Mandala Tea

Recent Tasting Notes

drank Black Beauty by Mandala Tea
632 tasting notes

I got a tea tray for Christmas! My first! And it’s beautiful! I put it on my wishlist, and my secret Santa (my grandma) got it for me! I was worried too, because when I looked at the site recently, it said it was sold out! My grandma’s got great taste! :D Of course the amazing Garret included a hand-written note and two tea samples, one of which was this beauty!

This tea is so fruity! It reminds me of TeaVivre’s nonpareil yunnan dian hong ancient wild tree. It’s also nicely malty with some honey notes. So good, and so pretty! Here are some pics of my session:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/97273956@N03/16087334526/
https://www.flickr.com/photos/97273956@N03/15927060809/

Nicole

that is a gorgeous tray!

Tealizzy

Thanks, Nicole! I just saw that Dragon Tea House also has it if anyone’s interested.

LiberTEAS

It’s beautiful. Your grandma’s got really great taste!

K S

Pretty

Fjellrev

Gorgeous tea tray! I agree that she has great taste.

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Had this in the afternoon but after after dinner and a few issues getting things accomplished on steepster…that’s all i have for you folks. more to come next time i drink this.

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84

I’ve tried this tea multiple times now and I feel it’s time to finally do a review on it.
I used this sample with my yixing pot exclusively reserved for shou puerh.

This tea is compressed pretty tight it was hard to pry the leaves apart by hand.
A nice mix of small to large leaf mostly smaller to medium sized leaves were noticed.

After I added the leaf to my warmed up yixing pot, I washed the leaves about twice.
This helped open them up and infusion with minimal steep times.
I started off gradual 3/5/8/10/15/20/25/30/60/120

A very mellow that sho wasn’t overly fishy in my opinion.
I found this tea had a gentle warmth.
It certainly helped wake me out of my sleepy morning.

Flavors: Creamy, Nut Fruits, Smoke, Wood

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 8 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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drank GABA Black by Mandala Tea
632 tasting notes

I had absolutely no idea what GABA was when I tried this sample this morning. I had a very long gong fu session with it and it was really enjoyable. It was malty, roasty, a bit fruity honey, and a bit of a tang. I really liked it! So now that I know what GABA is, I can actually say that this tea did have a calming effect on me. Feeling very zen and caught up on work right now. :) Love it! This is going on my wishlist for sure!

AllanK

I liked that tea, bought 4 ounces of it.

Tealizzy

@AllanK- nice! Definitely a good one.

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95
drank Milk Oolong by Mandala Tea
370 tasting notes

This tea is certainly one of the best oolong teas I have ever tasted. It tastes strongly of coconut and berries or fruity notes. There is only a hint of that characteristic oolong bitterness. This is damn good tea. I will have to buy more when I use up my coupon for Mandala tea.

I brewed this once in an 18oz teapot with 2 tsp leaf and 190 degree water for 30 sec.

Flavors: Berries, Coconut, Fruity

Preparation
190 °F / 87 °C 0 min, 30 sec 2 tsp 18 OZ / 532 ML

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This is a fairly sweet green tea with notes of cream and honeysuckle. There is also a strong floral and vegetal component to the tea as well as a slight sour taste. Lat night I drank rooibos in the hopes of getting to sleep. I couldn’t sleep a wink, I think because of caffeine withdrawals. Ironicallu, lack of caffeine can cause sleeplessness. Hopefully there is enough caffeine in this to keep me from going through withdrawals but not to keep me awake.

I brewed this once in an 18oz teapot with 4 tsp leaf and 175 degree water for 1 min.

Flavors: Cream, Floral, Honeysuckle, Vegetal

Preparation
175 °F / 79 °C 1 min, 0 sec 4 tsp 18 OZ / 532 ML
TeaBrat

I couldn’t sleep last night either!

AllanK

I am thinking of giving up on giving up on caffeine. If no caffeine makes it impossible to sleep at all, better off a green tea with low caffeine and no withdrawal symptoms.

cookies

Have you tried hojicha at bedtime? I have it about every night and it doesn’t affect my sleeping patterns.

AllanK

No I haven’t but I think most greens have less caffeine, at least that is what my gastroenterologist says.

cookies

Yes, and houjicha supposedly has even less because of how roasted it is. Kukicha (and hoji-kukicha) are also good because apparently the twigs/stems don’t contain as much caffeine as the leaves.

TeaBrat

Maybe you could just drink caffeine in the morning. I find if I drink some later in the afternoon it does give me problems.

AllanK

That was exactly what I had done the night I had complete insomnia, I stopped drinking caffeine around 12 or 12:30 in the afternoon and didn’t sleep a wink. Last night with a green tea I slept good.

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This isn’t bad, but it’s not as good as I hoped. I like Special Dark a whole lot better.

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95
drank Special Dark by Mandala Tea
3 tasting notes

Mandala Tea sells several excellent loose leaf puer teas, and this one is my personal favorite of the bunch. Can be made strong but still remains perfectly smooth with no overpowering flavors. One of my current favorite teas ever, and maybe the best one I currently have in my rather extensive tea drawer.

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 30 sec 9 g 5 OZ / 150 ML

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86

The scent of the dry leaves is strongly floral. The taste is floral but less intensely so than the scent. I didn’t really get that buttery feel but I’ll try again with different steeping parameters. I did get the mild astringency at the end of the sip, though. It’s a very pleasant light oolong. If I can get that butter to come out, it will be a restock for sure.

Thanks, Garret, for the generous sample!

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 2 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 12 OZ / 354 ML
Garret

The pleasure is all mine! The autumn crop will be in here next week, I think! Your sample was the spring. Glad you enjoyed it!

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drank 2014 Jingmai Raw by Mandala Tea
269 tasting notes

Backlog

Had this tea awhile ago and I remember it being really rough with bitterness in the first few steeps. It did not appeal to me at all. Around steep #5 it mellowed out. The bitterness was gone and it was a strong apricot taste. I didn’t try too many steeps after that. Next time I have this I think I will start drinking it at Steep 5 and see where it goes from there. It just kept getting better!

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drank Lao Cang Mini Tuo by Mandala Tea
996 tasting notes

‘Tis the weekend, and I decided I want to have many pu’erh sessions today, so I chose a tuocha for this task. It freezing rained here last night so the roads are a skating rink, therefore I am staying inside all day. Oh, and I’ll be worrying away about the bf, who got called out to work 3 days early and is currently in a cab on the terrible roads heading to the airport. Hope he makes it there in one piece! :(

Anyways, back to this tea! I am guessing this is the same sample I had as Tealizzy, as it is similar to the 2011 Lao Cang tu on Mandala’s site, but just brown writing rather than multi colored. I can’t find a year on mine, but at least it is a Lao Cang! So I did a 15s rinse and I bit the bullet and did a 1 minute steep as recommended. I always worry it will be too strong haha. The tea is super dark, and unfortunately I am writing this review as the cup has already cooled, so there isn’t much of a scent, just a clean, light smell.

As for the flavor, this is a satisfying pu’erh. It’s not crazy caramelly or bright or musty or woody like others, it’s a bit nondescript, but definitely not difficult to drink. It is SUPER smooth, a tiny bit savoury, a bit of a mushroom savouriness actually. There is a mild brown sugar note blending in nicely too, and a bit of a hay aftertaste. It’s tough to describe because there aren’t any stand out flavors, but it is just good. Quite good actually! My stomach also feels wonderful, and I have a sleepy calmness about me, not strong cha qi, just a light calming sensation.

Overall, to me this is a really good tuocha, even if it is not overly distinct. I like that even with the minute steep, it is smooth and soft, not overbearing, not too strong, and no caffeine jitters. This will be a perfect one to steep throughout the day! And don’t let my mention of it not being distinctive scare you off. I enjoy that it is just a lovely, smooth flavor, with everything blending together into an excellent tea.

ETA – I have also made a big decision…I am going to re-season my yixing pot. I hardly ever drink oolong anymore mostly due to the caffeine effects, so I am seasoning it with Noble Mark, a shu that I have enjoyed for a while now and doesnt give me negative caffeine effects. In hindsite, I definitely should have waited until I was further into the tea scene before seasoning a yixing, but I adore the shape of this one and it truly is my most beautiful piece of teaware. I realize this may not work with my yixing, but it will be better than it sitting in the cupboard forlornly while I brew my shus in a gaiwan lol. It needs to be used! Wish me luck :)

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88

Pretty damn yummy. Having a lovely Saturday AM tea party with my TeaFFs. I did very short steeps and this is very mild. A little earthy, but not outrageous. There’s a little sweetness on the end. Lovely Saturday relaxation tea!

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 0 min, 15 sec

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From my shou/yarn trade with sarsonator. Thanks! :)

Drank this at noon. Let’s see if I sleep tonight. lol.

It’s becoming more an more apparent to me that 160ml is just too damn big, especially for when i’m using mini tuos because that’s when I can’t adjust the amount of tea. Anyway, I can’t afford another yixing so I have to make due with the one I’ve got. for a few of the steepings I only filled 3/4 of the way and that seemed to help :)

rinse, rinse, pause, 5s, 10s, 20s, 30s, 6m

1st steeping (in and out, ~5s): Chocolaty goodness. All of my ripe puerhs seem to be tasting like this now. lol. I think this one tasted closer to milk chocolate than dark chocolate though.

2nd steeping [3/4] (10s): This one was kind of weak because I had let the water cool down by accident. My bad. Surprisingly the color was still really dark though!

3rd steeping [3/4] (20s): Temperature back up, the flavor is more like the 1st steeping again, mmmm, just not quite as chocolaty, more plain puerh flavor.

4th steeping [3/4] (30s): Chocolate gone, just simple sweetness.

5th steeping (6m): So I’m basically done at this point, just wanted to see what a long steep would taste like. Answer: EXACTLY like steep #4

All in all, a pretty good mini tou. I liked it :)

Flavors: Chocolate, Sweet

Preparation
Boiling 5 g 5 OZ / 160 ML
Stephanie

Yarn for tea! I love it!

I also really like this shou :)

madametj

The two best things! lol

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85

Finally trying this mini tu! I really have not felt like reviewing new teas lately (aka all last week lol), but I will try to be better this week. I still have so many to review that I picked up on vacation! Ah, all in good time. Tonight, I was ridiculously craving a latte with eggnog lol, but my stomach doesn’t do well with milk, so I thought I’d be nicer to it and have some pu’erh instead. And I have so many mini tuochas to get to, might as well have one tonight.

This one has a barn, hay-like scent to it. Definitely like wet hay in a barn haha. I do not mind this earthy scent, mostly due to my new love of pu’erh, although I can see it being off-putting to some. I did a quick 15s steep as recommended, then a 1 minute steep. The tuocha is just starting to break apart at the end of this steeping.

The liquor is dark and rich and smells clean and caramelly. Mmmm, man I needed this tonight. As for the flavor, ahh this is so good right now. A ton of caramel flavors in this one! A clean earthiness, a tinge of smoke, maybe leather at the end of the sip, but this melds with the sweetness to lend a sugar like sensation on my tongue. I’m totally picturing caramellized, slightly burnt brown sugar.

Overall, this is rich, thick, and immensely satisfying. I feel like I am not quite adept enough to determine many flavours in pu’erh yet other than caramel and earth notes haha, but this is certainly enjoyable, even if I’m missing (or mis-interpreting) some of the flavours. Exactly what I needed tonight!

ETA – I did the second steeping for 1 min as well, and the liquor is super dark like coffee. I was worried it would be pretty strong, but it is still awesome. More pronounced leather and some wood notes and not quite as smooth, but still delicious. And its also making me quite sleepy and relaxed :)

Flavors: Brown Sugar, Caramel, Leather

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83

As I understand it, mao cha is what a lot of people in China drink as day to day tea. Not the aged shengs, not the freshly compressed shous, but just basic mao cha. This tea helps me understand why. The leaves smell of steamed spinach, and the somewhat thin, slightly dry liquor has a gentle mushroom odor, but tastes more like a moderate green. It was good for several steeps in the gaiwan, but I’m sure a mugful of Western steep would go down good as a daily draft. I think I understand mao cha just a wee bit better now.

Flavors: Green, Mushrooms, Spinach, Vegetal

Preparation
190 °F / 87 °C 0 min, 45 sec 3 tsp 5 OZ / 140 ML

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drank Special Dark by Mandala Tea
1342 tasting notes

Today is a sad day. A childhood family friend who I used to play with during summers at my Aunts cottage died in a snowmobile accident. He was my age (32). Since I stopped hanging out at the cottage so much, I saw him only once every few years or so… in truth I didn’t know him well at all in adulthood, but my Aunt and cousin consider him a second son. They are family. I always regarded him fondly.
This is all so surreal. Larry was a good kid, he’s been riding since before he could walk! He knew all the rules and always took care to be safe. He never partied or anything like that. I’m so confused…

The tea: I need to try this again, preferably in my gaiwan. It was a little too thick for me and left me feeling unsettled- backlog from yesterday

Fjellrev

I’m so sorry, Indigo. :(

Lala

Sorry to hear about your loss. Sending you and your friends family prayers.

Nicole

So sorry to hear.

boychik

Sorry for your loss

Indigobloom

Thx guys. I think I’m still in shock

caile

So sorry to hear of your sad news.

Indigobloom

Thanks Caile xo

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84

Steep two: 2 minutes.

The tuo cha broke apart completely after the first infusion, which honestly I was glad for. I don’t know why but the whole piece just sitting in water unnerves me – it’s like it won’t distribute flavor evenly through the water. This is obviously not true but it’s something I’m visually going to have to get used to.

Anyway, the hay/pellet smell is back in the steeped liquor. It is still, thankfully, not present in the taste. The semblance is coffee is still really strong, and particularly so in the texture – it is a very thick, chewy tea. As it cools the hay/fermentation becomes present in the taste – boo. If I can get used to that I think I’ll be good as pu erh’s go. This is going to be a slow process but I’m determined – pu’erh is my final tea frontier and I really want to explore it as thoroughly as I have all the other types. More later….

Sil

hahahaha i have the same mental approach to that one lump sitting there!

JoonSusanna

Yay! It’s silly but sometimes it’s nice to know you aren’t alone with some things :)

Garret

HI! check out this vid of brewing mini-tuocha. May it be useful in making ripe pu’er a more pleasant experience for you, my friend! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vdIW5jzwMCs&feature=youtube_gdata

With gratitude,
Garret

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84

Alright pu’erh. Let’s do this.

Recently I decided to try pu’erh and really learn more about it. I timed it perfectly with Black Friday sales, and this is the first tea I wanted to try from Mandala. I figured I’d go with a shou first since it’s darker and I do so love black teas.

Rinse: 15 seconds

Steep one: 1 minute. People mention the term “fermentation flavor”, but maybe that is what I think of (or what my boyfriend mentioned, and now I cannot un-think of) as hamster pellets? It’s kind of woody and hay-y. I’m so inexperienced with pu’erh that this smell is making me nervous. It doesn’t smell – drinkable. But I’m determined to try it, so I take my first sips. At first there is a small amount of this pellet flavor but there is also something surprisingly pleasant. Kind of coffee-like (a dark french roast), but without the acidity of coffee. This is very smooth. I can also get the dark cocoa powder notes. If the fermentation flavor ages out of this I think I will like it a lot, but it’s not bad as is.

I can see how it’s an acquired taste, though. As it is I’ve kind of had my fill with this and want to save the leaves for later. That could also be because I am super tired because I just finished my 12 hour night shift though. Oh well, to be continued in later notes…

Flavors: Cocoa, Coffee

Preparation
Boiling 1 min, 0 sec 6 OZ / 177 ML
Sil

worse case when you do later steeps… just have a sip and move on to the next one haha

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92

I enjoyed this one so much last night that I’m having it again this morning. It’s incredibly smooth and delicious. It morphs from steep to steep with some cups tasting deep and earthy while other cups are full of chocolate notes, hints of bread and honey, or leather and leaves. Every steep has been nice.

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92

This is good. This is so good. It’s incredibly silky with a woodsy/nutty flavor that morphs into something chocolaty as I sip. There’s earth and leather as the tea cools. Yeah, this is a good one.

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 30 sec 1 tsp 6 OZ / 177 ML

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This is one of those teas that I’m glad that I was able to sample before committing to buying it. It’s was actually really good on the first steep and pretty good on the second steep, but after that I found it difficult to get a good amount of flavor out of it, even when steeping for several minutes. So while it does taste nice, I prefer my teas to have a lot more stamina than that so I doubt I’ll be purchasing this one.

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 9 g 5 OZ / 160 ML
madametj

Oh, 150 ml. Lol

Garret

Yes… gong ting is the smallest grade leaf for ripe pu’er. Because it is not blended with larger leaves, the flavor will only work for a couple of steeps (depending of course, on leaf/water ratio and length of steeping times). Brewed gongfu style, this tea will go on for quite a while. Most customers are doing one or two western style brews with this one and it is quite a hit at the cafes/restaurants/coffee and tea shops we sell it to where they are only brewing once or twice.

When we get into blending this leaf with larger leaves, then you have the conditions for smaller leaves to give up flavor earlier and then the larger leaves (properly processed) will come to life and take over.

Fun, ain’t it?

Thank you for writing up your experience.
Garret

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79

A little while back, my sister went to the opening of a William Ashleys store and came back with a cute little teapot (http://instagram.com/p/wOp7cPvJV5/). I have been trying to think of the perfect tea to use in it first and today I finally recalled the flowering tea cones Sil gave to me a few months back. And so, I got to brewing (http://instagram.com/p/wOqO1avJXl/).

Now as I sip on the tea I am surprised at how good it is because usually I have found the flowering teas to be more about the looks than the taste. This one actually delivers. It has a slight astringency that underlies the taste but for some reason it seems to work in this case. It provides a nice contrast to the sweet maltiness and the fruity undertones of the tea. Yum.

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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i got my BF order very late last night. no matter when I’m very happy. really hate to go to mail jail.
Man, i wish i wouldnt be so stubborn and just make it per Garret’s suggestion.
I made it my usual gongfu parameters. 5g 100ml porcelaine gaiwan 200F
rinse/ 10/ 15/30/ 60/sec
with this method i probably go with 20 sec next time.
this tea has absolutely gorgeous dreamy leaves. long, wiry, golden silver, fuzzy.
complex, tasty. I’ve noticed some malt and wine. Yes, this tea is kinda Keemun-y to me. i maybe wrong trying to get the perfect cuppa. and i did get it.
Also few minutes after i experienced very strong sweet aftertaste like when i drink some puerh .
Garret, i promise to try it your way next time ;)

http://instagram.com/p/wOnLsdBwh8/

http://instagram.com/p/wOn67LBwm5/

http://instagram.com/p/wOqTMxhwkW/

http://instagram.com/p/wOqdBxBwlL/

Preparation
5 g 3 OZ / 100 ML
Sil

drool…

Nicole

Nice pictures!

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