Sunday, September 21, 2014

Review #44 - SanctuaryT - Classic Earl Grey (loose)

For this review I was contacted by what might be the closet "shop" yet. Sanctuary T is located in NY which is probably, on a perfect traffic day, around a 3hr drive. They actually sent me a number of teas but for this review I'll be focusing on their Earl Grey. Onto the review.


The samples were sent in plastic bags with hand written notes on them. Like before, if you are willing to send me tea for review and the samples are created just for me, I do not review the vessels you choose to send the tea in. All I will say is the teas were put in small little baggies and the tops rolled up tight.

When I opened the baggy I was met with a very subdued aroma. Both the tea and bergamot were easily picked out and nothing had an artificial smell to them. Sometimes you pick up alot of fruity citrus, but in this case the bergamot was on the limited side. As we have seen before, the aroma sometimes gives a different picture of what the tea will taste like.

As for ingredients, I'll let their site explain what is in this tea:
Our Earl Grey stays true to the classic traditional blend of Chinese black tea flavored with bergamot for its signature full-bodied citrus taste. 
Steeping Method

Because of the way the tea was sent to me I'll let their site explain the times and such:
Steep for 3-5 minutes. Longer steep times increase the tea's acidity (great for adding milk and sugar).

Given the range of times given and the sample size I will not stress test, but focus on the times and the re-steeping for each time.

 The Results

Since I had a test plan in mind I started with the 3 minute time. The color was good but not as dark as other teas I have reviewed. The aroma changed a bit and gained some fruitiness as it cooled which was interesting but the tea remained in the light category.

I then moved onto the 4 minute time and things improved. The color grew darker and the aroma took
another step towards added fruit. It was at this point I started to think of the words mellow and smooth. I let the tea cool a bit and that's when I started to enjoy the tea even more. The smell was this nice mellow bergamot that didn't overwhelm the tea. This tea definitely had balance but you had to wait for it. That's when I moved on to the 5 minute time frame.

At 5 minutes the color was at it darkest, as expected, but the aroma only added to the whole mellow and smooth vibe. The tea remained balanced but once again tasting it right after it was brewed didn't give me what I wanted. It was only after the tea had a few minutes to "blend", did it's unique taste come through. In most teas I talked about balance because I don't want either of the ingredients to overwhelm the other. But in this case, the flavors joined. I was no longer trying to pick out the tea, for example, but instead just enjoyed the flavor as a whole. As I said before, there is something mellow and smooth about this tea that makes it unique.

So the next question to answer would be, how would it handle re-steeping?


As typical, and if I have enough tea, I test each steep time for it's ability to re-steep. This time was no different. Sadly, the initial steep time I liked the most, gave the weakest re-steep and to be honest no one should be surprised by this. So here is where I stand. If you really wanna re-steep go just under 4 minutes for your first and just over 4 for your second. For me, go 5 the first and forget re-steeping.

Final Thoughts

Lets start with the cons. Unless I was blind and couldn't find the info on their site, the actual contents of this tea are unknown. I.e. Organic vs other things. Also the 3 minutes is very light and not something I prefer. But as for the pros, this is a very enjoyable tea.  IF you have the patience this is a perfect tea for a nice relaxing Sunday morning. The flavors meld nicely at the 5 minute mark to the point where you don't want to drink this tea quickly but rather spend some extra time to savour it. As always, try it for yourself, and be sure to leave a comment.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Review #43 - Brew Leaf - Cream Earl Grey Black Tea (loose)

Summer vacation is over and I am back. I hope everyone had a great time enjoying their summer getaways and you were able to drink lots of tea. For this review I try another tea from Brew Leaf with a bit of apprehension. Why? Because if you have read my Review Policy you'll see I have yet to sample an Earl Grey, with additional ingredients beyond the tea and bergamot, that I liked. So will this tea snap me out of my traditionalist ways or will it only cement it further? Lets find out.


Since this tea came in the same exact packaging as the other Earl Grey I reviewed from Brew Leaf I will not repeat myself. If interested please refer back a few reviews for all the details. What I will discuss is the aroma. When I opened the package I smelled something I hadn't smelled in a good long time. It conjured up, for me at least,  childhood memories of eating ice cream on a stick. I believe they were called cremesicles. The bad part, I never really liked them and remember being the one kid who instead ate the vanilla covered in hard chocolate versions instead. I'm sorry but my dislike for creme goes way back. Once I got beyond the initial aroma I tried really hard to pick up on the bergamot or/and tea. If I hung in there I could make out the tea but the creme flavoring just overwhelmed the bergamot. 

Brew Leaf has seen a number of updates to their site since my first review so I can now include the ingredients of this tea: 
A remarkably heady Earl Grey tempered with wickedly delicious cream flavor. One cup is not enough! Luxury Ingredients: Organic: Black tea, Osmanthus petals, Natural flavors. Certified Organic by Pro-Cert Organic Systems. Tea(s) From: Sri Lanka.  Region(s): Nuwara Eliya + Dimbula + Uva.

As you can see, this tea is organic which is always a good thing.

With regards to the powder like consistency, this tea mimics their other Earl Grey. The tea is not complete dust as found in bags, but it's about the smallest "leaf" I've seen of all the teas I've reviewed. The smallish nature of the leaf didn't affect the taste of the tea in my first review so I'm hoping for the same result here.

Steeping Method

Since I have some history with this brand I decided to go for steeping times on the low side since the previous tea did not fair well with a longer time. I used 2, 3, and 4 minutes. It should be noted neither the bag nor the updated site contained any steeping info.

The Results

I started where I always do, at 4 minutes and got a mouth full of creme and burnt
tea. The color was on the lighter side as can been seen in the picture. The balance of this tea was almost completely on the creme side. Yes I could pick out the tea but the bergamot just wasn't there.

At the 3 minute mark things really didn't change all that much except for the burnt part. This time the bitterness of the tea was replaced with more creme which for me, wasn't ideal. The color was a bit lighter but not by much. At this point in the review I should probably announce that someone like me should not be reviewing this tea. I'm just not a creme fan.

At the 2 minute mark I was hoping to obtain a better balance with regards to tea vs bergamot vs. creme but what I got was almost all creme. To be honest by giving the tea such a short time to steep the flavor from the black tea never built up enough to balance things out.

To end this section, and just like the first Brew Leaf review, I ended up with tea in my cup because the small leafs got through my strainer.


I re-steeped all three times and if you like creme use the 3 minute time. You avoid the bitterness of the 4 minute time yet obtain some tea flavoring compared to the 2.  Go 3 minutes, then 3 again.

Final Thoughts

So as you can see, this tea did not break me out of my Traditional Earl Grey ways. I really wish I could have found something about this tea that appeals to my tastes but facts are facts. I didn't like creme as a child, and I don't like it as an adult. Which makes it very difficult to review this tea fairly. So I will end with this... If you like creme, try it. If you are like me and don't like creme either by  itself or in your tea, then I'd pass on this one.