Black Cat Bytes

Tea reviews for the common cat!


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White2Tea’s Big Tree Red

It is no secret that I am a black/red tea fiend. While I can appreciate the subtle taste adventures of white and green tea, nothing gets my bones a-rattlin’ more than a deep, bold black tea. Give me a flavor explosion! A big band burst of excitement, a one-two punch of malty and cocoa goodness! A little astringency is ok, too. 😛

White2Tea’s Big Tree Red is every black tea lover’s dream- a courageously strong brew that can be steeped an upwards of twenty times with flash infusions. I am so glad I had a chance to sample this tea (and have accordingly been hording it for months- I seriously need to break this habit!) and am really excited to share my thoughts about it with you! Put on your scuba gear, fellow teacats, and let’s dive!

IMG_2092This tea is flippin’ gorgeous! The leaves are absolutely gigantic and smell richly earthy with hints of red wine and dark chocolate. For proper steeping, White2Tea recommends 1g leaf per 20 mL of water (at 212 F)- using so much tea for one session makes my policy of hording tea quite difficult, but for the sake of this review, I figure I have to brew this tea the correct way at least once. 😛 I’ll be using my 100 mL rice pattern gaiwan! Yay!


1st Infusion (30 seconds):  The brew is very malty with a light floral sweetness, slightly plummy aftertaste. I was hoping to taste a bit of that cocoa scent, but since we’re in for the long haul with this tea session, I figure I can wait for it. 😛 IMG_2093 2nd Infusion (30 seconds): To me, this steeping is where I really got introduced to the tea’s primary flavors- you can see how much the leaves have unfurled already at this point. The taste has developed quite considerably as well, with strong notes of malt and molasses. IMG_2096

IMG_20953rd Infusion (45 seconds):  The tea tastes sweetly malty and gives a pleasant sugary aftertaste, yum!IMG_20974th Infusion (45 seconds): Wow! Judging by the sudden darkness of this brew, I’d guess Big Tree Red is just getting started! 😛 The flavor is intensely malty and actually a bit astringent, will cut back on the steeping time with the next brew. Looks like I underestimated BTR’s potency!

IMG_20985th Infusion (30 seconds): I really enjoyed this steeping! The shorter infusion time has definitely paid off- I can taste a lovely combination of slightly bitter dark chocolate and sweet molasses with a touch of malt.

IMG_2100IMG_2101It’s clear this tea still has MUCH more to give, but unfortunately at this point my stomach was completely full and just about ready to burst. 😛 I elected to throw the leaves into a pitcher and leave them to cold brew overnight for some lovely iced tea in the morning.

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Thoughts: HOLY BOJANGLES. Drinking Big Tree Red is such a fantastic experience! I follow a lot of silly tea-themed Twitter accounts that do nothing but tweet about how much of “beautiful calming ritual for the soul” tea brewing is, and with BTR in mind, I’d have to agree. The way the leaves unfurled, the color of the brew darkened, and the flavor changed with each subsequent steep really brought me to appreciate each moment I spent involved with this tea. As far as multiple infusions go- I was ready to tap out before these leaves were! How often does that happen? 😛 I can imagine my leaves would have been good for at least 5 more steepings, maybe even five more after that. The way I see it, the smaller a gaiwan you use for brewing the better, to allow for even more control over the flavor and more infusions to truly experience the dynamic flavor of this tea.

BTR is a party tea. Invite a million of your friends over for a gongfu session and amaze all of them by pouring tea for them using the same leaves infusion after infusion! They’ll be amazed and perhaps mildly confused! Their bladders will be full! And I can pretty much guarantee you this tea will still have more to give. 😛 Thanks White2Tea!

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White2Tea’s 2014 New Amerykah 2 Raw Puer

While I have tried countless teas of several varieties, puer teas have consistently evaded me.The first time I puerh was several months ago, and after finding it to taste like sad pungent fish water, felt quite discouraged from trying any other types. Luckily, White2Tea heard of my puer troubles, and offered very generously to send me a pack of some of the varieties they offered in order to show me the world of fermented tea wasn’t quite as scary as I originally thought.IMG_1652 The first tea of this glorious assortment I will be reviewing is White2Tea’s 2014 New Amerykah 2 raw puer. Let’s get on with the taste adventure, shall we? 🙂

IMG_1654The scent of the dry pieces of tea brick is profoundly earthy with a fruity scent also present. It almost reminds me of walking through an orchard, with wet soil and leaves coupled with fresh fruity aroma. It’s certainly a far cry from the wince-worthy fishy dirt I distinctly remember from my first puer foray. 😛

My first “steeping” functioned mostly as a rinse to get the brick piece to unfurl a bit. I let TeaPiggle sip on it, and he was absolutely overjoyed!To Piggle’s great disappointment, however, I kept all of the future infusions to myself. 😛

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Couldn’t manage to get a shot of the bubbles coming out of Piggle’s mouth as I poured, darn! 😛

Brew Temperature: ~90 C

Leaf Amount/Steep Time: 5g per 200mL of water/30 seconds

1st Infusion

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As the leaves continued to break up during the first infusion, a new smokey scent immediately began to wander up from the brew. The earthy smell was still prominent, though a more floral jasmine scent replaced the previously fruity one. The taste of the tea was also heavily indicative of that strong, sweet jasmine flavor with a slightly bitter finish, almost like an exceptionally strong green tea. I was so surprised this sort of flavor had come from a puer cake, and I probably wouldn’t have even believed it came as a result of brewing puer if I hadn’t brewed it myself! A bit of research confirms this type of flavor profile is indicative of raw puer, while the bolder, even earthier flavors are attributed to ripe cakes. The taste of this brew is so full, it’s almost like having a meal, and definitely encouraged me to slip slow and truly savor this tea.

2nd Infusion

IMG_1659Following another 30 second steeping, I found this infusion far more earthy and bitter than the first, with flowery jasmine as more of an aftertaste. Keeping in line with what I had previously said about this tea feeling like a meal, I was really starting to feel “full” at this point. Oh dear! But I must press on, for tea science!

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3rd Infusion

IMG_1664For this infusion, I decided to let the tea steep for 45 seconds- as you can see, the brew is beginning to get lighter in color. The tea has a much smoother taste than the 2nd and even the 1st infusion, with much less bitterness but still a very full taste. This was definitely my favorite infusion, as I could taste the floral and earthy notes without the astringency and slight bitterness of previous tastings.

At this point, I’m sure I could’ve gotten 2-3 more steeps out of these leaves, but my tummy was so full of delicious tea goodness all I could do was sink back into the couch, watch the slightly ridiculous UK general election debate, and try not to fall asleep. 😛

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Thoughts

New Amerykah 2 2014 is absolutely delicious and a wonderful introduction to puers for people who are new, hesitant, or have maybe have felt they’ve been scored by puer before. From what I’ve collected, raw puers are much more mellow than the ripe varieties and appear to be easier to brew properly as well. As “basic” as this might sound, while drinking New Amerkyah 2 I felt I was able to enjoy the smooth drinkability of a nicely roasted floral green tea while being able to simultaneously savor the characteristic depth of flavor and potency of puer. I’m overjoyed I had the opportunity to drink this tea as my first formal introduction to the endless varieties of fermented teas. It might be a baby step, but it is certainly a step toward a whole new world of flavor! 🙂

To check out 2014 New Amerykah for yourself, click here: http://www.white2tea.com/tea-shop/2014-new-amerykah/

Happy drinking!