673 Tasting Notes

Thank you to Claire for this sample!

I was eyeing the reviews on Noble Mark. What a clever name (these Mandala tea’s have the best names…Phatty Cake, Wild Monk are favorites)!

The other day I tasted this Pu’er with Eric at the tea shop, and then I had some again today.
Both sessions tasted about the same. A quick rinse and 10-20 second steep each produced a very light tasting tea.

This was one of the lightest pu’er’s I’ve ever had and the silkiest.

There’s a difference between buttery and silky. Buttery tea’s coat the mouth and lips while silky tea’s glide through the mouth in such a smooth way that you almost can’t feel the tea at all.

I tasted slight cedar and italian latte foam mixed together as a light, warm, tea gelato.

Etherial tea…..

Dreamers should drink this before dreaming, and lovers in the afternoon when the weather is warm.

I’m a Winter thick Pu-erh drinker, a mug of brew and cedarwood. Somwhat of an ancient Library or Cathedral in a cup.

To each their own, and I admit this is an appealing tea. I can envision it’s popular, comfortable use. Applause to Noble Mark.


I shared this tea with my oldest son on his 28th birthday. It was his first puerh! I even got the grand kids to try but not with as much enthusiasm as us “adults”. A very good one for us to share on that day.


Oh, I love the imagery of “an ancient Library… in a cup”!


Ancient library in a cup? Don’t mind if I do! :)

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drank 2011 Pu-erh Teabags by TaeTea
673 tasting notes

Thank you mrmopar for this Pu-erh tea!

I received a box of single serving Pu-erh tea bags from my friend mrmopar (who as you and I know is the biggest PU fan on Steepster).

PU TEABAGS?! REALLY?! (What was mrmopar thinking?!)

Looking around for a tea to drink, I picked up the box of Pu-erh and decided it was about time to see what the tea tasted like.

Even though the tea was bagged, I rinsed it quickly…then let it steep for several minutes until the liquor was deep red-ocre.

This was NOT going to be a good cup of Pu-erh…I was very sure of myself…and I was so WRONG. (Down with tea-snobbery!)

The flavor reminded me a little of Red Aura, smooth without bitterness or ‘fishy’ taste and a very nice cup of Pu-erh.

Who would have imagined the bagged tea would be so flavorful?

This is a great idea for a working person, so handy to keep portable Pu-erh in a desk drawer to pop in a mug of hot water!

Yes, yes, yes…I liked it!


My uses exactly. Very good at work when you only have that 30 min break to eat and drink and get back to the grind. Thanks for the PU on my head!


Haha! PU on your head!


No about that but I am going to keep you in close company so that some falls your way too!


No doubt. left it out.


think you can that media and dr. Oz for ‘inspirations’ like putting pu erh in tea bags….sounds like a shou


Not marketed for the U.S. consumer by the look of the packaging and indeed a shou. They also press beengs.

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drank Black Pearl by Mandala Tea
673 tasting notes

Thank you to Claire for this sample of Mandala Black Pearl Tea!

I used to get my Black Pearl Tea from China until I found a similar tea with the same taste at my local tea shop (with no shipping cost).

Today, I was going to a shop in Old Town to refill my bottle of vanilla-orange vinegar (I use the vinegar when baking cranberry bread and in Swedish pancake batter along with cardamom), I thought I’d walk around the corner through the melting snow from Sunday’s storm… to my tea shop.
I’d ask Preston to do a side-by-side comparison between their Black Pearl Tea and the Mandala sample.

Preston was glad to accommodate my request because the shop wasn’t busy at the time.
He warmed 2 Gaiwans, 2 small porcelain teapots and several small tasting cups.

First we tasted the Mandala Tea…which was surprisingly smoky.
I was expecting a cocoa sweet, malty tea…but instead the tea was very much like a lightly smoked tea, very smooth and so thick that it coated the inside of my whole mouth.

Next, we tasted the Tea House Black Pearls, which were sweet and cocoa-malty.
This was the type of Black Pearl I’ve tasted from several vendors…all very good.
I had expected a similar flavor from the Mandala Pearls…but they didn’t taste the same.

The flavor comparison of the two were so dissimilar, that they seemed like different tea’s. One smoky-buttery and the other cocoa-malty.

Mandala’s Black Pearls would be enjoyed by people love the tease of subtle smokiness…a thick, rich buttery coating in the mouth and an ultra- smooth finish.

I wonder if brewing by another method might not be as successful as using a Gaiwan. I’ll have to see.

NOTE…For those who use lots of Black Pearls when they brew, I wouldn’t do that with these Pearls. We used 3 in a Gaiwan and that was enough! They unfurl rapidly.

For me, the flavor was refined and very enjoyable.


oooh on to the shopping list this goes!


Ditto, Sil.


we are not good for one another.


Haha. I added it to my list even before I saw your comment…

Terri HarpLady

My main black pearl experience is with Teavana. Now I want to order black pearls from several different venders & do a comparison.


I read the reviews after I reviewed this tea and they puzzled me. It’s why I made the note about how many Pearls I used and the method of tea preparation. I’ll be watching and waiting for your tasting comments!


I may have to try these…


I also found this one surprisingly smoky!

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Thank you Stacy for this sample tea!

I almost forgot to write about this tea…oh dear me!

When I looked at the tea (it does look more like ground coffee)…it appeared quite a bit like one of my favorite tea’s, the Ajiri Black Kenyan, which is ‘very’ strong! (My tea friends tease me about how strong I drink this tea!)

I was hoping Grandpa’s was going to be Grandma’s kind of tea!

The flavor was not quite as strong or wheat-bread tasting as my favorite strong brew, but it had the briskness and a little more malt.

I would definately put Grandpa at the top of the ‘strong tea’ list somewhere between an Irish and strong Kenyan tea.

Do…Love the strong flavor with milk and sweetened! My kind of morning brew! I think of these kinds of tea’s like having a great beer! Fish and chips, pizza and Grandpa’s Tea!

Doesn’t go sour or bitter on the finish like some strong black tea’s.

Should carry this one Stacy, just sayin’!

Butiki Teas

This one is almost ready to go up on our website. Just a few more days.

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Thank you to Wanja Tea for this lovely sample!

My friend Joe at Happy Lucky’s is the ‘tea guru’ who teaches classes on ‘Green Tea’, especially Japanese and Korean tea’s.

We were expecting snow a few days ago, so I made my last run to the store and took this tea by the tea house to share, knowing that around dinner time…the shop would be pretty empty.

Joe was a little surprised that I had a green tea from Kenya (his eyebrows went up!), but carefully read the instructions and followed them. (note: The tea was prepared in a Gaiwan, not in 8oz of water).

We both said, “OH!” and smiled when the top came off the Gaiwan and the scent began to waft up to our noses.

He poured the tea into a small pot, then placed the wet leaves in front of me so that I could smell the aroma.

The leaves smelled fruity and savory… like pear and buttered green beans (but not exactly).

Both of us were very surprised when we tasted the tea.
The flavor was smooth and refined, leading Joe to remark that he never would have guessed the tea was from Kenya. It was the as fine as any good Japanese tea he had tasted.

The flavor was very clean without being dry or harsh.
The savory taste developed into a gentle Umami with bitterness in the way that I desire in tea, and which makes the flavor linger.

The Bosc Pear in Butter scent was unusual and a delicious sensory balance.

There’s something special about this Green Tea that should not be overlooked! I’m not sure what it is, but the tea keeps drawing me back! This may be the best of ALL the Wanja Tea’s!

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I received a whole Beeng as a Christmas gift and was both surprised (stunned) and delighted! Thank you!

This was an easy pry with my Pu’er pick. The leaves were dry and ready for lifting in shale-like sheets. I placed about 30 grams into a stainless tea canister and topped the container with chemical free paper so the Pu’er could breathe.

The leaves reserved in my Gaiwan smelled dusty, so I rinsed them twice.

Steep times were 20 seconds in the beginning, increasing to 45 seconds by the 5th.

The liquor was light honey brown, increasing rapidly through each infusion to dark honey gold then russet gold.

Before I picked up the leaves to smell, or my cup to drink…I could smell a savory aroma. Short ribs, so savory and meaty that I was instantly hungry.

When I took a sip of the tea, there was a clean flavor like the watery taste of bean sprouts that was so smooth and carried on for a long time…then finished with a sprinkle of nutmeg.

Steeping a little longer, there was black pepper and more savory flavor. The taste that lasted was stuffing. Chicken-herb stuffing with the tang of cranberry (probably was cedar in reality) at the finish.

The savory super flavor couldn’t be sustained. I was beginning to pick up more cedar-wood tang, which is a familiar Pu’er taste.

By the 5th steep, the tea had become elegant, velvety and smooth. The flavors melted on the tongue, dripping wet with salty savory and tangy cedar flavor so light that my brain couldn’t separate the one from the other.
I felt a flash like the fire in a ruby. A thrill. (When you drink something so good your body sometimes reacts before your mind can give words to it.)

A great experience with a hunk of dry brown tea leaves that finished with leading me to write!

After drinking the tea, I took a mental journey back long ago (25 years or so) when I traveled high up into the Andes with my cousin
(she was born in Peru). I wrote most of the day about the adventures we had in Huaraz, Peru. Might put it on the blog sometime.

Tea does this for me. Gets my memory going, and creates the proper peace for creativity.

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drank Organic Assam by Butiki Teas
673 tasting notes

The weather report for 8 inches of snow was a joke. Ha ha on Fort Collins again. We got about 1.5 inches which will be melted by Saturday morning. Bah!

The Rocky Mountains act as an umbrella of sorts, with snow falling heavy at higher elevations, then gathering strength as it passes over the Frontrange (where I live)…chugging full steam towards the plains then Eastward to unfurl wings of heavy snow.

Ah well. The dream of every low-land California child I was for snow. We prayed for it! In my lifetime, it snowed twice in the San Francisco Bay Area Streets…so as an adult, that dream of snow still burns and I get excited.

This morning I was sitting with my tea-tray (as I always do) watching the last snow-flakes drift down…more ‘snowkle’ than flakes.

I brewed a pot of tea on the strong side, cream and sweetening to add if needed.

Today, I noticed a strong savory flavor that I missed in earlier tastings. While some Assams are very malty, this one weighs heavier on the savory side and reminds me of a very good Kenyan Tea blended with an Assam.

I’ve tasted the new Assam’s from Butiki, but I like the savory flavor here more that I had remembered and would likely return to this Organic Assam over the newer ones.

Yum, morning tea…reminds me of homemade wheat toast with melted butter!

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Today I made some hickory smoked chicken with a dusting of Master Han’s Wild Picked Yunnan Black tea, butter and honey on top.

The dark bits are not bitter or burned. The taste is fantastic!



Mmm, you’re making me hungry.


hmm, never would have thought of putting raw tea leaves on my food.


you are a chef Bonnie!!!

Lily Duckler

Sounds delicious!


You grind it into a powder, the smoker keeps the leaves from burning because there’s a little moisture.


Ohhhhh yummmmmmm.

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drank Yu Lu Yan Cha Black by Verdant Tea
673 tasting notes

I’ve been waiting for snow to arrive, the first ‘serious’ snow since last Winter (5-8 inches says the Weather Channel).
It doesn’t rain here in the Winter, we get ‘sun glare’ instead.

If you don’t know already, leading up to the Academy Awards, TCM (Turner Classic Movies) has been running previous award winning movies from the 1930’s forward, and I’ve been recording some classics to watch with my grandkids.

Today, I fixed some tea dusted chicken using Mr. Han’s Black Tea…and smoked with Hickory chips. I placed the chicken on a bed of buttered, pureed parsnips. (I’ll be posting the pictures later)

When I was done, I sat down with a pot of Yu Lu Yan Cha, and began watching ‘This Is Cinerama’ on TCM.

What a hoot!

The history of moving pictures was the intro, then a demo of the new Cinerama wide-screen technology and early surround-sound (beginning with a daring ride on a roller-coaster from the front seat!).

What was interesting to me was that I remembered my parents going to a Cinerama Premiere in the 1950’s and I still have the booklet from the movie. It was a ‘BIG DEAL’ back then! Yikes I’m OLD!

I sat drinking my tea…enjoying myself…and I noticed that the tea was spicy, with a cinnamon bite on my tongue.

The association with Jin Jun Mei and Laoshan Black came back to me.. the first sip was like a jolt. I thought, “It’s neither of those tea’s really…not chocolate and not yammy.”
If anything, I felt that I’d eaten a dozen assorted cupcakes…honey spice, German chocolate, golden vanilla. The sweet indulgent goodness filled my mouth. DESSERT!

Dessert tea (especially a spicy tea) was the perfect match for my snow day (it arrived!).

Terri HarpLady

Why does it not surprise me that you also like parsnips! It seems like most people have never had them, but we grow & eat them at my house. Tomorrow I’m making a beef stew with parsnips, carrots, & green beans.

We are also suppose to get snow tomorrow, along with some kind of freezing rain & sleet mix. It will be a good day for tea. Of course, every day is a good day for tea, but I especially love sitting in my sunroom, sipping tea & watching snowflakes fall!

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I’ve had this tea for awhile, unopened. I was saving it for a special occasion, which wasn’t planned, but ended up being today.

The side-effects associated with migraine and fibromyalgia take over from time to time, and there’s not much I can do about it. Sleeplessness and depression are the two symptoms that I’m glad to get over with the fastest. Physical pain is easy to handle by comparison.
Today I woke up and reached for my Kindle Fire next to the bed. My daughter had a new entry on Facebook with a link to her blog that began with this quote:

“Stand at the brink of the abyss of despair, and when you see that you cannot bear it anymore, draw back a little and have a cup of tea” ~Elder Sophrony of Essex

Then she went on to quote me (shock):
My mother reminds me often that tea has a way of keeping you in the moment. It’s not like coffee which in our society is meant to keep you always moving forward.
Tea encourages the partaker to sit down and rest a moment. It is a sort of “reset” button for the weary.
If we push ourselves beyond what we can bear for the sake of being strong, we will fall over, teacup and all, and find staring up from the darkness of the abyss… far more terrifying than standing at the brink.

(Hum, I thought…something from an Elder (Monk) and my daughter to think about in the middle of my depression, and I went about my morning…considering those words from time to time.)

At about 4PM, I couldn’t figure out where the time had gone. I felt foggy headed and the depression had closed in on me.

I remembered the quote from the Elder (Monk) and went to my tea cupboard…rummaging about until I found the one unopened SPECIAL OCCASION tea that I had left.

Standing on the edge of the cliff as I was, seemed a great time for Hand Picked Spring Tieguanyin!

Without a care for the opinion of others, I smelled the leaves. They reminded me of the many years of art classes, the sweet scent of oil paint on my brushes and canvas (and on me).

When I rinsed the leaves, I was washing the gloom away with tea liquor like a new ritual, washing my hands and face with it’s pale perfume.

Each leaf was so dark I wouldn’t imagine it had seen more than the most gentle rays of sunshine.

I drank the tea.

Beautiful, delicate orchid, cool spearmint like a pool of mountain water…honey cream…that made me sit in another moment different than the one I had been in before.

Drinking the tea, I drew back from the ledge and the sadness was interrupted.

Through cups and cups, I continued to let the tea lift my spirit.
(Not only through the way natural chemicals in tea helps the brain, but through the exceptional flavor of this particular tea.)

Time and again, tea has come to my aid when my body gets the best of me.

I’m feeling…better!


Bonnie, I have said many times that the smell of many oolongs reminds me of paint. You expressed it much more elegantly! I even asked at a tea shop if there was a special word for what I was smelling, but they didn’t have an answer for me. Strong vanilla and paint but as a super addicting smell, that is what I get, so I just call it oolong smell now.


Thank you for this beautiful note, Bonnie. I always have difficulty describing the oolong smell too and your description is lovely.


Whew! I’m not crazy! I have company!


Or we’re all crazy…..! :D


Tea is comfort!! I’m glad you’re feeling better now, paint smell and all xo


Thank you xxoo


lovely and well spoken…seems to be a hallmark of yours…it wasn’t till you wrote it that it occurred to me the ‘paint’ aroma is terpeniod (like the scent of linseed oil and turpentine that has built up on a paint rag and imbued it)….thought the wiki notation was science nerdy and might be interesting to share :
The terpenoids (pron.: /ˈtɜrpɨnɔɪd/ TUR-pə-noyd), sometimes called isoprenoids, are a large and diverse class of naturally occurring organic chemicals similar to terpenes, derived from five-carbon isoprene units assembled and modified in thousands of ways. Most are multicyclic structures that differ from one another not only in functional groups but also in their basic carbon skeletons. These lipids can be found in all classes of living things, and are the largest group of natural products.

Plant terpenoids are used extensively for their aromatic qualities. They play a role in traditional herbal remedies and are under investigation for antibacterial, antineoplastic, and other pharmaceutical functions. Terpenoids contribute to the scent of eucalyptus, the flavors of cinnamon, cloves, and ginger, the yellow color in sunflowers, and the red color in tomatoes.1 Well-known terpenoids include citral, menthol, camphor, salvinorin A in the plant Salvia divinorum, and the cannabinoids found in Cannabis.

But yeah…I do pick that up and I guess my strong association with oil painting kept it from view until you said that…


Instinct backed up by science. How interesting and kind of you to share Kashyap! The very thing that I was describing (fibromyalgia) that makes me ill is also what has gifted me with heightened sense of taste and smell. (I’ll admit it’s annoying at times having to keep my environment balanced by temperature,noise,light,scent or I get sick which is why my adventures are well-designed). I quite like the smell of terpenoids.

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Colorado Grandma
Grandmother to 3 teenaged girls and 5 young boys. (we all drink tea!) I began teatime in the Summer over 30 years ago when my children were little. We took a break from play for tea and snacks every day. My children loved tea time.
There are several tea houses close to my home and a Tea Festival in Boulder. Fort Collins is a bit of a foodie town. We brew lots of Beer (Fat Tire is one brand) and have several Spice Shops (Savory was one featured on Food Network).
Colorado State University is a mile from my home and the Rocky Mountains begin to climb at the end of my street. The climate is semi-arid with LOTS OF SUN AT 5000 feet. (Heavy Winter snows start in higher elevations). Living my whole life in Northern California (Silicon Valley) I have to admit that I LOVE IT HERE!!!
I attend a wonderful Greek Orthodox Church and enjoy cooking ethnic foods (all kinds). I am disabled with Migraines and Fibromyalgia.
My family is Bi-racial (African-American, Scots) and Bi-cultural, (Peru, Cyprus, France, Mexico, Native American)
I’ve worked at a Winery, was a System Analyst, in telecom, been an Athlete and Coach, Artist, Vista Volunteer. Love healthy cooking (and delicious food!). Love to travel and have been to Italy, Greece, Turkey, Malta, Peru, Croatia, Canada, Mexico, Hawaii, Alaska


Fort Collins,Colorado



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