drank Special Dark by Mandala Tea
612 tasting notes

Last night I was rereading the Harney tea book and getting the strongest craving for a cup of this (our spring continues to be a halting process—one day it’s 75F and I’m in shorts, the next it’s pouring, overcast, and the heater kicks on as I wake with a stuffy head), but it was too late to entertain. So I woke up today and that minisecond when you’re lying in bed anticipating the day was spent dreaming of this, as well as cold pizza and pistachio gelato for breakfast (don’t judge).

I get out of bed to find the freezer door’s been left open, the gelato is melted, and I can’t find my Mandala pu erhs anywhere. Begin panicking because despite how MUCH tea I have, I’m pretty durn organized about it, so losing track of a favorite is hard to believe. Begin combing through everything, still not finding it, getting more agitated by the drawer, all that jazz. Finally find it—hidden behind some tins of Verdant blacks in the hallway curio, tucked into a green box I was seeing past because I don’t store anything else but pu erhs in boxes. Phew.

Enjoying it with milk and a little bourbon smoked sugar (sacrilegious maybe I know, but it’s such a gloomy day, cut me a break!), dreamy eyed, calming down and beginning to get that pu erh buzz. R sniffs the air and asks about it, I laugh and offer him the second steep unsure of what he’ll make of it (he’s never had pu erh), he shyly says “well, if you really don’t mind sharing…” and the next thing I know his nose is buried in his mug, comically glued like a dog in his food bowl, and he’s all “MMMM!” inhaling and happy. Husband likes pu erh! Who’dathunkit. Today’s nice revelation. (Oh, and this is an especially sweet one because he can’t eat most chocolate but he loves the stuff—so this is a heavenly cheat for him!)

whatshesaid

Would this be a good place to start for someone oh has never tried pu’erh?

ifjuly

i think so, yes, because Mandala’s are very “clean” as far as pu erhs go from what i understand, but also full of flavors often associated with favorite black teas—this one for example to me tastes like darkdark, almost burnt it’s so dark, chocolate and espresso, with some bready notes, among other things.

my biggest piece of advice to someone new to pu erh is to RINSE FIRST, ALWAYS. as in, the first “steep” is really only like 10 seconds, and doesn’t have to be a lot of water, then pour it out and let the tea sit a moment damp. then proceed. my first attempt at pu erh i disregarded that, and i’m not alone apparently going by rating logs, and it compounded the weirdness which you want to avoid for your first foray into a new tea type, i think. even if a pu erh’s packaging doesn’t say to rinse, i always rinse now (and usually i don’t bother with any other tea type). also, shu pu erh like this one wants to be bathed in the hottest water possible. that was the other thing. and, for this one, don’t be afraid of tempering it with a little milk and/or sugar. i almost never put anything in my black tea so i didn’t with this one at first, but i love it even more with milk and a dab of sugar. it can definitely withstand it. also, pu erh is a good resteeper.

whatshesaid

That’s great advice, thanks!

TeaBrat

bourbon smoked sugar? OMG

__Morgana__

Hah, I read sugar as cigar for some reason. Which would also be interesting…

DeliriumsFrogs

The fact that you were able to turn melted gelato into a happy moment is magical (and, I would never judge you. ha! I eat ice cream sundaes for lunch, as you know…).
This whole note was so much fun to read…and I would never try adding milk or sugar to a pu erh, but you’ve got me curious now (and extremely interested in this particular pu erh).

also, I second TeaBrat….. bourbon smoked sugar?!

ifjuly

picked up the sugar during a Harney clearance sale over the holidays; i think they still carry it, but right now it’s back to full price (quite a lot for sugar…but yeah, really lovely sugar). it’s a finishing sugar, but i like a tiny bit in certain very hefty teas that can handle it (again, no judging! :). and yes DF, i like that you understand my need for an occasional ice cream-based meal. (:

i never would’ve either re: milk and sugar in pu erh except someone i quite admire, a longtimer here, Bonnie, mentioned she does it all the time. it gave me the courage to. with this one, it makes sense to me especially; this is like a little cup of espresso and a square of the darkest eating chocolate, with some leather/pu erh-y aromatic depth. i don’t do it with the lincang/phatty cake as it has a mint element and lots of library-ish and forest smells i think i’d lose if i did. experimentation! s’fun. (:

whatshesaid, no prob! seriously, my number one piece of advice is rinse first always. and yeah, mandala is a great place to start bc their pu erhs are sweet, rich, and not too funky. best of luck finding something you like! (and welcome back! :)

Sami Kelsh

I milk and sugar in pu’erh too, especially if it’s a very dark one. No shame, it’s good! Sweet, creamy deep farm flavour? Get in!!!

whatshesaid

Thanks :) it’s been added to my ‘to buy’ list!
Happy to be back!!

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Comments

whatshesaid

Would this be a good place to start for someone oh has never tried pu’erh?

ifjuly

i think so, yes, because Mandala’s are very “clean” as far as pu erhs go from what i understand, but also full of flavors often associated with favorite black teas—this one for example to me tastes like darkdark, almost burnt it’s so dark, chocolate and espresso, with some bready notes, among other things.

my biggest piece of advice to someone new to pu erh is to RINSE FIRST, ALWAYS. as in, the first “steep” is really only like 10 seconds, and doesn’t have to be a lot of water, then pour it out and let the tea sit a moment damp. then proceed. my first attempt at pu erh i disregarded that, and i’m not alone apparently going by rating logs, and it compounded the weirdness which you want to avoid for your first foray into a new tea type, i think. even if a pu erh’s packaging doesn’t say to rinse, i always rinse now (and usually i don’t bother with any other tea type). also, shu pu erh like this one wants to be bathed in the hottest water possible. that was the other thing. and, for this one, don’t be afraid of tempering it with a little milk and/or sugar. i almost never put anything in my black tea so i didn’t with this one at first, but i love it even more with milk and a dab of sugar. it can definitely withstand it. also, pu erh is a good resteeper.

whatshesaid

That’s great advice, thanks!

TeaBrat

bourbon smoked sugar? OMG

__Morgana__

Hah, I read sugar as cigar for some reason. Which would also be interesting…

DeliriumsFrogs

The fact that you were able to turn melted gelato into a happy moment is magical (and, I would never judge you. ha! I eat ice cream sundaes for lunch, as you know…).
This whole note was so much fun to read…and I would never try adding milk or sugar to a pu erh, but you’ve got me curious now (and extremely interested in this particular pu erh).

also, I second TeaBrat….. bourbon smoked sugar?!

ifjuly

picked up the sugar during a Harney clearance sale over the holidays; i think they still carry it, but right now it’s back to full price (quite a lot for sugar…but yeah, really lovely sugar). it’s a finishing sugar, but i like a tiny bit in certain very hefty teas that can handle it (again, no judging! :). and yes DF, i like that you understand my need for an occasional ice cream-based meal. (:

i never would’ve either re: milk and sugar in pu erh except someone i quite admire, a longtimer here, Bonnie, mentioned she does it all the time. it gave me the courage to. with this one, it makes sense to me especially; this is like a little cup of espresso and a square of the darkest eating chocolate, with some leather/pu erh-y aromatic depth. i don’t do it with the lincang/phatty cake as it has a mint element and lots of library-ish and forest smells i think i’d lose if i did. experimentation! s’fun. (:

whatshesaid, no prob! seriously, my number one piece of advice is rinse first always. and yeah, mandala is a great place to start bc their pu erhs are sweet, rich, and not too funky. best of luck finding something you like! (and welcome back! :)

Sami Kelsh

I milk and sugar in pu’erh too, especially if it’s a very dark one. No shame, it’s good! Sweet, creamy deep farm flavour? Get in!!!

whatshesaid

Thanks :) it’s been added to my ‘to buy’ list!
Happy to be back!!

Login or sign up to leave a comment.

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Bio

“…you can never know everything about anything, especially something you love.”
-Julia Child on food and cooking, and I think it applies to tea as well!

note: i am currently taking a break from swapping/mail of any kind as money is rather tight. i apologize! i do love to swap but i can’t afford to right now. hopefully in a month things will change.

my cupboard includes any tea i’ve ever owned, including things i’ve sipped down, in order to facilitate swaps with people and keep a record—this way i don’t get redundant samples/order duplicates to try. if you are interested in swapping, i have a separate ever-updated list of teas i actually have on hand i can PM.

i like strong, rich blacks (including some choice old skool CTCs); juicy-fruity flavored green blends; buttery chinese greens; light floral oolongs; flavored oolongs (how sacrilegious!); earl greys; smoky blends; second flush muscatel darjeelings; verdant’s straight oolongs steeped in a gaiwan (mind altering!); anything from laoshan village it seems.

favorite notes include lavender, bergamot, violet, fennel, cardamom, melon, honey, sandalwood, smoke, nuts, roasty/toasty stuff, malt, wood, leather, creamy lemon, steamed rice, artichoke, garden-sweet snap veggies, earth/soil, forest and wet bark, and mushroom.

notes i generally can’t stand (at least in tea) include jasmine, rose (ok in small doses but i often find it overpowering and then everything just smells like musty old lady perfume), astringent apple (and general fruitiness really unless it’s with green tea), and chamomile (unless i’m congested or tired).

my current favorite tea vendors are butiki and harney and sons. i’ve also found some delicious teas and/or had good customer service experiences with the following companies: capital tea ltd., the devotea, verdant, mandala, golden moon, teavivre, lupicia, taiwan tea crafts, yezi tea, den’s tea, the tea merchant, norbu, fauchon paris, tao tea leaf, zen tea, fortnum and mason, townshend’s tea, joy’s teaspoon, new mexico tea company, persimmon tree, teajo teas, whispering pines, della terra, upton imports, mariage freres, samovar, justea, teabox, american tea room, steven smith, steap shoppe, utopia tea, and andrews and dunham damn fine tea. when i’m at the grocery store my “you could do worse” brands include stash, bigelow, tazo, taylors of harrogate, whittard of chelsea, and pg tips. and it’s a fact: you can’t make classic southern sweet tea without luzianne.

top picks, fall 2013

black:
verdant zhu rong yunnan black
verdant laoshan black
thepuriTea hong jing luo (no longer available :( )
thepuriTea red dragon pearl (no longer available :( )
mandala morning sun
golden moon honey orchid
verdant golden fleece
taiwan tea crafts red jade
yezi tea zheng shan xiao zhong “scotch” tea
capital tea borsapori estate assam tgfop1 (spl)
butiki khongea golden tippy assam
butiki giddahapar darjeeling extra special
upton imports fikkal estate
golden moon sinharaja
harney and sons new vithanakande
persimmon tree vintage black
teajo teas black manas
justea kenyan black
harney and sons kangaita op

morning blends:
butiki the black lotus
harney and sons queen catherine
harney and sons eight at the fort
harney and sons big red sun
harney and sons scottish morn
golden moon irish breakfast
harney and sons irish breakfast
utopia tea english breakfast
fortnum and mason breakfast blend (needs milk!)
andrews and dunham double knit blend
steven smith no. 25 morning light
butiki irish cream cheesecake

earl greys and scented afternoon blends:
teajo teas silky earl grey
harney and sons viennese earl grey
upton imports lavender earl grey
american tea room victoria
lupicia earl grey grand classic
harney and sons tower of london
tao tea leaf cream earl grey
zen tea earl grey cream
della terra earl grey creme
upton imports season’s pick earl grey creme vanilla
upton imports baker street afternoon blend
harney and sons russian country
della terra professor grey
verdant earl of anxi

flavored black:
herbal infusions moose tracks
american tea room brioche
steap shoppe cinnamon swirl bread
della terra oatmeal raisin cookie
butiki nutmeg cream
kusmi caramel
david’s tea brazillionaire
lupicia banane chocolat
butiki hello sweetie
fauchon paris raspberry macaron
butiki blueberry purple tea
herbal infusions marshmallow snowflake earl grey
herbal infusions creme brulee chai

pu erh:
mandala loose and luscious lincang 2007 shu/ripe pu erh
mandala special dark 2006 shu/ripe pu erh

oolong:
verdant shui jin gui wuyi oolong
verdant hand-picked early spring tieguanyin
butiki 2003 reserve four season oolong
harney and sons formosa oolong
tea merchant silk dragon
golden moon coconut pouchong
zen tea coconut oolong
american tea room coconut oolong
teavivre taiwan jin xuan milk oolong
butiki flowery pineapple oolong
butiki lychee oolong
lupicia momo oolong supergrade
butiki strawberry oolong
butiki pumpkin milkshake darjeeling oolong
52teas tiramisu oolong

green:
verdant laoshan bilochun green
verdant autumn harvest laoshan green
tao tea leaf hou kui
harney and sons tencha
harney and sons gyokuro
new mexico casablanca
butiki with open eyes
american tea room nirvana
joy’s teaspoon mahalo
den’s tea pineapple sencha
harney and sons tokyo
butiki potato pancakes and applesauce
butiki holiday eggnog and pralines
den’s tea organic genmaicha with matcha
golden moon hojicha

white:
butiki cantaloupe and cream
butiki champagne and rose cream

no caf:
harney and sons soba buckwheat
butiki birthday cake
della terra lemon chiffon
52teas strawberry pie honeybush
butiki mango lassi
joy’s teaspoon italian dream
butiki coconut cream pie rooibos
butiki peppermint patty
persimmon tree mint chocolate chip rooibos
art of tea velvet tea
fusion teas chocolate cake honeybush
american tea room choco-late
steven smith no. 40 bon bon
townshend’s tea dark forest chai
utopia tea decaffeinated earl grey cream

sleep aid/medicinal/therapeutic:
new mexico extra sleepy bear
stash white christmas
verdant ginger sage winter spa blend
samovar turmeric spice
butiki the killer’s vanilla guayusa

coldsteeped wonders:
whispering pines manistee moonrise
harney and sons fruits d’alsace
utopia tea berkshire apple and fig
culinary teas peaches and cream
butiki peach hoppiTea
butiki ruby pie
whispering pines gingerade

besides tea

born in seoul, raised in new england and upstate new york, went to college in pittsburgh, currently in memphis with an eye toward philadelphia, portland, or asheville eventually.

i like cats, most beverages really (i also like good freshly roasted coffee, craft beer, wine, whiskey and gin-based cocktails, and soda/soft drinks like agua fresca), art (mainly writing but also visual and music) and critical theory, feminism/genderqueer politics, historiography, statistics, children’s literature and librarianship, travel, and food/cooking. also have recently gotten into weightlifting (mark rippetoe and stumptuous!) and sprint training (HIIT, plyometrics) and i love it.

Location

Memphis, TN

Website

http://facebook.com/ifjuly

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