiny creatures!! 😛 In any case, the unique shape of these leaves (achieved by tying them together into tower shapes before allowing them to dry during the roasting process) makes it quite easy to measure them out for a great brew! The tiny towers smell of sweet honey and brown sugar, nearly like bubble tea tapioca pearls… mmmm ❤

Brewing Guidelines: 100 C : 1 tower per 250 mL : 4-5 minutes

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The leaves are startlingly beautiful as they unfurl, and I am so excited by the fact I can enjoy what is basically a blooming tea flower actually made from high quality leaves!

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Dang, these towers get absolutely huge once they’ve steeped for the appropriate time! Based on the rather imposing, sprawling nature of the leaves, I expected the brew to have just as intense a taste… but I was completely wrong! Black Pagoda has an simple and delicate flavor profile with faint notes of honey and a lightly spiced aftertaste- that’s it! I cowered in front of the towers for no reason, it seems. 😛 The more I sip, the more the sweetness of the honey shines through, and the taste of the brew remains light. Not what I was expecting at all! Another wonderfully unique selection from Curious Tea. 🙂

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I immensely enjoyed Curious Tea’s selections for their December box- both had most surprising flavors and allowed me to enjoy brews I would never probably choose for myself. As always, their blog post was wonderfully informative and made me feel intimately familiar with and appreciative of these teas and the processes that shaped them.

Check out Curious Tea’s website here!


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Tea Subscription Service Review: Curious Tea

Howdy ya’ll! Today I’ll be taking a look at a new tea subscription service, Curious Tea! Cue and lights and dancing! With so many tea subscriptions popping up left and right these days, does Curious stand out? Read on and find out! 😛1eSXO4am_400x400 Each month, Curious Tea offers a variety of teas in the choice of a “dark” (black, pu-erh, dark oolong), “light” (white, green, light oolong), or mixed box for customers to choose from. Each box contains two 50g samples of your preferred type of tea, packaged in resealable pouches, along with small tasting cards for you to write your personal tasting experiences on. In order to get a feel for the range of Curious’ blends, I chose the mixed box, and was sent a sample of Jasmine Pearls and Golden Monkey King tea. Now, for the fun bit! 🙂

Jasmine Pearl Tea

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I LOVE the smell of jasmine tea, and for me, the fullness of the scent is the first indication of the quality of the brew the leaves will produce. The scent of these pearls was so strong and well-rounded (buh-dum-tsh!), it instantly reminded me of the insanely addictive jasmine bubble tea I used to buy from a shop near my university in between classes. So fragrant.. so.. intoxicating.. @_@ Phew, anyway!

Brew Temperature: 80° C

Leaf Amount/Steep Time: 2 tsp/1 minute per 100mL of water

1st Infusion

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The pearls opened quickly, and watching them was a sheer joy- like witnessing a million tiny flowers bloom at once. I also noticed a distinct lack of stems in the unfurled leaves, a low-quality filler producers will sometimes attempt to hide in pearl teas. More points to Curious Tea! 🙂

The resulting brew possessed a very gentle, sweet jasmine taste, with nutty and floral notes indicative of the green and white teas used in the blend. I also could detect a slight hint of honey in the aftertaste.

2nd Infusion

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Since the leaves had mostly unfurled at this point, I scaled back the steep time to ~45 seconds to reduce the chance of any bitterness. The already-subtle jasmine taste was quite toned down with this brew, with the vast majority of its floral flavor profile being contributed by the green/white blended base of the tea. A cube of rock sugar or a tiny touch of honey would definitely help coax out further flavor in the infusion.

Further infusions resulted in the essentially the same mellowed version of the first steep with increasing lightness.

Golden Monkey King

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Holy graham crackers the dried tea smells good! Strong scents of peach, molasses, and honey happily mingle together, making this a pleasant departure from the mostly malty black teas I’ve been tasting as of late.

Brew Temperature: 90 C

Leaf Amount/Steep Time: 1 tbs/2 minutes per 400mL of water

1st Infusion

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Don’t let the beautifully rich, dark red color of the brew fool you- the taste is exceptionally brisk and peachy with honey and sweet chocolate notes, accompanied by a lightly astringent aftertaste. Absolutely delicious, with no malt in sight. Before I knew it (and before I could take a proper photo, the one above is of my second time making this tea altogether :P) my cup was empty!

2nd infusion

I bumped the steep time up to three minutes for the next infusion- the resulting liquor had more of a floral taste than the previous steep, like a combination of orchid and caramel. It was just as easy to sip down as the first infusion, and the brew quickly vanished from my teapot into my belly. 😉

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I attempted a third infusion for roughly five minutes, which produced a faint peachy tasting tea- definitely the end of the leaves’ life cycle. I’d stick to two infusions for maximum flavor.

While short-lived, the easy drinkability and smoothness of this tea cannot be overstated. I think it would make a marvelous introduction for a tea newbie into the potentially complicated world of black/red teas, and is a great everyday brew for the more habitual tea drinker. I actually had this tea for breakfast this morning- I meant to have it with some biscuits, but actually ended up enjoying the brew so much I drank the entire pot on its own while my poor Hobnobs sat off to the side, neglected. 😛

Overall Thoughts on Curious Tea

Every experience I’ve had with Curious Tea thus far has left me thoroughly impressed. Their website is beautifully designed and well maintained, with lengthy, descriptive articles about the teas they source each month- including adorable maps detailing exactly where the individual teas are from!

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This is where the Golden Monkey King was produced! Map taken from curioustea.com. 🙂

My tea arrived literally a day after I requested a box, and my correspondence with the company has always been prompt and very courteous.  I am pleased with the quality of these two teas, and am confident the rest of Curious Teas’ blends are produced with the same care. I believe this company has a lot of enthusiasm for the products they make, as is clearly evidenced by the painstaking amount of work they’ve put into every aspect of their business. This subscription is a fantastic fit for newcomers to more high-end varieties of loose tea who are looking for a meticulously and lovingly guided introduction to various blends from month to month. Honestly, even if you’re not in the market for a monthly tea box, I’d highly recommend following their blog anyway- their entries are immensely educational and a joy to read. 🙂

Check out Curious Tea at: http://www.curioustea.com/

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Tea provided for review courtesy of Curious Tea