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Recent Tasting Notes
Despite the time of night, dinner was heavier than I usually eat, and I was craving some pu’erh upon my return home. Of all the pu’erh currently sitting on my countertop (inventory and organization time!), this one jumped out at me, since the description sounded a bit dessert-like.
This will not be a full review, just a record of happy stomach, happy Spencer, and happy tea.
Every time I’ve complained on Steepster about how hard it is to remove scents and stains from my ingenuiTEA and Mason Jar Drinking Mugs I’ve been told that Smart Soak Tea Stain Dissolver is the product I need. The people who told me this weren’t kidding about how well it worked and I wish I hadn’t wasted so much time scrubbing everything down with baking soda and a baby bottle brush. That method may work, but it is anything but efficient.
Overall, I was suitably impressed with Smart Soak Tea Stain Dissolver from Mandala Tea. I was skeptical at first, but it cleaned everything that I threw at it. I didn’t have to scrub a thing, saving me a tremendous amount of time. Now I understand why so many people recommended this product to me.
You can read the full review on my blog, complete with before and after photos:
This is another one of the teas that I’ve been tantalizing over trying and now I can!!
The cake was a beautiful assortment of red, forest green, and a little gold. This cake was so loose and easily pried apart. The dry leaf had a wet moss and sweet autumn scent. I could tell this was going to be a soft Sheng, which is alright with me. I placed a generous chunk in my warm yixing and gave it a whiff. The scent was still sweet but with a campfire background. I heard about this teas smoke, and I was excited to actually taste. I washed the leaves once and used slightly cooler water than what I usually use for Sheng. The steeped leaves lost their sweet tone and became woodsy and smokey. This woodsy aroma was different though. IIt was more like a green woodsy, like bamboo ,rather than dry wood like pine. The initial sip was so smooth! A heavy flavor of yams, smoke, and earth filled my mouth. This was a very deep and smooth Sheng. The brew had absolutely no bitterness or astringency. By every steeping it became softer and deeper. If you don’t like sharp Sheng then this is definitely for you! The qi was sneaky. I didnt feel it until much later and it was rather soft. The feeling was more like a plateau effect rather than a sharp spike that floors me, hahah. I really liked this and I’m so grateful to be able to have it :)
Flavors: Apricot, Bamboo, Smoke, Wet Moss
The good folks at Mandala were kind enough to put together a black tea sampler in lieu of their “tea party in a box.” This one is very strong, and I may have over-leafed a bit. I brewed it in my gaiwan since the big leaves make it easy to do that. The box arrived yesterday, and this is the first I’ve tried. It’s good, but I’m not a fan of the wood and leather notes that others mentioned. The taste of wood reminds me a little of the way oak tastes in wine, and I don’t like it. Pronounced leather is not spectacularly appealing to me either.
It’s not bad, but I probably wouldn’t order a larger package of it either. I would only recommend it to people who know for a fact that they like leather and oak in their tea. For me, both notes add a bit of bitterness that I find unpleasant. I didn’t find this one smooth as others did.
A strong taste lingers as well — a little like yeasty baked bread or toast mixed with the taste of wood.
It does resteep unusually well for black tea, though. And I can tell it’s high quality tea; it’s just a flavor profile I don’t love. I think the flavor rounds out a bit in later steeps — the second and third were much better than the first for me. And the tea is a very appealing bright red color.
Flavors: Baked Bread, Dark Chocolate, Leather, Malt, Oak wood, Toast, Wheat, Wood, Yeast, Yeasty
I had a bit more of this tea left than I used last time, but not enough for two cups, so in it went. Mostly because the tea is so fluffy and spindly that teaspoons aren’t really a great measure of the leaf amount anyway, so I knew splitting it would be a mistake.
This is really quite tasty. I looked back at the notes for this one and I have to say I don’t get any wood or leather in this at all. It is just nice sweet grains and molasses. Yum. Maybe because I am treating it with a lighter hand? I often find these fine Chinese black teas need to be brewed more like oolongs than people are used to brewing black teas.
A free sample from Mandala in my last order. I contemplated several of their black teas, but didn’t purchase any of them so it was nice to get this one (#–6) as a sample.
No steeping instructions on the website, so I went with a somewhat conservative wiry-Chinese-black-tea western steeping method. I should note that I was somewhat concerned my water filter wasn’t working properly since yesterday the two highly-rated Mandala teas I drank were lackluster. But I changed that filter recently, so I didn’t think that could be it. This tea convinces me that it was not.
It smells amazing brewed; a bit of grains, molasses, perhaps some notes of caramel and chocolate. The taste is lovely; sweet, with most of the notes from the scent. There is also a bit of raisin. It really reminds me of some of the Fujian black teas I’ve had, although I know it’s not from Fujian. It does also have a little bit of sweet potato, like a tippy Yunnan, but it’s not a strong component. The liquor has nice body and is oh so smooth. All in all quite a delicious black tea, and I’m really happy to have gotten a sample of it.
I’m not sure what happened with my first cup of this. Maybe my adjusted steeping parameters made all the difference. But this cup was significantly more tasty than my first one. Lots of sweetness, butteriness, and creaminess; it did remind me a fair amount of kettle corn. This was a delight to drink, and definitely impressive. I would place this one and ATR’s Milk Oolong in the same category, but I’d have to drink them back to back to really do a good comparison. Acutally I drank ATR’s yesterday so I almost did just that, but I’m afraid I didn’t pay good enough attention to either tea to suss out the specifics. But I’m glad to have gotten a great cup out of this one this time.
Aww, I thought this would be the last or second-to-last tea in my cupboard, but then I realized I had never added a couple of free samples that Mandala sent me with the order. (Side note: this tea has more “flavors” listed at the top than I have ever seen!)
Anyway, I finally get to try Mandala’s much-vaunted milk oolong (#–5). For a while it was never in stock, and then I never got around to ordering it. But I finally did order it, and now I am finally trying it. The dry leaf certainly smells like what I am looking for: sweet, buttery, and a slight tang of fruitiness. Steeped, the “tang” goes mostly away, and yes, it very much smells like buttered popcorn. Perhaps kettle corn, with a hint of sweetness. I think that part of what is evoking that is a note of toastiness, particularly toasted grains.
The flavor is lighter than I expected, at least while it is very warm. Perhaps I should allow it to cool some. Hmmm, mayhaps I need to gongfu this one. It’s just not wowing me right now. When it was still hot it was not very flavorful. Now that it is lukewarm it has at least gained some creaminess and a bit of peachiness. It tastes more like what I was expecting, minus the sweetness (suprisingly). Maybe a hint. Definitely I think I need to futz with the parameters.
I still need to do some notes for the gongfu sessions I had with Equusfell yesterday, but for now I will continue with the cupboard sip-through because I am almost done!! This tea (#–4) represents the Mandala order for smart soak that also included some tea. I had read good things about it, so I threw a small pouch of these cones in the order.
I think I will need to play around with steep parameters for this one. This time, I used 4 cones for 12 oz of water, steeped for 3 min at 205°F, which is close to the given parameters. Actually I steeped it for three minutes, sipped it, and then decided it was too weak so I put the cones back in for a bit. It came out decent, but not as good as I was hoping. I think my downfall was putting it back in. Or maybe I need fewer cones for longer. I dunno, but the main flavors were general earthiness and maybe some dark chocolate, but not very predominantly. It reminds me a good amount of Black Dragon Pearls. I think it needs to be a little lighter for my tastes, and hopefully some sweetness will come out. Fortunately I have enough cones to play around with them a bit.
Sunday sample sipdown!
This was a swap either from VariaTEA or Dex – I think VariaTEA. I’ve heard various hymns about Mandala, and about the high quality of this oolong in particular, so I thought I’d see what the fuss was about.
Man, this tea was wasted on me. I waited too long to sip it, so it probably absorbed the flavours of the other teas sitting nearby. In addition, I know myself well enough by now to know that green floral oolongs are not my favourite, and this was very floral. Third, I didn’t get much of a taste of cream or milk at all in this.
I tried brewing this gong-fu style with my gaiwan, but I got only about 3 or 4 steeps in before I decided that this tea just wasn’t working for me. I did a quick 10 second rinse, and my steeps ranged from 15-25 seconds. The leaves had started to unfurl quite nicely inside the gaiwan and the liquor was generally a pale golden colour, but the flavour still wasn’t compelling for me.
At least I have another data point to add to my observations about (my general dislike of) green oolongs.
I love Da Hong Pao, LOVE IT. I have finished two tins from different companies and have started this one and there is another one someone in there that I can’t find right now.
And MY BAD but this one got messed up tonight, and it is a testimony to how great this tea is. Hubby and I headed out to pick up Asian buffet takeout and I asked youngest to prepare the tea, as she often does. She makes a couple of steeps while we are gone and pours it in my large tetsubin with the tea light warmer. I shouted as I left that I had put the tin on the counter and the instructions were in it, not realizing that they were gong fu instructions.
I thought the tea was a little weaker than I expected and asked about the steeping and she said she gave it thirty seconds for the first, etc., just like the paper said. Wow. This tea came out tasting “a little weak” when it was less than a third of the way through steeping? And you know, it was still really palatable.
I almost poured out the remainder after supper but decided to have it with my dessert of orange-lemon pound cake that youngest made. And it was really good! It was so good that I can’t wait to have it again, this time made properly, at which time it will no doubt blow my socks off.
This is a strong young sheng. It was quite bitter in the early steeps. It took a while to mellow out. Not entirely sure what notes I’m getting here but its good. I definitely need to pull something out of the pumidor and find a place for this. My pumidor is packed you see.
I steeped this ten times in a 120ml gaiwan with 9g leaf and 200 degree water. I steeped it for 5 sec, 5 sec, 7 sec, 10 sec, 15 sec, 20 sec, 25 sec, 30 sec, 45 sec, and 1 min.
The first steep of this tea is amazingly clear – it didn’t look like there was any color at all! I went to taste it and you could smell the vegetal notes, which come through quite strong even for such a light tea. I really liked this tea, though didn’t find it that much different from a green tea.
I am so behind in my tea notes, updating my cupboard and spreadsheet. I was drinking this one a couple of days ago (?)
I was given this sample by the most wonderful OMGsrsly because I like the new Silver Buds.
This is really nice – I liked it, steeped it a bunch, spent an evening with it. I think the newer one is more “pu’erh” and this one is more “white” and therefore I feel the newer one is more interesting.
Thanks for the opportunity to try it. :))
I’ve had this one a few times now without writing a note. I picked this as my morning tea since i have a bit of time this morning before work gets a little crazy. I also desperately need to get through more of my puerh since my cupboard is back over 100. sigh I’m a fan of this one…if i had any sort of set up for storing puerh, i’d likely pick up a cake/box of this one. It’s very smooth and has creamy mushroom and brown sugar notes in it. I’ve only done a couple steepings but there’s no fermentation flavours here to throw things off and it’s just an overall good time. yum.
I’ve been drinking this and another puerh today – lazy style in my finums with short steep times while i map out my paris walking/shoppping/exploring. I am thoroughly enjoying this one, though other mandala’s probably take precedent over this one for me. it’s sort of earthy, leathery, sweet and smooth with a buttery element there in later steeps. I feel like this might work well as an intro puerh….slight nuances, without anything here that would scare someone off :)