If you have been a fan of Adagio Teas for any length of time, surely you have heard about their Masters Teas. It’s been a relatively small collection of hand-processed, premium teas, and to be honest, even though I knew they existed (and even purchased some Formosa Ali Shan Oolong), it’s a section of their site that has a tendency to fly under my radar. I find myself more easily distracted by their more robust collection of colorful blended teas. But now, Adagio Teas has launched a sister site to give their premium teas the attention they deserve.
Masters Teas offers direct-from-the-farm teas, and to ensure freshness, tea is processed in small batches and only becomes available on the website upon harvest. This means, you might see “coming soon” on product pages from time to time. Masters Teas also embodies the Roots Campaign, which encourages tea drinkers to “Know Your Farmers”. Each tea page provides information about the tea’s geographical origin as well as the tea farmer; Masters Teas strives to put a name and a face with the tea.
I had the wonderful opportunity to try some tea samples (for free in exchange for reviews), and I’m eager to share my experience with you. I debated recording a video for today’s post but decided to take it slow instead. I decided to go back to my roots and just write. It’s a process that makes me feel nostalgic. It reminds me of slow, Saturday mornings back when Jon and I first moved in with each other. Back before crazy, stressful jobs. Back before a mortgage and trying to decide if we should replace the roof. Back before we had two cats that wake me up in the middle of the night. Back before baby. Mornings were just quieter back then. As were afternoons, evenings, 1 AM, and 3 AM.
Back then, Jon worked Saturdays, so I would start my day with a cup of coffee while soaking in the brisk Autumn air out on the balcony. (For some reason, it’s always Autumn when I reminisce about the apartment.) Then, I would go to the library and spend an hour trekking through stacks, searching for books to read. Then, I would come home, put the kettle on, photograph the books I would never actually finish reading, and then I would write about tea. I’d write out my tasting notes, sure, but more importantly, I would reflect on how I would experience the tea, how it would make me feel, and definitely the weather. (I can’t tell if the weather was used to create atmosphere, or if I’m just so guarded that even in my writing, I couldn’t move past small talk). Still, some of my favorite pieces of writing came from those slow Saturday mornings, sipping tea.
I shuffled through a selection of eight teas before settling on a familiar, yet wholly different Muzha Tie Guan Yin. This kind of oolong is no strangers here on my blog, though the ones I’ve tried in the past were from the Anxi region in China and were only lightly roasted. The Muzha Tie Guan Yin from Masters Teas comes from Wen Shen, Taiwan, and compared to its Anxi cousin, it’s highly roasted, which impacts both the physical appearance and the tasting experience.
The dried tea leaves are a dark, muddy brown color. The leaves are tightly rolled, but unfurl to full leaves after steeping. The smell is of minerals and wet grass clippings that are slightly composted, and makes me think of rainy, late-springtime afternoons. After steeping, the wet leaves smell charred, vegetal, and like dark salad greens.
I steeped this tea three times, as recommended by the Masters Teas website, at 212 degrees starting at three minutes and increasing the steep time one minute with each subsequent steep.
The color of the liquor is the color of golden syrup, and it has buttery and spiced aromas with sweet blossom undertones. The tea has a medium-to-full bodied mouthfeel, and it is not nearly as astringent as I anticipated. The predominant taste is of buttered rice with mineral undertones. The butter rice flavor stays with you long after you sip, too.
The liquor is still golden syrup-colored, but it smells smokey instead of buttery. The mouthfeel is still medium bodied, but again it lacks the butteriness that was present in the first steep. It also is slightly more astringent than the first steep. The flavors do become more complex during the second steep though. I tasted dry grass clippings. I tasted a spiced flavor that came through after the tea sat on my tongue for a while– earthy cinnamon. I tasted light, powdery blossoms as the tea began to cool.
The final steep had a medium-to-light body, and a flavor that reminded me of dried clover and hay from late summertime. (Maybe something akin to the Chunmee Green tea I tried recently).
Overall, the Muzha Tie Guan Yin was a beautiful tea with complex flavors that peaked during the second steeping and one that I I can’t wait to experience again. If you are interested in premium, direct-from-farm teas, make sure you check out Mastersteas.com. Also, stay tuned because I have several more teas from Masters Teas to try out. I’m especially looking forward to the Formosa Ruby 18 Black tea, the Sincha Genmai Cha, and the Yu Qian Anji Bai Cha.