By September 12, 2005

Adagio.com tea and service review

Lady Jaye and I were cruising the “cool” part of Richmond the other day when we stopped at Rostov’s Coffee & Tea. We were looking for some of the Ethiopian varietals, but alas they were rather low on coffee. On a whim, we started looking at teapots instead. There was a really pretty one that I liked (which was later called “girlie” by the salesperson), and that in turn lead us to look at loose leaf teas.

Now, if you know me at all, and even if you don’t and have read my Solis Maestro Coffee Grinder review, you know that I love coffee and take it fairly seriously. However, especially with Lady Jaye working a desk job, we wanted to reduce our caffeine intake before bedtime. Plus I was drinking so much coffee that my elderly stomach was getting turned by all of the acid. The idea was to drink coffee until about 6PM, and then switch to tea, either caffeinated or light caff, or outright decaf. We bought a pincher-type tea ball (on tongs) and a quarter pound of chamomile herbal tea.

We liked it enough that I started snooping around on Ars Technica to see what the other tea geeks liked, and where they ordered their tea from. One site that kept coming up was Adagio. Their site is very clean, and the ordering process is very easy. I’d have to say it’s one of my favorite sites to visit, although they do have a problem with their promotions (more on that in a minute).

I ordered the Green Tea Starter Set, and some other samplers, including the incredibly crazy Lapsang Souchong that tastes like a “smoke” scratch and sniff smells. According to my reasoning, I also qualified for a free teapot with a removable infuser (a $9 value!).

I ordered the tea on the 15th of August, and it arrived very shortly thereafter. The sample tins are awesome. They’re tiny rectangular metal boxes and are very handsome, at least to my industrial design preferences. They look like they would be great cargo miniatures for a Battlestar Galactica fleet. The ingenuiTEA 16oz teapot is just fucking incredible. It’s so simple — the tea goes into the plastic cup, and when you’re done brewing your tea you set the cup on top of a normal-sized mug. A diaphragm is depressed, and the tea comes out the bottom, leaving the tea leaves in the plastic chamber. It’s like magic, and even to this day I’m amazed when I watch it work.

So while I’m marveling at the ingenuiTEA I notice that something is missing — my free teapot!! I write to Adagio, and in their defense they replied the same business day, stating that I had not read the fine print. I had to order $25 worth of tea, and not tea products. Lame. But whatever, they promised to send me a tea pot on my next order. It’s the least they can do, as I’m sure the tea pots can’t possibly cost them more than $2 wholesale.

The tea was very good, at least as I can tell by my completely untrained, ignorant grasp of loose leaf tea. The lapsang souchong was too hardcore for us — I held out the longest and made it through two cups before tossing the batch in the garbage — but I liked Adagio’s Web site and quick shipping enough to place a second order three weeks later, with a white tea sampler and three larger tins of tea that we liked from our initial order, including the 1812 Gunpowder green tea.

Once again, my order was shipped promptly and I was quite proud of myself for being both tea and e-commerce savvy. The larger tins from Adagio are even cooler than the sampler sizes, with a metal clasp, metal bottom, and a durable plastic lid. I smiled on the inside, happy to buy my tea for less money at a more accessible shop than our local Rostov’s, who insisted on closing at 6PM during the week, 5PM on Saturdays, and completely closed on Sundays like it was the 1950s.

But that cute little teapot kept calling my name, and Lady Jaye and I returned to Cool Street to see if it was still there. It was, and while I made a mental note to myself to remember the manufacturer so I could buy it online for less money, Lady Jaye nudged my elbow. “Hey, how much did we pay for our gunpowder?”

Motherfucker!

For what we paid for 6oz of gunpowder green tea from Adagio we could have purchased over a half pound from Rostov’s. Rostov’s lapsang was $3 cheaper for a half pound than adagio.com. Now, granted, Rostov’s doesn’t (as far as we know) carry any white tea. Rostov’s selection is more limited than Adagio’s, but even factoring in the price of the clear glass mason jars we purchased at Rostov’s, we still came out financially ahead. And that’s not even including shipping.

We bought some totally incredible decaf tea that tastes like Atomic Fireballs, and some decaf Earl Gray. We still didn’t get the little teapot, but that turned out OK since we just bought a really sweet glass teapot this weekend (but that’s another review).

Adagio.com Strong Points:

  • Super slick Web site that makes buying tea for the novice very easy.
  • Lots of consumer reviews give you the tea cultural currency to talk like a pro. For example, lapsang is also known as Russian Caravan tea, and I know why, as well as why the tea tastes like burnt ass smoke.
  • You can’t beat the ingenuiTEA teapot. It’s awesome, and I’ve thought about just buying a second one, but now that I know that Adagio’s prices aren’t so hot I’m not sure if I want to spring for shipping on a single item.
  • Fast shipping!
  • Responsive customer service.

Overboiled Water:

  • Their prices are higher than I expected, even before shipping.
  • Promotions have a touch more fine print than I’m used to, and I buy tons of shit online.

I’d highly recommend adagio.com for any gifts you may need to give this season. Their wrapping looks nice (Bond got some tea for Cleopatra), and their shipping speed is really good. They have a fantastic selection, and if you don’t know what your giftee likes, the samplers are cheap ($7 for the white tea sampler was awesome). However, if you know what kinds of teas you like, you may be able to get a fine deal from your local tea and coffee shop, even if they’re stuck in the 1950s and are only open until 5PM on Saturdays.

Adagio.com, I bestow unto thee:

Four out of five STFU mugs!

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1 Comment on "Adagio.com tea and service review"

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  1. configuratrix says:

    Be sure to store your Lapsang Souchong *away* from the rest of your tea, or all the rest will end up smelling like smoke too.

    Happy tea!