Monday, June 13, 2011

Sanctuary T visit

 I always find that tea is a great digestive, especially when I've eaten something greasy. Over the weekend a friend and I enjoyed a walking tour that was dedicated to cheese. After almost 4 hours of cheese tasting, my belly was happily full, but needed some help. I knew we were close to Sanctuary T, a little restaurant that has been on my list to check out. It was a chilly, misty day, and a warm cup of tea was the perfect end to our cheese extravaganza.

The restaurant had the doors wide open with plants outside, which was cheerful and inviting. Even though it has a trendy SoHo address, there was stroller parking for the little ones. The restaurant has a simple decor, but with the loud music that usually accompanies a NYC brunch. It's a narrow space with a (tea) bar and wooden tables. The furniture has a slight Asian feel, but the venue lights are low, and coupled with the loud music it didn't feel like the serene teahouse described on their website. But happy to be inside, we selected our teas. The tea menu is far smaller than other tea focused establishments, but there was basically one of everything- one Ceylon, Assam, Oolong, a few greens, etc, and even a pu-erh. I needed something strong to revive me, so I tried the Golden Yunnan. Our tea came out in two huge mugs with strainers on top. I noticed many tables had been given wooden tea timers, but we didn't have any. Just the simple instruction of 'let it sit for 5 minutes'. I choose to believe this is because my friend told our server that I was a 'tea expert'. But it was probably an oversight.

The golden Yunnan was exactly what I was looking for. Sweet, bold, with a nice malty base. Caramel and cocoa notes came through as well. It had an invigorating aroma and gave me the lift that I needed. My stomach was grateful. I was happy that we were given the tea in a strainer so I could steep it as long as I wanted. I did think it was unnecessary to bring out a plate of rock-candy sugar without asking. My friend and I do not take sugar in our tea, so they could have used it for someone else instead of wasting it. Although it did look very appealing on the rustic wood plate.

I was surprised  by the mugs used for serving the tea. I was expecting a pot of tea, not an oversized mug. The mugs were plastic on the outside with an inner glass lining. Very similar to the glass tea tumblers that have suddenly popped up everywhere, such as the Libre. I love the idea of sturdy plastic on the outside with a glass lining that is healthy, and flavor-free. Since I wasn't 'on the go' I think I would still have preferred a pot over a huge mug. I imagine the tea cooled off much quicker in a big mug, and I felt compelled to drink it faster. Pouring tea from pot to cup is a sensory experience that I come to expect at a teahouse, or even a restaurant.
Like many tea houses in NYC, Sanctuary T offers some tea related events. There are some events for children, which is a nice addition for a downtown tea place. Even with the many tea focused establishments in the area, it is nice to duck out of the rain and enjoy a mug of tea with a friend here. I imagine it is more peaceful during the week, and one could relax and contemplate a mug of tea. But on the Saturday afternoon we were there, the music was loud, and the crowd seemed to be more interested in brunch than trying tea. It felt like a typical NY brunch scene, but with much better beverages!

Sanctuary T- 337B West Broadway, NY NY 10013- Recommended
Highlights: Quality (but small) tea menu, kid friendly, friendly staff

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