Black Cat Bytes

Tea reviews for the common cat!


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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. 🙂 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. 😛

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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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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. 😛

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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. 🙂

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! 🙂


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M&K’s Tea Co. Sicilian Vanilla Black Tea

No matter how many black vanilla tea blends I try, even if I really enjoy them, I am ALWAYS on the hunt for more. Whenever I’m cruising through a tea website looking for tea samples, if I see a vanilla black tea, I am BOOM! on it like a car bonnet- I’ve gotta give it a try. I adore this flavor combination so much I find myself kinda using it as a standard to judge the overall quality and value of taste a tea company has- get it right, you’ll make Black Cat Bytes delight..ed! 😛

I was overjoyed when I was approached by M&K’s tea to give some of their blends a try. Their website is full of exotic, unique, and really well priced teas- I’ll be doing quite a few little reviews on what they have to offer over the next few months. However, in typical Black Cat Bytes style, their first tea I had to taste was their Sicilian Vanilla blend, knowing it would set the tone for how I would view the rest of the multitude of samples they had sent me. Drumroll pleaaase!

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Gorgeous flowers! Never seen these before.

Shop Link: M&K’s Sicilian Vanilla Black Tea

Ingredients: A blend of Kenilworth Estate Sri Lankan and Anhui Chinese black teas, helichrysum flowers, vanilla bean, vanilla extract, fiori di sicilia essential oil blend, aroma panettone essential oil blend.

I love the visual composition of this blend- looks so much better and more refreshing than “blends” consisting of only tiny black leaf bits with added flavoring. Even if the flowers are only an embellishment, they are beautiful and make the tea steeping process a little treat for one’s senses. The scent of the dried blend is nothing short of intoxicating- almost like freshly made cinnamon buns.

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Looks like a planetary landscape, doesn’t it?! 😛

Brew Temperature: ~100° C/ 212° F

Leaf Amount/Steep Time: 2 tsp / 8 oz of water, 1 minute

I increased the leaf amount and decreased the recommended steep time due to my “gongfu-style” teapot which does better with stronger, shorter infusions.

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The resulting brew is a beautiful shade of orange-red, and smells lightly toasted and smokey- how unique! I’ve never had a vanilla black with this sort of scent profile before. The tea tastes strongly of rich molasses or homemade gingerbread cookies, with a delightfully thick and satisfying mouthfeel. There is just the tiniest bit of an astringent aftertaste, which I think suits the tea perfectly.

As I was standing at my kitchen counter, sipping away and jotting down a few tasting notes on this tea, I couldn’t help but notice I had a glass jar full of those Lotus Biscoff cookies sitting just an arm’s length away from me. At that moment, I realized it was my destiny to bring this tea and cookie together- and the results.. were just incredible. The carmalized gingerbready goodness of the cookie, combined with the warm smoothness of the Sicilian Vanilla- they complimented and rounded each other out so well I could only shake my head in dreamy disbelief. SO good.

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After looking at some other reviews of this tea, I was surprised to find a few folks tasted rather prevalent floral and citrus notes in it- I did not personally find this to be the case at all and am certainly glad for it. The recipe may have been tweaked slightly since those reviews were written, or perhaps my tea sample had been allowed some time after blending for the flavors to mature before it was sent out to me. Either way, I am pretty confident that when I order this tea (and maybe you will too!) that the flavor profile will be similar to what I enjoyed when I wrote this review.

M&K’s Sicilian Vanilla is definitely a cupboard staple for me- rich, satisfying, and warming. I’ve never felt so bummed out about having such a small sample size of a tea before! M&K’s has passed my vanilla black blend test with flying colors- I cannot wait to find out what tastes the rest of their teas have in store for me. 🙂

Shop Link: M&K’s Sicilian Vanilla Black Tea

Tea provided by M&K’s Tea Co. for review! Thanks guys!


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Jollybrew’s Scrumptious Spiced Apple Flavored Black Tea

What is it with me and cold-weather teas lately? Good gravy! I swear to you, dearest reader, I’m not drinking all of these with the odd hope I’ll summon some winter wizard who will bring back the snow. It’s all this darn cloudy weather that’s got me wanting to have a bit of spicy warmth in my cup, I swear! 😛

Today I’ll be having a look at Jollybrew’s Scrumptious Spiced Apple! This tea contains apple pieces, cinnamon, blackberry leaves, safflower petals, and natural flavors.

IMG_1791The scent of the dry blend is mesmerizing, like freshly cut slices of apple with an added hint of luscious green leaves and just a hint of cinnamon- and the blend itself looks beautiful as well! The safflower leaves add a nice pop of fresh red color.

Brewing Temperature: 100 C

Leaf Amount/Steep Time: 1 generous tbsp per 400 mL of water/4 minutes

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The packaging instructs to use far less leaves per infusion, but I unfortunately had a fair bit of leaf particles dust in my sample and decided to up the leaf amount to compensate for that. As with most flavored teas I review, I decided to brew Spiced Apple in the Western style with my faithful Hario teapot. IMG_1799

The color of the brew is incredible, like the shade of a ripe red delicious apple. Mmmm~ ❤

Interestingly, the taste of the tea seems to be a complete reversal of the scent profile of the dried leaves. The cinnamon flavoring and natural malty taste of the base tea (which I think is Assam? could be wrong) are easily the most predominant flavors, while the apple becomes much more faint. The more I sip, the more this tea tastes like it was intended to be a lightly spiced Assam with the steeped apple pieces providing more of an “accent” to the tea. I don’t believe this is intentional: the first time I made this tea I could taste a lot more of the natural apple flavoring, and it really worked to compliment the cinnamon flavor instead of being overshadowed by it. The reason for the faint apple flavoring in this pot of tea could be due to the tea dust present in the infusion, as it would characteristically steep faster and thus impart its flavor into the brew faster and more boldly than the gradually unfurling leaves and fruit pieces. It could honestly just be a case of “bottom of the bag” syndrome- darn these tiny sample bags! 😛

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Even though I didn’t quite get the taste I wanted from this steep, I know the proper flavor balance of apple and cinnamon are present in this blend if you can avoid steeping any fannings, and heartily recommend this tea as a true sensory experience. Even if you can’t quite get the full apple taste, take a deep whiff of the tea before you sip and you’ll get all the apple bliss you desire.

Honestly, in order to protect your leaves from getting crushed and dusty, I would just recommend you skip buying the sampler packet and go straight for the 50g tin instead. You’ll get the flavor you’re looking for, I pretty much guarantee it. 🙂

Check out all of Jollybrew’s blends here: http://www.jollybrew.com/


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Tippy’s Tea North Pole Estate Flavored Black Tea

As you may recall, during my last review I mentioned I recently found myself longing for summer similar to the way I pine for Santa’s mythical sleigh to skim the treetops as he makes his way across the sky in the wintertime. As I was choosing the next tea in my delicious arsenal to review, I got to thinking- pshhh, waiting for Santa? I can have Christmas whenever I flippin’ want! Time for some of Tippy’s Tea’s North Pole Estate!

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As I pulled out the tea packet, I found myself excited and intrigued to see just what it would be like to indulge in drinkable Christmas cheer in the middle of a particularly sunny and warm English day. The dried leaves carry the sweet scent of cinnamon, and with it, happy memories- that comforting potpourri smell my grandma’s house always seemed to have, the magic of walking into one of those beautiful old shops that sells Christmas decorations year round- to name just a few. The scent makes me long for the simple pleasures of the holiday season, and simpler times in general. 🙂

Brewing Temperature: 100 C

Leaf Amount/Steep Time: 1 tbsp per 400 mL of water/3 minutes

IMG_1787My first sip had the bold taste of cinnamon with a faint hint of dark chocolate as well. The characteristic taste of the base Assam tea is also delightfully present, and admittedly I mini fist-pumped when I correctly identified it before formally checking the ingredients list. There’s a sweet cherry-like aftertaste, with no apparent astringency.

While North Pole Estate is very satisfying on its own, I can imagine it being a lovely accompaniment to some gingerbread cookies or any other kind of Christmas sweet. I was impressed with the way Tippy’s has paired the natural flavor of the Assam Keemun base blend with the added flavors in a way that allows them to all be expressed in the brew.

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Let it be known, the warming powers of this tea are not to be underestimated- after a few cups of this blend I felt like I had a giant winter coat on indoors and was practically sweating. North Pole Estate may not be the most appropriate drink for Christmas in July- er.. May, but would make sublime sipping while watching the snowflakes fall in the dead of winter. Pesky polar vortexes don’t stand a chance!