20 Tasting Notes

I received this as a sample in my latest Mandala order. with only 10 grams to work with, I decided to split it into two 5 gram sessions in my 100 ml gaiwan. Since this is less leaf than my normal 6 to 8 grams in this vessel I tried to ‘short-pour’ the water a little to compensate. I took detailed notes but I will spare you from the dreaded copy&paste. Just the highlights follow.

The first session involved short steep times (5/5/7/10/… sec) to see what aromas and flavors I could unmask. The shu brewed up a beautiful medium burgundy color with aromatic hints of mushrooms, warm figs, raw sugarcane, vanilla and mulling spices over the 12 steeps I took this through. It was light to medium bodied with mild flavors of mushrooms, pepper, cedar, leather, minerals, allspice, cinnamon, and a noticeable sweetness tying it all together. Near the end I picked up notes of SweetTarts in one steep and Cinnamon Disc candies in another. In all cases the aromas and flavors were quite mild, causing me to really focus on the tea to get a sense of what was gong on.

The second session used longer steeps (15/30/45/… sec) to see how it reacted. Again the tea revealed only mild aromas and a light to medium body. Aromas of raw cane sugar, vanilla, caramel, and, oddly enough, grape gum (at the end) came forth. This session had significant sweetness in the aftertaste, some spice up front, mild shu flavors and a lively feeling on the tongue over the course of seven steeps.

I’m not going to rate this tea since I don’t really feel like I got a chance to know it. When it becomes available on the Mandala site I will buy a few ounces and put it in a clay jar for six months or so and try it again with my normal amount of leaf. I don’t have a great deal of experience with new shu, but this came across as ‘young’ to me. It seems to have promise and I’m willing to give it another try.

Preparation
Boiling
Stephanie

Interesting!

TheTeaFairy

I love how you were able to describe all those notes, you’re like “the note extractor” lol. I’m really interested in this one, will keep in mind for next Mandala order, thanks for this review.

TeaExplorer

TTF: The spectrum of flavors were a nice surprise. This seems to be more of a contemplative shu than a bold in-your-face one. I am looking forward to buying more loose leaf so I can both dial in the regimen to my liking and see how it matures over the course of time. And because I trust Garret’s taste I will pick up a couple of cakes when they become available and salt them away for a while.

Garret

Great review! Thank you for this. This is most definitely a young ripe pu’er. But… this one is gonna age like a champ, especially the cakes. I certainly don’t want to wish time away (goodness knows it’s going to fast as it is) but 2 to 3 years after this pressing comes online, it’s gonna ROCK. – The Noble Mark cake is a blend of 4 leaves (Temple Stairs is 2) fermented in a similar fashion and on October 29th, the pressing will be 2 years old. I am already amazed at the difference in clarity in around 1.5 yrs. That same thing is going to happen to this cake. We’ll keep them stored in our pu’er room and they will blossom :) Love your reviews!

And by the way… I was just listening to a live dead show from 1989, sipping some ripe tea (year of the dragon), grooving to a very sweet Eyes of the World. Life may be sweeter for this…

TeaExplorer

Garret — I miss my live Dead. I’m old school so it’s all on tapes or CDs, and the office is still in boxes … need to finish unpacking!

How about you? Are yours in digital format, or are you ‘old school’ as well?

I was looking at “The Complete Road Trips” on LiveDownloads (http://www.livedownloads.com/packages/2,383/Grateful-Dead-Complete-Road-Trips.html). Although pricy (FLAC is $350), it covers multiple eras and fills in many holes in my collection. May have to add that to my wishlist! I thought I’d mention it in case you were not aware. —Jeff

Garret

I pretty much listen to all my live dead on: https://archive.org/details/GratefulDead You can stream thousands of shows and there are many that are downloadable, as well. I used to have many cassettes as I had friends who were tapers and then had access to many soundboards on CD because of a buddy who is in tight with Bob Weir’s wife, Natasha. That was nice. Now… I don’t have a collection anymore. Just online streaming and downloading when I just gotta hear a certain show in the car.

TeaExplorer

Woah … had no idea about the collection on archive.org. Very cool! Thanks for that =:-D

Login or sign up to leave a comment.

65

I tried this twice so far in my gaiwan and was not impressed. The first time I used my normal starting point for an unknown shu of 6 grams to 100 ml water. The resulting tea had no off-flavors, but was rather mild. Two steeps in the middle of the 13 steep session rated medium body and my notes show “nice steep”, the remainder I rated decent, OK or just fair. I did pick up combinations of slight tastes of mushrooms, pepper, sweetness, minerals and citrus in these mild cups.

For the second session I increased the leaf to 8 grams. Although the cup was a little stronger, notes of earth (dirt) came out in all but two of the steeps. I gave up on steep seven when the earth taste did not go away.

I’m glad I only purchased a sample instead of a whole cake. Perhaps others will have a different experience, especially if they prefer a mild shu, but I made a note to not buy this again.

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 6 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

Login or sign up to leave a comment.

95

This review is from the Autumn 2013 crop.

I’ve steeped this Western style and it was good but did not blow me away. So I broke out the gaiwan and used the parameters on Verdant’s web page. ZOMG! It’s like a completely different tea :)

My palate is too uneducated to do complete justice to this tea. To mangle an old phrase, I don’t know much about oolongs, but I know what I like. And I really liked this!

Intense in the early steeps. I perceived the initial flavors as a super-intense loquat, but Verdant calls it “tart cherry and juicy nectarines”. OK, I guess I could also call it that. Also got a hint of cloves in the first steep and distinct cinnamon in the aftertaste throughout the middle ones. Stone fruits in the retro-nasal and sweetness in the cooling cup. Citrus notes emerged at the end.

I took this through 16 steeps over three and a half hours, and it was an incredible ride. I remembered seeing an email a week or so ago from Verdant that it was back in stock, so I headed over there to order some more. Oh noes! They’re out :(

Well I have enough for a few more sessions so I will sip it sparingly until the new harvest arrives.

Preparation
4 g 3 OZ / 100 ML
TheTeaFairy

«I don’t know much about oolongs, but I know what I like.» The beauty with tea is no one needs to be an expert to appreciate it :-)
Isn’t it amazing how you can achieve different results just by changing brewing methods/vessels?

TeaExplorer

TheTeaFairy: Isn’t it amazing how you can achieve different results just by changing brewing methods/vessels?
Absolutely, yes!

With many teas I can usually pick out notes in a Western cup that are isolated or magnified in the gaiwan. This tea, however, took me completely by surprise. Flavors came bursting out during Gong Fu that I never detected in the Western cup.

I’ve also noticed a slight difference when using the same parameters on a given tea but switching between a Gong Fu pot (Kamjove type) and a gaiwan.

And so, less than a year into this incredible journey, all I know is that I truly know nothing. And I’m OK with that :)

SimpliciTEA

Great story about how changing the brewing parameters made a huge difference. I think I got this tea as a free sample last time I ordered from them (over a year ago), and I remember thinking I wasn’t impressed with it. But, I must have brewed it Western style, as I didn’t have a gaiwan then. Sixteen steepings, huh? Amazing!

Login or sign up to leave a comment.

85

I call this “the bottle rocket”. It’s lifespan is brief but intense. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, depending upon what you are in the mood for. I reach for this shu when I want a modest infusion of energy, a rich and full bodied cup, and a minimal time commitment.

This shu comes out of the gate fully opened up in steep one, burns intensely through steeps two, three and four, and will give a flavorful medium bodied cup in steep five.

This mini bing is composed of tiny leaves that appear to be chopped up, yielding a cake where you can just snap a piece off the edge with your hands. My normal regimen is 6 grams shu in my 100 ml gaiwan, 212 F water, 15 second rinse, 2 minute pause, break up large clumps with a toucha pick, then 15/15/30/60/120 second steeps.

This is very smooth puerh with no harsh or off flavors or aromas. It is very rich in a good way. There is a mild pepper note, some cedar, a slight yet pleasant bitterness, and an underlying sweetness. I get sweet notes in the aroma (raw cane sugar, vanilla) over wood, clean earth and leather. It leaves me feeling energized but not wired.

I’m reminded of the scene from Blade runner when Roy Batty meets his maker, Dr. Eldon Tyrell, and is told “The light that burns twice as bright burns half as long – and you have burned so very, very brightly, Roy.”

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 6 g 3 OZ / 100 ML
Yang-chu

Great review.

TeaExplorer

Thank you :)

Terri HarpLady

Nice review! And of course, I love the Blade Runner reference. I’ve only watched that movie SO MANY Times, although it’s been a few years since my last viewing, but I always seem to notice something new each time I watch it. :)

TeaExplorer

Blade Runner is among my top 10 favorite movies and, like you, I’ve seen it many times and I notice new things on every viewing. It’s one of those rare cases where the ideas explored in the movie far exceed those of the book it was drawn from. I’m going to put it in my rotation for a re-watch as soon as I get some free time :)

Terri HarpLady

I actually was thinking I’d watch it on netflix, but it’s not available for streaming, so I’ll have to add it to my Q

Login or sign up to leave a comment.

89

I am reviewing the Spring 2012 harvest.

This is one of the few Yunnan blacks that I will gladly steep Western when in a hurry, and is a favorite when working at my desk in the afternoon.

I use 4 grams to 236 ml of 190 F water at 1/2/3/4 minutes, with the last steep reduced to 177 ml. The leaf responds quite well to this treatment. I get aromas of cocoa, honey, malt and occasional hints of vanilla. Although the cocoa does not translate into the cup the sweetness does, especially in the later steeps, accompanied by pleasant citrus notes and a hint of ginger over a medium black tea base. I find myself going “Mmmm” out loud without thinking about it.

Today instead of a hint of citrus I got significant Meyer lemon notes, which was extremely tasty. I’m not sure if it’s because this tea is changing as it ages or if I did something different and did not notice. I’ll pay attention to the next few sessions to see if that is a trend. If so, no complaints!

I’ve already got the spring 2014 harvest on my wish list for my next YS order, and am looking forward to comparing harvests two years apart.

Flavors: Cocoa, Honey, Malt

Preparation
190 °F / 87 °C 1 min, 0 sec 4 g 8 OZ / 236 ML
TheTeaFairy

Oh my! Yum to mayer lemons. YS is next on my “who to order from” list…but I must resist for now, just too many teas in the cupboard!!!!

TeaExplorer

YS is an especially dangerous site to browse. I usually put about $400 worth of stuff in my cart, laugh at my sheer folly, then spend the next three days painstakingly revisiting each page and deleting things until it gets below my threshold of pain.

My cupboard doors are bowing outward, but the spring 2014 harvests are coming in and it’s almost too hard to resist at least a few =:-}

TheTeaFairy

Haha! How do you downsize a $400 order? Painstakingly seems like the proper word :-)
I know what you mean, the other day I started browsing through their pu’erh selection and nearly went crazy with envy! I just exited and have been desperately trying to avoid them ever since. You.are.not.helping. Just saying :-O

TeaExplorer

Several months ago I was joking with some fellow Steepster-ites about starting a ‘12-steep program’. The manifesto would probably go something like “I admit that I’m powerless over tea, and in fact just bought some more. Wanna’ see?”

TheTeaFairy

Ahhh! That’s so hilarious…(and psst… yes…I do want to see…)

Terri HarpLady

TeaFairy, I’d be glad to send you samples of everything I have from YS, if you like.

TeaExplorer, LOL, you & I use the same shopping methods! I spent the weekend building & then destroying shopping carts from a couple of sites, YS was one. It will happen, as I have money in my playpal account from CD sales & such, just begging to be spent.

regarding 12 Steep groups: we did have a group going in the discussions boards for awhile, but everybody kept relapsing & bragging about what they purchased, hahaha

TheTeaFairy

Aww, terri how generous you are…I need to stop ordering tea and swap more I think :-)
I will keep that in mind and PM you when the time is right, thank you so much! Things are out of control, I’m aiming at getting under 300, almost there, but more tea is already on its way!!!
In the mean time, my cupboard is open if you see stuff that is of interest to you :-)

Same goes for you TeaExplorer, I have plenty to share!!

Login or sign up to leave a comment.

95
drank Golden Fleece by Verdant Tea
20 tasting notes

A HUGE thanks to Terri HarpLady for sending me a generous sample of this excellent tea!

I used my 100 ml gaiwan and followed the Gong Fu regimen outlined on the Verdant site. The raw sugar and vanilla aroma was heavenly! Those notes came through in the cup along with occasional guest appearances of cinnamon, allspice, and something I refer to as citrus liveliness which appears on the sides of the tongue and triggers a saliva reaction. Wonderful aftertaste. I took this through 15 steeps and threw the remainder in a jar in the fridge to cold steep. This is one tea I’d like to always have some of on hand.

And, oh happy day, Verdant has a limited amount in stock right now! I’m off to add this to my cupboard.

Edit: I logged this a day after drinking it. Just noticed my notes had the comment: “Steep 7 – actually have a slight buzz!”. I’ve had teas that have energized me and some where I felt the caffeine, but this was the first tea I actually caught a buzz from! Has anybody else ever felt that effect with this tea?

Preparation
Boiling 4 g 3 OZ / 100 ML
Terri HarpLady

I’m overdue for a session with this tea, & even though I have some hidden in my attic, the voice in my head is always urging me to buy more. Did I also send you YS’s Imperial Mojiang? I haven’t actually done a side by side with those 2, but in my mind they are quite similar.

TeaExplorer

Teri – Although you included nearly the entire YS black tea catalog in the swap box[=:D], the Mojiang was not among them. I did, however, include 50g of that tea in a recent YS-US order and will give it a steep to see how it compares. Thanks for the suggestion!

Terri HarpLady

What? I didn’t include any of it? I don’t know how that happened, but I’m glad you’re getting some!

TeaExplorer

Terri – Mystery solved: Just went back thru our PM thread leading up to the swap. I placed the YS order with the Mojiang shortly before we finalized our boxes so there was no need for you to include it. I’m still overwhelmed at the sheer number of samples you crammed in to that box! I’ve got the Xingyang Golden Leaf ’98 Shu set aside for when I have a day off so I can dedicate an afternoon to it (hopefully next weekend).

Terri HarpLady

Aha!
Well, the box you sent me was no slouch either! I’m really just getting started on it. :)

Terri HarpLady

Regarding Tea Buzz: All the time! Especially from Shengs, but there are also several Shu’s & black teas that have a potent Chaqi effect, which I have described as the ‘front edge of a shroom trip’, like when you first feel your third eye opening, & all you want to do is meditate or do taichi or some similar type of mind expanding activity.(child of the 60’s…need I say more?)

Login or sign up to leave a comment.

85
drank Black Gold by Mandala Tea
20 tasting notes

Thanks to Terri HarpLady for the generous sample of this! I got to try it in both Western and Gong Fu styles, with some left over.

Brewed Western style (3.3g/8oz./208F/10 sec. rinse/1 min. pause, then 1/2/3/4/5 minutes), I smelled cocoa powder and tasted wonderful spice notes accompanied by a stimulating citrus essence that felt lively on the tongue in the first two steeps. The later steeps brought similar, although muted, tastes along with just a hint of Meyer lemon in the flavor.

Next I tried Gong Fu style (5g/100 ml/208F/15 sec. rinse/1 min. pause, then 15/15/20/25/30/45/60/80/105 seconds). A honey and lemon aroma coupled with a strong note of Meyer lemon dominated the first steep, which came across as being quite tasty. The middle steeps saw a shifting interplay of spices, citrus liveliness on the tongue and sweetness which were very enjoyable. The last couple of steeps saw an increase in the spice, but not to an objectionable level.

Of the two methods, I thought the Gong Fu preparation allowed this tea to show more layers of flavor, but if I were in a hurry I would not hesitate to steep it Western.

I’m just beginning my exploration of Chinese black teas so I’m not sure where this would rank in terms of other well known ones. Overall, however, it’s a very nice tea.

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 15 sec 5 g 3 OZ / 100 ML
Terri HarpLady

Yay, glad you liked it!

Garret

What a nice review of this tea! Thank you for that. Funny, I see in your bio that you were a follower of the Grateful Dead as I’ve been listening to alot of live dead these last few days. I saw them alot between 86 and 93. Yes… some good seeds were planted and some good seeds were watered during that time. It’s how I got into Eastern philosophy, bodywork, meditation and TEA!! Hope it did you lots of good, too, my friend :)

TeaExplorer

It did me lots of good, but in a different way. I was in a period of stress in my life and the shows were an oasis of peace. In addition, the sense of community was overwhelming. For instance, I traveled to the show at the Richfield where Vince Welnick was playing his first gig with them. Had all sorts of travel mishaps and arrived 20 minutes after the start of the show without having had lunch or dinner. After the show my blood sugar had tanked and I was shuffling around the parking lot, having lost my traveling companions some hours earlier, when a random guy came up to see what was wrong. He got me a Gatorade and an apple, then brought me back to a dorm at Akron to crash. I woke up in the morning on the living room floor with about 20 other refugees from the show. We became friends and he sent me a T-shirt he had made (Dr. Seuss: “I am the Lorax and I speak for the trees”). Years later I’m walking down Duval in Key West wearing the shirt when a guy stops me. “My friend made that shirt” he says. Turns out he was one of the dorm mates from the floor I had crashed on years earlier, and in that moment my experience came full circle. I have a number of stories like that and they all center on the communities that would spring up around the shows. I took that spirit with me and applied it to the community around me back home. Not everyone was receptive, but the practice of opening myself to the people and the world around me was life changing. I feel a sense of that here on Steepster, where people are willing to give and share openly without judgment. It’s a rare thing on the Internet.

TeaExplorer

Oh yeah, about tea … There are a handful of companies which seem to offer the very best of what they can source such that I have no hesitation trying something from them which is new to me. Mandala is one of those, along with Verdant and Butiki (and probably others I have not discovered yet). I tend to want to get to know a tea before logging it, which could take anywhere from days to a month or more, so my logs tend to be sparse. I’ve got a dozen Mandala teas in my cupboard (not counting samples from swaps) and some of those will always remain on hand, such as the Phatty Cakes and Special Dark. You have a knack for this … keep up the good work!

Terri HarpLady

Applause to everything you said! I especially love the bit about the t-shirt. Life is awesome, & we’re all connected!
:D

Garret

I love stories like that one, my friend. It still happens to me. Even here on Steepster :) Thanks so much for sharing that one with us. And wow, thanks for the kind words about our humble company!! That means a lot to me.

With Dead scene, I definitely got opened up to the possibility of community, for sure. And while community isn’t always perfect, not trying for community is a far less appealing option, for sure!

Garret

the dead scene, I meant.

Login or sign up to leave a comment.

87

Thanks to boychik for the sample! I tried this tea both Western and Gong Fu style.

Western: 3.8 grams to 8 oz. of 195F water at 2/3/4/8 minutes. Wonderful aromas of malt and fresh baked bread (pumpernickel in the first steep!). The malty aspect comes through in the cup and the honey-like sweetness increases as the cup cools. A lively citrus note emerged in the second steep. The last two steeps were pretty mild but still tasty.

Gong Fu: 4 grams to 130 ml of water just off the boil and 8 to 10 second steeps. I don’t get the malty aspect with this method, but the sweet and citrus notes build very nicely. Unfortunately a strong spice note emerges in the middle steeps and builds throughout the remainder of the session, becoming quite strong around steeps 8 and 9 (my notes referred to it as a spice bomb!). The tea might have reacted differently at a cooler water temperature, but the sample is gone so I was not able to try that.

I liked this tea much better Western style. To me it’s similar to the Teavivre Golden Monkey, but the H&S had richer aromatics and slightly stronger honey notes in the cup.

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 2 min, 0 sec 3 g 8 OZ / 236 ML
JustJames

rich honey notes……. lovely =0)

TeaExplorer

It is a very nice tea, although they’re “pretty proud of it” at $22 for 3 oz. :)

JustJames

ouch! then again you pay for the good stuff….

Login or sign up to leave a comment.

85

Thanks to boychik for the sample! I first steeped it western style, 4 grams to 8 oz of 195F water at 1/2/3/4/5 minutes. Aromas of honey, spearmint, cinnamon, and grapes emerged over the various steeps. The cup was creamy, malty, quite tasty! The honey notes were more prominent in retronasal exhale than upon the tongue, but still very nice. The mild sweet potato aspect was most noticeable in the aftertaste, and a citrus note and pleasant bitterness emerged in the cooling cup. Later steeps had a hint of spice in the aftertaste. Overall a very nice cup.

Next I tried the remainder of the sample Gong Fu style just to see what that did (7 grams to 130 ml of 195F water in short 3 to 4 second steeps). Many of the same notes emerged one or two at a time over the various steeps, with sweetness in the early ones and the spice aspect emerging in the middle steeps. Although a decent cup prepared this way, the tea was more enjoyable when brewed western style.

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 1 min, 0 sec 4 g 8 OZ / 236 ML
Terri HarpLady

“Retronasal Exhale”
Now that’s an interesting term, which I think is the same as what I refer to as an “after aroma”, which I especially experience with Wuyi Oolongs like Big Red Robe. :)

Login or sign up to leave a comment.

85

Thanks to boychik for the sample! Brewed it western style. First steep was with water just off the boil for 3 minutes. I prefer my teas plain without milk or sweetener. This steep was bitter but not entirely unpleasant, with some sweetness and fruitiness (as best as my palate can make out) as the cup cooled. I tried the next two steeps at 195F (3:30 and 5:00 minutes) and enjoyed them more since the bitterness was gone and the sweet/fruit aspect was more pronounced. Next time I will try 195F for the first steep to see if it reduces or eliminates the bitterness there as well. Overall a very nice Assam, more complex than the one in my cupboard from Upton.

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 3 min, 0 sec 3 g 8 OZ / 236 ML
boychik

Welcome back!

TeaExplorer

Thank you! I actually went for a couple of weeks without steeping any of my teas. Just mediocre coffee from drive-thru places while on the run (gah!). It’s good to be back in my office with my tea table next to my laptop. It feels … civilized =:-D

boychik

its amazing how we can appreciate some small things normally we dont pay attention to

TeaExplorer

You got that right! I had been taking the luxury of my tea drinking habit for granted. Now that I’m back, however, I feel a profound sense of joy :)

Terri HarpLady

Yeah, glad to have you back! :)

Login or sign up to leave a comment.

Profile

Bio

I’m fairly new to the world of fine tea, having begun my exploration in earnest in mid-2013. I had given loose tea a try a decade ago but what I chose was not to my liking and I never finished the couple of hundred grams I ordered.

I’ve spent most of my life as a coffee drinker, and have studied and practiced the art and craft of coffee roasting for the past decade. I drink coffee until about noon, at which point my palate needs a change.

This eventually led me to try good quality tea one more time. The Internet is a great resource and I got pointed in a more solid direction this time. I started at Upton Tea with mostly black teas, a Jasmine-scented green and samples of some flavors. I’ve been enjoying three or four cups a day.

Then I stopped into a tiny Chinese restaurant in rural Pennsylvania and in response to my request for hot tea the proprietor brought me her personal Pu-Erh, which had just arrived from China, in a portable Gong Fu teapot. OMG … I found something new to obsess about! She kept bringing me hot water and I did multiple steeps until I could swallow no more. My research on this tea eventually led me here.

I’m a voracious reader and can consume a book a day when I have the time. I’ve been an obsessive geek since childhood and that spills over into all areas of my life, driving me to try to attain competency in more areas than I can count, especially technical subjects. I once took “The Visual Display of Quantitative Information” on vacation and my wife asked why I wasn’t reading something fun. I had no idea what she meant.

I love almost all genres of music, but am most fond of Jazz (Miles’ Blue Period, Mingus), Delta Blues (Sleepy John Estes, Son House) and 80’s British alternative rock (The Smiths, Bauhaus, The Pogues). I also followed the Grateful Dead for a short while. Yup I’m getting old, but then 50 is the new 30, right?

I hope to make some of your acquaintances, and swap both knowledge and tea.

Location

Palm Bay, Florida

Following These People