Imperial Dark - Bu Lang Gong Ting 2009

Tea type
Pu-erh Tea
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Baked Bread, Berry, Chocolate, Cocoa, Mushrooms, Autumn Leaf Pile, Creamy, Nutty, Pastries, Wet Earth
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Edit tea info Last updated by Jason
Average preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 1 min, 15 sec 7 g 9 oz / 275 ml

Available from 1 seller.

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37 Tasting Notes View all

  • “I haven't been drinking much puerh lately, but I think that will be changing especially now that the rainy season appears to be upon us here in San Francisco. I don't tend to drink much shu pu-erh...” Read full tasting note
    amyoh2 2542 tasting notes
  • “Somehow, I drank green & white teas almost all day. A couple of Dragonwells, some white, & before I knew it the day was nearly gone. I realized around 6:00 that I really wanted something else. I...” Read full tasting note
    Terri HarpLady 3048 tasting notes
  • “My first time using my yixing pot (after a seasoning). I sat with my Zojurishi (sp?) and enjoyed multiple steepings which were seamless with that wonderful machine from Mandala! Steep One: 30...” Read full tasting note
    azzrian 807 tasting notes
  • “I still love this one. It's just easy to drink, not fussy, not finicky - let it steep for 6 minutes on your desk and it just gets deeper with out anything nasty happening. Honestly this one...” Read full tasting note
    Dexter 741 tasting notes

From Mandala Tea

We totally scored with this find! We have sampled so many different ripe teas over the years both in China and here at our shop. Samples are continuously sent here from various tea merchants and most of the time, we find them ok at best. But when we tasted this gong ting (imperial court quality, smallest leaf) tea, we immediately had every last bit of it shipped to us so we could share it with our customers not to mention drink it ourselves!

Hailing from Bu Lang mountain in Menghai, this is an expertly crafted tea. Rich and sweet, hints of dark chocolate and slight nuttiness with a creamy aroma becoming more pronounced as the post-fermentation smell quickly becomes a memory. We are sure that this gong ting, given a bit more age, will easily rival our favorite Golden Gong Ting from 2005. We are extremely pleased when all the conditions come together to create a memorable tea and this, my friend, is one of those teas.

Brewing Recommendations: Gong Fu Cha Method

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37 Tasting Notes

294 tasting notes

Steeped this six times in a 220ml gaiwan. First 15sec, then 10 sec, 15 sec, 20 sec, 30 sec, 1 min. I used 7g of leaf and boiling water. This is really good tea. It is high quality ripe puerh with no vestiges of fermentation flavor. The tea broth is no longer at all murky. It has cleared. I found the notes of chocolate, baked bread, and berry. Sort of baked bread anyway. I just got this today with my Mandala order. It was an afterthought added to my order over the phone the day Garret shipped it. It is good.

Flavors: Baked Bread, Berry, Chocolate

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

Steeped it in my new Gaiwan. Photo came out a bit dark.

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124 tasting notes

Sample from an order from who-knows-when. I’m not very good at keeping track of samples— they just sort of turn up in my tea trunk when I’m not expecting it.

Just on my first steep (about 30 seconds), I swear I can taste banana bread with a hint of dark chocolate chips. Glancing through others’ notes, I don’t think anyone’s mentioned anything about bananas, so I’m a bit baffled as to where that came from.

I have no idea what’s going on with my tongue, but I’m definitely enjoying this shu so far!

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1494 tasting notes

MzPriss’ Unflavored Tea Box – Tea #14
I could be wrong but I think I’m starting to taste that the high quality pu-erh has a mellower, sweet flavor than the lower quality pu-erh made with tiny leaves that has a very dark deep flavor. I like both types of pu-erh and I’m actually glad that they are different but I REALLY like the deep dark (I guess low quality) pu-erh. I could have been using too many leaves then though. Of course, I’m not finding any of that darkness with any of Mandala’s pu-erhs. Even with Special Dark that I tried months ago, I was surprised that I wasn’t finding it as especially dark as some other pu-erhs I’ve tried. Of course it’s a delicious pu-erh, but not necessarily dark. I’m just glad every pu-erh is slightly different from the next!

This one is very mellow and sweet, it tasted like butternut squash but there was a crisp, bright and fresh flavor to it as well. Even though there was hint of pond scent to the dry leaves, there really wasn’t any in the flavor. The second cup was much of the same on a slightly deeper level, but not really anything like dark chocolate. Never astringent, as pu-erh isn’t usually anyway.
Steep #1 // 1 1/2 tsp // few mins after boiling // 2 min
Steep #2 // just boiled // 3 min

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1738 tasting notes

Brewing this in my yixing, which is thankfully seeing more use than it was a week ago. Unfortunately, I realized that the glue on one corner of my tea tray has been splitting, due to the hot water, and pu’erh has been seeping through the seams. Thank goodness for a tile countertop being underneath. Still…

These infusions were very loosely timed. The first one was supposed to be for twenty seconds, but I think it ended up at about thirty. The tea is not incredibly dark; despite a rinse of a couple of seconds, I think the leaves are still awakening. The tea does not smell too rich, but there are some cocoa notes with the earthiness. It tastes very smooth, if a little less intense than I would expect, but this was only the first steep. As I sip this steep, I already started and completed brewing the second steep. The cup finishes with some dark chocolate/cocoa notes.

Steep two is darker in appearance. The flavor has deepened a bit but not quite as far as I usually enjoy. I think I will run the third steep for forty-five seconds to a minute, rather than just adding ten to fifteen seconds. This one was steeped for thirty.

Third steep for a minute – dark and delicious. Still very smooth, not super earthy.

We shall see how long this can go.


My friend Dexter says this is Special Dark’s little brother…and I have to agree :-)


I would agree with that statement! It lacks a lot of the intense dark chocolate notes that the Special Dark holds.


Steep four and five, for 65 and 80 seconds, respectively, were less than ideal in terms of strength, so I topped off the yixing pot with water and am going to let it sit for the “long steep”


One of the important things to remember is that this tea is gong ting, the smallest grade leaf for a pu’er. The smaller the leaf, the more quickly it will give up flavor in early infusions.

Alot of times, pu’er is made into blends with other larger leaves so that smaller leaves give up more in early infusions while larger leaves give up more in later ones. That being said, even though a gong ting may be brewed several times, the flavor will most definitely get lighter with subsequent infusions.

We have alot of customers, though, who enjoy this tea steeped once at a longer time. Flash rinse followed by one long steep. Alternately, try maybe 1 quick one infusion (following the rinse) and then one long one. Pays to experiement and find out what makes it your cup of tea!


Thanks, Garret! I am going to try your recommendations, tomorrow. I appreciate the advice on the tea!

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251 tasting notes

First of all. I need some moral support. I’ve only been drinking my loose pu’erhs because I can’t bring myself to break apart my new pu’erh cakes!!!! They’re just so pretty and perfect, all wrapped up with so much potential!!!

This video is making me super sad LOL

So this tea…

Method: 1tbsp, 8 oz, 30 sec (1 minute) (1 minute), 208 degrees, brew in mug strainer

Dry Leaf Aroma: Earthy, but with a chocolate note that’s very enticing

Flavor: it tastes a little musty, but smooth, and I’m enjoying the chocolate notes. I guess that earthy sort of note is just the usual for many pu’erhs?

Boiling 1 min, 15 sec 3 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML
Cameron B.

Maybe take off the papers very carefully and keep them! Or frame them! :)


LOL Cam! Maybe I need a pu’erh wrapper scrapbook!

Do most people break them up all at once like the video, I wonder? I got the impression that little bits were just broken off here and there.


Some pu’erh is “earthy” – like a forest in the rain, fresh clean mud (if such a thing exists)
some is earthy – but more in a cave subterranean sort of way
some is earthy – but musty, barn yard esque
I love all of it – as long as it’s clean fresh dirt. The bad pu’erh is swampy, dirty, icky


I don’t break up a whole cake – I just unwrap them, break a chunk off and rewrap them. You’ll be ready soon, the OMG I have to try that will kick in, and you’ll be diving in…


The third steep at about 1.25 minutes was nicer. Thus definitely was NOT swampy or icky, so maybe it’s just a matter of being an acquired taste.

LOL. If I still can’t bust one open tomorrow, I may have to employ you as the Pu’erh Cake Breaker Enforcer. :p


Anytime – just send me your cake, I’ll break it up and send it back to you – well send most of it back to you, might take a little as payment…. :))


Just break off the amount from each cake or brick and keep the rest intact if you don’t plan to drink it quickly. makes storage easy. When I break a cake I start from the circle indentation on the back and work from there. Gives you a good starting point.


Hahahahahaaaa!!! OMG you are super funny!

I think I’ll just bite the bullet and break up my own cake, but I’m more than willing to share if you see anything that interests you. :)


Sorry, mrmopar, not sure what you mean when you say that you start from the indentation. Do you mean that you break tea off from the “rim” of the indentation?


Me too – I break from the indent. Turn the cake over, so that the smooth side is down, indent is up. I press gently down, circling the around the cake (especially if it hard compressed)listening for cracking sounds. I find it easier to loosen it up a bit first. Then I insert pick into the edge of the indent (pick facing outward towards the edge of the cake). I really need to just find the video that I used the first time. Your video was ok, but that was a pretty loosely pressed cake, they all don’t break that easily….


This is the video from Teavivre… She says to break from the back to keep it looking good…
This one has the first step I was talking about – to loosen it a bit before you start stabbing it. I only do this is it’s really compressed.
You just need to find a technique that works for you,,,

Terri HarpLady

I’m with MrM & Dex, prying off tea from the center of the back of the cake, so I can keep the shape for as long as possible.


Awesome video and suggestions! I’ll try the indentation method tomorrow. Thanks, tea friends!!!


Yep that’s the way. It also helps make them easier to re-wrap.


If it really a difficult cake, start the car, place cake behind back tire and put it in reverse. ;)


So happy you’ve started enjoying your pupu haul :-)

And break them cakes please!!!


Cwyn, that is too funny!!! I can just picture my neighbors and the police officer who lives behind me looking out their windows and being like WTF is Sarsy doing this time!!! I live in the city, so were closely packed here. :)

TTF: today is the day!!!!

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412 tasting notes

Oh, oh, look! A new Mandala pu’erh!!

Ok, I’ve never had this one before. So I took my glass gongfu pot and decided that we were going to have our first date together.

Woah! This tea is not the shy type. It is bold an it’s taking charge.

Rich and creamy, with leather and barn notes.

I wish you could smell the wet leaves. They smell like a big pile of damp oak and maple leaves in the fall. It’s a scent of the forest and the outdoors, just can’t get enough of it.

It’s super flavourful, reminds me of Special Dark a lot but not as chocolaty and a little sweeter.

It gets richer and creamier as I steep it. I like the nuttiness in the background that develops, it’s a little hazel-nutty.

At the fourth steep, I forgot to poor…the water stayed in for almost 15 minutes. There’s a good 7g of tea in a tiny 5oz pot, but it didn’t get too strong or astringent.

I’m so happy I took advantage of the sale to hoard it!

There will be many other dates with this one, and I can’t wait :-)


It’s a yummy one allright, I live Special Dark and Noble Mark more but I love this one a lot.


Tea hoarder!


this is one of my favourites


It really is something special…I just haven’t come across a shou pu’erh from Mandala that I don’t like!

(I admit to tea hoarding, look at my cup-hoard!!!!)


LMAP @ cup-hoard. I just got the Old Nuggets for the firat time, I need to get those out and try them


Thanks for the Imperial Dark / Special Dark comparison.
“It gets richer and creamier as I steep it. I like the nuttiness in the background that develops, it’s a little hazel-nutty.” – Sounds intriguing!


I went to read my note – couldnt find. Oops, Steepster ate it. Again.


(Why did I not send you some of this? Bad Dex!!!)
I thought this was Special Dark’s little brother – but I still don’t understand the leather thing….


Did I get old nuggets? Can’t remember lol, we’ll see when “hoard-er” #3 comes in!!

LooseTman, there’s already a large sample in your box…lol, will have to send you that box one of these days…but I keep waiting for stuff to arrive. I should mail it early next week, will let you know :-)


Boychik, I know right? Where do they go, do they expire or something? Maybe there’s a steepster note cemetery somewhere that we are unaware of…

Dexter, Special Dark’s little brother is exactly that! And you did not HAVE to send me any, silly. (i will have 8oz of it, buzz me if YOU want any!!)


“… there’s already a large sample in your box…lol,”
TheTeaFairy, You’re too kind! :-D (No rush, whenever it’s convenient.)


“Oops, Steepster ate it. Again.”
boychik, It’s very time-inefficient when that happens and aggravating too! Life is too short! I now compose my notes in Word and then cut and paste them into Steepster.


looseTman, good idea. I remember I had that discussion with other Steepsterers what if ….I don’t want to mention, don’t want to jinx it. We need a back up. My hubby is database administrator. Programs crush all the time:(((

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294 tasting notes

I learned my lesson with Temple Stairs and gave this two rinses before doing my first steep. To me this smells like the other two Shu Pu-erhs I’ve tried from Mandala, like a pond. I’m starting to appreciate it, because I’m starting to associate the smell with the much more pleasant tastes of pu-erhs.

1st Steep 30 seconds: I’m assuming rinsing is to thank for the lack of pond water taste in this cup, for which I’m most thankful. First of, this and the other two puerhs I’ve had from mandala all have been so smooth and silky in the mouth feel. It’s very pleasant, and even with that first not rinsed cup of Temple Stairs, I appreciated it. I’m getting that flavor that I get from all puerhs, that sort of earthy flavor. I don’t eat mushrooms because the texture freaks me out, but that might be what this note is. There’s also a creaminess to it.

2nd Steep 1 minute: There’s a hint of spice hiding out in this cup! It was there on the first sip, but when I look for it I can’t find it. And then I let my guard down, and it pokes its head up. And I found the cocoa! If I loudly slurp this one I get it as I swallow (I like to slurp to aerate the tea so that I can pick up on more notes).

3rd Steep 90 seconds: At this point I got tired of getting up to go make more tea every 5 minutes (lazy, I know) so I made 3 steeping into 3 different cups and brought them all back to my room with me. This is much like the second, but with more cocoa.

4th Steep 2 minutes: I’m starting to get a nice nuttyness now. Mmm chocolate and nuts go so good together.

5th Steep 2.5 minutes: The texture is slightly thinner on this one. I’m getting honey this time, and the cocoa is more like milk chocolate. And it might just be the power of suggestion, but I’m feeling a little tea drunk. Considering I just drank 3 cups back to back its possible though.

6th-8th Steeps: Made three more at once, adding a minute each time. They were all much like the last cup. Cocoa and honey and yummy.

205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 30 sec 1 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

Took me 2 hours to write this xD


2 hours and it shows, lovely review :-)

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28 tasting notes

Rich and dark, not too earthy, smooth with a sweet finish. This is one of my favorites from Mandala Tea. My only criticism would be it does not seem to steep as many times as some other ripe pu-erh’s, perhaps only 5-7 steepings but the first 4 are delicious!

Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 6 g 6 OZ / 185 ML

Hi, pal! The gong ting grade
Is the smallest grade leaf so it will definitely give it up in fewer infusions than larger leaf or blends that have a combo of different size leaves. But this gong ting packs some great flavor in those few infusions, just like you said. Glad you dig it!!

With gratitude,

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1700 tasting notes

Sipdown! 166
Thank you Sil! This is so good! It really reminds me of Special Dark, but that just might be because it’s a nice puerh with lots of chocolate notes, and it doesn’t make me think of dirt. I can’t remember what makes the other one different, but I do know that I am enjoying this one. Yay for good puerh!


Nice, I’m glad you’re finding time to explore them…I’m hoping I can do that a little tomorrow…


I’m enjoying the chance. I just wish I could differentiate them better.


i still struggle with that. mostly i have “stuff i like” and “stuff don’t” but don’t ask me to tell you why lol


There’s where ranking tea can get really difficult. :P That’s why I like having a repurchase (Y/M/N) column on my spreadsheet! Sums it up nice and easy!


I have one of those too, Cavo. And then the Y’s also get letter grades reflecting how much I liked them at the time, as well as notes describing the flavour. I still wish I could DL Steepster infos into a CSV file…


Yes to that omg lol

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530 tasting notes

Another pu-erh sample from the very kind MzPriss!

After drinking flavored teas all day yesterday, I knew I wanted to start today with something bold. Perfect time for pu-erh tasting!

I will tell you what happened with this one, I forgot to rinse it (because I’m not used to having to do that), and let the first steep sit for about a minute, looked at it and it was BLACK. Said to myself “aw crap I forgot to rinse” then took a sip anyway, decided I was nowhere near ready for that, and dumped it….consider that a very long rinse.

Next, I let it steep about 30-45 seconds, it was much milder. No mushrooms! Just earthy, and a vague dark chocolate note. It was still dark enough that I decided to add milk…. Wow!

What a creamy and smooth tea! Right now I prefer this to the Special Dark but I know I kinda messed that one up so I will try again. I’m going to be resteeping this several more times this afternoon!

Thanks, MzPriss!


They are darker when they aren’t rinsed? Interesting.


You are very welcome! I’m glad you like it, and as someone mentioned the other day, it’s really interesting how different everyone’s taste is. Special Dark is like crack for me, and this one – not so much. I should have warned you to rinse this one. I don’t bother with a rinse for Special Dark. I just drink it. A lot of it. Like a junkie. The note from Garret in my last order was something like, “Say, you don’t like Special Dark much do you???”


Hahahaha too funny!

I’m going to drink special dark your way next…that is to say, the way where I don’t stress out too much over steeping times, I might just go western since that’s how I roll mostly anyway :)


Courtney, I’m not sure if that’s true or not, but my “rinse” this time was like a one minute steep so it makes sense it was lighter after

I don’t know if it’s lighter after a normal pu’erh drinker’s rinse :P


I rinse special dark (quick rinse 5 second swish) and then steep something crazy like 7-8 minutes. That’s how I like it, but you should play with it and find your favorite times. :))


Good to know :)
I think I’m going to try a nice long steep and see how it goes!


Dexter – I have been known to steep it for 7 minutes too

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