13 Tasting Notes

90

Different suppliers corner the market on different signature teas/blends. This is one of Adagio’s gems. Sagittarius is, in three words, raspberry earl grey. It is a very distinctive and very appealing flavor combination that works out better than many generic fruit blacks, and has become a favorite in my family. It’s almost a shame that, as part of a larger blend set, it’s likely to need to live or die by the rest of the Zodiac series, but for now, at least, the Zodiac blends seem to still be in favor and Sagittarius is readily available.

Flavors: Bergamot, Cream, Raspberry

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70

If I asked for simply “tea” at a moderately upscale restaurant or hotel, this is about what I would expect. Not pretentious, no particular flavor notes to comment on, just a straight up black tea which, to their credit, has a much smoother finish than more generic pekoes I’ve had. While I don’t typically take my tea British style, something about this blend would make me feel at home tossing in a lump or two of raw sugar and a splash of cream. All the same, probably not worth seeking out if you or someone you know isn’t already visiting a Fairmont resort.

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87

I made the mistake of picking this one up as a generic black in an attempt to wean my co-workers off Lipton. The mistake was not in picking it up, but rather in identifying it as a generic black. Anyone who is introduced to Yunnan Noir and switches to a more generic darjeeling or assam will be sorely disappointed. This is not a flavored tea, but nonetheless, hints of honey and chocolate are distinctive in the aroma; nearly as strongly as in Harney & Sons’ Elyse’s Blend. I would imagine that left long enough it could get bitter, but it seems reasonably tolerant of time and temperature, reliably giving a full-bodied brew with no objectionable spikes in the flavor profile. I debated rating this one up in the 90s, holding off only because I haven’t yet settled into what the bounds of my rating spectrum properly are yet, and how I’ll account for my mood and comparison across individual teas, blends, herbals, etc. But within the category of undoctored blacks, this is definitely near the top.

Flavors: Dark Chocolate, Honey

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78

I picked this one up during the cooler months when Green Rooibos Key West was out of stock, and it’s distinctive enough to have worked its way into some of my own blends. The nose is definitely lightly citrus, but without the edge of a strong lemon herbal. Likewise, the vanilla undertones mellow the blend without being too cloying, and tend to be what carry through even when other flavors are added. A very pleasant evening herbal or light dessert tea.

Flavors: Cream, Lemon, Vanilla

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I would concur with other reviews advising a weaker brew on this one. Reasonably prepared, it’s a solid middle-of-the-road “tea.” One that if I was served it unlabeled at a restaurant, I’d be quite satisfied with but probably wouldn’t bother tracking down the source of. I wouldn’t have placed the green in it offhand, but with careful focus, I can pick out notes similar to those of the base green used in e.g. jasmine and other mild green blends.

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I’m not going to make a recommendation on this one, as it’s my own blend and that would be cheating. I merely want to set out a bit more detail in the creation process than Adagio’s fields have room for. My whole Chrono Trigger fandom came about in early 2014 when I tried Amy Zen’s Firefly fandom and found nearly all blends to be overpowering and almost undifferentiable chocolate-chai variants. I wanted to try a set of my own, based on characters I knew and loved, and embracing the range of leaves and subtler accents available to create blends which were truly differentiated without heavy flavorants.

Lavos, Lavos, Lavos… this was another mystery box at the beginning. I wanted something strong, spicy, and scary. If I was going to do one chai, I could afford it to be Lavos. I didn’t want straight-up normal chai tea, though, so I began with a rooibos chai base. Unfortunately, this base was an arbitrary in-store Adagio blend I’d commissioned one odd evening weeks earlier when none of the regular staff were in the shop to replace my exhausted Harney’s rooibos chai, and I’d never documented the ingredients. So blend session #1 was simply consulting with the regulars on reverse-engineering my star ingredient. With that nailed, I went about the blend proper. Earlier discussions vis-a-vis Lucca had introduced me to a more appropriate pu ehr for that blend, one that was “not as fishy.” So of course, aiming for heavy and spicy and weird, pu ehr was a good candidate and the “fishy” variety all the more so. I don’t remember at what point it shifted to being the biggest ingredient by weight, but that just makes it less of a traditional chai overall. But just pu ehr, chai spice, and a bit of rooibos was still too traditional for my tastes. It was too easy to pick out the lead ingredients. So I rummaged. Near the top of my rummage bin, in part because I actually rather like it straight, was Adagio’s terrifyingly but not misrepresentingly named Artichoke Green. What the heck, let’s try it. And the rest is history. Adjectives did not quite do justice to the resulting flavor conflagration- grassy artichoke, musty Chinese cellar, piquant spices, and a fish possibly still sticking its head out somewhere. And yet, it was very drinkable, eliciting much the same surprise factor as I’d found with Lucca. I’m not sure I’d want to wake up to Lavos, but I’ve definitely put it in my all-afternoon and all-latenight pots many times now.

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I’m not going to make a recommendation on this one, as it’s my own blend and that would be cheating. I merely want to set out a bit more detail in the creation process than Adagio’s fields have room for. My whole Chrono Trigger fandom came about in early 2014 when I tried Amy Zen’s Firefly fandom and found nearly all blends to be overpowering and almost undifferentiable chocolate-chai variants. I wanted to try a set of my own, based on characters I knew and loved, and embracing the range of leaves and subtler accents available to create blends which were truly differentiated without heavy flavorants.

I am reasonably proud of Magus. I wouldn’t have initially picked him as the herbal of the group, but I can’t argue with the flavor. The Adagio bulk formulation, even as prepared in store, is actually not quite as good as my per-cup experiments with a gentle tsp of Adagio Peppermint, 1 bag of Triple Leaf ginger, 1/2tsp lemon cloud and just a dash of chili. That may mean there’s some processing agent or binder in the Triple Leaf, or that I got the ratios slightly off, but I have discovered that using more tea per cup helps offset this. Magus was based initially on my discovery of exactly how strong Adagio’s peppermint is. If you haven’t tried it side-by-side with their spearmint, you should some time. It’s this quality of mint that has brought me around to liking mint tea, and I’d independently enjoyed straight ginger, so I combined the two experimentally one evening and loved it. But of course, I couldn’t be that direct and still call it a blend, so I poked around for other flavors. Hot and spicy were covered, so I played with tart/mellow, and used lemon cloud as much as anything else because it’s what I had on hand. The result was definitely a good flavor, but I couldn’t honestly say it was Magus-worthy. I debated for awhile whether to just go with it anyway, but decided to make one more go of finding an accent that would really put the blend over the top. Something perhaps not even associated with tea. I remembered back to a happy accident years ago with chili-spiked camp coffee inadvertently made without the coffee, and decided as insane as that was, it was worth a shot here. Surprisingly, it wasn’t the heat the chili added that made the blend, it was the other mustier earthier notes it brought to the party- an arcane ambiance that couldn’t quite be placed. Although I have burnt myself out a bit on Magus now, it is the emptiest bag of my initial blend set, and the most likely to be re-ordered in the near future.

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I’m not going to make a recommendation on this one, as it’s my own blend and that would be cheating. I merely want to set out a bit more detail in the creation process than Adagio’s fields have room for. My whole Chrono Trigger fandom came about in early 2014 when I tried Amy Zen’s Firefly fandom and found nearly all blends to be overpowering and almost undifferentiable chocolate-chai variants. I wanted to try a set of my own, based on characters I knew and loved, and embracing the range of leaves and subtler accents available to create blends which were truly differentiated without heavy flavorants.

I fought with Ayla, and Ayla won. sigh To be fair, this only means my first pass was pretty much right on the mark. I had a notion for a strong black with fruit and sweet notes. English breakfast was the strongest traditional black base to come to mind. Coconut was near the top of my flavor notions as something sweet, fruity, and creamy to tie the package together, but it wasn’t available straight and the best substitute the staff could recommend was coconut pouchong. After smelling it loose, I had no objections. Chocolate was also on my short-list for flavor profile, so it went in. That just left the fruit selection. Hibiscus is not a fruit, despite what Adagio seems to think, so I didn’t want to go anywhere near their fruit herbals. What was in my mind was something nearer the berry spectrum than the citrus spectrum, so I tried strawberries as a first approximation. The staff brewed a trial cup. I smelled it and knew immediately I’d gotten it dead wrong. The coconut was overpowering. The rest of the flavors just vanished. I left the cup on the counter and immediately went for a new formulation with cherries. But I re-sampled the first cup after it had cooled a bit, because it was there. And it was spot on. The coconut had stepped back, the fruit and chocolate were present and balanced, and as a black tea, it was all-around decent. The cherry formulation timer went off, and I tried it. Sour. As. All. Get-out. I couldn’t even finish the cup, so I went back to the last of the strawberry. Which was now distortedly tart itself, with the strawberry powder that had slipped through the strainer mesh and kept brewing in the dregs. #fml. It took 3 more visits, experimenting with strawberry black tea to avoid the dregs problem (brewed up exceedingly bitter in the duration it took the other flavors to come out), dialing back the coconut to avoid the fumes (meaning it was completely gone after cooling), fiddling with other ratios (more amazing vanishing elements), and finally landed right back at my first formulation and the acceptance that the coconut falls off with time and the strawberry rises and that’s okay because the middle is perfect. So. Don’t mess with Ayla. Trust me. Just accept that this blend has a very particular time-dynamic and will go off in odd and wild directions if you don’t treat it right. And really, how much more appropriate could I get if I tried?

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I’m not going to make a recommendation on this one, as it’s my own blend and that would be cheating. I merely want to set out a bit more detail in the creation process than Adagio’s fields have room for. My whole Chrono Trigger fandom came about in early 2014 when I tried Amy Zen’s Firefly fandom and found nearly all blends to be overpowering and almost undifferentiable chocolate-chai variants. I wanted to try a set of my own, based on characters I knew and loved, and embracing the range of leaves and subtler accents available to create blends which were truly differentiated without heavy flavorants.

Robo was very pointed in concept, but perhaps lacking in execution. Lapsang was a must- smoky, dusty robot abandoned in a warehouse for decades; what else would be the base? I can tolerate a straight lapsang, but there may be an argument for cutting it with another black for greater appeal. Not much can compete with lapsang alone, but Adagio’s ginger impressed me during my Magus formulation, and manages to cut through here too, albeit emerging somewhat exhausted for the effort.
Robo has come to strike me as a big, heavy, smokey brass teddy bear, so I wanted to drop in a hint of something sweeter and perhaps less expected. I settled on chocolate, but as I write this, I’m considering adding or substituting some good fresh vanilla. And peppercorns, but that’s neither here nor there. sigh I thought I had such a strong concept with Robo, but at the end of the day, he’s obviously the blend I’m least satisfied with overall. Not dissatisfied enough to forego a cup after a big meal or with the right sort of sweet dessert, mind you, I just may tinker on him a bit more. Which is somehow appropriate, I suppose.

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I’m not going to make a recommendation on this one, as it’s my own blend and that would be cheating. I merely want to set out a bit more detail in the creation process than Adagio’s fields have room for. My whole Chrono Trigger fandom came about in early 2014 when I tried Amy Zen’s Firefly fandom and found nearly all blends to be overpowering and almost undifferentiable chocolate-chai variants. I wanted to try a set of my own, based on characters I knew and loved, and embracing the range of leaves and subtler accents available to create blends which were truly differentiated without heavy flavorants.

Frog and green earl grey are such an obvious pairing that I was completely unsurprised to find Adagio’s other Chrono fandom (hi, TheFontBandit!) was using it as well. Still, this one took a few iterations before I was satisfied. I wanted to divert the bergamot in a decidedly earthier/grassier/naturier/swampier direction because, well, Frog. Sencha was originally just a placeholder- a green that could stand up to other strong flavors, and which I happened to have the dregs of a tin of from my days of Harney allegiance. Poking around the local Adagio outlet, I experimented with kukicha (enough of a failure to stick in my mind, and the first true apology I owed the staff for being Guinea pigs) and maybe one other green, as well as my own stashes of e.g. jasmine green or dragon pearl. Nothing quite fit like sencha, however, particularly after I added Soba. Ah, yes. Soba. 2 ingredients does not make a very satisfying blend, so my various other green experiments were in part searching for other compatible elements. I only found soba at the bottom of a bag of boxes, dating back from shortly after my semester in Japan, as a gift from my parents who insist I introduced them to it. It had been opened perhaps once in an early attempt to mix my own genmaicha, and then left to sit. Sprinkled into the going Frog blend, it immediately tied everything together. Nutty, toasty, unusual… I made multiple attempts to capture the flavor with other Adagio-source ingredients, but nothing came remotely close. So. Frog remains my least complicated blend, but I don’t think I’d change it. Definitely a go-to for my various and sundry (but mostly programming…) all-day weekend side-projects.

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