Black Cat Bytes

Tea reviews for the common cat!


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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? 😛

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 😉 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. 😛

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 😉

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

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Tea From Vietnam’s Fish Hook Green Tea

Hello friends! 🙂 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.

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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

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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. 🙂 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! 🙂

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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. 😛

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. 🙂

 

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


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Tea From Vietnam’s Red Lily Black Tea

Hiya tea-friends! Happy post-Labor Day! I hope all of you had a deliciously lazy day yesterday (whether you’re from the US or not!)!

I don’t know how many of you have extensive experience with Vietnamese teas, but I certainly do not. With the exception of a few online vendors, Vietnamese blends just aren’t that widely available or discussed in the Western world. I was recently approached by Tea From Vietnam, a company that is looking to bring the world’s attention to the exquisite teas Vietnam produces, and banish the bad (or nonexistent) reputations they believe Vietnamese teas may have. I am so excited to have a chance to sample and review some of their teas, with the hopes we can all go on this journey together to discover Vietnam and all the incredible tastes it has to offer. 🙂

The first of many teas by Tea From Vietnam that I will be having a look at is their Red Lily black tea. According to this packaging, this tea is a heavily oxidized “Golden Lily” variety, with a note that Vietnamese farmers will usually use these leaves to make oolong or green tea.  To have Golden Lily be made into a black tea is a rare treat, and one that TFV is quite excited to be able to offer to western drinkers. Let’s give it a try!

IMG_2157As I first open the packet, the leaves smell like spiced coffee with a hint of smokiness. It makes my nose feel all tingly! I inhaled the scents a bit too deeply and actually sneezed- perhaps this tea can double in function as a way to clear one’s sinuses! 😛

Shop Link: Red Lily Black Tea

Brewing Guidelines: 205 F | 3-4 min | 200 mL | 1 tsp

Since I’ll be using a ~100 mL gaiwan, I decided to alter the brewing guidelines slightly for my own purposes. I still used roughly a teaspoon of leaves in my brewing vessel, but opted for shorter steep times (~2 minutes per infusion). This may sound redundant, but it is really important to use freshly boiled water to brew this tea- the leaves are so tightly rolled that they will not unfurl properly otherwise.  I recommend steeping the leaves for a few minutes initially as a “rinse” to help speed the process along.  IMG_2158As soon as I removed the lid from my gaiwan, a lofty scent of smoke and toasted grain danced around me. It was very strong, reaching my nose long before I actually moved closer to get a whiff of it. The brew had a very strong toasted rice flavor, the aftertaste laced with a honey-like sweetness. I was pleasantly surprised at this- I had been expecting (and I’ll be honest, dreading) strong smokey flavors based on the initial scent of the leaves. I found myself enjoying the tea more and more with each sip: somehow, the sweet honey flavor seemed to become more dominant as time went on.

IMG_2159With the second steeping, I could begin to see how large the leaves actually were. Just as with the first infusion, the flavor was predominantly toasted initially, but grew into a more thick sweetness with each subsequent sip. The third infusion produced a similar result, just with lighter flavors. Time to put these leaves to bed, I think. 🙂

IMG_2162Thoughts: I was quite impressed with Black Lily! I love black/red teas with honey-like taste profiles, and I thought the addition of the toasted nut/rice flavors really added some satisfying warmth to the brew, similar to the way drinking a genmaicha makes me feel. I still need to do a bit of tinkering with my brewing technique for this tea- TFV’s website does a great job of offering a variety of different steeping techniques to get the best flavor out of this brew, and I’ll be trying them all! It takes a lot of work (and time) to make these cheeky leaves give up their goods! 😛 I can envision Black Lily being a perfect way to warm up on the chilly mornings that I’m sure are just around the corner, and seeing as how it is priced so well at $6.90/50g, it has some serious potential to be a daily drinker. I encourage you to give it a try! 🙂

Tea From Vietnam’s Red Lily Black Tea

Thanks again to Tien of TeaFromVietnam for providing a sample of Black Lily for review!