Posted by: dan | March 27, 2009

you’re no goddess

tikuanyin-header(title with apologies to Laura Marling)

Dan: This is an intense way of reviewing. The adagio samples are all one teabag affairs, so when it comes to trying a new tea for the first time, that’s all you get: the first time. As with our reviews here, there are photos to be taken, and the whole post needs to be written, so you have to review it as you drink it. There’s no other way, all you can do is hope the tea leaves a strong enough impression on you with the first cup. And as I have the one and only cup of Ti Kuan Yin Goddess oolong sat in front of me waiting my verdict, I shall begin.

Ready for brewing!

Ready for brewing!

My hayfever must be acting up pretty heavily at the moment, as I missed the smell of the teabag entirely when I removed it from it’s foil prison. As such, I can only tell you what the smell is like when it’s brewing and brewed. And it’s quite nice, as it smells of spring flowers. Not any one flower in particular, but a whole clutch of freshly blooming spring plants. Thankfully, less polleny.
As I said, it’s sat in front of me. It’s also likely to stay there, as I’ve had my first sip, and it’s horrible. The second sip is no better. Maybe it needs some sugar. Hold on a second.

Are you still here? I’m back, and I’ve added a spoonful of sugar. Here goes. Ack! There’s now a sweetness that hits first, and then the nasty flavour of rotten wool and wet hay strikes again. Which is pretty much exactly what it was like before, so the sugar has fixed the wrong bit.

The bag almost bursts with unfurled leaves

The bag almost bursts with unfurled leaves

I really wanted to like this one, too. The funky style of the crinkly leaves that fill the teabag the instant hot water is added, the sweet smell, and the fact that I’ve already damned one of adagio’s teas were all begging me to like this tea. But I can’t. It’s foul, and I can’t finish it. I’m sorry adagio, I’m sure it’s not your fault, and I will find a nice tea to review for you, but I can’t drink this. It must be me. I didn’t like the Jasmine Pearls so much, and that was another oolong tea. Maybe it’s an acquired taste, maybe oolong just isn’t for me, but either way, I really don’t like this one. Sorry.

Dan was drinking adagio’s Ti Kuan Yin Goddess oolong tea, available at £5.99 for 15 teabags.

P.S. Oh good. I’ve just read that it’s supposed to be one of the best oolongs available. I’ve given a negative review to a tea that’s won awards. Either I don’t know what I’m talking about, or I have a problem with oolongs. I claim the latter in self-defence, though the former is probably more accurate.

Update: 28/03/09

I had no idea this was such an important tea. Everyone seems to agree that I was Doing It WrongTM. So here are a few important notes that more advanced tea drinkers have pointed out to me:

1. Ti Kuan Yin should always be loose-leaf. The leaves need the space to unfurl and infuse properly. Sorry adagio, but apparently stuffing them in bags is not the way to go with this tea. As I noted in the second photo caption above, the leaves really do take up a lot of space.

2. Don’t add sugar. Well, I realised this one soon after, thanks to a) the taste, b) the way it changed the colour of the tea from a clear amber to a cloudy yellow, c) being told it was stupid.

As I said, I’m inexperienced, but thanks to all your very helpful feedback, I can try again with the next oolongs. I have an adagio peachy oolong teabag, and a Jing loose-leaf Yellow Gold oolong. Now I know a little more about what I’m supposed to be doing with them, I shall hopefully be able to give a more rounded, informed review. I shall have to try them fairly soon as well, so you can all see how well (or more likely, badly) I get on. Thanks to all commenters for your insight and advice!



  1. Haha! I love your little PS, there.

    Can I reiterate the point from the masala chai post? We’re both amateurs! Surely our spelling, punctuation and grammar give us away??

  2. Oolong can be an acquired taste, it’s just gaining popularity after black and green tea. It is my favorite, and I’m rolling a bit because you added sugar to it. 🙂 However, I will not hate, I just hope the other samples work out for you!

    • It’ll be a long time before I can acquire that taste, I think! Sorry for adding sugar, but it really felt like it needed it. Turns out I was wrong, but still. I live and learn. I think I have a Peachy Oolong to try yet, so we’ll see how that goes.

  3. Oh noooooo!

    Ti Kuan Yin is my favorite tea. Ever.

    You added sugar? Oh my.

    But as others have said, oolongs can be an acquired taste. I’d also note that Ti Kuan Yin is a tea that you DON’T want in a bag: The rolled leaves must expand to their fullest before you can really max out the flavor. In fact, I normally just dump the Ti Kuan Yin into my double-walled tumbler, add hot water and sip from it all day. I don’t even bother to decant.

    In any case next time you try a Ti Kuan Yin, use loose leaves. Also, how hot was the water you used on the tea? That makes a big difference.

    • Oh blast! This is a tea that I want to try now!

      I do have an oolong that needs to be reviewed before too long so I’ll take your advice about putting the leaves straight into a cup and not decanting for that one.

    • Okay, so no sugar next time. I’m new to this!

      I’ve just checked, and I’ve got a Peachy Oolong (teabag – adagio) and a Yellow Gold Oolong (loose leaf – Jing), so it’ll be interesting to see what comes of those when I try them.

      It did seem weird to have the leaves clumped so tightly in the bag after I added the water, as if they really need a lot of space. Apparently I would have used boiling water, according to the instructions on the bag.

  4. Lainie’s right here I think, Tieguanyin can be a fantastic tea but best drunk loose, not in a bag, the leaves need the room to expand and unfurl. We’ve been covering this tea a fair bit on our blog this week if you fancy taking a look. Looking forward to the Yellow Gold review!

    Have a good weekend.

    David (JING Tea)

  5. Oolongs are my favourite teas, partly because they are so much fun to work with. It is great to explore with different brewing vessels, water temperatures, and steep times.

    I like Adagio a lot, but I am surprised that they put this tea in a bag. It really doesn’t belong there. Don’t forget that just because a tea comes to you in a bag does not mean that it has to stay there: One snip of the scissors and you will have true loose leaf tea!

    In any case, the Ti Kuan Yin that I drink doesn’t get bitter no matter how long it steeps, which is why I can drink it straight from the same glass in which I infuse it: . Your mileage may vary, of course, and I have had oolongs that should NOT be steeped in this way.

    Now the peachy oolong from Adagio is another matter. Is it made with a dark leaf? If so, it is going to taste very different than the Ti Guan Yin. Plus you don’t want to steep a flavored oolong too long.

    My general rules for preparing an unfamiliar oolong are these:

    1. For dark oolongs I keep the temperature to just under boiling, for greener oolongs, I go with 185-190F.

    2. I do a quick “rinse” of the leaves by which I mean the leaves are covered with the hot water and then that water is quickly poured off after 5 seconds are so.

    3. Then I do the first infusion, which is usually short.

    4. With rolled oolongs, such as TKY, I find that the second and third infusions are often the best, because that is when the leaves unfurl most completely.

    Above all, ENJOY your tea!

    • Wow! That’s a lot of information, thanks! I shall endeavour to keep to your rules for brewing next time. Which Ti Kuan Yin do you have? Those leaves look enormous!

      I’ve no idea what kind of leaves the Peachy Oolong has, so I shall have to wait until I open the bag. The packet has the same instructions as with the Ti Kuan Yin: Boiling Water for 5 minutes. Does that sound about right? I’m sure they know what’s best, but I will bow to an oolong expert’s advice. Would you do the leaf rinse for teabags as well? I doubt I shall release the leaves from their bag, because if they’re provided in a bag, they should work in a bag. Otherwise there’s no point in putting them in the bag. I’ll stop saying bag now.

      I’m almost excited about trying it now. Perhaps it’ll happen much sooner than I was anticipating…

  6. I get my Ti Kuan Yin from Dream About Tea in Evanston (just north of Chicago). Yes, the tea leaves are big, and it makes for a mighty tasty infusion!

    If the peachy oolong is a dark Formosa oolong, which I suspect it is, then Adagio’s instructions ought to work. I’d take a sample at the three minute mark, though, just to be sure.

    • Excellent, thanks again! I shall have to refer back to this when I brew it!

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