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Recent Tasting Notes
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
I got this as a sample from a Mandala order. I didn’t know what to do with it, so I looked up other reviews on this type of tea and went from there. Gongfu, used the whole sample (about a tablespoon I guess? I forgot to weigh it) and water at 175. First steep two minutes. The aroma is absolutely lovely. Fruity sweet. The flavor is also sweet initially, with a slightly bitter aftertaste and lingering mouthfeel. I don’t know what it is with me lately and thinking green teas smell/taste of mangoes, but there it is, and so much for my one-dimensional palate.
I’m in a experimenting kind of mood, so I’m going to do a shorter steep at a higher temp. 30 seconds at 185: oh, that’s much better! Hardly any bitterness now. If I hadn’t screwed up the first one and had just gone with 30 second steeps, I’d be at 7 right now. I feel very relaxed and mellow; this is a nice tea to come home to after a stressful day. I would add this tea to my wishlist, but alas I do not see it on Mandala’s site. It reminds me a a little bit of Mandala’s Valley Peak green tea, but it lasts much longer.
EDIT: Today I learned that Bi Luo Chun and Green Snail Spring are one and the same!
I’m actually new to raw Pu’er (sheng). My only other experience with Sheng was 2012 “Heart of the Old Tree” (which I found too bitter – likely too young). I was beginning to wonder if Sheng just wasn’t for me.
I was actually rather pleased, however, when I tried this tea. I had none of the bitterness issues, and I found that the tea continued to perform for many infusions. I stopped after 5 infusions, but that was just because I’d had enough tea – I’m certain the leaves still had more to give. Here are my tasting notes…
5 ounces of leaf, boiling water.
Two 10-15 second washes.
First infusion (25 seconds)
Nice light-brown colour. No bitterness. Pleasant aroma. Tobacco taste? Perhaps – but not in a strong, objectionable way. Pleasant flavour.
Second infusion (40 seconds)
Now a little darker – a medium brown colour. Detected more notes of cedar. Maybe a little bitterness sneaking in? Still pleasant.
Third Infusion (40 seconds)
Light brown colour. No bitterness at all. Flavour is still pleasant, but I couldn’t pick out any distinct flavours – just pleasant…I think I’ll have to move to a longer steep next…
Fourth infusion (1 minute 20 seconds)
Medium brown colour again. Cedar notes coming through again, although the flavour is clearly more “blunt” than at the beginning. Still fairly enjoyable.
Fifth infusion (1 minute 30 seconds)
Medium brown colour again. Again, still fairly enjoyable.
The flavour still has a “brightness” to it compared to “regular” (non-pu’er) black teas at these later infusions. This tea is making me think I might become a Sheng drinker yet.
Okay, this time I’m drinking it again, but with less water and between 4 and 5 grams of tea leaves. I tasted the milk MUCH more this time with the vegetal notes. I also get a little bit of walnut. I still prefer the Milk Oolong and the Tie Guan Yin, but I am enjoying this tea a lot more right now.
And yesterday, August 24th, 2015, I liked it even more. The cream and butter qualities were more apparent this time than the last one. The tasting notes were the same, but more balanced and it resembled the Milk Oolong more but toned down (though that’s exactly what it is. I enjoyed every steeping and appreciated it more.
Flavors: Milk, Vegetal, Walnut
Pretty green, and herby. I taste the milk aspect a little bit, but it loses out to the sea mist tone. Enjoyable, but I prefer the treated version of this one and the Tie Guan Yin. Some one newer to teas would probably not be able to taste the creamy notes, and mistake it for a green tea. You honestly have to be able to taste more nuance or have a more vivid imagination to fully enjoy this one. I’d probably say that you should try it for a better understanding of the difference between the treated and untreated Jin Xuan, so educational and fun, but again, I liked the other teas more.
Flavors: Creamy, Herbaceous, Seaweed
This one is really changing, and like it, my preferences change from day to day and mood to mood. I’ve steeped it several different ways, and only once was I able to get the sweetness that made me love it in the first place. Even when I first sampled it, it was a weak orchid that changed into a sweeter lilac that reminded me so much of plumeria. I liked the Milk Oolong most, then this one became my favorite. Now, I prefer the Milk Oolong more again save one day of a singular, stronger brew. The cost of a gram per ounce or more is great, so I try to use less water for less grams or stay with it lightened. Even when this tea is fainter, though, I keep on welcoming it and it comes as an honored guest. It will always be a must try for anyone, but nothing will compare to the way it was when I made it sweet by accident. Perhaps I’m romanticizing the favored experience, but I swear it was just as sweet as the Milk Oolong was, tasting of plumeria, warm milk, and a dash of caramel.
Now, it’s been a few days, the smell has changed from orchid, to plumeria, to lilac, and back to orchid now. I miss the sweetness so much, but I couldn’t bring myself to add sugar to it. A stronger brew with more leaves and time is the best way that I can get it to be sweet again. The same wonderful notes pervade, with more butter and cream some days, more vegetal others, but a transformation of flowers persists. I wish I wrote down what I did when I rated this as a 98 because I still miss it. Nevertheless, this tea still does what a good Tie Guan Yin is supposed to do: provide serenity in a cup of purity. The plumeria smell remains, and I continue to think back to Hawaii when my life was more fortunate. A divine gift from the Goddess of Mercy indeed.
And now, I don’t know what to rate it. Some days it’s been a 90, others an 85, and unfortunately some days a 80 or 75 because of how faint I brewed it. I’ll keep on coming back to this one for I will be drinking it for days. For those of you who are trying to decide whether or not to try it, look down at my first review that is on the bottom of this particular review.
….but then I figured it out! Less water, hotter water just under boiling, more leaves! 15 seconds, then 30, then add fifteen subsequently at 1-1.5 grams per ounce. Sweet plumeria, you have returned!
Still flowery and creamy, but not nearly as sweet as when I first tried it. I’ll double check my brewing, and try again. Thank heavens I had notes on it from before. More than likely I need more leaves and perhaps brew it longer. Is there a way to brew this sweeter, Garret? Or because it’s been a few months since harvest it loses it’s sweetness?
I enjoyed this one equally to the Milk Oolong. The smell and even the taste distinctly reminds me of plumeria. I have yet to taste a Tie Guan Yin with this sweet, floral purity. I am so glad this came as a sample, and thank you again Garret for this wonderful tea. I didn’t expect it to be so creamy and aromatic, yet so subtle. It instantly clears my head, and deceives me into relaxing though it can probably keep me up all night long. I was very tempted to try it western style, but I decided against it and savored it Gongfu. The last steeping was the only one that lacked the flavor that I liked.
If I were to buy from Mandala again, I’m not sure if I would pick this one or the Milk Oolong. I’d honestly buy both if I can. But hey, I love the smell of plumeria making my inclination not so partial.
I’d highly recommend this tea for anyone who likes light florals, greener oolongs, or who wants to meditate to something great. To a newbie, it might be an eye opening experience or a highly floral green tea.
Flavors: Creamy, Floral, Flowers, Sweet
Today was great until 2pm when I got a headache. It is now 10:14pm and I still have it.
Pulled this out for 14 steeps while cooking:
Headache… this was great, very powerful taste for a sheng with beautiful leaf. Some dark green with red/brown tint. Overall one of the better shengs I have had.
an ok tea
when I smell the leaves dry, I smell pepper and spices.
when I smell the leaves wet, the smell is intensified.
when I smell the brewed tea, I smell pepper and spices.
when I taste the brewed tea, I taste pepper and spices.
i rate this a 75 because I am not really into black teas.
many thanks to Scribbles for this ok tea sample :)
Flavors: Pepper, Spices
This one remains a one of my favorites. And when I thought I had no more income to spare, I found some I forgot about, and totally decided to get this tea. I said in the original review that I wouldn’t get this any time soon, but since I had the freedom to, this was one of the teas I had to have.
I actually tasted different notes this time, and different notes from day to day. Lately, I’ve been getting mango, caramel, peach, and coconut, but all of them so subtly there. I still do this gongfu, but I’ve experimented more and been steeping this a little more western style on occasion being equally good for different reasons. The flavor profile is still the same western having notes of cream, flowers, grass, butter, milk, sweetness, toffee, and vegetal. The floral aspect is now closer to a lilac. I still rinse it 10-15 seconds every time. I had some today with hotter water at about 200 F and it tasted like cotton candy in the rinse. Apparently, I prefer this one with hotter water. Who knew?
Oh, and for you people trying to decide whether or not to get this tea, look at my previous review. It’s something that you should try, but some may be turned off by the buttery aspect to it, or if you’re newer, follow the recommendations exactly on the website. It also may take some time for you to figure out the steeping parameters that you prefer to get the flavor notes you want for this tea.
This is a tea I was saving up for, and I am really glad that I went ahead and got it. All the flavors and tasting notes are definitely present; the first thing I smelled opening the bag was toffee. The first brew, which I steeped for about 24 seconds, was the best having the full, floral, buttery, creamy, vegetal, sweetness that is constantly described. The following tastes accented the vegetal tastes more making it taste more and more like a lighter green tea. This is only the second time that I’ve used the Gonfu style after applying to a Wu Yi Rock Oolong, and I was pleasantly surprised with how much flavor this tea had. I typically like fuller bodied teas, or teas that have a more complete flavor profile. Though Mandala’s Milk Oolong is lighter with a Gongfu style, it’s flavor profile has that completeness making it a truly unique experience. Thank you Garret so much! And thank you so much for your nice note with the Tie Guan Yin and Jin Xuan samples.
With all that said, this tea is primarily for some one who has really sensitive taste buds, or in other words, an amateur to a more experienced connoisseur. Also, not for some one who purely likes western black teas or more British styles with lost of cream and sugar. The sweet creamy notes may or may not off set that preference, but to the majority of the population, I don’t think it would.
I will definitely get this tea again, but I’m not sure I would in the near future because this is a more expensive tea. I realize that I am paying for something that is of a high, rare quality to be enjoyed for hours and steeps on end-it’s paying for the unique experience. And that is an experience to be savored.
Flavors: Cream, Floral, Grass, Milk, Sweet, Toffee, Vegetal