Black Cat Bytes

Tea reviews for the common cat!


1 Comment

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?

Mow1

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™‚

IMG_2481

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

IMG_2483

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

IMG_2484

Look at these gorgeous leaves ooomgggg

IMG_2488

Enter a caption

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

 

Advertisements


1 Comment

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!

IMG_2411[1]

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™‚


1 Comment

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.

IMG_2341

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

IMG_2344

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™‚

IMG_2308

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!


Leave a comment

M&K’s Tea Co. Kuromaicha

Hello fellow tea friends! Feels good to be back to the blog! I’ve just come back from an epic road trip to Washington D.C!

IMG_2021

Pardon our legislative dust!

20150717_120012

Lookin’ at stuff in the Library of Congress! YAY! Cats!

Meant to have this blog entry done before I left, but alas, the planets did not align in such a fashion. HENCE! I am here to deliver the wordy tea goods now! πŸ˜›

A few weeks ago I had a really weird and urgent craving for some genmaicha. I scoured the internets looking for a good, cheap blend, but then remembered I had a tiny packet of M&K’s uber exotic Kuromaicha sitting on my tea shelf. Not completely what I had in mind, but this could prove to be even better! As far as I know, this tea is completely unique to M&K’s Tea- it is a custom blend of kyobancha and hojicha green teas combined with pan-toasted black rice. Neat!

IMG_1985

Shop Link: M&K’s Kuromaicha

Ingredients: Organic roasted Japanese green tea, organic toasted black rice.

I love the appearance of this tea- looks like what you might find by taking a sample of soil from a mature forests’ floor. It smells like it a bit, too! The characteristic toasted nutty scent you might expect from a genmaicha is easy to detect, but this kuromaicha also has a really distinctive earthy, wet leaves smell likely given to the blend by the hojicha. So much roasty toasty goodness!

IMG_1986Brew Temperature: ~95 C

Leaf Amount/Steep Time:Β  2 tsp/150 mL of water, 20 seconds (+20 more per infusion)

I wanted to experience the maximum amount of flavor I could from this blend, so I decided to use my small gaiwan as my brewing vessel. The directions on the back of the packet are more in line with western-style steeping.

As the tea (quickly) brewed, a scent that was incredibly reminiscent of a children’s cereal rose to my nose- I still can’t remember the dang name of the cereal as I write this blog! It was some kind of toasted grain cereal..ugh.. they were little.. V shapes or something? I think they had a little lizard boy with a hat as the mascot of it? Someone help me out here! πŸ˜› I’m going nuts!

IMG_19881st Infusion

Finally, time to taste! If I didn’t know better, I’d never guess this was a green tea blend. Toasted and bold flavors with slight astringency that one might expect from a black tea dominate the brew. When I take a sip.. I feel like I’ve found myself surrounded by an ancient forest- beneath a broad canopy of leaves, warm moist earth beneath my feet, a slight breeze whistling past my ears… perfection. The dark roasted green tea and toasted black rice work so brilliantly together, a beautiful pairing of fire and earth. I think this flavor profile is much more palatable than the grassy vegetal + toasty rice combination of genmaicha.

2nd Infusion

IMG_1992With the second steeping, the brew looks a bit darker but is just as fragrant. The slightly longer steep time has definitely paid off- the taste of the toasted rice is especially vibrant, along with a sweeter but still powerful earthy flavor.

3rd Infusion

IMG_1994The rice is easily the most dominant flavor now- still good, but I fear the tea has reached the end of its tiny life. Thank you for your deliciousness, kuromaicha!

The first infusion of this tea was definitely my favorite- the tastes were so powerful and just the scent of the steeping leaves warmed my bones to their core. That said, it might not be the best idea to brew kuromaicha on one of these sweltering summer days we’ve been having as of late! πŸ˜› To enjoy this tea’s immense flavor most optimally (and without the chance of bitterness), I suggest opting to brew with more leaves, less water, and less steep time: this will allow you a much higher degree of control. Try using a gaiwan, if you have one!

Kuromaicha was exactly what I hoped it would be- earthy toasted goodness without any smokey flavors. M&K’s worked for months to perfect this tea, and it definitely shows. I’ve just recently purchased a sample pack of their genmaicha, and am curious to see how it will compare to this blend! Two will enter the ring, but only one may leave! …I’ll let you know how it goes. πŸ˜› See you later, guys!


1 Comment

What-Cha’s Nepal 2nd Flush 2014 Dew Drops Green Tea

This grey, windy weather has been driving me mad! 😦 Recently I’ve found myself staring sadly out the window as if it was Christmas time I was waiting for Santa come- but it’s summer I crave! Spirit of Summer, I beg you ride your fiery chariot of sunshine and blisteringly hot weather across my sky sometime soon! PLS!! D:

Anyway, I’ve been keeping company with many a cup of green tea as of late, wildly daydreaming of warmer days. As such, today’s review will be on What-Cha’s Nepal 2nd Flush 2014 Dew Drops Green Tea. Cue the sexy tea photos!!

IMG_1770

As you can see, this tea clearly lives up to it’s “dew drops” name. The shape of each leaf is gorgeous, and really has me wishing I had a glass gaiwan to watch them unfurl in (I’ve lost the lid from the one I’ve used previously) 😦 . Ali Express, here I come!

WhatCha suggests to brew the tea at 75 C- since my teapot will only heat up in increments of 10 degrees, I decided it would be best to try one infusion at 70 degrees, and the next at 80. For science!

1st Infusion

Brewing Temperature: 70 C

Leaf Amount/Steep Time: 1 tbsp per 400 mL of water/1.5 minutes

IMG_1772The resulting brew has a soft green and amber color, the perfect dreamy shade I had hoped for. The taste is perfectly simple- fresh and grassy with almost no aftertaste. The flavor is so sweet and refreshing.. it literally reminds me of the Windows XP default desktop from back in the day. πŸ˜€

xp_desktop

Awww yissss

I’ll be honest, if I had enough of this loose leaf to make a whoppin’ pitcher of iced tea- I would probably be a jerk about it and not share it with anyone.

2nd Infusion

Brewing Temperature: 80 C

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

IMG_1779

Decided to up the steep time slightly to allow the leaves to fully unfurl. The scent wafting off the brew was noticeably toasty and vegetal, and the tea’s flavors were much stronger than the first infusion with a slightly astringent aftertaste. It was still delicious, but I loved the clean taste of the first steep far more.

IMG_1780

Thoughts

When in doubt, definitely stick with a cooler brewing temperature! I found Nepal 2014 Dew Drops to be a deliciouslyΒ  sweet and mild grassy brew- exactly what I want in a summery green tea. No frills and no fuss here, just simple and fantastic flavour. πŸ™‚ I hope you’ll give it a go!

If you’re interested in trying this tea (it is on sale right now!), I urge you to order it from What-Cha within the next month. To quote What-Cha’s website:

“A devastating earthquake hit Nepal on Saturday, killing over 4,500 at the current count. Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world and in desperate need of aid to help the injured and rebuild the country.

What-Cha has a close connection to Nepal as one of the first countries we sourced our tea from and we want to do our part to help Nepal by pledging to donate 50% all Nepali tea revenue for the rest of April and May, to the British Red Cross Nepal Earthquake Appeal.”

Enjoy great tea at an awesome price, and help give aid to those in Nepal who most desperately need our support. It’s a win-win!

Check out Nepal 2014 Dew Drops Green Tea here!


Leave a comment

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! πŸ˜›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! πŸ™‚

Jasmine Pearl Tea

IMG_1332

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: 80Β° C

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

1st Infusion

IMG_1339

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! πŸ™‚

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

IMG_1341

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

IMG_1349

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

IMG_1344

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. πŸ˜‰

IMG_1348

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. πŸ˜›

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!

yunnan-410x410

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

My tea arrived literally a day after I requested a box, and my correspondence with the company has always been prompt and very courteous.Β  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. πŸ™‚

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

x

Tea provided for review courtesy of Curious Tea


Leave a comment

What-Cha Tea’s Nepal First Flush 2014 Emerald Green Tea

Hi there wonderful readers! Apologies for my recent delay in putting out new reviews- I’ve been in England since January and I’ve been a busy little bee in this wonderfully soggy country! Cat sitting, house renovating, fried bread making, and castle exploring are just a few of the things on my perpetual to-do list since arriving here. πŸ˜› Can’t tell you how much I’ve missed writing reviews and tasting new teas, and I’m so happy that things have finally quieted down to the point where I can settle in and get writing again. That said, today I’m going to be having a look at What-Cha Tea’s Nepal First Flush 2014 Emerald Green Tea! Despite being such a well loved tea company of /r/tea, this is the first time I’ve ever tried What-Cha’s tea for myself! Exciting stuff! IMG_0122

This review will be a bit different to my previous posts- unfortunately I did not think to bring my gongfu-style teapot with me from the States, so I brewed this tea both with a standard Western teapot and Grandpa style in a hotel coffee cup (my tea goes everywhere with me :P) and my observations will be based on those methods.

As I opened the package, I was immediately taken back by the light, airy quality of the leaves- their unprocessed look resembles white tea far more than most greens I’ve seen before. The first time i brewed this tea was in a ~2 cup teapot, steeping 3 heaping teaspoons of leaves for approximately three minutes. The flavor was subtlety fruity and smooth, with very few vegetal or grassy notes- I was reminded of Pai Mu Tan (White Peony) or a similarly sweet white tea. Yum!

IMG_0122Brewing the tea grandpa style for roughly two minutes brought out quite a different flavor profile, to my surprise. The first sip was dominated by nutty and sweet flavors with fruity notes becoming the aftertaste. As the leaves unfurled more fully in the cup after an extra minute on the second steeping, both flavors became stronger but retained their previous prevalence. While using the leaves a third time, I accidentally left them to steep for over ten minutes, though the resulting brew had no bitterness! However, the nutty taste of the tea now easily overpowered any lingering suggestions of fruitiness even as an aftertaste. Subsequent steepings produced the same results.

IMG_0122

Simply stated, this tea is a pleasure to drink and can be prepared as simply or as complex as you have the desire for and will still produce delicious results. If more care and precision is taken with its preparation, it is easy to coax out the fruity and slightly floral subtleties of the leaves, but the resulting tea is still a pleasure to drink even the leaves are thrown into a teacup and left to steep. This Emerald Green Tea is a delightful departure from the grassy vegetal taste of many green teas I’ve tried, and its light, sweet flavor along with its forgiving steep time makes it a perfect introduction to greens for a loose-leaf beginner.