Black Cat Bytes

Tea reviews for the common cat!


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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!

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Pardon our legislative dust!

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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! 😛

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!

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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:  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! 😛 I’m going nuts!

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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! 😛 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. 😛 See you later, guys!

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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!