157 Tasting Notes

Second one to try from the sheng sampler. Method: gongfu with gaiwan. 10 second rinse. Steeping times: 10, 10, 15, 15, 20, 30, 45, 60, 90, 120.

It was difficult to make the dry leaf aroma, though it pretty much smells buttery. The wet leaf aroma changes as the leaves cooled and as the session went on: dried grass, cooking herbs, grilled vegetables, and apricot and grapes.

Overall, the broth is clear, full-bodied, a little thick, and bright. A livening effect on the body. Later, an alcohol kind of buzzed sensation.

Infusions one and two are light in flavor, not quite there. Buttery and vegetal, with a tart aftertaste. These invoke a mental scene of dark earth after a light rain, of water droplets slowly dripping from the very tea tree this pu’erh was processed.

The third infusion tastes of sweet grass and hay, and the aftertaste is more citrus-like. Tingly on the tongue. The fourth infusion has indescribable notes – this is probably the camphor, which I’ve never tasted. Infusions 5-9 come back to the sweet grass and tartness. The texture is more smooth.

Lastly, the tenth infusion has the same notes only lighter in taste. Buttery, with a creamy texture.

200 °F / 93 °C 7 g 4 OZ / 118 ML

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Big thanks to Cameron B for including this in her swap!!

I don’t have much to say other than I really, really enjoyed it, through and through. Wonderful dry aroma. I could even smell the creaminess. Excellently flavored, too – it was like drinking actual cantaloupe juice warmed up. Bai Mu Dan is a great choice to for a base tea. Barely a grassy note, and it’s light enough for a flavoring that is so light itself. Also, the Helichrysum flowers are a lovely addition, a contrast the colors of the Bai Mu Dan.

180 °F / 82 °C 4 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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drank Autumn Song by Mandala Tea
157 tasting notes

Brewed with a gaiwan. 10 second rinse. Steeping times: 10, 10, 15, 15, 20, 30, 60, 90, 120.

I don’t have a palate for sheng, hence no rating.

A dry aroma of plums, grapes, lettuce an licorice. The wet aroma evolves: from green peppers to grapes to apples and honey. Sweet and juicy – I enjoyed this aroma throughout the session.

Early on and late into the session, the liquor is the color of grape juice, and in the middle of apple juice. Full-bodied, thin textured, clear, and crisp. The first infusion is too light in flavor, tasting of dried grass and grains. It is also unpleasantly sour. The flavor fully develops at infusion two. It is still grassy, though no sourness anymore. A little sweet now. The third infusion has more vegetal notes in addition to grass: zucchini and a reprise of green peppers. The grass lessens in the fourth and fifth infusions, which are also much sweeter – reminding me of grapes – with a hint of citrus.

Back to dried grass thereafter. The sweetness also slowly disappears. Lighter flavor. I’m left with a peppery aftertaste at infusion seven. This, too, goes away. The last infusions are very light and grassy, no peppers at all, and they have an airy mouthfeel.

Flavors: Apple, Dry Grass, Grapes, Green Pepper, Vegetables, Zucchini

205 °F / 96 °C 7 g 4 OZ / 118 ML

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Thank you, Angel, for providing me samples!

Gongfu method with a ceramic gaiwan. 10 second rinse. Steeping times: 10, 5, 10, 5, 15, 20, 30, 60, 90, 120.

The dry leaf has an aroma of earth and old leather. The wet aroma evolves after the rinse and first couple infusions – sugarcane, leather, bread, pipe tobacco – and remains sweet and earthy thereafter.

Throughout the session, the liquor is full-bodied, sweet, and soft. Early and late infusions have rusty, brick-like color, whereas those in between are darker, resembling coffee. The first infusion has a thin texture and notes of leather and tart plums. Second introduces wood of trees that are neither young nor old. Aftertaste of black coffee, which is present in the third infusion and only partially in the evergreen-like fourth. The fifth infusion tastes like leather bound books. Up to this point, the texture has been thin. The sixth infusion is notably thicker. Creamy, sweet and sugary as well – the climax of the session. The intensity now decreases. The seventh and eighths infusions have a thinner texture and loam, wood, and chocolate notes. Lastly, the ninth and tenth infusions – combined – taste of burned wood, fried potatoes, BBQ ribs, and salt. with a smoky aftertaste. A thick texture returns.

The tartness early on was not to my taste, but I like how this shou evolved. Great finish. Interesting how the texture wasn’t consistent.

10 g 4 OZ / 118 ML

Only a year old, likely needs some more aging to get the wo dui out, and also the sour can mean the aging was interrupted and the tea dried out in the midst of it. I’d give it a shot of humidity and let it rest awhile in a good clay or stoneware container.


I figured it had to do with being so young. I don’t have either of those containers, just tins.

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Brewed Western-style. 15 second rinse. Steeping times: 30 sec, 45, 60, 120, 300.

The wet aroma smells sweetly of fresh leather, and then of creamy chocolate mousse as the leaf cools. The liquor is consistently full-bodied, thick, and sweet. The first infusion is very sugary, tasting of maple syrup. Underneath, mushrooms. A peppery finish. The second infusion – my favorite – has a wonderfully creamy texture. Sweet again, but with dark bitterness like hot cocoa. I shared this cup with my non-tea drinking dad, who liked it (seems he like shou in general).

The creaminess disappears in the third infusion, which has a distinctive leathery note. In the fourth infusion the mushrooms and pepper return, and there is also a musty note. I can’t say anything about the fifth infusion because I drank it after I ate, like, 15 handfuls of chocolate Lucky Charms. But at that point I think the leaf was overworked anyway.

This was from the shou sampler. Man, I wish I got some of this when I made my larger order a couple weeks back. I like it so much more than the 2011 blend.

Boiling 7 g 8 OZ / 236 ML

Yay someone else who likes shou western :)

I still need to try this one!


So far I’ve been drinking all of Mandala’s shou with Western. My gut says Special Dark is best that way but I’ll experiment with the others I have.

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Thank you for the samples, Angel!

Brewed gongfu method with a gaiwan. 10 second rinse. Steeping times: 5, 5, 5, 5, 10, 20, 30, 60, 90, 120.

The dry leaf smells like…fish. I tried to make out something else, but that’s all there was. Fortunately, my experience improves thereafter. The wet aroma is complex, changing as the temperature cools and the leaf is steeped more: cooked vegetables, maple syrup, brown sugar, cooked meat with honey BBQ sauce, pork in teriyaki sauce, and – near the end – chocolate.

Throughout the session, the liquor is full-bodied, smooth, thick-textured, and, as *Teavivre*’s website says, mellow and sweet. The first infusion is damp earth and leather. The second tastes more like wood, reminding me of a pine forest whose trees and ground are coated with moss. (Infusions three and four, similar). The liquor becomes more broth-like and smoother at the fifth and sixth infusions. Seven’s flavor is lighter, though still sweet, and now a bit chocolatey. The eight infusion has bitterness, but this disappears in the ninth, which resembles hot cocoa (very dark chocolate). Lastly, the 10th infusion tastes weaker and the leathery note returns.

A relaxing and thorough shou. It says, “Take it easy, bro.”

Boiling 10 g 4 OZ / 118 ML

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Thanks to Angel from Teavivre for the sample!

I COMPLETELY forgot I already drank this. Ah well, two months ago. Different experience now.

Gongfu with gaiwan. 10 second rinse. Steeping times (16): 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 10, 10, 10, 10, 20, 20, 30, 30, 60, 120.

The dry aroma reminds me of an an evergreen forest, ground coated with layers of needles. The wet aroma smells more like wood, which changes to bread as the infusions increase. The broth is burnt orange, then black coffee. A texture so smooth that’s suave and soothing. Full-bodied.

The ball really starts to roll at the fourth infusion. A bold leather note. Light smoke underneath. Sweet. Slightly peppery aftertaste that sticks to the back of the throat. At the fifth, I feel tea drunk! Even though I had food. This shou can sure be heavy – that’s what I get for dumping all 10 grams into the gaiwan. At the tenth infusion and beyond, the heaviness in the feel of the broth declines. Tastes woody. No spice. Overall, milder or gentler. A bit sweeter, hard candy-like.

Boiling 10 g 4 OZ / 118 ML

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Last one from the Lewis and Clark TTB and of the Jin Jun Mei’s Cameron B included for me.

Prepared in a test tube steeper. Steeping times: 30, 15, 30, 60, 120.

The dry aroma consists of only chocolate. Meanwhile, the wet aroma changes as the leaves after being steeped the first time – cool: malt —> fudge —> grains. Thereafter, the aroma smells of just chocolate.

The liquor is golden brown, honey-like in color; and there are so many fuzzies that it looks cloudy from a foot away. Fuzzies in every infusion, holy cow! Full-bodied. Thin texture.

I think I overestimated, hence botched, the first infusion. It is incredibly malty and a little bitter. But it’s definitely roasty, reminding me of roasted nuts and toasted rice. This teaches me that not all Jin Jun Mei should be prepared the same way. (Others I’ve had to steep longer in the first infusion because the leaf needs time to wake up.) The latter infusions are considerably less malty, allowing the cocoa notes to stand out. The roasted quality is muted, too, but eventually returns in the last infusion.

This is an interesting Jin Jun Mei. Even with my mistake I still think it’s enjoyable.

Boiling 1 tsp 6 OZ / 177 ML

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Brewed Western-style. 15 second rinse. Steeping times: 30, 45, 60, 90, 120.

Leather dominates the dry aroma. The leather is intensified in the wet aroma, and notes of tobacco and a scent of moist forest soil also appear. After the second infusion, these disappear, replaced by chocolate.

The liquor has the color and consistency of coffee. A thick, creamy texture. Full-bodied. The first and second infusions taste like milk chocolate and cocoa. Leather returns in the later infusions. Old leather-bound books comes to mind. Fire smoke lifts from the liquid and rises to the roof of my mouth. The flavors also shift further away from the sweetness and become bitter, a light bitterness present in good quality black coffee.

This rich shou is incredibly comforting, even when the weather’s warm and a little humid (cold, no, come back, it’s autumn now). I felt like I /became/ the pu’erh. I was really looking forward to trying a Phatty Cake. It obviously lives up to its reputation. I wanted each cup to never end.

Boiling 7 g 8 OZ / 236 ML

I think the texture surprised me the most. It really is creamy.


It’s one of the creamiest tea ever!


I’m definitely enjoying it this morning.


(well, I guess it’s afternoon. I haven’t had lunch yet, so I’m all discombobulated.)


ALL DAY LONG! I had three cups last evening.


Great review, love this tea!!


Thanks! I just had to get a cake.


I got one, too.


This one was soooo good but it gave me THE WORST tummy ache ever. I’m starting to think I’m allergic to tannins or something :(


Oh nooooo! Just this shou? Hopefully? Stomach aches feel so terrible :[


I’ve gotten stomach aches from shoe lots of times (still trying to figure out why), but this one was much worse than any of the others. And this time it wasn’t on an empty stomach either!

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Thank you, Angel, for providing me a sample!

Brewed Western-style.

Never thought that a white tea could be pressed into a cake. I studied the chunk of cake included in my packet. An aesthetic pleasure. Varying shapes and sizes of the leaves, short twigs, earth tones mixed with silver – an instant of the big picture vs the small picture, how both are beautiful individually and as a whole. I bet the cake is something else to behold.

The dry aroma is one of those you can’t stop smelling. Rich, yet gentle. First, honey, then grapes, and, lastly, a pile of autumn leaves. Hay and cucumber dominate the wet aroma.

The liquor is the color of raw honey. Clear. Thick- and full-bodied. I taste notes of cinnamon, apples, maple syrup, honey, and influential challah bread (’tis the season for New Year). Juicy – the sweetness sticks to the roof of my mouth. Refreshing feel. This tea implores you to “stop in your tracks” and to really sense it.

I wouldn’t have thought to buy this tea on my own, thinking that it’s not “my cup of tea”. I am sure glad of these kinds of surprises. Truly enjoyable! It’s the first of its kind for me, so no rating. It’d be in the low 90s.

Boiling 6 min, 0 sec 7 g 8 OZ / 236 ML

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I began drinking tea because its complexity fascinated me. I love learning about its history, its manufacturing processes, and its place in various cultures.

My favorite teas are Japanese greens, and my favorite herbal tisanes are peppermint, lavender and chrysanthemum. So far I like exploring dark oolongs, Chinese blacks, and, most recently, shou pu’erh. African teas are my babies. The only teas I truly dislike are fruity tisanes and the ones that have too much fruit. (Hibiscus – I actually like alone.)

I’m an MFA graduate who studied nonfiction writing. I mostly write nature essays. I’m birder as well as a tea enthusiast. I also like exercising, Tolkien, and Ancient Egypt.

How I rate:

96-100 I adore absolutely everything about it. A permanent addition to my stash.

90-95 Superb quality and extremely enjoyable, but not something I’d like to have in my stash all the time, only occasionally (might have to do with personal tastes, depending on what I say in the tasting note).

80-89 Delicious! Pleased with the overall quality.

70-79 Simply, I like it. There are qualities that I find good, but there also are things that aren’t, hence a lower rating that I would have otherwise like to put.

60-69 Overall “meh”. Not necessarily bad, but not necessarily good.

0-59 No.

If there is no rating: I don’t feel experienced enough to rate the tea, or said tea just goes beyond rating (in a positive way).


Westchester, NY

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