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Recent Tasting Notes
So, going into this one, I knew it had a lot to live up to as it’s Dexter3657’s favorite, go-to, accept-no-substitutes Holy Grail Big Red Robe. I was a little nervous too, because frankly I’d yet to have any Big Red Robes I adore—they’ve never been bad or anything, but they’ve also never really stood out (and I’ve tried some from excellent tea companies) despite being such a famous and revered tea type. Very grateful for Dexter3657’s willingness parting with some, thank you!
As it turns out, I can breathe a sigh of relief—this is delicious, far and away the best BRR I’ve tried. It’s roasty, cocoa-rich, smooth, and despite all that roasty delicious sweet flavor it’s not a bit heavy in an unpleasant way. I want to say it reminds me a little of Herbal Infusions’ Moose Tracks, that delectable sweet but not sugary, roasty coffee quality, but it’s been a while since I’ve had that one so I may be off…would definitely purchase this. Not quite the same as coffee, but would make a great early evening substitute nonetheless because it hits similar pleasure center buttons while still staying true to tea and its strengths (for one, that magic minerality that’s compelling, interesting, but not so strong as to be weird, just sort of melds with impeccable subtlety with the other elements, comes out at the end of the sip…and as it cools a fruitiness, I’m thinking stone fruits, the tendrils of flesh that cling to a peach pit, emerges). Hooray to Dex and hooray for my first hit with Da Hong Pao!
Another wonderful, precious gift, this one from Dexter3657. Had these yesterday during husband’s band practice. The drummer, someone I consider a dear friend, didn’t have much to do (it’s not really practice and hasn’t been for months; they’re mixing the recording for an upcoming album) so we spent most of the afternoon sitting in the living room chatting while I drank cup after cup of this. This is one where the hype is warranted (or maybe I just love pearls?); 3 pearls yielded a seemingly endless stream of deliciously rich, chocolatey smooth delight I enjoyed over the course of hours. It’s sweet like an indulgence, but not cloying; it’s evened out by a textured-almost-like-plush sort of dimension that somehow makes it both eminently more easy-drinking and more interesting/compelling. Put me in a good, up-for-endless-socializing mood and may have been what powered me through a closet razing (10 garbage bags’ worth of old clothes and shoes to donate, some I had when I was still in high school, and there’s still two tiny hallway closets left to do!) that took me late into the night. I feel honored to have had the chance to try these precious, currently out of stock little wonderballs. Thanks so much Dexter3657!
This is great tea to start the day. Delicious, smooth, sweet, some malt.
My first cup had hints of fruit in the background, with a lighter profile. Second steep of these beautiful leaves…ahhh…rich, sweet, and so tasty. BF commented on how good it smells-he doesn’t drink tea.
Many thanks to Dexter3657 for sending this my way!
Here’s a check-in on some young, rapidly improving tea. I won’t do a number rating since I work for Mandala.
7 grams into a 5oz. yixing pot, quick rinse, water at full boil. I combined two infusions into one sharing pitcher for each tasting stop.
10 seconds (x2) – tastes a little like sweet corn with a slight cooling sensation at the back of the throat. Very clear tea liquor.
15 seconds (x2) – increased sweetness now with some grape flavor starting in and a lot more tongue-drying astringency
15 seconds (x2) – the energy of this tea is really hitting now – sort of a full cardiovascular system opener. Garret says, “This is why I called it HEART of the old tree!”
30 seconds (x2) – just getting tastier, the flavors are really rounded and well-incorporated. Clean.
1 minute (x2) – sweet cooking grain flavor and after-sweet are taking over. Less of that grape-like sweetness initially. Excellent flavor left in my mouth long after sipping.
Loving where this tea is right now and excited about where it’s headed!
mmmmmm so i’ve had this sample in my cupboard from gracebtlb for a while now. Not because i haven’t wanted to drink it, but because i try to take the time to sit and really focus on the puerh, at least the first time i have it haha. I have to say that this one shocked me with just how much i loved it. I’ve been pretty much drinking it since this morning – in between cups of other teas. This will be an order for sure in future!
I didn’t really take notes while drinking this as i was really enjoying it. but i did give it two rinses to start, as suggested to me by grace. After that i just kept adding 15 sec or so each steep.
-earthy; bold; smooth; a little sweet; leathery; sweet; sort of roasty…kinda
Just a really happy tea for me today in rainy ville. I need to start setting aside time every weekend for puerh!
I’m not usually a fan of blooming teas, but I can’t say I’d ever had a blooming black tea before. I can definitely say I would again now though! It’s beautiful from the presentation standpoint, but I was more thrilled with how it delivered in flavor.
These little flowers are incredibly rich and malty, with sweet caramel and honey notes. And two cones at 4 minutes makes a surprisingly flavorful cup. I could definitely see myself pick up more of these.
Soooo my morning has been sort of awesome. I know it’s friday but i woke up early, and actually felt rested even though i went to bed late again. My other half didn’t have work today so he was still in bed, snoring away. I managed to get up and make myself a bagel and creamcheese while boiling water. Why is this morning awesome? It’s been quiet in the apartment – even as far as the neighbours go. I’m working from home today :) It’s raining in Toronto, so i’ve been able to sit, relax and listen to the rain while having tea, including a number of rounds of this one, which i start with. And slowly, steepster has woken up….folks have started to get online with work…but there’s a calmness to everything. Friday is finally here and it’s time to keep it slow. Only thing i’m missing, is the smell of rain….rain here smells different than out west. But life is good. My weekend is shaping up to be a good one and i’ve got my health, tea friends, friends here….a wedding to plan, travelling to be had, a job and my best friend to share it all with. life is just good. Sure work sucks the life out of me…but at the end of the day… i’ve got so much to be thankful for, that it hard seems worth the blip.
Happy friday everyone! Last one in March :)
(oh…and this tea? i love it…there are days when I think i might like this even more than special dark. There’s just something delightful about all of Mandala’s puerhs that i’ve tried. This one is the perfect accompaniment to this morning’s symphony)
Retry! I had this one a few days ago and I was convinced that I did something wrong, since this hardly tasted like the best oolong on Steepster. Jamie Groth from Mandala commented on my tasting notes that I really didn’t have the right temp and even did an experiment on water cooling which was extremely helpful (thank you!) as I had been waiting way too long for the water to cool for every tea I was having. (I don’t have a temp setting kettle – just a boil-all-the-way kettle). It’s good to know now! To be fair, there wasn’t really any instructions for western brewing on the site for this tea- I checked. In the comments, Jamie Groth suggested 1 tsp for 8 ounces at 195 degrees. I had a teaspoon left, but not a heaping teaspoon!
Steep #1 // exactly 10 mins after cooling // 2 min
I had waited 30-35 for the water to cool last time! 20-25 minutes too long! The experiment said water cooled to 195 degrees after about 10 minutes. Yes, there are different variables with my set-up but this has to be way more accurate than 20-25 minutes later. The flavor difference is noticeable!! Even before sipping, I can actually tell the difference with scent of the tea in the cup. This is definitely milk oolong this time, when the last cup didn’t even taste like any kind of oolong. The tanginess is even missing this time. Creamy, milky, sweet, a little fruity. HUGE difference.
Steep #2 // 8 min after boiling // 2 1/2 min
This cup is pure butter! It’s like it’s melted butter, in taste and smoothness. I can’t believe this is the same tea I had a few days ago. Such a difference! Hints of peach as well. This steep is even better than the last one. It just goes to show that tea is so sensitive to all variables. I’m definitely raising my rating for this (from a 61!). It’s up there with some of my favorite oolongs, but I don’t agree that this is the best oolong all together. If any other tea shops want to correct me on my tea brewing mistakes in the future, I’m all for listening!
I got a big “Phatty” sample of this pu’erh from Dexter3657. Used the whole thing in a little gongfu glass pot so I could watch the particles break apart.
This is pu-pu-nom-nom goodness. It’s everything I love from a shou pu’erh! A little earthy, a little sweet, with a minty fresh finish.
The truth is, mini gungfu shots are just not doing it for me tonight, cause I want mooore of it right now!!!
Sorry for the “pu-rists”, but I dumped everything into a large infuser and steeped in a 16oz mug. Let me tell you, I am now unapologetically gulping it down as if there was no tomorrow. A satisfied fairy, that’s what a I am…sorry Mandala for such an incomplete review but sometimes, you need to keep things simple and just let the tea shine for you :-)
Thank you so much Dexter for sharing this with me!
I have been hoarding this tea..no longer! Today was 5 pearls for a 16oz travel mug and it was perfect. Seriously, i REALLY hope that Mandala is able to secure more of these in the future so that it doesn’t become like my beloved that i can’t bring myself to finish. :) Really though…these resteep well, and the chocolatey deliciousness of these are just awesome.
Method: Improvised Gaiwan (I say this because I broke my fav gaiwan so I am waiting on a new one from China, obviously long wait, so I am using my great grandmother’s houhin! Not really different but not a gaiwan!
First Several Steepings: Began with 15 sec infusions and the aroma is thick and earthy, but not overwhelmingly. Relaxing, like wet forest floor after crisp dew is first cast by day’s new morning. The flavor reminded me of my visit to Yosemite National Park a few years ago during the months of drizzle and gentle touches of summer but before the full broil of mid summer. Relaxing, invigorating but inspiring. Earthy, bit of soil and a hint of mushroom with a finishing raisin note. Pleasant and simply pure. Really enjoying this pu erh and excited for later infusions.
Middle and Final Steepings: I lost count by this point. The liquor is still dark but slightly beginning to lighten, the aroma gentled but the flavor is still bold. Still earthy but sweetening. Feeling more energized but not wired, calmed and content. Just enjoying the moment and brew. After a few more infusions my fresh order of Tupelo honey caught my attention just glistening its flowing, amber, precious liquid incased in clear glass allowing the sun light to beam through just beckoning me to experiment. I am a mischievous and curious soul, as I am told; I stared at my dark brew clasped in my hand the white porcelain enhancing the color of this precious pu erh, a moment of inspiration touched my awakened mind. Why not? I said to myself as I tenderly poured but a small gesture of Tupelo into my cup then the pu erh. I never done this before with pu erh but I was so curious! The moment it tickled my lips, caressed my tongue I felt so happy! The flavor transformed into a completely different tea, so many more hidden notes felt enhanced and a slight touch of the honey flavor, wow, all I can say is wow! Dessert in my hands and now slipping down my tongue!! Oh wow! This is why I love pu erh! Thousands of teas in one changed in a moment! I am pumped! Loving every moment! Infusions from now have Tupelo and some I do not bother adding, just enjoying tea. Day is becoming vesper, almost foreshadowing the last remains of my fun brew. The flavor fading, more flower notes, liquor cleansing itself of the sunny day I finish off this pu erh almost sadly, but tomorrow always will dawn again the freshly born rays glistening my tiny pu erh blade for another battle on a long war I personally wage!
Thank you so much Garret for this magnificent brew!! Will be ordering more!
Flavors: Earth, Flowers, Fruit Tree Flowers, Mineral, Mushrooms, Raisins
I have a raging addiction to green tea and normally, I like it thick as pond water, sweet, dark, heavy on the tongue with powerful grassy notes (gyokuro is my baby). But this tea was a nice variation on that theme, lighter, but still distinctly vegetal. The first time I worked with this tea I did they way it was recommended and the flavor was too much of a tease. The second time I did it my way… steeped low and slow to bring out its darker side. It was a wise choice for my palate.
The first term that comes to mind when tasting this tea is comforting. There’s a sweet, almost creamy quality to it on the front end…I think they’d say it was the chestnut referenced in their description but I’m not tied to any particular nut :) Now we’re not talking cream like the milk oolong (be still my heart), but nevertheless, the characteristic is present. It recedes against a vegetal background and you’re left with a satisfying, mild astringency and the faintest reminder of fresh mown hay that lets you know you’ve done something with your time. When work sucks, this is like a hug.
As for the shop itself, I couldn’t be more impressed with their model. Jamie says they visit the sites themselves and have actually abandoned sites due to a lack of quality in soil, air pollution or lack of sustainability. I asked Jamie about the notes he and Garrett leave in the shipping and he said they’re love notes to their customers. I’ve loved every tea I’ve ever tasted from this shop (milk oolong WHAT?!?!!), I appreciate their philosophy on business and life, and then I receive regular love letters from them? Is it possible to fall in love with a tea shop?
Thanks so much, DigniTea! Excited to try a couple Mandala teas! I tried to follow Mandala’s instructions as closely as possible (1-2 teaspoons, 208 degrees, rinse, 1 min steep increasing to 3-5 min steep). The leaves look like a golden Yunnan.
Steep #1 // 4 min after boiling // rinse & 1 1/2 – 2 min steep
I tried to split the sample I had, so I went with 1 1/2 teaspoons of leaves. Someone at Mandala was kind enough to experiment with waiting for water to cool after boiling and taking temperatures. It definitely gave me a better idea with water temps, even if the conditions (kettle, air temp, etc) isn’t exactly the same. Either way, I was letting the water cool way too long for EVERY tea. To get to 208 degrees, I really should have waited only two minutes after boiling, but somehow it went to four. I’m not fast enough! So the temp was probably really around 205. ANYWAY: The flavor is lovely! I feel like these types of teas embody three distinct flavors: honey, squash/sweet potato and dark chocolate. It depends on the leaves what represents itself more. This one is pure squash and hints of honey. It reminds me of one of my favorites: cutting an acorn squash in half and roasting it in the oven with brown sugar & butter. The body of the tea itself is lighter (though the steep color reminded me of root beer), so the chocolate notes are not as easy to detect… they are present in the background. But sometimes it’s nice just to have the squash notes. I’m very impressed that all three flavors are in this cup, since sometimes it can just be honey flavored if the leaves are mostly yellow, or just dark chocolate.
Steep #2 // 2 min after boiling // 4 min steep
Mandala also suggests that one of the steeps is 3-5 minutes long. This results in a darker, deeper cup – yet not at all astringent. It’s closer to chocolate but not quite. The squashiness is less, but honey remains. It’s a completely different cup altogether. A nice cup, but I think the first is better. I should have had another steep in between these two with a three minute steep. I think that’s why Mandala suggests a one minute steep and then a 3-5 minute steep at the end… the lovely differences the leaves present.
I stayed up way too late, & then I woke up way too early! At 5am I kept hearing this gnawing & scratching sound. I also heard it last week one morning. I kept trying to go back to sleep, but finally just resigned myself to getting up. I located where I was hearing the sound, & at first I thought maybe a mouse was inside my wall, but it sounded too big, & I realized that maybe it’s something scratching around on my roof, because my room is an attic room, & it was in a roof corner kind of place.
So I banged on the wall, & it stopped for a second, then started up. I banged again, same thing. I banged a bunch & it made a weird noise. That’s when I realized it was probably a raccoon. My daughter has had 2 racoons dig out sections of roofing on their house to make a place to sleep, & the area on my roof that it was at is basically sheltered from 2 sides forming a corner, with an oak tree above it.
Lucky the coon moved on, and I’m really hoping it won’t try again. I love raccoons, & I love that there are lots of them in my neighborhood (along with foxes, hawks, etc), but I don’t want it to destroy my roof!
To hear the wierd sound the coon made, which turns out to be a ‘purr’:
So this tea has been a welcome addition to my way too early morning: bold, rich, a little sweet, & as it cools it gets a little grapey.
I got this cake recently and it is my new favorite pu’er. It has a well rounded and smooth flavor with a creamy texture. It also holds up well to multiple steepings (I get a good six in my yixing, which is as much tea as I can handle in one sitting!) I would also recommend for people being introduced to ripe pu’er tea. It is a bit more well “behaved” than many other pu’er out there.
Drank this multiple times over the weekend while framing and hammering up new wall art, making soup, and continuing my old lady pose (but I think spring is shaking me awake a little…I woke up this morning with “Dancing in the Dark” in my head, due to the sentiment behind it I imagine). I still think Shang’s Silver Needle King is far and away the greatest white tea I’ve ever smelled or tasted (aiee!), but this offers that thing good whites often do, an indelibly luscious mouthfeel. It has a lot of layers going on too. Hopefully I can sit down and write a proper note about them next time, ack. Been drinking my tea all willy nilly in the midst of things (busy beaver spring cleaning and scheming and all that), without good logging. I fear I may never return to being an adequate, potentially helpful logger. :/ (beavers…logs…spring…my head’s full of fuzz!) This is becoming more and more just another diary. Whoops.
As I sit here living through another wintery day (it was -20C with the wind chill this morning), I sip on Wild Monk sheng by Mandala. My first Mandala order and I have to say I’m impressed. The teas are of great quality. :)
I ordered two cakes, holding on to some strange idea that I will be aging the second one. We’ll see about that, lol. The cake is so small and adorable and breaks easily. I’ve come to realize that I love breaking into puerh cake… It’s almost like a ritual in itself… lol
I used 8 grams for 7 ounces of water and steeped it for 10 seconds each time. I’m on a second steep right now. The tea is delicious. It’s earthy, smoky and sweet with a touch of fruitiness… no bitterness. Yum!