Black Cat Bytes

Tea reviews for the common cat!


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Tea Descendants’ Earthy Rich Aroma Tea

Hello, tea pals! ๐Ÿ™‚ 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. ๐Ÿ˜› 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 theย  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. ๐Ÿ˜› 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! ๐Ÿ˜›

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. ๐Ÿ˜›

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.ย 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! ๐Ÿ˜› 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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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? ๐Ÿ˜›

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 ๐Ÿ˜‰ 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. ๐Ÿ˜›

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 ๐Ÿ˜‰

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


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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 ๐Ÿ˜› 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! ๐Ÿ™‚

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? ๐Ÿ˜‰ย  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! ๐Ÿ™‚

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!! ๐Ÿ˜› 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 โค

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. ๐Ÿ˜› 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. ๐Ÿ™‚

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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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What-Cha’s Taiwan Sheng Cha Oolong Tea

Hello, all! ๐Ÿ™‚ It’s hard to believe winter is so fast approaching! It’s certainly been a crazy year. As the nights draw on ever longer, I’ve been keeping close company with hot cups of tea and scary movies (don’t ask) to pass the time. Have you guys seen “The Babadook”?! HOLY NUGGETS! So good! Real, solid, suspenseful horror without any jumpscares. Hopefully it starts a trend of better scary movies.

Anyway! I’ve been happily sipping some of What-Cha’s Taiwan Sheng Cha today, and am eager to share my thoughts on this unique oolong with you fellow teacats. According to the package, this tea boasts an “unusual walnut-shell taste”, and admittedly is not a typical tea I would choose on my own- so a big thanks goes out to Alistair for including it as a sneaky little surprise in my order! ๐Ÿ™‚

Taiwan Sheng Cha Oolong

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As I open the packet, a toasty, barley-like scent rises from the leaves. You might not be able to immediately discern the notes of walnut, but if you know what you’re.. smelling for, the scent quickly becomes apparent and will cling to your nose long after taking a whiff. It’s strangely invigorating!

Shop Link: Taiwan Sheng Cha Oolong

Brewing Guidelines: 185 F / 85 C | 1-2 minutes | 1 tsp | 200 mL

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With the first steep, the leaves, tiny cannonballs at first, unfurl beautifully and will completely fill your brewing vessel. The quality of the tea What-Cha sources never ceases to amaze me.

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The light emerald-colored brew tastes rich and nutty, savory and sweet. It doesn’t taste quite as toasted as I was expecting, having more of a dominant sweet seaweed flavor instead, though that peculiar walnut flavor mischievously lingers.

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The second steeping results in a richer, more golden brew, with a stronger seaweed taste. I also seem to detect a flavor similar to soy sauce- this tea would be a perfect accompaniment to sushi! The drink is smooth and savory without any astringency, and (sadly) I don’t taste the walnut much anymore. Ultimately, Sheng Cha reminds me of a darkly roasted genmaicha: rich, savory, and filling. I loved the unexpected walnut taste and wish it had lasted longer, though its brevity encouraged me to really appreciate what I was tasting.

Check out Taiwan Sheng Cha Oolong for yourself!

Sip slowly, and enjoy the remainder of this chilly autumn, my friends. ๐Ÿ™‚


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Majani Tea’s Tamu Organic Oolong Tea

Hi there fellow teacats! ๐Ÿ™‚ Hope your summer has been going well as of yet! It’s been so flippin’ hot outside here in Michigan! I’ll be headed to Texas in a few days (for the first time) and I’m a bit.. anxious about the weather, to say the least. Hopefully I won’t step off the plane and instantly burst into flames. ๐Ÿ˜›

10687158_723611994352654_5094452976209300319_nToday I’m brewing up some of Majani Teas’ Tamu Oolong Tea, a blend grown and produced in Kenya (like all of Majani’s teas! ). To be honest, the first thing that drew me to these teas was their incredibly beautiful packaging. Who doesn’t love cute, colorful little birdies gracing their kitchen countertop? Each bird featured on Majani’s labels is actually native to Kenya, and you can find some great information on each species by checking out their website here! The little guy featured on the front of the Tamu Oolong is an African Pygmy Kingfisher, and according to the site, it “is found in woodland, savannah, and coastal forest. Unlike some of its relatives, this kingfisher takes mainly insects and, thus, is not bound to water.” Neat!IMG_2060Nifty! Now that we’ve enjoyed some bite-sized ornithology, it’s time to move on to the tea! ๐Ÿ™‚ The leaves smell sugary sweet, with noticeable notes of earth and honey. For me, the scent conjures up images of a sunset on the Kenyan savannah- all warm and golden. ๐Ÿ™‚ I am a bit disappointed by how broken the leaves are- this tea looks like it would be just as at home in a tea sachet as it would a loose-leaf tin, but it’s important not to judge tea strictly by its appearance. Time to taste!

Shop Link: Tamu Oolong Tea

Ingredients: Fair Trade Certifiedโ„ข Oolong Tea

Brewing Guidelines: 185 F for 1 minute, 1.5 tsp per 200 mL

IMG_2061 Look at that beautiful red amber hue! Reminds me of a red delicious apple, making me almost wish it was autumn. There will be plenty of time for cold weather and apple picking soon enough. ๐Ÿ˜› The drink tastes a bit malty at the start, like an assam black tea, but then transitions to this incredibly sweet honey brown sugar finish that tastes EXACTLY like the black milk bubble tea I make at home. Due to this, I am 100% addicted to drinking this tea and find myself reaching for a cup of it constantly! Instant bubble tea? Pshhh yes please! I haven’t actually used it to make bubble tea yet, but I can only imagine that when I do, the heavens will open and awesome trumpet music will pour forth from the clouds and it will rains kittens and puppies. It’s going to be THAT awesome. ๐Ÿ˜€ I’ve never had the pleasure of enjoying a straight oolong tea with a taste profile as unique as this! I only wish that Majani offered a more “full leaf” version of the blend, but if changing the production of the tea would diminish the awesome brown sugar flavor in any way, I’ll happily stick to the broken leaf version. Absolutely delicious!!

Shop Link: Tamu Oolong Tea

Tea provided for review courtesy of Majani Teas. Thanks! ๐Ÿ™‚


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Lemon City Tea Co. : San-tรฉ-ria, Porteรฑos En Paraiso, and Oolong Old Fashioned

Happy Saturday, fellow Teacats! With the weather getting seriously hot and heavy lately, I figured it was a perfect time to check out some blends from Lemon City Tea, a newish tea company hailing from the beautiful city of Miami, Florida. This will be my second round of “byte-sized” reviews, where I take a look at three teas and give you a tiny review of each! Exciting stuff! Let’s dig in! Or rather.. drink in!

San-tรฉ-ria

INGREDIENTS:ย Organic Black Tea, Yunnan Golden Buds

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Brew Temperature, Time: 100 C / 212 F, 3 minutes

Lemon City markets this tea as being “invigorating” and a great way to get you buzzing in the morning, and based on the scent of the dry leaves alone, I believe them! I could smell cocoa and malt, along with a very potent fruity (plums?) smell that seemed to cling to my nose. Lovely!

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I had to keep myself from adding in honey while the tea brewed- the crisp, malty scent seemed to beg for it! Gotta keep it pure for the sake of the review, though. ๐Ÿ˜› The taste was not entirely what I was expecting, the fruitiness had gone away and was replaced by a dominant malty taste with a light hint of smoke and nuttiness. It was a bit heavier than I would have hoped for, but it’s probably to be expected from a “morning wake up” tea. That said, I think San-te-ria would take milk and sugar beautifully. I think coffee lovers attempting to make the switch to tea would love this blend.


Porteรฑos En Paraiso

INGREDIENTS: Organicย Yerba Mate, Organic Jasmine Green Tea, Organic Green Rooibos, Organic Hibiscus & Tulsi, and Organic Schizandra Berries

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Brew Temperature, Time: 100 C/212 F, 5 minutes

After I read the ingredients on the packet, I got to excited to steep this tea that I actually forgot to have a whiff of it before doing so. Oops! ๐Ÿ˜› I’ve never had Yerba Mate before, so this is a new flavor adventure for me! As I’m typing away, I can smell the deliciously fruity combination of the green rooibos and hibiscus rising out of the cup- if I close my eyes, it feels like I’ve drifted away to the sandy beaches of some distant paradise.

IMG_1867Phew, what a complex taste! I honestly have some trouble individually identifying each flavor, but the brew has a strong green herb and grassy flavor (which I assume is the Yerba Mate and the green tea) without any bitterness or astringency, and a mint and licorice flavor aftertaste. I couldn’t taste any of the jasmine or hibiscus, though I could see the hibiscus petals in the teabag- I assume there just wasn’t enough of it to make a real impact on the tea’s flavor profile. I found this a bit disappointing, seeing as how this tea is pictured next to gigantic hibiscus flowers on Lemon City’s website. I think there are simply too many ingredients in this blend that snuff each other out and leave the resulting taste a bit muddled- it might be better to simplify the recipe and amp up a few key flavors instead. More hibiscus please! ๐Ÿ˜›


Oolong Old Fashioned

IMG_1876Brew Temperature, Time: 85 C, 3 minutes

Time for our finale-tea! Finaltea! HOHO!!! Lemon City boasts this oolong as their “scotch of teas”: a superior-quality tea that is meant to be savored. The dried leaves smell earthy, almost like wet leaves, with accompanying hints of raisins or dates. As the tea steeps, that same hint of raisin drifts from the cup with a honey-like sweetness.

IMG_1880If you will recall, earlier I scolded the Porteรฑos En Paraiso blend for having a few too many competing flavors: Oolong Old Fashioned couldn’t be more opposite a brew in terms of taste profile. When I took a sip of this tea, the only words that appeared in my head were: PLUM. RAISIN. FIG NEWTONS! If those flavors are what you crave, you will be the happiest clam in all of the ocean with this tea. There is no bitterness, no smoke, not even much sweetness- just plummy paradise. I’ve never tasted an oolong quite like this, and I’m not sure if I would seek it out again, but I understand how easily this could be obscenely delicious to another tea enthusiast. To each their own! ๐Ÿ™‚


Overall, I find myself impressed with Lemon City’s variety of teas. I respect the fact that they are willing to take risks with the ingredient combinations and dominant flavors of their blends, and am eager to see what new infusions they will offer as time goes on and they continue to develop as a company. Being from Miami, I feel they have a unique and awesome opportunity to spread the tastes and culture of their incredible city throughout the USA (and hopefully beyond!) with their teas. You can expect another byte-sized review compilation of some more of Lemon City’s teas from me soon- in the meantime, feel free to check out the rest of their range for yourself! ๐Ÿ™‚ Cheers!