Desert Sage Natural, a tea blender with a lovely and nerdy bent, has recently begun a Tea of the Month club. For just $10 each month, you can get a sample of one of their teas. I filled out a form after enrolling in the club, in order to indicate my taste preferences. I tend to enjoy Indian black teas, often with a floral note, and–with the exception of Earl Greys–I despise fruit flavored teas.
I am by no means an expert tea taster–my palate is far from refined–but I do know what I like. That said, I liked my first month’s selection very much. My first sample from Desert Sage was Melody Grey, a Doctor Who inspired black tea composed of Earl Grey, orange peel, lemon peel, and cornflower.
My first thought upon looking at the dry tea was how similar it looked to Twinings Lady Grey. In both blends, blue flowers with white marshmallowish bits contrast sharply against a background of dark, dry Camellia Sinensis. However, the labels vary slightly, the biggest difference being Melody Grey’s label says their tea contains all organic ingredients, including bergamot oil; the Twinings label does not list organic ingredients, and replaces the bergamot with “citrus flavoring.”
I prepared the loose tea according to my normal method: five spoonfuls of tea into the filter for my favorite teapot–a 4 cup Chatsford. I firmly believe in the rule of one spoonful per cup, plus “one for the pot.” Tea is mostly water, so I use filtered spring water. As the electric kettle heated the filtered water, I preheated my trusty teapot by filling it with hot tap water. This served two purposes: one, it would keep the pot from cooling the tea; and two, it would keep the hot liquid from cracking the pot.
When the water began to boil–the stage when the bubbles resemble fish eyes as described by Okakura Kakuzo in the Book of Tea—I quickly dumped the tap water, placed the tea filter in the pot, and set the timer for three minutes. Black teas generally are best steeped between three and five minutes, and I enjoy my tea on the mild side.
Meanwhile, I set out my treats. In case you are not aware, tea preparation requires treats. For this occasion, I chose Kedem orange-flavor tea biscuits, ginger preserve, and red grapes. For those of you who drink tea purely for caffeine, you may may not appreciate the importance of this step, but the right treats can accent the flavor of the tea. I like to pair plain or citrus snacks with Earl Grey styles teas in order to accent the bergamot. I also lit electric candles for ambiance, since my cat might knock over traditional tealight candles.
When the three minutes were up, I removed the filter to stop the steeping process, then poured the steaming brew into my pink Depression glass teacup. I prefer glass or porcelain cups, because the container strongly affects taste.
My initial impression was that Melody Grey tasted very similar to Lady Grey, though my son pointed out that Melody Grey was milder, without the slight astringent taste of the Twining blend. I’m not quite sure why. The bases of black tea are probably blended from different sources, but I suspect it has something to do with the Melody being named for my favorite companion of the Doctor. The Melody Grey had a mild, floral flavor, close to a good oolong. I did not notice a strong scent to the brew, though the leaves produced a lovely amber liquor. However, the glass was pink, so this may have influenced color.
Next, I decided to see how the new tea tasted with sugar. Normally, I don’t add sugar to tea because good quality tea should stand on its own merits. However, I occasionally add sugar to dessert teas for added sweetness, or I might use sweetener to save something I’ve oversteeped. I added two small spoonfuls of Florida Crystals organic sugar. I briefly considered using my River Song sonic screwdriver to stir the sugar into the cup, but I couldn’t remember the correct setting. My normal tea spoon worked quite nicely; the tea was sweet, mild, and delicious.
My use of tea spoon, as opposed to teaspoon, is intentional. I have decorative spoons I use just for tea, because part of the ritual is to set aside the time for something beautiful as well as meditative. I don’t care how busy you are, you can afford ten minutes out of a twenty-four hour day to create something beautiful.
In my opinion, a good quality tea should do well over the course of multiple steepings, so I rinsed my cup and set the kettle to boil once again. For the second pot, I let the tea steep for five minutes instead of three, since each additional steeping requires additional time as well. The second steeping produced a lighter colored brew, though the taste results were very similar to the first steeping.
So, in short, I thoroughly enjoyed the Whovian blend, Melody Grey, by Desert Sage Natural, and I recommend this tea to my fellow tea lovers. I look forward to finding out what next month’s selection will be!
**I have not been compensated for this review. I am simply sharing my opinions.