Mandala Tea

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85

I got this sample from Mandala a while back. My tea knowledge is still growing after all this time. I thought all dancong teas were from Phoenix mountain so that’s what I was expecting, Now I see it’s from Wuyi which is also good as I like Wuyi oolongs a lot.

This got steeped up in the yixing this afternoon. It has a bit of roasty quality that reminds me of burnt sugar. For me the predominate note is fruity, peach and nectarine notes. There is a bit of minerality in the finish and it leaves a long sweet aftertaste in your mouth. I accidentally did one steep where I forgot the time and left it steeping too long, then it became sort of bitter and chalky. So.. I wouldn’t recommend doing that but 20-30 seconds seems like a good steeping time for it.

Not destined to be one of my favorite oolongs, but still a solid choice, nice every day drinking tea.

Flavors: Burnt Sugar, Mineral, Peach

Preparation
185 °F / 85 °C 0 min, 30 sec 3 tsp 6 OZ / 177 ML

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93
drank Golden Turtle by Mandala Tea
3 tasting notes

A most satisfying oolong from Mandala. After two short hot water rinses this tea blossoms into a full frontal cup of sweet, earthy fruity smooth oolong…

Preparation
190 °F / 87 °C 2 min, 15 sec 1 tsp 6 OZ / 177 ML

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80

A mouthful of flowers and veggies

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drank Morning Sun by Mandala Tea
507 tasting notes

This is a tasty tea. It is slightly malty. I am getting another note that I think is frequently described as baked bread. This is not as good as the one from Mandala I was drinking yesterday, I think that one was Black Gold.

I steeped this ono time in an 18oz teapot with 2 tsp leaf and boiling water for 1 min.

Flavors: Baked Bread, Malt

Preparation
Boiling 1 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 18 OZ / 532 ML

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drank 2009 Yi Wu Ripe by Mandala Tea
507 tasting notes

This tea was good but very heavily fermented. It was slightly bitter in the early steeps. Drank this last night and am just getting around to this now. It got fairly tasty by the sixth steep but I was so tired from lack of sleep I didn’t get the nuances. I will have to drink this one again in a small gaiwan so I can resteep it 12 or 15 times and see how it really is. It is fairly rare to find a ripe tea from Yiwu.

I steeped this six times in a 207ml Taiwan Clay Teapot with 10.2g leaf and boiling water. I steeped it for 5 sec, 5 sec, 10 sec, 15 sec, 20 sec, and 30 sec.

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 10 g 7 OZ / 207 ML

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92
drank Black Beauty by Mandala Tea
49 tasting notes

The older I get, the less I enjoy sugar. It’s even gotten to the point these days where I barely like chocolate. Any kind of sugar just leaves this sour, chemical taste in my mouth. Does anyone else experience this?

Black Beauty is like how I remember chocolate tasting. Wonderful and dark, without any off flavors. I tasted this tea in my mouth for almost an hour afterwards – and the whole time, it felt like eating chocolate.

Flavors: Chocolate

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 3 min, 15 sec 2 g 8 OZ / 236 ML

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92
drank Black Beauty by Mandala Tea
49 tasting notes

Getting a lot of chocolate and a roasted flavors from this tea. A mild malty sweetness afterwards. A definite structure of tannin and strong black tea underneath holding it all together.
I can see myself happily sipping this on a workday afternoon while the rest of my coworkers reach for their chocolate stashes.

Flavors: Chocolate, Malt, Roasted, Tannin

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 3 min, 0 sec 2 g 6 OZ / 177 ML

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92
drank Black Beauty by Mandala Tea
49 tasting notes

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drank Black Gold by Mandala Tea
802 tasting notes

Stuck at work this afternoon – ok if I spent more time working and less time watching Steepster my day would have been shorter. Oh well – if I have to be here, might as well make the best of it. With that thought in mind I pulled another Mandala tea off the shelf to drink at work.
This is a really nice tippy black. It’s a solid everyday tea. I would be perfectly happy drinking this most days at work. Bold and breakfasty enough to drink in the morning – not so bold that it’s too much for the afternoon. Can handle all the strange and nasty things I do to tea while at work. Is this a special occasion/best of the best black? No it’s not – but one can’t have those teas everyday (or at least I can’t). This is a make me happy everyday tea.
http://instagram.com/p/yh1SHXuE7k/?modal=true

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Went on a bit of a tea/teaware shopping spree last night. Ohhhhh Mandala – I love Mandala Tea, and was spending the evening trying to put together an order – it’s tough when there are so many awesome choices.
Anyway I was drinking the amazing Noble Mark while I was shopping. I love this tea. I don’t drink it often enough and I don’t write enough tasting notes about it. I was using my little yixing shou pot and stopped counting at 9 steeps – but I’m quite sure I got to at least 15. It just keeps getting smoother and more mellow as you go. It starts really nice and doesn’t go through any icky stages. Maybe not as “complex” as some like – but you know what your going to get with this one. It’s always good – it can handle some “oops I let that steep too long”. One of my all time favorite teas.
http://instagram.com/p/yf7D7wuE7V/?modal=true

Maddy Barone

That does sound good. Complex is sort of wasted on me since I don’t taste much. Give me a decent smooth tea and I’m happy.

MzPriss

:( steepster is eating parts of my notes again

looseTman

Did you tell Jason so they can look into it?

TheTeaFairy

Love this one too, so smooth and warming!

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79

Well, it looks like it’s finally time for me to break into the puerh reviewing game. While I drink a lot of puerh tea, I must admit that my palate for puerh, and shu (cooked/ripe) puerhs in particular, is not very refined. I certainly enjoy shu puerh teas from time to time, but most shu teas taste the same to me. I really enjoy the savory, earthy character of most cooked or ripe puerhs, but I generally can’t tell one quality shu puerh from another. I’m more of a sheng man at heart.

Screen Shot 2015-01-30 at 1.35.38 PM

This Mandala Phatty Cake is a shu puerh. For you non tea-drinkers (what are you doing here?!?!), this means it was artificially “cooked” to imitate an aged sheng (raw) puerh. This process usually involves piling the tea leaves in a warm, humid environment. The leaves are turned over regularly. In essence, the tea leaves are being composted.

This particular tea comes from Mandala Tea, an excellent tea shop and online tea store based in Rochester, Minnesota. The 2011 Phatty Cake is wildly popular in the internet tea world. Steepster, Reddit r/tea, and TeaChat are all full of glowing reviews for this shu puerh.

The leaves for this cake were picked in Lincang, Yunnan Province in 2006 and then ripened in 2007. In 2011, the ripened leaves were pressed into cute little 100 g cakes.

Dry Leaf

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Normally when I brew puerh, I like to break off a large chunk or two and then have a few smaller leaves in the pot as well. However, since I’m towards the very end of this cake I could only break off this giant piece. The dried leaves are darker brown, as shu puerhs tend to be. This cake has a lot more variety than most shu puerhs I’ve seen…there are some lighter brown leaves and some darker brown leaves. The leaf size ranges from tiny and almost dust like all the way to entire leaves.

This lovely chunk of shu has that deep, earthy smell that is typical of shu puerhs. The cake is very densely compacted, and was a bit hard to break apart with my tea pick.

Teaware

image(1)

For this tea, I used my designated shu yixing pot. I bought this lovely little guy in the Yingge Ceramics District of New Taipei City in Taiwan. I bought it from a group of old ladies on the side of the road that had a little teaware shop. I can never resist buying something from cute old Taiwanese ladies.

Brewed Tea

I weighed out 8 g of this tea for my sample. I gave this tea two ten second rinses. Normally I only give puerhs one rinse, but since this chunk of tea was so solid I thought it would need another ten seconds to open up.

The first steep was an incredibly dark shade of reddish-brown, approaching completely black. And this was only a 15 second steep! You can’t even see the bottom of the cup.

image(3)

You may notice the white mist on the surface of the tea. Apparently these are tiny microdroplets of water that are actually levitating above the surface of the tea. How fascinating! This phenomenon was discovered by Takahiro Umeki and his team of physicists out of Kyoto University in Japan.

You can read a bit more about it at http://www.marshaln.com/2015/01/that-white-mist/. http://www.marshaln.com is also one of the very best tea blogs on the internet, so you should check it out anyways. https://medium.com/the-physics-arxiv-blog/the-mystery-of-the-white-mist-on-the-surface-of-black-coffee-a1a9624edfde also has a nice article about Umeki’s discoveries.

The first thing I noticed about this tea is that it is super clean tasting, as most other reviewers have noted. There is absolutely none of the “funk” of fishiness that you often find in shu puerhs. The initial taste is very leathery and earthy. This typical puerh flavor is boosted by a delicious savory taste, very mushroom like. As far as tea tastes go, mushroom might not be to your liking…but I certainly enjoyed it in this tea.Perhaps the most noticeable aspect of this tea is its texture. This tea is very thick and heavy, even for a shu. It is oddly filling, like a meal in a cup! The tea has a really pleasant sweet aftertaste.

image(4)

This is about the fourth or fifth steep. You can see that the tea has lightened up a little bit to a reddish-brown color. Even after five steeps, the tea is still incredibly heavy and thick. A lot of the mushroomy/savory notes have faded into a sort of medicinal or herbal note. This might not sound good, but I found it quite pleasant. There are so many flavors in this one puerhs. I was impressed by this tea’s complexity.

I lightened up the steep times to 8-10 seconds for the remaining steeps. I easily got over 15 steeps out of this one 8 g chunk of tea, and I certainly could have gotten some more out of the tea. This tea is incredibly strong and potent, as most reviewers have noticed. I love teas that have this aspect, but unless you are really into shu puerhs, I don’t think you would like this tea.

Finished Leaf

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The finished leaf is nothing too exciting to look at, since it’s a compressed puerh. But the leaves looked pretty full and high quality.

Conclusion

This is a good shu puerh, to put it simply. It’s incredibly strong and potent and will give you lots of repeated infusion. It’s a lot better than your standard $15 or $20 cake online. But at $19 for a 100 g cake, I don’t think I’ll be buying this tea again. It’s simply too pricy for what it gives. If you consider that most puerh cakes are 357 g, this tea would be in the $60 range if it were full sized. That’s pretty expensive for a shu puerh, and I wouldn’t pay that regularly for a shu puerh cake unless it really knocked my socks off. Maybe this just means that I’m too cheap :)

I’m happy I tried this tea though, and I’m happy that I supported Mandala Tea by buying it. If you are looking for an online tea vendor, you should give Mandala a look. They have a great selection and incredibly friendly customer service, even if the prices are a bit high for my tastes.

Flavors: Dirt, Earth, Mushrooms, Tobacco

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 8 g 6 OZ / 177 ML
Garret

Thank you for the in-depth review of this tea, my friend, and also for the recommendation of our humble endeavor here at Mandala Tea. It is greatly appreciated. We now have 5 cakes of this tea left. Wow! They went fast!

As far as the pricing – had we pressed this as a 357 gram cake the price wouldn’t have been triple the 100g cake as pressing fees would have been lower. It may have ended up being priced around $40 or less, lower when first pressed. But that is neither here nor there. We do better with the 100g pressings sales wise and so we haven’t done any larger pressings with the exception of a few 250 gram cakes.

Thank you, once again, for taking the time to write up your experience with this tea.

May you be healthy and happy always.
Grateful,
Garret

hrwhite

Hi Garret!

Thanks for the comment. Only 5 left, wow! Good sales, huh?

Sorry for the miscommunication about the price. That is a good point, I will go back and fix that. I would also probably pay $40 for a whole cake! I trust your judgement regardless, and it wasn’t met as a slight towards Mandala, so I hope you didn’t take it that way. You guys rock and have some of the best teas around, especially that lovely milk oolong of yours!

Garret

HI! I did not take it as a slight whatsoever. No worries there. I appreciate your kind words so very much. It means alot. The two of us (Jamie and I) are working so hard to keep Mandala Tea growing and it is words of encouragement like yours that keep us going some days. I am grateful to you.

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88
drank Milk Oolong by Mandala Tea
49 tasting notes

I’m tasting a flowery, sweet, happy cup of tea. It reminds me a bit of cotton candy – imagine drinking a lovely floral tea while standing within a mile of a cotton candy stand and being able to just barely identify the smell. Plus a gentle roasted note.

Nothing milky about this tea. It is very possible that I’m taking the title too seriously, and that the ‘milk’ in the milk oolong refers to its smoothness instead of any overt dairy flavor.

Flavors: Brown Sugar, Cotton Candy, Flowers, Roasted

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 3 min, 15 sec 1 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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88
drank Milk Oolong by Mandala Tea
49 tasting notes

Unlike most of the new years resolutions I saw posted on various discussion threads, my resolution this year is to spend more money on tea. In prior years, my tea budget has always been sucked up by practical things, such as ‘food’ or ‘gas’, but not this year! I vow not to be practical, not to live off of old tea from my mother’s cupboard, and not to try to make my Christmas tea last all year. I think I can safely say that I’ve started January on track by purchasing a Breville one-touch and placing an order for this tea from Mandala.

As I’m drinking this particular tea, I’m not really tasting the ‘milk’ in the milk oolong. I get the floral and some sort of sweetness, but not any sort of creamy taste. It is possible that the much lauded ‘milk’ flavor is actually the smooth feel of the tea – but I can’t be sure. Additionally, I’m picking up a distinct chlorine flavor, which I fear must come from my tap water and may be overwhelming some of the subtler flavors in the tea. I must try this again with filtered water – because I am very curious about how a tea might taste milky without milk.

Flavors: Caramel, Floral

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 4 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 16 OZ / 473 ML
Garret

Ahhh… chlorine… a compound that will really do a number on an otherwise good tea session. I was bringing a new tea to one of the coffee/teahouses we sell to and sat down with the owner to prepare it for him. I was excited. Until I realized that he was not filtering the water. Not only did it zap the flavor, but the aroma of the tea was diminished.

I think that happens to many people and they don’t even realize it because some city water doesn’t necessarily smell like a swimming pool but still has chlorine present. The person makes the tea and doesn’t quite get the full gist of it because of that.

Thanks for taking the time to check this tea out. I appreciate it!

With gratitude,
Garret

BookLion

I bought a water filter and have been religiously using it for all my tea-making activities this week. Excited to make a new note for the milk oolong!

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drank Black Gold by Mandala Tea
507 tasting notes

This will be a fast review because I have to go to work. This is a very tasty black tea, slightly malty, slightly sweet.

I brewed this once in an 18oz teapot with 3 tsp leaf and boiling water for 1 min.

Preparation
Boiling 1 min, 0 sec 3 tsp 18 OZ / 532 ML
Garret

I really love this tea and am happy you like it. It also makes an incredible black tea with milk/cream/half and half and sugar. Truly delightful. We have a few coffeehouses we sell this to and they use it for the base tea for their in-house chai. Delightful.

thanks for posting this!

Grateful,
Garret

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85

Used 4.20 grams of leaf first time with this one.

(Did two quick rinses)
5/3/3/3/7/7/7/11/11

Bright, clean, & slightly smokey.
Infuses to a nice pale orange hue.
Smells fantastic brewed.
My little studio is overpowered with sheng aroma.

Very smooth tea no astringent properties for the first couple steeps!
Slightly sweet and greatly pleasant to sip.

Almost a citrus hint with a juicy “easy” drinking quality.
Calm but mentally focused chaqi.
I feel the heightened awareness starting to creep up.
Ima play with this one a few more times before final judgement but mandala tea has brought the good stuff yet again. ;-)

Flavors: Citrus, Cut grass, Eucalyptus, Honey, Smoked, Wet Earth, Wet Wood

Preparation
Boiling 1 min, 30 sec 4 g 4 OZ / 120 ML
TheTeaFairy

Great review…and yes, Mandala is awesome!

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95
drank Special Dark by Mandala Tea
175 tasting notes

This is probably the only Shu Puer to really have earned my favor. I like Shu Puer in general, but aside from this one, none have ever really stood out to me as being unique or particularly enjoyable. Admittedly, I’ve probably had less than 10 different ones.

After a rinse this tea smells strongly of cacao and stone fruits. The brewed infusion tastes quite like unsweetened cacao, and in later infusions this is balanced by a dark fruit flavor something like dried fig or bing cherries. The aroma of the brewed liquor is like sugar cookies.

This one lasts plenty of infusions and delivers such a nice, rich flavor, with very little of the mustiness that most shu Puer have. I really like this. Best ripe Puer I’ve had so far!

Flavors: Cacao, Cherry, Cookie, Fig, Stonefruits

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 4 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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87
drank Pure Buds Black by Mandala Tea
507 tasting notes

Got this as a free sample with a Mandala order a while ago and am just now getting around to trying it. It is pretty good, only slightly malty. I am getting another note too, one I think is generally described as baked bread, quite flavorful.

I brewed this once in an 18oz teapot with the sample, around 6g and boiling water for 1 min.

Flavors: Baked Bread, Malt

Preparation
Boiling 1 min, 0 sec 6 g 18 OZ / 532 ML

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Mmmmmmmmmmm I love Mandala pu’erh. This one is no exception. It’s just so comforting. Love how smooth it is. Love how dark it steeps. It just makes me happy.
http://instagram.com/p/yVsL4uOE9i/?modal=true
http://instagram.com/p/yVsW4-uE99/?modal=true

Hoping everyone on the East Coast is safe and warm.

Sophia

i just saw your profile, may i know have u ever drinked fu brick tea with “Golden Flowers”?

Dexter

I’m going to have to say no. I’m not even really sure I understand what Fu tea is. I have a brick of Anhua dark tea and several pu’erh cakes but thats about it. :))

Sophia

yes, u r right. what u mentioned that anhua dark tea is what i said to u " fu brick tea" , have u tasted anhua dark tea yet? what do u think of the tea? may i have your suggestion??

Dexter

http://instagram.com/p/wU-g-2uE33/
This is what I have. Its lighter than what I would normally expect from a Chinese black tea. It has some roasted, nutty flavors like I would expect from a dark oolong. Just a hint of the earthy/musty that I associate with a ripe pu’erh. It different than anything else I own. I like it and would like to try more.

Sophia

yes,fu brick soup is lighter ,smoother, and it has a softer taste with a little darker colour,i think lots people love the tea not only the taste of itself, but also its healthy care function .

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This was a delicious treat for me this afternoon. One mini tuocha lasted through over a liter of water. Yay!

TheTeaFairy

Mmmmm, Temple Stairs…amen!!

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87

I hate it when reviews disappear. I pulled this one out to be my puerh for today after reading misslena’s tasting note on special dark. :) I haven’t had this one in a long while so i figured it was time to work on my sample of this, especially if i place a mandala order for special dark! I’ll be drinking this most of today and that suits me just fine. My little turtle needs more tea love and this is a great tea. I’d say it’s a toss up on any given day whether i’ll love this or special dark most :)

MissLena

Yay for my note inspiring you to pull this one out! I should today too, but I don’t want to overcaffeinate..having a black tea right now lol. I hate being sensitive :(

MzPriss

I love this one. Also the Temple Stairs mini tous are good

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Tealizzy was kind enough to send me a sample of this tea! I have been curious about it for a while :)

And it lives up to the hype! Very complex, super sweet and apricotty, silky, a little floral and just enough tart/bitter notes to keep it interesting. Damnit, now I really want to order a cake! :D

I took some pics of my session-
http://instagram.com/p/ySDHvwxh4N/?modal=true
http://instagram.com/p/ySGqwRRhwZ/?modal=true
http://instagram.com/p/ySG5zxRhw2/?modal=true

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81

6.24 grams 90ml glass gaiwan
8 second rinse

3/5/5/8/10/12/15/30/45/90/180

First steep noticed a metallic note but I admit I didn’t warm my teaware up prior to adding the leaf.
Everything but the metallic note was good. Woody, earthy, subtle musty in a pleasant way.

Noticed more of a balanced flavor of wood earth with a dry sweetness quality around the 4th steep on.

Had a very gentle chaqi that uplifted me and warmed me up as well. Exactly what I was after this morning.

It’s a fairly complex tea but has a bit of fermentation flavor left yet. It faded quick but those sensitive to that be warned.

I think for the price it’s a wonderful tea to age. I might try to drink this one more often.
I have a feeling out of my seasoned yixing it will taste more rounded.

Overall I am satisfied with this tea.
Thanks mandala.

Flavors: Campfire, Earth, Sweet, Wet Earth, Wood

Preparation
Boiling 8 min or more 6 g 3 OZ / 90 ML

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84
drank Special Dark by Mandala Tea
1030 tasting notes

I am on my final cup of this tea and still have not logged a tasting note! Sad sad :( well now I will! Haha. This tea served me well, I had it quite often while painting, so that speaks to it’s relaxing, mood enhancing abilities quite a lot! I didn’t take detailed notes on this tea unfortunately, but I will log what I have noticed about it in this final cup.

I usually prepare my western steeped pu’erhs in a similar manner, 1 or two short rinses then a short first steep. This one I did two rinses, 25s and 20s, and then a steep of around 30s. This isn’t a pu’erh that necessarily needs a rinse, as it’s super smooth and not fishy at all, but the rinses make it a bit smoother and silkier for me! The cup smells faintly woody with a hint of chocolate.

The flavor is pretty good! This one is very much milk chocolate. It is difficult to even tell it is a pu’erh. I will admit, as tasty as milk chocolate/fine cacao is in a tea, it is not my favorite note. I like earthy, woody notes, and this one is very mellow in that department. There is a faint mushroom flavor to me, which I am enjoying :) It is very good, but in all honesty, my Noble Mark still holds my heart for favorite shu. This one is tasty, and I might re-order someday, but for now I will enjoy the ones I have in my cupboard.

Overall, super milk chocolatey, light cacao, silky smooth, and calming. Delicious, but my heart is still won over by Noble Mark for a favorite :) but will probably will meet again, Special Dark! Highly recommend if you want a pu’erh that is not very pu’erhy in taste (no fish, not much earthiness, if any, and not overly strong at all). Great for starters, and also, I could see that since this will be out of my cupboard, I will probably end up craving it haha. That tends to happen with teas like this :D very happy I ordered this!

Flavors: Cacao, Chocolate, Mushrooms, Smooth

Dexter

That is a great tasting note. Personally I really like the chocolate notes in it, but I do agree that it’s not very Pu’erh ish. I do love it though. Yes Noble Mark is amazing and is also one of my favorite shou pu’erhs…. Mmmmmmm Mandala pu’erh – I don’t drink enough of it.
I’m going to take inspiration from this and drink some Noble Mark tomorrow. Thank you. :))

MissLena

Haha no prob! Enjoy that noble mark I am hoarding mine since I’m on a no-buy for a while! Yeah I am not a huge chocolate fan overall..hence why I also don’t have any laoshan black in my cupboard..I enjoy them every once in a while as a nice treat though! :)

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86

Continuation of my earlier steepings..

Steep five: 2 minutes. This may have been a bit much, as the white grape skin astringency is back. This was quite drying on the tongue, and not as pleasant as when this occurred before. I’ll back off on the steep time for the next go around…

Steep six: 2 minutes. The astringence faded off again and now I have more of a grape juicy sweet tea. (minus additives, since I don’t really like additives in anything but black teas).

Steep seven: 3 minutes. There’s more of a mineral and floral flavor to this, now. Still good, and I know its got life in it yet but I’m suffering from a bit of flavor fatigue here. Also I’m pretty sure tea drunk is a phrase that applies here.

Definitely good stuff, and I have a feeling the more of the sheng pu’er I try the more I’ll realize just how good this is.

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 2 min, 0 sec 4 g

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