Black Cat Bytes

Tea reviews for the common cat!


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The Battle of the Blends! A Review of Blendbee.com – Part 2: Beach Breeze

Hello, folks! Welcome to part 2 of our lofty blend battle! Today we’ll be talking a closer look at Kev’s blend, Beach Breeze Tea, and wrap up with some final thoughts on Blendbee. Here we go!

The Opposition’s Blend: Beach Breeze Tea

Ingredients: White tea, chamomile, coconut flakes, ashwagandha root, holy basil, coconut flavorIMG_1935My SO has a vast fondness for coconut, and would probably love to add it to every food we eat in some capacity, so it was only natural he’d want to make a tea featuring it as the primary flavor. Since the blend is meant to emulate lazy beachy days, he thought it would be appropriate to add the chamomile, ashwagandha root, and basil due to their stated relaxing properties. The white tea is meant to be a subtle base flavor, allowing the coconut to truly shine through- and it certainly does! After just opening the bag, the coconut scent really jumps out, it even seems to stick to the back of your throat after you inhale. It’s strong, but not artificial- as you can see from the photo above, there are a lot of real coconut flakes in the blend. Smells like paradise. πŸ™‚ The white tea leaves are also quite noticeable! I was half expecting to see tea dust, given how reasonable Jamah’s prices are, so I was pleasantly surprised when I could easily identify the leaves in the blend.

As with the Cat Nap tea, we steeped Beach Breeze using freshly boiled water and leaving it to steep for about 5 minutes, though for this infusion I just used my normal steel infuser. Muslin bags are great for some teas and are eco friendly, but I just find them to be a bit of a hassle and can be crumby to clean. 😦

IMG_1939As Beach Breeze steeped, I could swear I had a tiny coconut votive candle burning somewhere. It smells that good, and the scent is that full! After what seemed like forever, it was finally time to sample the brew. The dominant flavors were that of chamomile and coconut, and I thought they complimented each other well with their similarly sweet (but not too sweet) tastes. The white tea was a great choice as a base, providing body without adding any hugely noticeable flavors. The basil and root weren’t really present, but this could just be attributed to the strength of the other ingredients.

When he created the blend, my SO had a soft, sweet taste in mind, and I think Beach Breeze ended up being a little more vibrant than he had anticipated- though he still enjoys it very much. Beach Breeze truly puts the punch in Hawaiian Punch! ..Did that joke work? I’ll see myself out now. We’re going to try putting the brew on ice next time we make it, I can see it as a truly badass smoothie or bubble tea base!


You can bet your sweet candy butt I just made a Neville Chamberlain reference in a tea blog. Yep.

Now.. we’ve had a look at both of the blends, so who won? I knew the answer would be difficult to come up with since we first had the idea for the competition. (We probably should’ve invited in a third party to test out the blends and select one, but oh well! This isn’t terribly serious. )While we both went for a “relaxing” theme, we seemed to veer off in far different directions as far as flavor profiles go. However, since Beach Breeze seems like it will excel at being iced, and Cat Nap is delicious hot.. can I just say we both won in different categories? Everybody wins! Peace in our time! YAY! πŸ˜›

Final Thoughts

It’s been an absolute pleasure to try out BlendBee’s services, and we’ll certainly be ordering from them again soon. Jamah was quick to answer my emails and was a huge help in offering advice on how to make our blends the best they could be- going so far as to brew them up herself to make sure they were exactly what we wanted and tweaking them accordingly before sending them to us. Our package arrived quickly and the teas were wrapped beautifully- it is obvious how much Jamah cares about both her products and her customers and her effort really shines. The prices are fantastic, and the fact that a sample bag of tea is only $2.50 is a great excuse to just go crazy and try making a bunch of different blends. There’s a lot of ready-made blends you can order right off the site that look great as well, and even a monthly subscription service. Whatever you want, I can pretty much guarantee you that Jamah’s got it. πŸ™‚

Thanks for reading through both parts of this review! I very much enjoyed writing it, and hope to do more cheesey tea blending competitions in the future! By the way, if you’re interested in trying either of our teas for yourself, enter the same ingredients into BlendBee’s custom tea form, and mention in the comment box that you’d like to try Beach Breeze or Cat Nap specifically. I’d love to hear what you think of them! Don’t forget to use the discount code ‘blackcatbytes’ in checkout to receive 15% off of your offer as well!

Thanks again guys! πŸ™‚


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The Battle of the Blends! A Review of Blendbee.com – Part 1: Cat Nap Tea

I find myself on quite the herbal infusion kick lately, and have been spending a lot of time wishing I had an herb garden so I could try my hand at blending my own teas. While that is nowhere near in the cards for me at the moment, I’ve recently had the incredible fortune of meeting the lovely Jamah from BlendBee.com, who has graciously offered me the chance to give their custom tea blending services a try! Both my boyfriend and I are ferociously competitive people – while camping last year we both developed horrible blisters on our hands from trying to pump up air beds faster than the other- so when Jamah asked me if we’d like to try our hand at creating our own teas, I thought it would be an awesome opportunity to have yet another friendly contest with my dearly beloved. Our goal: make the best summertime tea. Game on!

Spoilers! Here are the results! πŸ˜› With a bonus blend, “Save the Bees” added in! Expect a review on that sometime soon. πŸ™‚

Creating the blends was a snap- the menus are simple to navigate, making it quick work to add or subtract ingredients from your tea as you move along. The health benefits of the ingredients are also listed- while those are honestly not a deciding factor in the way I wish to create my blend, I can appreciate that a lot of people may wish to do so and would find that information helpful. However, I love how the aroma and flavor of each ingredient is also described when moused over, making it much easier to be a bit adventurous with different combinations of herbs, flowers, and spices. I was worried when I began that I would be overwhelmed by all of my choices and end up making some weird blend (as would my boyfriend, who is pretty new to loose leaf tea), but as we went along we both found the process to be easy and fun.

Due to the fact this will be quite a large writeup, I’ve decided to split it up into two parts.Today’s post will be looking at my blend, and tomorrow’s will take a closer look at Kevin’s blend along with the results of our “contest” and overall thoughts of Blendbee.com. πŸ™‚

My Blend – Cat Nap Tea

Ingredients: hibiscus, rose hips, chamomile, orange peel, lemongrass, catnip, strawberry leaf, stevia leaf, and a touch of orange extract

IMG_1931When I think of summertime, one of the first things that comes to my mind is the way my cats bask lazily in the summer sunlight. Louie is always lying belly-up on the floor, catching as many rays to warm his fur as possible. Just looking at him relaxes me- as the saying goes: “It is impossible to look at a sleeping cat and feel tense”. As such, I wanted to try and create a tea blend that would recreate this feeling. I love the tropical taste of hibiscus so including it was an absolute must,Β  but also added the chamomile to help take away some of the flower’s inherent tang (since this is meant to be a soothing blend). I added the rosehips, orange peel, lemongrass, and strawberry leaf to give the tea a strong, fruity body, and included the catnip because.. well.. it only seemed fitting. πŸ™‚ I followed the printed brewing instructions carefully, using freshly boiled water and 1 tsp of leaves per 6 oz of water, and made a point to use the cute muslin bag and tea scoop Jamah included in our package.

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Louie was quite interested in the tea as it steeped! He must’ve smelled the catnip! πŸ™‚ Score!

As soon as the blend began to steep, a delightful combination of the orange, lemon, and hibiscus smells floated up off of the cup. I’ve never been to the tropics, but I’m absolutely positive this is what the region must smell like. πŸ˜›

IMG_1942I left the bag in for roughly 5 minutes, using the strength of the brew’s ruby color as an indicator of when the steep was finished. With my first sip, the most dominant taste was actually the chamomile, followed closely by luscious notes ofΒ  hibiscus and rosehips.Β  I found the orange peel and lemongrass in the light, citrussy aftertaste- made sweeter by the stevia leaf. I was a bit bummed I couldn’t really taste the catnip, but it must just be due to my superlame human sense of smell and taste. πŸ˜› I found Cat Nap Tea to be absolutely delicious, and perfectly embodied the feeling of lazy summer days I was trying to capture. I was so happy with the simplicity of the flavor profile- with the exception of the cat nip, I could identify every single ingredient in the blend, and that was just what I hoped for. In the future, when I order this blend again (and believe me I will), I will likely replace the chamomile with either white or green tea as a more subtle way of taming the hibiscus flavor. Or heck, maybe I’ll just forgo the idea of adding a base tea altogether and just ask Jamah to amp up the catnip goodness! The possibilities are endless, and that’s just what makes custom blending a tea so very exciting. πŸ™‚


That’s all for now, folks! Check back tomorrow for the exciting conclusion to this tea blending adventure! πŸ™‚

Feeling inspired to make your own infusion? Head over to Blend Bee and see what sort of crazy concoction you can come up with! As a special bonus and thank you for reading my blog, enter ‘BlackCatBytes’ as a discount code during checkout and receive 15% off your order!


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Review: Jollybrew’s Peaches and Cream White Tea

To me, peachy white teas embody the…drinkable essence of summer. πŸ˜› The ideal blend should be light, fresh, and sweet- a perfect accompaniment to breezy mornings and chilled out evenings. As much as I’ve been trying to avoid buying tea lately (gotta start figuring out how to get it all back to the USA), I’ve had my eye on Jollybrew’s delicious looking and cleverly named blends- on top of that, I’m a huge sucker for free shipping, and when they advertised an offer on their Twitter page, I was instantly in there.

IMG_1732[1]With the sun out and temperatures rising, I’ve been craving peachie tea as of late, so naturally, Jollybrew’s Peaches and Cream tea went straight into my cart. The idea of a peaches and cream flavored blend was new to me, and I was curious to see how it would taste versus the usual white peach flavor I’m accustomed to.

When I opened the pouch, the scent of peach was quite faint with the predominant smell actually being that of woodsy vanilla.Β  Interesting!

IMG_1733[2]The directions on the packet advise to use freshly boiled water to brew the leaves- this is actually far too hot and will burn the leaves, causing the tea to lose its delicate taste and become bitter. The instructions also say to use 1 teaspoon per 200 mL of water- given how light and fluffy white teas are, I don’t believe this ratio is quite enough to make a satisfying brew. My revised brewing instructions are as follows:

Brew Temperature: 80 C

Leaf Amount/Steep Time: 1 tbsp/3 minutes per 400 mL of water

As it brews, the tea emits a unique smokey and sweetly fruity scent.

IMG_1734[1]With the first sip, the characteristic nutty, toasty taste of the base white tea really comes through, with hints of peach and creamy vanilla as more of an aftertaste. The drink feels warming and rich, more comforting than refreshing. The tea tastes great with a small bit of rock sugar added, but can certainly stand on its own as a full-bodied brew.

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A unique spin on the flavors of classic white peach tea, I think Jollybrew’s Peaches and Cream blend is a great choice for a pick-me-up when the weather is chilly and you need a sweet escape. Yummy! πŸ™‚

Check out all of Jollybrew’s blends here: http://www.jollybrew.com/


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Review: In Nature Autumn Breeze Aged White Tea

Holy potatoes, it’s a windy day today! The clouds are grey, the air feels heavy, and I’m desperate for a big ol’ crackin thunderstorm! Sadly, it’s probably only wishful thinking. πŸ˜› Anyway! In honor of this breezy day, I’m going to be reviewing InNature’s Autumn Breeze Aged White Tea!

IMG_1722 The idea of an “aged” white tea is certainly new to me, and made this tea especially interesting to sample. Upon opening the package, I noticed a distinct brown tint to most of the leaves. The description on In Nature’s website doesn’t indicate the specific type of white tea this is, so I’m just going to guess it’s a White Peony blend. πŸ˜› I noticed a few stems mixed into the blend, but expected that from a white tea blend at this price point. The leaves smell like grass clippings with a hint of smoke, almost reminiscent of a summer barbeque.


Brew Temperature: 80 C

Leaf Amount/Steep Time: 1 tbsp/4 minutes per 200mL of water

1st Infusion

I found it interesting the colour of the brew didn’t seem to travel far out of the steeping basket, this could be due to the relatively cool temperature of the water or the broken leaves just not having enough room to steep. Made for an interesting picture! πŸ™‚IMG_1724After the three minutes were up and I removed the glass infuser basket, the beautiful almond colour of the brew spread quickly to the rest of the water.

IMG_1725While the colour of the tea alone was cause for curiousity, as normally white tea brews quite a bit lighter, the taste was even more surprising. If you took brazil nuts and worked some wizard magic to turn them into a thin, drinkable liquid, the resulting drink would taste just like this tea. The aftertaste is sweet and slightly floral, and doesn’t linger too long. I’ve never had anything like this before! So strange and delicious!

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2nd Infusion

This time, as it seemed the leaves were fully expanded and more willing to part with their flavour and color the tea, I allowed for a ~2 minute steep time. This time, the resulting brew lost most of the unique brazil nut flavour, instead tasting like a lightly toasted floral tea. The flavor profile was considerably weaker than the first steeping, and wouldn’t have made for a great third steeping.

Thoughts

I’m a bit bummed out by the fact I can only get one really good infusion from these leaves, but what you see is what you get usually when it comes to broken leaf teas. πŸ˜› I think Autumn Breeze would be a treat for tea newbies who may be hesitant to try white teas due to their more subtle flavor profiles, as this one has quite a distinct taste and is fairly priced. I’d also imagine this tea would be lovely to have in the morning with a scone or another kind of savory cake or biscuit as a decent replacement to a cup of black breakfast tea.

Check out In Nature’s teas here! http://www.innteas.com/white-tea.php


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Tealated’s Peachy White Tea

Simply put, a good peach-flavored white tea is as elusive as a smoothly paved road in Michigan. 😦 Most of the time, the flavor tastes weirdly over-citrusy and artificial, or not like peach at all, but the worst offenders are so lacking in flavor you have to steep them to bitterness before you can get any semblance of peach taste. Along with black vanilla tea, peach white tea is one of those blends I’m in endless pursuit of finding great varities of. If a tea shop offers flavored teas, I will usually gauge the quality of their versions of these blends to pass my verdict on the entire store. Unfair? Maybe. But to me, these two flavor combinations are classic and their synthesis needs to be approached with respect.

Today, I was fortunate enough to sample Tealated’s take on the white peach blend, and I am happy to say that as a result, I am elated *dodges bricks* to try all the other teas their shop has to offer!

IMG_0909[1]Not only this tea beautiful to look at, but the scent of the leaves is delicate and sweet. But I’ve spent enough time looking and sniffing! It’s a cold, crumby day outside and I need a sweet taste of the tropics!

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I found a steeping time of ~2 minutes was perfectly suitable for two teaspoons of leaves in a gaiwan-style teapot, with an additional 30 seconds tacked on for a subsequent steep. The second time I brewed a fresh batch of this tea I accidentally steeped it for about five minutes and STILL had a fantastic, not bitter cup. I got about two fully flavored cups of tea with each fresh batch of leaves.

The most significant factor that sets this peach tea apart from the other peachy varieties is the way the creation of theΒ  flavor profile was approached. The brew is incredibly creamy and smooth, with equal tasting notes of peach and vanilla! (I can’t quite put my paw on the exact flavor, but I’m just going to go with vanilla. πŸ˜› ) This tea does not attempt to shout “HI, MY NAME’S PEACH!!!” in your face with exaggerated, artificial flavoring that plagues so many other blends. Instead, the peach greets you politely and almost shyly, then quickly introduces his friend “Mr. Vanilla” to you. Interestingly, the characteristic mellowness of this combination is what leads my senses to believe I am actually sampling real peach pieces when I drink this brew. As a delightful bonus to this unique flavor, absolutely no sweetener is necessary to enhance the taste of the drink. My only issue with this tea is the quality of the leaves- I wish there weren’t so many broken pieces. I feel that the tea would definitely have a better resteeping ability if the leaves were more whole, but at this price point, I certainly understand the need to balance quality with affordability.

IMG_0914[1]For a long while, I had been a tea slave to a certain.. infamous mall tea shop, long buying and being repeatedly disappointed by their white peach tea. My eyes have long since been opened, thankfully, and Tealated’s peach infusion kicks their “precious” blend’s ass for nearly HALF the price, aaaannd it’s certified organic by the USDA! This tea is light, naturally sweet, and satisfying- everything a good peach white should be. Great job Tealated!! πŸ™‚

Ingredients: Organic White Tea, Organic Flavoring, Organic Marigold Pieces

Overall Grade: B+

I recommend everyone check out Tealated and take advantage of their free sample offer- I was given two samples of my choice of tea for absolutely no charge, and the package contained complimentary tea filters, a coupon code for my first purchase, and a hand written note of thanks from the company’s CEO, Rosanne. Small businesses are an incredibly important part of local economies, and these little tea companies serve as the great pillars of our tea community. Let’s do our part to support them!

Check Out Tealated’s Free Sample Offer