Black Cat Bytes

Tea reviews for the common cat!


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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!

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Tippy’s Tea Not So Vanilla Black Tea

Hi there teacats! Hope this February hasn’t treated you too harshly, but for most of you it probably has. 😦 While we wait for the winter to end, let’s warm up with some of Tippy’s Tea’s Not So Vanilla! As some of you may know, I am obsessed with vanilla black teas. Best flavor combination of all frickin’ time, especially in the winter months. Let’s see how this blend measures up! 🙂

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Blended with a base of imperial golden monkey black tea, Tippy’s notes that since this tea also includes actual pieces of chopped vanilla beans, its flavour will change over time. As this particular batch was prepared slightly over two months ago, the flavours I experienced (at least with my first steeping) are different from what you might taste if you use fresher leaves.

With my first steep, adding roughly a tablespoon of tea for my ~150 mL teapot, I allowed the leaves to bask in freshly boiled water for roughly 3.5 minutes with resulting brew absolutely gorgeous to behold:

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Scents of malt and cocoa floated alluringly from my teacup as I poured. The tea tastes deliciously complex- earthy and dark chocolate flavours immediately spring out, while notes of vanilla gently linger throughout the sip, finishing with an unexpected citrus and lightly astringent after-taste. The brew smells nearly as good as it tastes- I’d recommend taking a deep whiff of the aroma every time you take a sip to add to the fullness of the flavour.

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The second steep had a ~6 minute brew time, and the resulting liquid was surprisingly a much lighter colour. The taste is lighter and sweeter with the absence of the earthy flavours and prior astringency, instead dominated by a sweeter malty chocolate flavour and more prominent vanilla. This is the way I remember the tea tasting when I first tried it back during Christmastime, when the blend had just been made. The third steep, after allowing the leaves to remain in for another six minutes, produced a light amber liquid with the same sweet, subtle vanilla flavour and smooth consistency of the second steeping, though the intensity of the cocoa was slightly more balanced with the vanilla this time around.

IMG_1179[1]Some black vanilla tea blends commonly have a “sweet vanilla” taste associated with them, and while they might be nice dessert replacement teas, the quality of the leaves is usually terrible and the flavour is purely artificial. Tippy’s blend, because it includes real vanilla beans without any added sweetness and also has the characteristic malty tastes of its tea base, would actually accompany a dessert very well, or simply taste great with a small amount of honey added to the brew.

The leaves themselves do not unfurl much through subsequent steepings, so be generous with the amount of leaves you add to your teapot to truly enjoy the evolving flavours of this tea as you resteep it. Not So Vanilla doesn’t scream sugary vanilla birthday cake taste like a lot of vanilla blends you might find on the market. It offers the vanilla as a sweet, lingering compliment to the mostly dominant flavours of the golden monkey tea- as I believe should be the case with all flavoured teas. I’ve been consistently impressed with the quality of tea Tippy’s uses and how they remain faithful to complimenting the natural taste of the tea bases they use with their flavoured blends.

Do your worst, winter! I’ve got my tea to keep me warm!

http://tippystea.com/collections/frontpage/products/not-so-vanilla

-Robin


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Tippy’s Tea Raspberry Cocoa Black Tea

Hello, wonderful readers! Hope the holidays have treated you splendidly and that you are having a lovely new year thus far. I spent the last four days freezing my eyebrows off in Chicago! Had a ton of fun though, despite the cold. 🙂 Still, I can’t tell you what a relief it is to be back home again, break into my stash once more, and sit down to write about some great tea.

Just before Christmas, the lovely folks at Tippy’s Tea sent me a very generous variety pack filled with all sorts of samples of their blends- I’m overjoyed to say this will be my first of many reviews of their teas. As some as you may know, I am on the perpetual hunt for flavored teas of high quality, and as this concept is at the core of Tippy’s product philosophy.. I basically feel like they’re my spirit animal in tea company form.

IMG_1026[1]Just opening the package of Raspberry Cocoa is a delight- the smell of the dry leaves alone is enough to begin to fight back against the bitter winter blues. The scent of ripe raspberries and a soft hint of cocoa float up from the packaging, along with a refreshing leafy smell- the combined aroma sends me right back to sticking my face in the raspberry bush growing outside my childhood home as I used to hunt for fresh berries in the summertime. YUM!

As usual, I am using my gaiwan-style teapot, which holds just shy of 200mL of water at one time. Two tablespoons of this tea is just about enough to fill one half of the steeping basket once the leaves are fully expanded. My first steep lasted ~40 seconds, during which the brew instantly adopted a beautiful deep crimson color.

IMG_1027[1]In taking my first sip, I was immediately struck by the tart taste of raspberry flavor- it was almost like biting into a real berry! Somehow, Tippy’s has managed to capture the real flavoring of a raspberry without using any fruit pieces in their tea- not just the vaguely sweet, dull suggestion of raspberry that a lot of companies will use in their products. This tea actually has some authentic zing to it! Hints of cocoa round out the flavor profile, ending the sip with a sweet and savory aftertaste that will linger until your next one.

My second steep was ~60 seconds: one must be careful during subsequent steeps of this tea as the leaves seem to like to stay mostly at the bottom of the basket at this point, resulting in a potentially bitter brew. I realized this a little too late, and though I mixed up the leaves and ended the steep soon after, I was left with a much stronger brew than I anticipated. The flavor profile of the tea changed drastically- the raspberry flavor now took a backseat to the now much more powerful cocoa notes with a bitter aftertaste. The raspberry was now an accent, with the cocoa and astringency of the assam/keemun blend becoming far more dominant. While this is quite possibly something a lot of drinkers may find desirable in their brews, my primary interest is in balancing out both the chocolate and raspberry with minimal bitterness: I elected for my next steep to drop back down to ~40 seconds.

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The third time was the charm! After letting the leaves steep for 40 seconds, monitoring them closely and mixing them with a spoon, the resulting brew was easily the one I enjoyed the most of the three. The flavors of all the elements of this tea were admittedly weaker than before, but none of the tasting notes were in competition with one another for dominance this time. This was exactly the cup of tea I wanted from the onset: a blend of black teas whose unique characteristics I could identify and enjoy on their own, with the comforting tastes of raspberries and cocoa as friendly accompaniments. Had I not made the mistake of oversteeping the 2nd brew, I’m sure this tea could have produced four strong steepings, and I think that is a huge accomplishment for a flavored tea. Definitely looking forward to ordering a batch of this blend for myself in the future. 🙂 Great stuff!

Check out Tippy’s store here: http://tippystea.com/

-Robin