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Recent Tasting Notes
My favorite thing about a great white tea is not having to add any sweetener to it! :) I only steeped this for maybe a minute, so it’s flavor is light and smooth. This was a sample, and I already have a stash of silver needle white tea, but I may have to consider switching tea shops.
Oh snap, this is fantastic!
Normally the touchas that I get that are ripe are super dark, but this looked like it was coated in dirt :)
^ that is a good thing
This tea was a little hard to break up so I just made a tornado in my gravity steeper with the water and this guy :p
The result at 15s was wonderful… however, I screwed up once again and started this after 9pm so I only made it to steep 10 or 11; better known as 4 bathroom visits (I was told it is just as accurate)
I hope to find more toucha to be this good :)
After dusting off my gaiwan I spent a good part of the morning enjoying this tea and ignoring the mile long to-do list I have sitting on my counter. I gave the leaves a quick 15 second rinse, discarded the water, and began with a 30 second steeping. The flavor was light, with hints of leather and molasses. Each time I steeped this tea the flavor deepened and the notes changed. What started out as leather and molasses moved into dark chocolate and slowly became sweeter. The later steepings reminded me of the Mexican vanilla beans I bought last year, they tasted of wood and vanilla.
You can read the rest of the review on my blog:
Thank you Garret for this tea!
I steeped it as instructed online: 5 second rinse, 1 minute, two, then four. I really like it. To me, it was very similar to Imperial Pearl by Mountain Tea because it had the same type of roasted character, but with a sweet aftertaste. I want to say there was some cherry in the second steep, but not quite. Honey perhaps? Both times had a wonderful earthy, floral character very similar to an oolong. Also surprisingly nutty, though it’s a considerably light black tea. The final steep reminded me of stone fruits and honey.
I steeped this again the full four minutes, and all the notes that I got from the Gongfu in each brew came at me at once in a balanced way. Definitely better western, and I was even able to brew it again for another four minutes and it tasted almost the same though it was lighter. It was spicy, and fairly complex. The Imperial Pearl from Mountain Tea and this one are almost the same in terms of taste, and both had a dried cherry flavor that lingered on the tongue for a while.
I had some jitters earlier today from a lack thereof working out. I naturally have a lot of nervous energy, and with a lot of tea, the caffeine can get to me….so yay! More caffeine. I noticed though, that this had a focusing effect on me. I wouldn’t say calming, but slowed me down a little bit and reminded me to breath. I see why this is taken before exams.
Flavors: Floral, Honey, Nuts, Roasted, Smooth, Sweet
Let’s see, so far I’ve tried David’s, Tealet’s, and both of Teavivre’s milk oolongs. So this is my fifth milk oolong, and wow, it’s nothing like the others. It’s SOOO buttery. When I opened the bag it smelled like movie theater popcorn. I didn’t really know what to think, but it steeped up beautifully. It’s very smooth and creamy, there does seem to be just a breath of salt in the flavor, but happily it doesn’t actually taste like popcorn. Also, you can get many many steeps out of it. A+
I’m not really a fan of Tie Guan Yin — the earthy chocolate notes paired with the floral just doesn’t do it for me. That said, I do think this tea is about the best a Tie Guan Yin can be — it’s very smooth and the lilac aspect is a nice surprise — so if you are into it, definitely check this one out. It has great longevity, I think I’ve done 6 steeps and it’s still going strong.
My gravity steeper was in desperate need of cleaning, so I ordered some of Mandala’s Smart Soak, and Garret kindly threw in some tea samples as well.
This one is particularly well balanced, a delicate mix of light cream, floral, and vegetal notes. Steeped, the hearty-looking leaves smell like something between steamed spinach and swiss chard, but this isn’t in the flavor at all, as the vegetal notes lean much closer to snow pea.
I tried to follow the instructions closely, starting with a 5 second rinse and then doing 30 second steeps. This worked very well, and I do get the feeling that this is a tea you have to be pretty precise about, and definitely you don’t want to get sloppy on it with the steep times. I think I got 6 steeps out of it before I had to run, and they were all flavorful, but my favorite was probably the second or third steep.
Of course it all tasted so much better with the steeper all shiny and clean again. That Soak really is amazing! Many thanks to AllanK and Awkward Soul / Oolong Owl for recommending it.
Another great sample from Nicole! Thank you! This one looks really similar to the Yunnan Sourcing sample of Black Gold that Nicole also sent. Hmm. There is plenty of gold here. It looks like a variation of a snail tea. Black and gold tight bundles that somehow artfully unravel into these huge leaves. The flavor is fantastic. The deep amber cup has all the characteristics I love in a black tea: at first it is floral or like wine, then there are slight pepper and smoky notes, while being malty, honey yet still rich. Hints of fruit. This is really somehow everything except a chocolate tea, which surprised me. It’s a very complex tea, very intoxicating and addicting. I think the favorite that I’ve tried from Mandala over the years. I probably didn’t need to use 1 1/2 teaspoons, one heaping teaspoon would do, but it was fantastic steeped this way anyway. Three solid steeps with none of that oversteeped oaky flavor some black teas tend to have. I’ll try the YS- Black Gold with these parameters.
Steep #1 // 1 1/2 teaspoons // 10 minutes after steeping // 2 minute steep
Steep #2 // 6 min a.b. // 2 min
Steep #3 // just boiled // 5+ min
This is Smoothness itself. I’ve never had any other tea that is this gorgeous and this silky. I admit that I’m still getting over the smell, but as I rinsed it three times, it transitioned into something closer to a mushroomy odor. I steeped it for 20 seconds and the rest Gongfu, the second 25, the third 30. The color is a very deep brown, with shades of orange, purple, and red glossing the liquid. The taste is exactly as described on here, there are notes of cocoa, some molasses, leather, mushroom, and bitterness. The bitterness overpowers the natural sweet notes in it, but as I re-steeped it, it got sweeter. Next time, I’m going to steep it more to see if it gets any sweeter.
I am so glad that I got this, though I admit the cake is bigger than I thought. Originally, I thought that I was going to have to budget more with my teas running out of gift income, but I found more that I totally forgot about. I still need to budget better, and have certainly bought too much tea, but this is a choice that I’m really glad I made. As a preemptive hangover strike for my twenty first, I think that I’ll be happily recovering with this embodiment of velvet.
As for my usual tidbit about general audience, this is for an experienced drinker, and one that should be used to introduce someone to Pu-Erh and Gongfu style of steeping. A newbie would have a hard time getting over the smell despite the taste being far different, which is also why Garret HIGHLY recommends rinsing for 5-10 seconds 2-3 times. It might be easier for a palette that’s not used to it with sugar, specifically rock sugar or maybe honey. I personally might start adding rock or raw sugar on occasion to really bring out the sweeter notes like cocoa, but I still can totally drink it on it’s own. Also, this is a tea that you should devote an entire day to because of the sheer amount of resteeps that you can get. It will serve your tea needs all day, which is another reason why I purchased this as a specific budget savor when I thought I had less of a disposable income (still technically do, but you know, tea addict).
Flavors: Cocoa, Dark Bittersweet, Leather, Molasses, Mushrooms, Smooth
Thank you for including a sample of this one, Nicole! The large wirey leaves have hints of brown to them. The brew is a pale brown. The flavor is pretty unique, but not strong enough for me (I don’t think I’ve slept very well in the last few days and I’m TRYING to avoid caffeine at night). There is a bright fruit flavor that is unique to this one… almost citrusy even, but mostly stonefruits. But it could be the tangy quality found in those ancient wild tree teas. Also, a bready fragrance to the dry leaf and hints of that in the flavor. Otherwise it tastes half like keemun and half like one of those Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong teas. (All three have a slight smoky quality to them.) I wish I could describe this one more, but I don’t think I’m quite awake while tasting. I definitely didn’t get chocolate notes – maybe because 1 1/2 teaspoons isn’t enough to get the chocolate notes but I used the entire sample I had. The second steep tasted almost exactly the same even though steeped completely differently.
Steep #1 // 1 1/2 teaspoons // 8 minutes after boiling // 1- 1 1/2 minute steep
Steep #2 // few minutes after boiling // 3-4 min
A good daily drink. Nothing too special from this cake though. A good sweetness after a slightly bitter few steeps near the beginning. Maybe apricot or peach notes, more dried than juicy. Slight astringency after the sixth steep, but a pleasant experience.
Flavors: Apricot, Dried Fruit, Peach, Sweet
This is something that I’ve been wanting to try for awhile. I’m so happy that I finally received some . They have an amazing aroma. These little golden cones carry a deep sweet malt and currant aroma. I placed two inside my glass tea pot. The liquor is lighter than most Yunnan reds. The scent is the same. This brew carries the amazing sweet bread, malt, and caramel aroma. The taste was fantastic. I can taste light fluffy baked bread, sea salt caramel, malt, and a sweet currant. The best thing about this tea is that it cant be over steeped. I left this in the teapot for longer than five minutes. The brew was still sweet and soothing. These little cones would be perfect for traveling tea. They have easy brewing parameters, and are so convenient.
Flavors: Baked Bread, Black Currant, Caramel, Malt, Sweet, Sweet Potatoes
Thank you again, Garret!
I had a hard time with this one. Really earthy, and musty-almost smelled like fish food. The taste was significantly better-earth and somewhat sweet as described with a brown, burgundy, and slightly purple color. I could Gongfu only one cup, though. I wasn’t feeling great the day I was drinking it, and I could not drink any more. My review may be skewed, but don’t let it detract you from trying it. This is a connoisseur’s tea, and one for the adventurous.
Flavors: Broth, Earth, Sweet
Thank you Garret! I really enjoyed this one!
This was one of the recent samples I got from my last Mandala Order. Pu-Erh’s were in my budget since there typically cheaper, and I wanted to get one cake, the Noble Mark, as a preemptive hangover strike for my 21st a few months from now next year (it helped my roommate out and I looked up that it helps detox alcohol). I also got it in case the price goes up with age. And I needed something to replace my morning coffee, and for about four bucks per ounce plus free shipping, I decided it was worth getting some, though I’ll drink it more in the winter and next year.
So for this one: I’m still slowly getting over the “pooh” smell in Pu-Erh. It made me hesitate, but I reminded myself that Pu-Erh very rarely tastes like it smells. I was right. I rinsed it twice, first five seconds, then ten. The first 45 second steep brewed something that highly resembled coffee in color, with a little bit more orange and burgundy, or even purple undertones. The taste was like a very smooth black tea, albeit with a dark earth, yet somehow silkier body. There’s some woodsiness that also reminds me of some Wu Yi’s that I’ve had. The second and third steeps were approximately between 45-50 seconds. It somehow got sweeter and more minerals later one, which I started to prefer. There’s some chocolate there, but I almost did not notice it-to me it was much more like a dark chocolate.
The thing that I really liked about this tea was how smooth it was. Astringency was only slightly there, but almost nonexistent. The only bitterness was from the earthiness of the Pu-Erh, but again, it was not so present and yields smooth.
This tea is definitely for a more experienced drinker. My mom is pretty experienced herself and she liked it, but she also had to get past the smell to drink it. NEWBIES BE WARNED. Tea snobs, come loving it.
Flavors: Bitter, Dark Chocolate, Dark Wood, Earth, Smooth
This tea just looks tasty. I opened up this packet and reveled long slender luscious chunks. These large leaf beauties give off a strong old stained wood scent. I picked a generous amount off from this tightly compressed brick, and I popped it in my warmed yixing. My little teapot filled my tea room with a hearty earth vegetable and forest floor scent. I washed this tea for slightly longer to allow it to awaken. I used scorching hot spring water to awaken this long docile brew. The steeped leaves give off a camphor scent mixed with aged cask rum. The liquor was a deep muddied orange and thick. There was a hint of bitterness in the initial sip. I enjoyed deep delicious menthol and wood tones. The flavor resembled what I imagine an eucalyptus tree would taste like. This soothing flavor followed up with a Novocaine sensation. The sip then ended with an all encompassing huigan that lingered well after drinking. My entire being was well pleased. Then, the qi began to set in. This was by far one of the most powerful brews. I was hit with a force alike a truck. My whole body became filled with such energy, yet I was unable to move. I was all giggly and my head became buzzed. I could feel my muscles soothe and unwind. I was finished by the second steeping. I actually had to step away (crawl more likely) from my tea table and search for food. I returned after an hour and continued my ceremony. The sweet aged sip brought me right back to buzzing. This brew is incredibly juicy and replenishing. The tea stood up for a great many steeping. I am so grateful to have tried this, and I’m glad I have more to share with people. I highly recommend this brew, for an intense and enjoyable gongfu session.
Flavors: Camphor, Dark Wood, Eucalyptus, Forest Floor, Menthol, Moss, Sweet, Wet Earth
This tea is where it’s at! This brew was a deep and resounding brew for me. The dry leaf had a strong white grape and wet wood scent. The colors even remind me of an autumn day. The cake has long strands of light brown, gold, and muddled green. I warmed this up in my brewing vessel. The aroma of maple syrup and apple trees came inside. I washed this treat and began my brewing. The steeped tea gave off a bitter green scent, but it had a sweet graham cracker crust undertone. This tea was surprisingly juicy. The huigan was thick and lasting. This brew gave me a strong mouth feel with slight fruity tones. This soothing liquor was all covered with a light oak tone. The qi was smooth and steady. I enjoyed this thoroughly. The scent, colors, and all around feeling from this tea is of an autumn day. This will be perfect for an October sunset in the future.
Flavors: Autumn Leaf Pile, Graham Cracker, Maple Syrup, Sweet, White Grapes
This was a beautiful tea! I was craving a decent Jingmai, and I remembered getting this. I broke off some generous chunks and stuck them in my yixing. The dry leaf was smoky and a deep hickory scent. This gorgeous leaf consists of long dark green tendrils. Its slightly compressed which is a good sign. I warmed up the leaf and gave them a whiff. There was a sweet brown sugar barbeque aroma rising from my teapot. I eagerly began brewing. The steeped leaves carried the same smoky tone, but it was like roasted greens. The flavor was just as tasteful. I could take in dark wood and sea salt caramel. This was a full bodied and aromatic brew. The only problem was that this tea tapered off rather quickly. It made for a short gongfu session. Nonetheless, it was very enjoyable. There was a prominent lasting huigan and the qi was quite potent. I am very happy to have more of this to share.
Flavors: Brown Sugar, Caramel, Dark Wood, Salt, Smoke
I did a side by side comparison with the 2012 Wild Monk. They both look close in resemblance. The distinguishable difference is that 2014 is loosely compressed and seemingly larger leaves. This trait is only due to it not being stored for as long. The leaf smells of sweets and lightly woodsy. I placed this inside my warmed yixing to awaken it a bit. This sweet aroma became stronger and changed to that of a dock at the lake. I washed the leaves once to prepare for brewing. The steeped leaves became strong and bitterly scented, like that of fresh kale and seaweed. The flavor was drastically different from its older 2012 part. The initial sip was very dry and with some sharp bitterness. This stricking flavor was covered with a smoky and purple arugula taste. There was a slight sweet undertone, but it was otherwise nonexistent. It was interesting to see what just a couple years can do to Sheng. I do enjoy a sharp puerh, but this was just too dry. I’d love to give it some age though to enjoy it more thoroughly. My vote will have to stick with the 2012 version for now; perhaps, this idea will change in a couple years.
Flavors: Bitter, Kale, Seaweed, Wet Wood
This tea hasn’t been released yet. I was lucky enough to be able to try it first. This is soooo good. I haven’t been home much, and I haven’t had time to review lately. I am finally able to sit back and spend time with my yixing.
This tea consists of loosely compressed dull green and platinum leaves. I can spot some long golden strands as well. The dry leaf carries a a sweet warm grass and fruity aroma. I knew this would be a great start for me getting back into rou-tea-ne. I warmed the small chunk up in my yixing. The tang scent of molasses and wet oak wafted up in my tea room. I washed the leaf once and prepared to brew it up. The steeped leaves have a smokey and bitter greens aroma. There was also a sweet apple cider scent lingering inside my brewing vessel. This Sheng is pure candy. The initial sip had a full bodied huigan and lasted for some time. There is a slight hint of dry bitterness in the aftertaste, but It was covered by a sweet maple syrup and honeysuckle flavor. This tea stands up well against multiple steeping. The brew kept consistently sweet and full bodied. This was delicious, and a great start to my puerh binge. The qi was slow starting, but it came over and kept me up. I loved this, and I am so happy to be able to try this before its debut.
Flavors: Fruity, Maple Syrup, Oak wood, Sap, Sweet, warm grass