100 Tasting Notes
This is my 100th tasting note! I’ve been drinking plenty of tea, but I haven’t made a formal note on them because I was saving #100 for something meaningful to me. The very first what I call “real” (not grocery store tea bags) teas that I fell passionately in love with were Mandala teas. Garret was my first tea-pusher. I realize “tea-pusher” sounds a bit questionable and unromantic for the ever so charming and graceful Garret. But I mean it in the most affectionate way possible. Good tea is like the very best kind of addictive drug and dealing with Garret is an addicting experience: beautiful tea made possible by a soulful, ethical company. I will be a lifelong Mandala customer.
I’ve mentioned drinking my Dark Beauty cocktail many times and have had a few requests to add it to the database, so violà! (that was for you TeaFairy).
You won’t find “Dark Beauty” when you go visit Garret at the Mandala site because it’s a concoction of two of my very favorite teas – two great tastes that taste great together if you will. Dark Beauty is a blend of Special Dark Loose Ripe Pu’er and the sweet, mildly chocolate Black Beauty.
Both of the teas are spectacular on their own. I have Special Dark either alone or in this mixture pretty much every morning of my life. Special Dark is very different from most ripe pu’er – there is no leather that I detect, just a deep smooth bass note of heavy chocolate goodness. Black Beauty isn’t a bug bitten tea, but it has those very sweet lychee-honey notes that good bug bitten tea has.
Here’s how I make it: I take a 16 ounce cup or teapot, I put a scant tablespoon of Special Dark in whichever infuser basket I’m using. At this point, once you’ve boiled your water, you can give the SD a quick rinse if you wish. I usually don’t bother because it doesn’t seem necessary to me for this tea – sorry tea careful tea-crafters, sorry about that. I steep the SD in 16 ounces of 212 water for 3 minutes. Then I add a big pinch of the Black Beauty, give it a stir and steep for another 3 minutes.
Yes, that is a LONG time to steep. No, it never gets bitter or astringent. It yields the deepest, darkest cup of sweet comforting awesome you can imagine. Earthy and chocolate with an undertone of caramel lurking back there, especially noticeable as it cools a little and a lilt of the floral-lychee bit from the Black Beauty at the top.
When I’m feeling particularly indulgent, I go Terri-style with this and add a little maple syrup and on occasion, a little bit of milk or almond milk. I have insomnia and lots of stress. This is the tea equivalent to me of the heavy, snuggly quilt my great-grandmother made that I cocooned myself in as a child. This is my pure comfort tea. When I drink this, I hear pretty much everything these guys ever sang: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nedEEL37Lvw
Somewhere out in the Wild Piney Woods dwells a Tea Hobbit, Brendenol PinePeaker. He spends his days in his wild piney woods collecting pine needles to roast, picking mushrooms and dreaming up dreamy teas.
One recent morning, he chortled to himself as he mixed:
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!’
I was chortling the same thing as I sipped this tea. The very first thing you notice as you sip is the sweetness. The honey-nectary sweetness rolls around with the warm bready bottom while a wee bit of minty freshness breezes through at the end. The sweet fruity-floral to me is very slightly reminiscent of that bug-bitten/Oriental Beauty sort of flavor. My beloved malt makes an appearance to keep everything reassuringly grounded.
The Lovely Tea Fairy (LTF) and I were given this tea to preview. As is usual for our first try, we followed the steeping instructions Brenden provided to the letter: ½ tablespoon of tea to 8 ounces of 205 degree water , steeped for 3 minutes – no more, no less. LTF and I are both what I call “heapers and steepers” in that we generally use more tea than called for and we frequently steep for a longer bit of time. We agreed Brenden’s parameters for this were perfect. On the first sip, the following conversation ensued:
LTF: “Oh crap, not another one.”
I don’t know how The Tea Whiz of the Woods keeps dreaming up these amazing teas that demand a permanent place in my cupboard. But he does. When he says he is a Tea Mixologist, he speaks the truth.
I know the base of Jabberwocky is Fujian Black and I know some of the high mountain wild picked purple leaf tea that is in Port is in there as well. This is not a big chocolate fudge bomb – there might be a very light waft of chocolate here and there, but you don’t immediately think chocolate. This is a medium bodied tea that will serve multiple purposes for me – a sweet comfort after a hard work day, a sprightly little wake up or a nice afternoon treat. This could easily be a daily drinker.
As I write this, I’m sipping on my last little bit, but I know I have more on the way (maybe even today or tomorrow) so I’m not sad, but I am savoring every mouthful, rolling it around my tongue and inhaling the malty-sweet updraft and enjoying that fresh little breeze at the end. It makes me hear this:
And because I think everyone should read The Jabberwocky as often as possible:
This tea? ‘Tis brillig.
Flavors: Baked Bread, Caramel, Eucalyptus, Honey, Malt
I’m drinking the last of my preview sample which would be sad except I know Brenden mailed my new supply yesterday so it will be here soon and I can have all the chocolate covered cherry tea I want. I think this one will also do that thing Golden Orchid does: it starts out incredibly awesome and then it sits around with that vanilla bean and it gets better and better ad better. This will be a chocolate morning as I have (FINALLY!) Laoshan Black Chocolate Genmaicha. Hopefully all this chocolate will compensate for not enough sleep. I’m really about to lick my cup on this one
I am sincerely hoping that my local herb shop does not run out of dried elderberries because I will be drinking this bad boy ALL SUMMER LONG – and kats and kitties – summer lasts a LONG time in Central Texas.
I make a quart of this a day and I drink it all and then hold the jar upside down so every drop goes on my tongue. I do not share.
This combination of my very favorite tea blend, the much-beloved Golden Orchid, maple syrup and dried elderberries is just the smoothest most lovely and satisfying thirst quencher I can imagine.
The vanilla fudge bomb of the Golden Orchid with the concentrated fruit of the elderberries is already amazing and the maple syrup makes it hum. Perhaps I should note that I never drink sweetener in iced tea. Yes, I’m southern but I dislike sweet tea. This is so beyond tooth-achingly sweet Lipton. This is ambrosia.
I need Sheng! This and Wild Monk are my default shengs and there is a reason for that. Hot damn this is wonderful!
I put 7 grams in my awesome red gaiwan, 212 water, rinse followed by two infusions of 30 seconds, then five 1 minute infusions
1st steep green and shengy with that little bit of pucker and the tinest hint of grape
2nd getting the green floral with a slight bitterness and a touch of camphor
3rd Oh hello darling – Ive missed you! Opening up into that sublime deliciousness
4th There’s the grapey lovliness I adore so much with this tea
5th – 7th Still the grapes with a stronger camphor note and the most pleasant bitterness ever. I’ve got the tongue tingle, the chi buzz, the warm feeling all through my body and THIS
is the way to start a Sunday morning y’all. I will likely sip on this alllllll day!
Garret – I appreciate you for many reasons – this sheng is most definitely one of them :)
OMG I forgot a song! How about the Zydeco Boogaloo? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LZHnu_mgQBs
Flavors: Floral, Grapes
My first time for this tea. It’s a rocketship! The mint finish just blows me away and I thought I wasn’t gonna like it. And having it watching the moonrise with tea heads is every bit of the awesome.
Ever wonder what sweet chocolate love tastes like? Yes, I said SWEET. CHOCOLATE. LOVE. With a cherry on top? Wonder no more damas y caballeros – Cocoa Amore is here to show you exactly what it tastes like. Actually it tastes like Cherry Whoppers. If Cherry Whoppers actually existed and were made by Godiva out of truly excellent chocolate and with real cherries! Brought to you by Brenden & the Magic Vanilla Beans. I know you’re asking, “What’s that you say Mz HoneyBelle Priss? That’s a bunch of mixed up funky stuff.” It sounds that way, but in reality it’s a chocolate-vanilla Cherry Bomb (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iYf_NM_lCLI) y’all:
Hello Daddy, hello Mom
I’m your ch ch ch ch ch cherry bomb
Hello world I’m your wild girl
I’m your ch ch ch ch ch cherry bomb!
First I have to say, I’ve been SMELLING this for a week. OK so huffing it might be slightly more accurate. But it was here and I was waiting for the LovelyTeaFairy’s (LTF) sample to get to Canada. I kept sending her notes saying, “chocolate covered cherries!”
I started out very, very carefully following Brenden’s parameters of ½ tablespoon in 8 ounces of 200 degree water for 3 minutes and zero seconds. We always try to mind him on the first round.
As soon as that timer went off, I poured up a deep amber cup and inhaled a malty chocolate cherry nose-bomb. It’s medium-bodied, but it’s a body that won’t quit (more on that later….foreshadowing!)
Luscious liquid cocoacherrymaltvanilla bliss. All of those elements are very present, with the vanilla the most in the background on the first steep. But I’m not kidding – this is sublime. It is right up close to Golden Orchid for me and that is saying quite a lot. GO is a sweet dream of a tea and so is this. It’s got lots of bottom with the cocoa and the malt with a sprightly cherry bit and that silky smooth vanilla to make it mellow and it is so sweet with a deep caramel note – a real cuplicker.
On the second steep, I went for 4 minutes. There was less cherry, the coca was still definitely there as it mellows out to a less malty cocoa and it still has plenty of body. It is a deep cocoa powdery kind of cocoa and at this point a slight bit of cinnamon starts to peek in.
The third and fourth steeps (yes, it re-steeps awesomely), the malt diminishes but there is still some cocoa and vanilla with the cinnamon waving from a distance. For the last half of the 4th steep, I decided to go Terri-style and added ½ teaspoon of maple syrup to it and that brought the cocoa back. A delicious way to finish this.
Oh! There were still some leaves in the bottom of the teapot that sat there for quite a while – at least 15 minutes – no way was I just pouring that out. I was quite surprised to find there was no bitterness or astringency – just really strong, still delicious tea.
So I will be waiting impatiently with the rest of y’all until I can have a supply of this. This one is very very very near to Golden Orchid awesomeness for me and that is an extremely high bar. And once more LTF – such a delight to get to share this with you!
Flavors: Cherry, Chocolate, Malt, Vanilla