January 30, 2018

Adagio Teas' Master Collection

In medieval times I might have been a scribe. I always carry a notebook and keep a separate tea notepad in my kitchen. Many of my tasting notes become the tea reviews you read on the blog.

Do you ever wonder about the effect of different steeping parameters on your tea? I prepared the teas in the Adagio Teas' Master Collection a few ways and the results were different enough to warrant sharing all the outcomes here. The four teas in the Master Collection I received were: Darjeeling Spring Tip, Formosa Ali Shan, Hsinchu Oriental Beauty, and Wuyi Da Hong Pao.

Darjeeling Spring Tip

The dry leaves were fairly short at under one inch. The leaves were a mix of greens and browns with silver buds present, and smelled green, herby, and hairy. After steeping, the leaves retained their green and brown colors and appeared broken.

Session 1: 3gr, 6oz, 212F, 5m
The liquor was clear, bright, and light amber in color. The steam smelled herbal, floral, and sweet. The medium-bodied liquor was robust and complex. There was a background bitterness because of the high temperature water and long steep time but it was a very enjoyable cup.

Session 2 (per Adagio): 3gr, 6oz, 180F, 3m
[Note: Leaf weight and water volume were not specified by the company]
The liquor smelled like peach juice and white grape must. The medium-bodied tea was floral and astringent.

Formosa Ali Shan

The forest and emerald green leaves varied in size but all were tightly rolled. The dry leaves smelled lightly vegetal and floral.

Session 1: 1T (=5.76gr), 6oz, 212F, 5m
The infusion was sweetly vegetal, floral, and buttery. The floral note lingered and was even fruity. I drank the Ali Shan after drinking the Wuyi Da Hong Pao (for the second time) and the Oriental Beauty. It was my favorite among the three oolongs until I drank the Darjeeling.

Session 2 (per Adagio): 3gr, 6oz, 195F, 4m
The soft, buttery, floral liquor was underwhelming. However, the leaves had not fully unfurled (see photo above) so I could have resteeped the tea to extract more flavor.

Hsinchu Oriental Beauty

The tea is a mix of brown leaves and buds and smelled of raisins and must.

Session 1: 3gr, 4oz, 212F, 30s initial infusion (after rinse)
The amber liquor of the first infusion was honey sweet and fruity (dates and persimmon). The second cup had a deeper flavor profile. The medium-bodied tea tasted of baked sweetness and raisins. The third infusion was similar. The fourth revealed green stone fruit and slight bitterness. The tea was still musty and had a fuzzy texture. I had a second session with this tea using cooler water and one 5-minute steep. The liquor was smooth and sweet with a creamy tail note. It was not as complex as the cups from the first session.

Session 2 (per Adagio): 3gr, 6oz, 212F, 3m
The liquor was floral, woody, crisp, and light-bodied.

Wuyi Da Hong Pao

Medium to long twisted, thick black leaves with stripes of copper smelled woody and early sweet.

Session 1: 3gr, 6oz, 212F, 4m
The infused leaves were forest green with red edges. The aromatic liquor was light amber in color with mineral, fruit (plum and peach), and floral notes. The flavors perfumed my mouth but there was no sticking quality. The tea became drying as it cooled.

Session 2: 3gr, 6oz, 212F, 5m
The liquor had a mineral and fruit notes.

Session 3 (per Adagio): 3gr, 6oz, 212F, 4m
The tea smelled of minerals and rocks with noticeable tart fruit mid palate.

The Takeaway

Overall, the Darjeeling and the Oriental Beauty stood out with their complexity and consistently yielded flavorful infusions. The Darjeeling was my favorite, and I've squirreled away the rest. The Ali Shan and Wuyi DHP were less successful. Checking the Adagio Teas website while drafting this review, I saw that the DHP received high marks. I also noted a different set of instructions for steeping this tea: 195F, 3-5 minutes. Perhaps for teas such as a rock oolong and a gaoshan, a gongfu-style approach might yield a better liquor? Do you find that a particular steeping techniques work best for a particular types of tea?

The teas reviewed here were provided by Adagio Teas.

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