Black Cat Bytes

Tea reviews for the common cat!


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Curious Tea’s Xue Ya Snowbud White Tea -February 2016

Hello, tea friends!! It’s been a crazy last few weeks! My parents came across the ocean for the first time ever to come visit us in London! I got engaged! I’m trying to find a flat to rent in London for one month that will not cost us an arm and a leg! O_O Exciting times! πŸ˜› My life’s been pretty flip-turned upside down at the moment, but in the happiest way! I haven’t had much time to sit down and properly enjoy a good cuppa lately, but I’ve realized that it is something I must make time for. Let’s get back to the relaxation, shall we?

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Today I’m going to be having a look at Curious Tea‘s Xue Ya Snowbud, a white tea offered in their February 2016 subscription box. This will be the first white tea I’ve ever had from Curious Tea, and given the heaving mass of black tea varities I’ve begun unintentionally hoarding as of late, drinking something different is quite a relief. πŸ™‚

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The leaves are light and floofy, with just the right bit of fuzz that gives the snowbud variety its name, and have a rather vegetal, corny scent. Not entirely expected, based on packet’s description! Interesting :o~

I’ve decided to brew up this tea with my cute little speedy gaiwan-like button pitcher thing, so I’ll be using slightly modified brewing instructions:

70 C / 158 F – 2 tsp per 150 mL – 40 second initial steep with 20 second increments after

First Steep

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As the tea brews, a sweet, grassy fragrance rises up from the leaves. There’s a bit of corn tagging along as well! The first sip has a slightly syrupy mouthfeel, but tastes light and fresh-Β  a nutty and lightly floral flavor with playful hints of peachy sweetness that linger on the tongue. This tea is so refreshing, with no astringency at all.

Second Steep

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Look at these gorgeous leaves ooomgggg

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The brew is a bit darker this time- a mysterious limey amber color! As the color darkens, the taste strengthens as well: now a bit toasty with stronger floral notes and some astringency. Noooo~ However, there is still that little tease of peachiness in the aftertaste that taunts me to learn to keep a closer eye on my steep timer πŸ˜› Every second counts when you’re brewing gongfu style, seriously! Blargh. Let’s try one more time~

Third Steep

Ohhh yes, yes yes yes- the brew is lighter this time! Success! I forgot to take a picture of the brew color because I was too busy first marveling at the beautiful leaves again, and after, just drinking the tea! πŸ˜› This tea is so sweet and grassy, and I’ve finally managed to pull out the brunt of that peach flavor that has eluded me up to this point. The drink is so smooth, with all of that toasty and corni..ness.. gone at last. It warms my senses- not in an overwhelming or nauseating way, but similar to how a light cotton blanket might protect you from lazy gusts of wind on a beach somewhere. I quiver with delight at the thought ❀

Curious Tea’s Snowbud is a lovely embodiment of spring time, breezy and sweet, with all the exciting promise of beautiful things to come. πŸ™‚ You’ve gotta be careful getting your steep times right (short, multiple steeps are your friend! corny taste (in my opinion) is not!), but if you treat this tea lovingly and brew the leaves as many times as possible, you’ll end up with quite a pleasant taste adventure. πŸ˜› I’m grateful to have had my spirits lifted by this delicate tea on such a gloomy (typical) London day.

Great pick as usual, Curious Tea! πŸ™‚

 

Til next time! ❀

Robin

 

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TG Green Teas Review/Giveaway

Hello, teafriends! I have series of three byte-sized reviews for you today, along with the first ever giveaway I’ll be featuring on this blog! Yay! πŸ™‚ This post is made possible by my fantastic friends at TG Teas, to help celebrate the opening of their online tea shop!

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These could be yours!! *drumroll*

More details on the contest will be made available at the end of this post. First, I encourage you to read my tiny reviews of the three loose leaf varieties TG Green Tea currently offers:

Green Tea

Brewing Guidelines: 80C, 2-3 minute steep time

Ingredients: Green Tea

Whenever I have bagged loose-leaf green tea lying around, I can almost guarantee it is what I will reach for the most when I’m looking for a quick cuppa above anything else I have. Therefore, it is quite important to be that that green tea be delicious! πŸ˜› TG’s Green Tea fits the bill nicely- it is a simple, unassuming blend of Chinese green tea leaves with a toasted, nutty taste and sweet finish, and I love to dose it with a touch of honey when brewed both hot and cold to balance out the earthy flavors. Delicious! πŸ™‚

Jujube & Osmanthus:

Brewing Guidelines: 80 C, 2-3 minute steep time

Ingredients: Green tea, Jujube Fruit, Osmanthus Flower

Having never tasted osmanthus flower or jujube in my life, I was definitely curious (and admittedly a bit cautious!) when trying this tea. The results were both surprising and soothing: the brew retains a strong toasty, savory quality from the green tea leaves with a light touch of fruity, cherry-like taste from the jujube berries, while the osmanthus flower contributes to the sweet, light aftertaste. I’m so pleased with the natural flavor of this tea- the green tea is the star of the show, while the jujube and osmanthus bits offer playful hints of springtime sweetness that really round out the body of the brew. This is a great morning or evening brew!

Ginger & Lemon Zest:

Brewing Guidelines: 80C, 2-3 minute steep time

Ingredients: Green Tea, Ginger, Lemon Peel

Yowza!! Just the scent of this tea’s dried leaves pack a serious, zingy punch! The brewed cup is just as fragrant with a serious emphasis on ginger goodness. The taste of the tea actually isn’t as intense as I was expecting, but to me, I actually find this to be a relief. As it should be, the taste of the green tea is most prevalent with an added citrus zing from the lemon pieces, while the bite of the ginger remains as an aftertaste warm on my tongue between sips. Sometimes I find the intense flavors and scents of most lemon & ginger teas to be a bit overpowering, especially given the fact usually the only time I really reach for them is when I have a sensitive stomach. It just seems like a bit of a contradiction! However, I believe TG’s Lemon & Ginger variety is the perfect marriage of the potency of lemon and ginger with the smoothness of green tea so that the ingredients bolster each other, rather than one masking the other. I can just imagine how comforting it would be to sip this tea if I was curled up in bed with the flu, though I hope I won’t be able to confirm that anytime soon. πŸ˜›

Contest is now closed! Thanks to everyone for playing! πŸ™‚


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What-Cha Tea’s Nepal First Flush 2014 Emerald Green Tea

Hi there wonderful readers! Apologies for my recent delay in putting out new reviews- I’ve been in England since January and I’ve been a busy little bee in this wonderfully soggy country! Cat sitting, house renovating, fried bread making, and castle exploring are just a few of the things on my perpetual to-do list since arriving here. πŸ˜› Can’t tell you how much I’ve missed writing reviews and tasting new teas, and I’m so happy that things have finally quieted down to the point where I can settle in and get writing again. That said, today I’m going to be having a look at What-Cha Tea’s Nepal First Flush 2014 Emerald Green Tea! Despite being such a well loved tea company of /r/tea, this is the first time I’ve ever tried What-Cha’s tea for myself! Exciting stuff! IMG_0122

This review will be a bit different to my previous posts- unfortunately I did not think to bring my gongfu-style teapot with me from the States, so I brewed this tea both with a standard Western teapot and Grandpa style in a hotel coffee cup (my tea goes everywhere with me :P) and my observations will be based on those methods.

As I opened the package, I was immediately taken back by the light, airy quality of the leaves- their unprocessed look resembles white tea far more than most greens I’ve seen before. The first time i brewed this tea was in a ~2 cup teapot, steeping 3 heaping teaspoons of leaves for approximately three minutes. The flavor was subtlety fruity and smooth, with very few vegetal or grassy notes- I was reminded of Pai Mu Tan (White Peony) or a similarly sweet white tea. Yum!

IMG_0122Brewing the tea grandpa style for roughly two minutes brought out quite a different flavor profile, to my surprise. The first sip was dominated by nutty and sweet flavors with fruity notes becoming the aftertaste. As the leaves unfurled more fully in the cup after an extra minute on the second steeping, both flavors became stronger but retained their previous prevalence. While using the leaves a third time, I accidentally left them to steep for over ten minutes, though the resulting brew had no bitterness! However, the nutty taste of the tea now easily overpowered any lingering suggestions of fruitiness even as an aftertaste. Subsequent steepings produced the same results.

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Simply stated, this tea is a pleasure to drink and can be prepared as simply or as complex as you have the desire for and will still produce delicious results. If more care and precision is taken with its preparation, it is easy to coax out the fruity and slightly floral subtleties of the leaves, but the resulting tea is still a pleasure to drink even the leaves are thrown into a teacup and left to steep. This Emerald Green Tea is a delightful departure from the grassy vegetal taste of many green teas I’ve tried, and its light, sweet flavor along with its forgiving steep time makes it a perfect introduction to greens for a loose-leaf beginner.


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Adagio’s Green Pekoe Tea

I make it no secret that I’m not the biggest fan of straight green teas, at least not presently. While some people absolutely love the grassy flavor profile of most of them, if I’m in the mood for something veggie-tasting… I’d rather just go eat some veggies than drink something that tastes like them! However, I did feel like my bias was causing me to miss out on a lot of top-quality green goodness, so I decided to dip my little toe into the tremendous ocean of green teas with Adagio’s Green Pekoe tea. And might I say, the water’s just fine! πŸ™‚

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The second I opened my tiny sample package and had a whiff of this tea, I felt a wave of relief wash over me: the vegetal smell I expected was not present, and in its stead, a sweet floral scent with a slight hint of nuttiness. YAY! I couldn’t wait to get steeping!

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Tell me this isn’t GORGEOUS~

The first steeping was definitely the trickiest. Because the leaves took a fairly long time to unfurl in the cooler water, I left them in probably a bit longer than I should have (~2 minutes or so), so my first cup was a little bitter. Needless to say, a piece of rock sugar solved the problem easily. The first cup will have the most earthy and vegetal notes of the entire session, and even then they are still quite subtle compared to other green varieties. Looking back on it, if you’re not into the veggie taste, I might suggest skipping the first steeping entirely and just using it as a means to wash and unfurl the leaves.

IMG_0928[1]The second steeping was where things started to get interesting. And freaking delicious. Once the leaves have expanded and are happily sitting in your cup/gaiwan, they begin to express their characteristically sweet and nutty flavor, and the tea takes on a richer golden color than the first steeping. At this point, no sugar or honey is needed whatsoever to enhance the flavoring- they’d likely only mask it due to its subtlety. The third steeping is definitely my favorite- the tea actually gets sweeter, and starts to taste like marzipan or even marshmallows. Mind you, you’ll kind of have to concentrate on the taste if you want to pull these notes out of it-the flavor definitely won’t stand out to you if you’re not paying attention. But you should! Because it is SOOOO FREAKIN’ worth it. πŸ˜› Sadly, after the third steep, the flavor starts to fade and would likely need some doctoring with sugar to bring it back up to snuff. Marshmallow goodness is definitely gone too soon 😦

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In a lot of ways, Green Pekoe reminds me far more of a white tea than a green tea, and I adore it! With its buttery, sweet, and nutty flavor, I’d imagine it would be an incredible accompaniment to shortbreads or scones. It’s a shame I drank through my sample so quickly, but maybe you can test my hypothesis for me ;-). Upon doing some further research, it seems that in general Chinese greens seem to be less grassy tasting than Japanese greens. After this lovely introduction to Chinese green tea, I’m definitely looking forward to tasting the countless more varieties I’m sure China has to offer. πŸ™‚ Way to go, Adagio! You may just make a green tea lover out of me!

Overall Grade: A-

http://www.adagio.com/green/green_pekoe.html

-Robin


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BCB Tea Review: Twinings Pomegranate, Raspberry, & Strawberry Green Tea

Β Ever since visiting their famous London shop on the Strand, I’ve found myself drawn to Twinings, allured by their rich history (did you know they have the world’s oldest continually-used company logo? NEATO!) and status as a quintessential British tea brand. Therefore, it’s made me increasingly giddy to be seeing more and more Twinings tea varieties on US supermarket shelves! I’ve just recently found their line of green teas and saw this blend was marked as “New!” on the packaging, so of course, I plopped it into my cart to review without a second thought. Let’s do this!

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Box looks nice, pleasant and simply designed- but it doesn’t take too long before things get reallyΒ  interesting! When I cut open a bag of this tea, I was initially expecting to see regular ol’ tea fannings maybe with some strawberry chunks, or just straight up leaves- pretty common even with flavored teas. However, what I saw was.. inquizzling! Have a close look at the picture, and you’ll see there are actually tiny beads of flavoring dispersed throughout the tea! I managed to single one bead out and give it a quick bite to confirm that this indeed is the source of the berry flavoring of this blend. Of course, I’ve only recently begun the practice of opening up tea bags and having a close look at the fannings inside, but this seems like a pretty unique way to flavor tea and something I’ve never seen before. Neato!

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Brew Time

The flavor of this tea depends heavily on how long you steep it, and my best guess would be due to the flavor microbeads. Twinings recommends you steep the bag for ~2 minutes, but I believe this length of time is far too short for the leaves to impart any of their inherent flavorΒ  into the brew- pretty much all you’ll be tasting is hot strawberry-flavored water from the fast dissolution of the beads. I’ve found that letting the tea steep for 4-5 minutes results in a great balance of flavor between the berry madness and the far more subtle notes of the green tea.

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Flavor

As I’ve alluded to, your enjoyment of this tea is heavily dependent on how much you respect will of the microbeads! No matter the duration of your steep, the strawberry flavor of the brew will heavily overpower any hints of pomegranate or raspberry that may otherwise be presentΒ  in the tea. The only thing you have any real control over is the ratio of the taste of the actual green tea itself to the taste of tart strawberry. Quite often I’d leave the bag in for over five minutes and have no issues with bitterness upon tasting. In fact, this might sound weird, but I found myself brewing this tea on several occasions as sort of a late-night study drink- there’s something about the sweet subtlety the tea adopts when you’ve let it brew long enough that allows you to enjoy its calming effect even if your mind is focused on other things. This tea will happily accompany you as you force yourself through writing a huge essay or tackling a mountain of spreadsheets without demanding any attention from you. It’s a quiet companion- someone who listens rather than speaks. Does that make any sense? Or do I just really need to stop writing these tea reviews so late at night? πŸ˜›

As someone who struggles with drinking pure green tea due to its characteristic grassy taste, I found Twining’s Strawberry Raspberry Passionfruit Tea both a simple delight in its own right and a very gentle introduction into acquiring the taste for straight green tea. I had purchased this tea originally because I was interested in the fruity tastes it featured, but when I found myself intentionally steeping the tea in such a way that I could coax out the grassy and fresh green tea flavor, I knew Twinings had done a great job with this blend.

Cost of Tea: $2.99 for 20 tea bags

Overall Grade: B

-Robin