Started off this round with the Adagio Master Series Pouchong. (AKA: Baozhong) As I understand it, pouchong is usually the least "handled" of the oolongs, and as such, should primarily include whole, twisted leaves that retain much their dark green coloration even through a multi-steep brewing session. My other experiences with high quality baozhong are inline with this observation. A high quality baozhong will also feature mostly leaves of a similar size.
Most of the tea of this sort that I purchase comes from one of two sources: Floating Leaves, or New Century Tea Gallery, both in Seattle. I've purchased a few amazing teas from them, and never one that was less than excellent.
Adagio's MS Pouchong is good (and at nearly $200/lb, it should be exceptional,) but not nearly up to the quality of any of the hq teas I've purchased from these two "local" vendors. The teas I've purchased were in the $100-$200/lb range. There are leaf samples in this review. The comparison leaf shown is FLT's Baozhong Honorable Mention from last year's harvest, it was steeped 3x. It has been stored cool, dark and mostly airtight, but it IS 1 year old tea.
I'll let the pictures do the talking, then post a few more thoughts.
Adagio: Left, FLT: Right
You can see that the color of both teas is similar (KIM that FLT is > 1yr) both dark green. The first thing that is obvious is that the Adagio tea is not uniform in leaf size, nor is it comprised mostly of whole leaves.
FLT's on the other hand, are mostly whole, with almost zero little broken bits, tea "dust", etc.
If I had received the MS pouchong from another source, I would have wondered if the package was repeatedly crushed. But these were well packaged, and no signs of delivery manhandling, so I must assume that this is a standard sample.
Adagio - Many of the leaves are torn, possibly cut. Some leaves are quite large, while others are small.
FLT's on the other hand ($140/lb IIRC) is extremely uniform. You'll have to take my word, but I didn't pick and choose leaves from the gaiwan. Both brewed leaf samples were the first ones I took from the bowl.
Taste: This is still a good tea, though IMO, if you have access to a good shop or another source, this tea does not make the grade. While it has a good "green" flavor, floral and smooth, there are undertones of the type of bitterness and astringency you get with broken leaves, which are not present in a higher quality tea.
If this were being sold as a standard grade "good" quality BZ, in the sub-$100 range, it might make my list. I have to admit that I am skeptical when a US tea company tries to make the transition to fine teas from blacks, blends and flavors. IME, the teas being offered seldom measure up to small vendors and traditional teashops. Sadly, this tea has done nothing to adjust that perception.coffee poppet is unconvinced