Mandala Tea

Recent Tasting Notes

85

A sample from my first order from Mandala, during the Great Sale. Prepared gongfu style with a ceramic gaiwan. 5 second rinse. Steeping times were 5, 5, 5, 10, 15,20, 30, 45, 60, 120.

The dry leaf smells of mushrooms and earth, and the wet leaf of mostly freshly baked bread with raisins. Some chocolate, after only the rinse. Throughout the session, the liquor was rusty red, medium-bodied, silky smooth, and a little thick in texture. There were earthy notes at first, but these disappeared later, when I mostly tasted whole wheat bread, somewhat sugary. Not a hint of coffee-like bitterness or astringency. This shu is mild, even gentle, though the after effects were not weak, and I felt my energy strengthen yet calmed.

I forgot I did a session of this not two weeks ago. My notes said mostly said that it was earthy and coffee-like, and that there were mushrooms (taste-wise). Weirdly incredible how my palate changed. I didn’t even drink shu between then and now o_O

Preparation
Boiling 5 g 4 OZ / 118 ML
TheTeaFairy

So true that our palate trains quickly :-)

KiwiDelight

I’m not the only one?? That makes me feel a little less crazy!

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76

Cold brewed one cone in 25 oz. of water for like 18 hours, which resulted in the perfect amount of black tea taste for it to be light and refreshing with some mild maltiness but not weak and watery. Enjoying sipping on this one now.

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76

Thanks for this one Sil!

It’s my last tea of the night! I feel like I got a pretty good amount of stuff in today. I mean, no sipdowns but at least I tried a new tea and had fun doing unfamiliar things with familiar blends.

As for this one, I steeped it in my glass Octo mug so I could watch it bloom. I have to say, it’s definitely not the prettiest bloom. In fact, mine kinda came apart in the cup. Taste wise, it was somehow better than I anticipated; though I don’t know what I was anticipating other than it was not this. The tea was not the most mind blowing straight black, but it does have one thing really going for it: it’s very malty. And I do love malty blacks.

So again; thanks Sil! I think I’ll enjoy the last two blooms!

Sil

Nice. Glad you enjoyed it :) they’re fun to look at too

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drank Dark Beauty by Mandala Tea
1710 tasting notes

In some respects, I may have been a bit too enthused about working from home, today, due to allergies, because it gave me a chance to finally brew a pot of Dark Beauty, using MzPriss’s recipe!

Surprisingly, it is not as dark as I expected. Hmm, I wonder why…I did all the steep times and amounts to the letter. Perhaps my water was too long off boil, before beginning the Special Dark steep.

But it is tasty! The thickness of the tea is awesome, and if a flavor can be described as “dark,” this would be. Even better that it seems incapable of being oversteeped! I may extend the steep time for my next pot.

Preparation
Boiling 6 min, 0 sec 16 OZ / 473 ML

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84

Just got this yesterday from Mandala. This is a nice little shu! Very, very smooth with lots of earthiness and a thick, thick mouthfeel. Definitely looking forward to enjoying this as the fall arrives (there are good things about summer ending!)

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 7 g 5 OZ / 150 ML

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92
drank Four Leaves Ripe by Mandala Tea
123 tasting notes

This tea is smooth with little or no trace of fermentation flavor. It has a natural sweetness. I found the cocoa notes early on and even could detect, but just barely, the spice notes listed. They turned up in the fourth steeping, or at least that’s when i noticed them. I steeped this five times in a 220ml gaiwan with boiling water and just over 6g of leaf. I steeped it for 15 sec, 10 sec, 15 sec, 30 sec, and 1 min. I did not find a hint of bitterness throughout any of the steepings. This is good puerh. I may go back for a sixth steeping but I have already had too much caffeine today.

Flavors: Cocoa

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 6 g 7 OZ / 220 ML

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90

Another sample from my lovely Mandala ripe puerh sampler! It definitely sounds tasty from the description. It looks very similar to the Year of the Dragon sample I had. It’s mostly one big chunk from a cake, and the leaves are a variety of browns with a few metallic golden spots on the chunk. Dry scent is very mildly fishy, with cocoa and a vague sweetness. I followed Mandala’s instructions and did a 15s rinse, then 30/45/s steeps. I found that there was a teensy bit of bitterness, so I decided to do another 45s steep instead of 60s. I may keep going, but they’re all tasting pretty similar so I’m writing the note now. :)

The brewed aroma is somewhat sweet with chocolate and woody notes. This tea is actually somewhat similar to Year of the Dragon. It has that same lovely smooth, creamy texture and similar milk chocolatey flavor. However, this tea veers more toward savory instead of being quite as sweet as the other. The wood flavor is quite similar, but this one does seem to have a bit of a fragrant, slight spicy cedar edge to it. There’s a very mild earthy/mineral quality that seemed to fade as I kept steeping. I can definitely taste the nuttiness mentioned in the description, and to me it tastes specifically like pecans or walnuts – slightly earthy, but quite rich and creamy.

Overall, this is a very tasty tea and I love the woody and nutty qualities it has mixed with the chocolate. However, I still like Year of the Dragon better… ;) I’m a sucker for vanilla!

Flavors: Cedar, Chocolate, Creamy, Earth, Leather, Pecan, Sugarcane, Walnut, Wood

Preparation
Boiling 3 g 4 OZ / 118 ML
Sarsonator

I see you like the shous :)

Cameron B.

This one and Year of the Dragon, yes. :D

Garret

I like sensible shous.

AllanK

The Noble Mark is one of the best.

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89

Since I feel like I can’t drink tea without reviewing it, especially when it’s new to me…..

this is the 2012.

I like it even better than the 2014, which I really enjoyed.

I can’t tell you much about it other than I really like it. I’ve been drinking it all day. And I do mean All Day. I am currently drinking infusion 12…or maybe 13…it could even be 14. I didn’t keep track. All Day Long.

And the tea still has more to give.

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89

2014

From the wonderful Stephanie

rich
earthy
deep
not smoky, but minerally I think
complex
kinda spicy

I was drinking this all day while dealing with a shit ton of work crap that just seems to be getting deeper. I don’t even know anymore. I remember drinking the tea and enjoying it, but I don’t remember a lot. It’s a shame. I know I want this one again.

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76

I didn’t particularly care for this one, though it is not bad. I found it acidic and not very smooth. But it is deep.

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85

Dry leaf aroma: Cocoa sweetness with a hint of malt.
Dry leaf appearance: http://instagram.com/p/r2qmImlcEX/

Wet leaf aroma: Damp hay with vegetal notes.
Wet leaf appearance: http://instagram.com/p/r2-jL9lcDw/

Preparation: Initial 15 second rise, then brewed western style in an all-glass infuser mug.

First steeping: 4 minutes 30 seconds at 205 degrees. Freshly steeped the aroma is a fusion of hay, malt, sweet potatoes and cocoa. The liquor is a lovely dark amber and the flavor is smooth and malty with undertones of cocoa and the slightest aftertaste of hay. As the cup cools the taste remains strong with no changes in the flavor profile.

Second steeping: 5 minutes at 205 degrees. The second brewing was very much like the first, though not quite as rich.

I received this as a free sample in my order. Thank you Mandala, I enjoyed this quite a bit!

Flavors: Cocoa, Hay, Malt, Sweet Potatoes

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 4 min, 30 sec 1 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML
Tealizzy

Sounds yummy!

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88
drank Silver Needle White by Mandala Tea
2392 tasting notes

I’m not a huge fan of white teas generally, but I wanted a silver needle in my cupboard and decided to get this one from Mandala with my last order. I trust Garret’s taste in tea so I knew I’d end up with something good :)

The weather has been dreary here and my sweetie has been out of town, so it seemed like a good day to try something light and sweet.

The other reviewers mentioned this tastes like hay… I get the association but I’m not sure I’ve ever eaten hay. ;) To me it seems a bit nutty like almonds, with a definite sweetness and some floral component. This is very gentle and nice, perfect for an afternoon cuppa and doesn’t need any additions. A lovely silver needle, I’m glad I got this one…

Flavors: Almond, Rose

Preparation
190 °F / 87 °C 2 min, 30 sec 1 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML
Cameron B.

I’ve been enjoying silver needles lately too. I’m sorry your sweetie is out of town. :(

Tea Sipper

I’m obsessed with silver needles recently too! I was just thinking which one to have. :D

TeaBrat

@Cameron – thanks! Fortunately he comes back today :)
@Tea Sipper – this is nice as a resteep too. Do you have a favorite silver needle?

mj

I want all the silver needles….all the time! Yunnan Silver Needle by Whispering Pines in my favorite

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drank Special Dark by Mandala Tea
468 tasting notes

Sipdown! (124) (Yay I’m halfway to 100!)

Giving this tea a second chance today! I found that I didn’t enjoy it much gong fu style, each steep was bitter to me. Apparently this is unusual? So today, I’m trying it Western-style to see if I find it more agreeable that way. I did two teaspoons in boiling water for 7 minutes.

Meh, I guess this tea is just not for me. I will say that I think I prefer this method to gong fu, because it doesn’t taste as strongly woody as before. However, it’s still quite bitter. To me, it kind of tastes like biting into a bar of baking chocolate, and I do not consider that a pleasant experience. I added some sugar and soy milk to see if that would help temper the bitterness, and it did lessen it slightly. However, I don’t really want to buy a tea that I have to drink with sugar and milk.

I’m really kind of torn on whether or not to rate this, since it seems everyone else loves it. But I’m not really biased here so I don’t see why not… Hmm!

Preparation
Boiling 7 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML
AllanK

I think you used too much tea for 8 oz of water. I would try again with only 1 tsp. Less tea usually means less bitterness.

AllanK

Also, I think seven minutes is way too long, try only 2 or 3 minutes.

Stephanie

1 tablespoon is the recommended amount, actually…

Garret

I know a lot of people on here like to brew this up Western style. Me? I brought this tea over here to the US cause I dig it gong fu style, very short steepings. I guess for a 5 ounce gaiwan, I use 2 tsp or so, maybe a hair more, but I’m doing a rinse and then steepings that are “touch and go” for the first 3 or 4, slowly increasing time. I’ve enjoyed more than my share of western brews of this, though :)

Marzipan

When you hit 100 are you off hiatus?

Cameron B.

Marz, that was the original plan but we shall see! :P

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drank Special Dark by Mandala Tea
468 tasting notes

I was really excited to try another ripe puerh after loving Mandala’s Year of the Dragon. So I chose this one to do next, since I know it has a following here on Steepster. This is a loose leaf puerh as opposed to a piece broken off of a cake. The leaves are medium-sized and a slightly metallic golden brown in color. Their dry scent is rather sweet and cocoa-y. I followed the recommended steep again, using half of the sample and doing a 10s rinse this time. Three steeps: 30, 45, and 60s.

The aroma is surprisingly honey-like. It smells strongly of dark raw honey with additional grain and dark cocoa notes. Hmm… I’m not sure what to say regarding this tea. In all three steeps that I did, it came out rather bitter, which I did not enjoy. I realize that super dark chocolate is bitter, and there is a cocoa note here, but I just couldn’t get past that bitter taste. The first steep was a little musty, which I think means I didn’t do a long enough rinse. This tea is also quite woody in a rough way, very different from the Year of the Dragon’s wood note. There’s a bit of hay and grain, but I didn’t really taste them until the end of the sip because of the bitterness.

I feel like I shouldn’t rate this right now. I’m going to try it western-style and see if that helps with the bitterness somehow… :(

Flavors: Bitter, Cocoa, Grain, Hay, Wood

Preparation
Boiling 3 g 4 OZ / 118 ML
Dexter

Cameron – if it’s the chocolate notes that seem bitter to you, then I wouldn’t western steep this as long as I do – the longer western steep brings out MORE of those chocolate notes. I LOVE dark chocolate, but if that’s what you don’t like, I would try adding a touch of sweet?

Cameron B.

I like dark chocolate… It was just bitter to me.

Dexter

Hmmmmmm dunno – interesting though how different people get different perceptions of something.

Cameron B.

Well, I’ll definitely try the long steep and see if I like it better that way. If not, I guess it’s just not for me. :)

KiwiDelight

Maybe if you tried adding milk, or almond milk? I think I’ve read of others doing that.

Tealizzy

Someone recently reviewed this and said it was too dark for them, so you’re probably not alone. Now I’m curious…gotta try my sample.

AllanK

I made this one last week with very short steeps and I don’t remember it being overly bitter. You might try 10 or 15 sec steeps.

Cameron B.

I used the parameters recommended by Mandala. I think this one just isn’t for me. :P

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89

Lewis and Clarke TTB

I’m excited to try another Mandala puerh, I’ve loved the ones I’ve tried so far.
So my Yixing that I have that I seasoned for green oolongs, doesn’t get much use since I’m not much into green oolongs any more. And I figured since I only used it a handful of times, and I drink puerh a lot more and puerh is a lot stronger than green oolongs, that I can just casually switch it puerh. So that’s what I did.

I did 2 15 second rinses, and then 30,45,60,75,120,120,150 boiling water, 7g/8oz, sweetened

I collected the rinses, and took a sip. It was actually tasty, and I ended up drinking them.
The first steep is wet earth and mushroom and bread and milk chocolate, in the best way possible.
The second steep is like the first with a little more milk chocolate.
Third and forth steep are creamy, nutty, earthy and ’shroom-y.
5th-7th steeps being back some of that milky cocoa.

This baby can still keep going, and I’ll be coming back to him later

Preparation
7 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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95

Sipdown! (126)

I’m trying the other half of my sample Western-style this morning. The lovely Stephanie was nice enough to answer my questions regarding water volume, steep time, et cetera. Thanks Steph!

It’s pretty delicious this way, but I’m sad to say that I prefer the gong fu preparation. Aww, I wanted the lazy way to be better! Lol. Either way, this is one super delicious shou from Mandala and I will definitely be ordering some once I’m off hiatus! :D

Edit: I just wanted to throw this out there – this is basically the shou version of Golden Orchid. So lovers of that tea should definitely try this one. Just saying! ;)

Preparation
Boiling 5 min, 0 sec 3 g 6 OZ / 177 ML
Stephanie

Yum, I have to get my hands one this one :D

Cameron B.

You and me both, I need more! :D

mj

Oh really? Good to know :)

Blodeuyn

Golden Orchid you say? runs to get credit card

Cameron B.

It definitely seems very similar to me, with the combination of chocolate and vanilla. :)

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95

I got my gaiwan in the mail today, hooray! I’ve been waiting on it to try all of my puerh and some oolong samples gong fu style. I chose this one to try first because the flavors sounded the best to me – vanilla, cocoa, dried fruit? Count me in! My sample is pretty much one giant chunk with a few loose pieces. I decided to use half of the sample for my session since my gaiwan is 4 ounces and the instructions said 4-8 ounces. The leaves themselves look small and they are a variety of browns in color, from golden to chocolate. Dry scent is both sweet and savory, with cocoa and that slightly fishy/pond smell. I did a 15 second rinse and I’ve done three steeps so far (30, 45, and 60s) and I plan to continue, but they’ve been very similar so I figured I could write the note now. :)

The brewed aroma is only the teeniest bit fishy. Mostly it smells sweet and haylike, with both chocolate and vanilla. Oh my goodness, I am in love with this tea! I was expecting it to be very strong and heavy, but it’s not like that at all! It almost reminds me of a very delicious white tea in a lot of ways. It’s very creamy and grainy, reminding me of lovely sweet bread, like brioche or challah. It’s also quite woody, but in a mild and pleasant way. I do get both chocolate and vanilla from this one, and the chocolate is more of a sweet milk chocolate than a bitter dark. The bottom notes are mild leather and a slight earthiness, and I do get a little bit of a dried fruitiness. Overall, this tea is amazingly creamy, grainy, and delicious. Love the vanilla!

Thanks so much to Mandala for offering this amazing $5 ripe puerh sampler. I can’t wait to try the others! :D

Flavors: Baked Bread, Chocolate, Creamy, Dried Fruit, Earth, Grain, Hay, Honey, Leather, Sweet, Vanilla, Wood

Preparation
Boiling 3 g 4 OZ / 118 ML

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Puerh and I have not yet become friends, so I jumped at the chance to try a number of good quality puerhs in Mandala’s new sampler. I thought the sampler might help me get a better understanding of ripe puerhs, and see if there are any I might truly enjoy. Thanks, Garret, for offering this sampler!

I wasn’t sure which one to try first. It might be helpful if the note that comes with the sampler also indicated which puerhs were good for beginners to start with. I decided to start with this one, since it was listed first. Logical, eh?

I don’t have a gaiwan yet, so I used a small teacup and covered it with a saucer for steepings, a Pyrex measuring cup for a pitcher, and one of my cute cherry blossom teacups for sipping. Verdict? I think I need a gaiwan. ;)

I followed the recommended brewing procedure and here’s what I got:

Overall aroma – sweet, milk chocolate, vanilla. Yay!
30-second steep: leather, earthy, smooth, maybe some cocoa in aftertaste, maybe some cedar.
45 seconds: silkier, similar in notes to previous steeping, more cocoa coming out at end of sip. Yay!
1 minute: I think the note I used to think as leather is really a cedar note. More cedar than cocoa this round.
1min15sec: less cedar, more balanced.
1min30sec: generically sweet, honey.
1min45sec: same as previous.
2min30sec: sweet, weak. I think I’m done now. ;)

Favorite steep: second one, because more cocoa!

Side effect: serious caffeine effect…very jittery. Guess I should watch that.

Overall, I wouldn’t mind if this passed my way again, but I probably wouldn’t seek it out. I’m definitely looking forward to the other samples!

Question: Do you reheat your kettle for all steepings? Mine cooled significantly between steepings.

In other news, I made my first kale smoothie today, with mango and banana, and it turned out pretty good! This has been a “try new things” day!

Marzipan

I used to reheat my kettle, then I started keeping the water in a thermos so I don’t have to keep going to the kitchen.

Tealizzy

That’s a great idea, Marzipan! Will try that next time.

looseTman

Is the hold temp. function of the Bonavita helpful for this purpose?

Tealizzy

Ya, I thought of that, but didn’t do it…I lacked follow-through! Haha!

mj

Marzipan that is brilliant

Marzipan

My tea kettle has a hold temp function but I’m too zen (lazy) when doing gong fu to run back and forth to the kitchen. My mom had this Gevalia carafe thing she got with their membership that she gave me and it works great.

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83

Thank you for your sale, Kimquat! This was in the Unflavored tea box, but I noticed Kimquat was selling some, so I left the leaves in the tea box for someone else to try. I had this tea a couple days ago, so the tasting note might be short: the dry leaf smells a bit like mint and even tastes like hints of mint! Never had that in an oolong before. The pouch was a nice one, so I don’t think there could have been any flavor contamination from other teas. Other than the mint, it has a vegetal flavor… I can’t remember anything else right now, just the surprising mint! Interesting!

Flavors: Mint

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I got this sample from Mandy a while back and I’m just now getting around to trying it.

I like it.

I like it a lot.

It’s creamy and floral. Sweet. Easy drinking.

I was just sad because I didn’t feel it lasted quite as long as I’d hoped.

I also don’t remember enough of it because I’ve been working all morning and it just went down nice and easy. (And yes, I’m just now getting to logging it. I’m a slacker.)

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83
drank GABA Black by Mandala Tea
123 tasting notes

A previous reviewer described this tea as grapenutty, and I agree. It tastes like what I imagine grapenuts taste like, I haven’t eaten them in two decades. It also has the slight taste of what I would describe as baked beans, slightly burnt. I steeped 6g four times in a 220 ml gaiwan with boiling water. First 15 sec, then 15 sec, 15 sec, and 30 sec. It is smooth and tastes a little like an oolong. It has a slight bitter aftertaste. Last time I brewed this tea I brewed it western style, this time I brewed it gongfu style. It definitely benefited from this steeping method. It was noticibly better than last time. The Gaba effect is there but very mild. Sometimes Gaba tea can have a serious effect today it was mild.

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 6 g 7 OZ / 220 ML
mj

LOL grapenuts + baked beans….no wonder I didn’t like the GABA oolong I tried (it wasn’t Mandala’s)

AllanK

The reason to drink Gaba tea is for the effect. It is not as good. And baked beans is not an accurate description, just the best I could come up with.

AllanK

Not as good as regular tea I mean, they process it with nitrogen, changes the taste.

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drank Special Dark by Mandala Tea
112 tasting notes

Aroma: Damp earth
Liquor Color: Deep red
Liquor Flavor: Dark, rich, woody, bitter coca
Notes: This one was dark, and super rich. A little too much so for me but I can see why people like it. I’ll give it a whirl again with less leaf and take it from there.

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 45 sec

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Aroma: Woody, deep, sweet, wet leaves, chocolate
Liquor Color: Deep rusty red
Liquor Flavor: Woody, smooth, light with next infusion the chocolate notes came out
Notes: From a person who doesn’t seem to like puerhs still, this sample changed my mind. It was so smooth, but light and the complexity of the flavors made me keep thinking what I’ll taste in the coming infusion. I could see myself drinking this.

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 45 sec 7 g 4 OZ / 118 ML

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86

This turned out lighter than I was expecting. It smelled more earthy dry. Now I get a bit of malt and cocoa. The flavour is sweet and smooth.

I’m drinking this while watching Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon (live action of the anime.)

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