Sooo, I am finally trying this – the first of my Mandala sampler. This is my first Mandala experience, but not my first puerh. I already know I prefer Shu, so this is a great opportunity. Dry, the leaf smells sweet and reminds me (as usual) of sweet hay, damp earth, wood and sweet clean animals.
I followed the instructions provided with the teas which suggested the whole serving for one session or half that for a lighter brew (or in my case for a small quantity of liquid). I gave a 15 second rinse with boiling water, then 30 second steep with boiling again. The result is not bitter or astringent, though it isn’t as sweet as expected. It has a bit of dryness and some general earthiness but not a lot else. It’s definitely earthy and mushroom-y. The beau gets a fishy smell but I don’t. He says “it’s really strong. It’s not bad though.”
2: 45 seconds, boiling. The leaves are still pretty clumped up, and the liquor is quite dark with an earthy, mushroom aroma. The flavour matches the first, but maybe a bit less dry. Strong, rich, earthy.
3: 1 minutes, boiling. Might as well mention that due to my lack of a sharing pitcher, I am brewing in my small gaiwan, and pouring into the larger one then pouring into our cups with a dribble at the end for my teapet. It’s a messy but equitable system. This steep smells very strong. Like an earthy greenhouse or barn. As always, this isn’t negative. Still no bitterness, but a bit dry. No sweetness, which I had in other shu. I think this is maybe the result of the small leaf?It’s bold, fo shu! (See what I did there?) The beau says the fish is gone (I never got that!) and that it is more earthy. “Best steep so far.”
4: 1 minute 15 seconds, boiling. I can’t imagine how strong this would be with the full sample. I definitely made the right choice for my brewing setup to split this in two. I was looking at other notes and saw some comparisons to coffee which seem accurate but it isn’t unpleasant and bitter like coffee. More an explanation of the depth and richness. This steep gets some sweetness finally. I like it. Much the same, but better. The beau says “now this tastes like a typical pu-erh, the strong taste is gone.” We agree on that for once.
5: 1 minutes 30 seconds, boiling. Whoa sweetness. Something fruity. Appley? This is different. I like it. Best so far. Reading other notes again – man, did my experience contradict EVERYONE else? Oh well!
6: 1 minute 45 seconds, boiling. The problem with this steeping method is that the gaiwan burns my fingers with boiling water, but the water is cool enough to drink by the time it is poured in my cup. I could go through a lot of steeps very quickly if it weren’t for the need to get water boiling again regularly. Taste is similar to 5. Sweet, lighter, a sense of apple or maybe apple peel. I don’t know why I say that, it isn’t strong enough to really explain, but it comes to mind anyway.
From here on, I’m going to just steep and enjoy without reporting. This can get exhausting. I need a bigger sample so I can try it gongfu, and Western-ish as well. For now, this was nice and different from other shu I have tried. I don’t think I need a cake of it, as it doesn’t hit my hot spots (currently). Really nice to experience though. Great education!