Special Dark

Tea type
Pu-erh Tea
Ingredients
Not available
Flavors
Bitter, Cocoa, Grain, Hay, Wood, Dark Chocolate, Plums, Baked Bread, Brown Sugar, Caramel, Raisins, Chocolate, Earth, Honey, Dark Bittersweet, Dates, Stewed Fruits, Cream, Nuts
Sold in
Not available
Caffeine
Not available
Certification
Not available
Edit tea info Last updated by graceatblb
Average preparation
Boiling 2 min, 15 sec 5 g 12 oz / 346 ml

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102 Tasting Notes View all

From Mandala Tea

We call this Special Dark for good reason. This decadent tea is hand crafted in small batches within cotton bags, and fermented more extensively requiring great attention and intention. Creamy, rich, dark, and smooth. This cocoa-y indulgence is one of our most unique pu’er teas. An excellent change-up from the norm for you lovers of the shu.

Pu-erh that is more lightly fermented can hardly be oversteeped in early infusions, but this tea should be approached differently. We suggesting easing in with quick infusions before experimenting with the full power of the Dark Side.

About Mandala Tea View company

Company description not available.

102 Tasting Notes

96
390 tasting notes

My friend Dexter inspired me to drink Special Dark last night. We both had unseasoned yixing pots and have both recently decided to take care of them (well at least some of them!)

I’ve spent quite a few months without a yixing clay pot…(I was left with no pots after a series of unfortunate events).

I was using the gaiwan and my cute little glass gongfu pot. T’was ok, but I think I had forgotten how much more rewarding this is.

I replaced all my pots slowly, but would never take the time to season them for some reason.

Last week, after the last two pots came in, I seasoned the smallest one with Special Dark. I chose this shou cause it’s so rich and flavourful.

And I’m drinking it tonight. And it’s good.

This tea is all chocolate and raisins, yes, dark slightly bitter cocoa and plump soaked raisins. It feels a little powdery in the mouth. I get a nice mineral flow from the clay, it makes the tea smooth and creamy.

Clay pots just add another dimension to the experience…they create a ritual, and somehow, you start caring for them more than any other teaware you own.

Maybe because they are the only ones that give back?

The pot might be new, but it’s already being generous with me…and I am so grateful I have it.

Dexter

Special Dark is always special, but there was something extraordinary about it steeped in the new clay. The mineral of the clay is just amazing with this one. So happy that WE are enjoying our pots and finally giving them the love and care that they deserve. :))

Terri HarpLady

I just keep drooling over additional fixings, & thinking, “if I had this one, I’d use it for (such & such tea)…” :)
I love them

Spencer

Yup, going to have to make some Special Dark in a yixing pot, tomorrow.

TheTeaFairy

You’re so right Dex, it’s really “Special”!!!

Terri, OMG, I do the same!! I am in such a yixing mood right now, it is dangerous.

Spencer, yes…JUST DO IT :-)

Spencer

Hmm, so, now balancing the wisdom of taking a yixing to the office…which would mean a bamboo tea tray, too…

boychik

Yixing pots are very addictive . Glad you enjoy the experience;)

Roughage

You can never have too many Yixing pots. Honest! :)

MzPriss

I seasoned my wee-est yixing with Wild Monk yesterday using the Tea Hobbit method – put it in the bowl of tea and put the bowl on a mug warmer for 3 hours. I may have a new yixing or two coming. I’m going to do a Special Dark pot, and a VANILLA DREAMS pot and one for shous that aren’t Special Dark. But right now, I’ve just woken up and am on my way to the kitchen to kickstart my day with my Dark Beauty cocktail and hope that today is better than yesterday

TheTeaFairy

I hope so too…today WILL be a better day :-)

I did my VANILLA DREAMS pot last night!! 7 gr. of GO devoted to it, HOBBIT way, cause it worked so well with Special Dark. Will have my first shot this morning, yum!

Sarsonator

I would love to see some pics of these yixings! Is there a discussion topic for that? Maybe I should start one.

TheTeaFairy

Oh there are many sars “show us your teaware” or something like that….but you could totally start a new one!

Sarsonator

I’ll see if I can find one that’s yixing specific to resurrect. If not, I’ll start one. I am so excited! I’m currently searching for one to house my special dark. And I think I’ve figured out which tea is going in which gaiwan.

TheTeaFairy

Choosing the teas that match is the toughest part, congrats!! Show me the special dark one when you find it. Will it be a pot this time, or another gaiwan?

I will take pictures of my four pots later and post them :-)

Sarsonator

Don’t you worry, sweetie pie. I plan to show you all of them, along with the teas I want for each one, to get your opinion. And I’m going to hope HoneyBelle gives her input, too! :p

I think I am going to stick with gaiwans, assuming I can find enough unique ones. I just like ’em.

Yes, pics pls. I would love to see them.

Spencer

Well, TeaFairy, looks as though I will get my wish for Special Dark in a yixing today – working from home, due to a rough cough.

TheTeaFairy

Sars, can’t wait to see them all, will be happy to give you my humble opinion :-)

Yay for the tea, boo for the rough cough Spencer :-(
Let me know how you enjoy your SD session :-)

Terri HarpLady

Hope the cough passes soon, Spencer. Regarding a tray for the office, I really like this one http://shopmandalatea.com/tea-wares/tea-trays/bamboo-island-tea-tray.html, it’s nicely compact. Currently out of stock, but I think Garret gets more of them in now & again.

I’d really like a yixing for my really wonderful smokey teas…I’ve been eyeballing one for awhile, but I’ll need more play pal money to get it.
I’d also like one just for Dian Hongs…and for Jin Jun Mei’s…and…and…and…

MzPriss

I need a tea tray for work. I have a gaiwan there and I just dump into a coffee mug, but a tray for work would be awesome. I need to quit reading stuff.

looseTman

Thanks to Garret’s recent sale, I’ve begun the journey into the mystery that is Special Dark. Have all you SD lovers discovered your own optimum brewing parameters for this very popular shou? I’ve seen a variety of brewing times from 30 seconds to 7 minutes. Dare I ask … Is there a consensus on brewing SD?

boychik

i like short steeps. but i like short steeps for every tea because i want to see how flavors change. couple times i made it long steeped like 5min but then cut it with some milk and maple syrup. it was delicious. i still prefer short steeps;)

Stephanie

And I prefer the longer steeps! :D

looseTman

How long a steep do you prefer?

Stephanie

Me? About 5 minutes. SUPER rich and cocoa-y.

looseTman

TheTeaFairy also recommends 5 min.
MzPriss from her tasting note appears to enjoy 7 min.

Lariel

This is on my list for when (if) I make a Mandala order.

looseTman

boychik, How much pure maple syrup do you use with what quantity of SD that’s been steeped for 5 min.? Thanks!

boychik

very little, i start with 1/2 tsp, then try to see if i need more. maybe up to 1tsp. usually i dont sweeten my tea.
im thinking now that if you brew 1tsp 8 oz 5 min its probably will be the same as 5-7g 100ml 30 sec

looseTman

How about for TheTeaFairy’s: 12 oz. / 5 g / 212 / 5 min. Western brewing recommendation?

Dexter

Sticking my nose in – I like 2tsp/12oz 95c 8 min – I do do a quick rinse first then just let it steep….

Lariel

Well, I ordered the puer sampler. I blame (or thank) you guys. ;)

looseTman

Dexter, I’ll have to try that. Less leaf, usually reduces the flavor & body. Does the 8 min make up for the reduced quantity of leaf? Does 95c reduce the bitter chocolate flavor? So far, most of the comments I’ve read about SD aren’t suggesting a rinse, which is commonly suggested for some teas. What do you find is the benefit of rinsing of SD? Thanks!

boychik

i always rinse any puerh including SD! quick rinse,few secs

TheTeaFairy

I do too! SD is already a little “dusty”, I find it helps removing some of that.

looseTman

OK, I’ll definitely rinse.

Dexter

This is how I like it. I hardly ever use boiling water on pu’erh (or black for that matter) – I prefer slightly lower water temp. Garret is a believer in rinsing leaves before steeping, something about the rinse opens up the leaves and prepares them to be steeped. There was a huge conversation about it on here about a year ago (I will never find it now), but every time I drink Mandala tea I think about that, so I rinse. I don’t have anything scientific for you. Those parameters are how I make Special Dark and I LOVE it. 8 mins isn’t written in stone – the longer this steeps the darker and richer it gets.

looseTman

Thanks Dexter I’ll have to try your formula. I ask because I’m trying to optimize the rich creamy dark chocolate flavor without increasing the bitter chocolate aspect.

Brewing parameters
As a primarily black tea drinker I’m used to seeing either of the following:
- tsp (g) / oz. / temp. / min.
- tsp (g) / oz. / temp. / rinse / min.

Being new to pu’erh I don’t automatically think to rinse if it’s not stated in the brewing parameters / directions.

boychik

i think i put in parameters that i rinse. i even put pause. i like to pause couple min after rinsing
rinse/pause/5/10/15 etc :)

Dexter

Some people believe that you should rinse all tea – white, green, oolong, black, pu’erh. The instructor of the tea class I took in the spring rinsed everything.
I only rinse pu’erh and all Mandala teas. When I rinse, I don’t fill the vessel full of water, I just cover the leaves, give it a swish and dump it off – approx 5 sec. I also preheat my mug, gaiwan, pot – whatever I’m using.
I think we all just have “habits”. Some one told us to do that, so we do even if we don’t really understand why….
I personally don’t find Special Dark as being bitter chocolate, so I’m not sure my recommendations are going to help you. I think you will just have to play with it to find your preference. :))

looseTman

Dexter, boychik, & TheTeaFairy, Thanks for reminding me about the importance of rinsing. To my surprise, it’s not listed on the SD package brewing instructions. However, Garret does recommend a 10-15 sec. rise on the instructions that were included with his recent Ripe Pu’er Sampler. Rinsing helped a great deal!

Dexter, I tried your suggestion: 2tsp / 12oz / 95c / rinse / 8 min. Both my wife and I found it to be too light for us. So far, 1 Tbsp. / 10oz / 212 / rinse / 5 min. appears to provide a good balance for us. I may fine tune this further. Time will tell.

Thanks everyone!

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96
495 tasting notes

Thank you, Mandala Team, for making my first purchase quick and painless, and for adding extra samples! I haven’t branched out to new companies in a long, long time.

This is delicious. It’s sweet, creamy and cocoa tinged, with a nice finishing accent of pepper spice and sour chips (also smoke in some of the steeps). Smooth cocoa notes come out thicker at the end as it cools a little.

It’s also a relatively forgiving steeper: 1tbsp, first steep boiling for 30sec, in a mug (wait, is this thing more than 8oz?). Second steep 174F (ahhh..nooo!), for 1min. Third steep, boiling 1min (this is gold).

This is turning out to be a rocky session, but the tea plows through all the challenges I present it. Thank you, tea; I’ll treat you (and all puerh) better next time.

Flavors: Chocolate, Cream, Earth, Honey

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 30 sec 1 tsp 12 OZ / 354 ML
Fjellrev

Oh wow, you actually made pu-erh sound good to me haha.

JustJames

love love love this tea!

CrowKettle

I picked this one up because of you and all the people you shared it with JustJames! :)

Fjellrev, this puerh is magic. One of the steeps smelled a little fishy but it never translated to the taste.

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100
335 tasting notes

I wanted to finish my rather painful weekend with one of my faves. Kids, then hubby run down w/ stomach bug. Lots of laundry :(.
This tea never disappoints. Still afraid of long steep. So my usual 150 ml gaiwan 2 tsp rinse 5/5/10/10/15 to be cont
I have only 2 tsp left. I see Mandala order in a near future( I wish for sale on their black teas and Special Dark of course) ;)

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 2 tsp 5 OZ / 150 ML
caile

Sounds like you had a busy weekend. Hope everyone is starting to feel better now!

mrmopar

Hope you and your family fare well through this. We had the “bug” also this week at home.

boychik

Thank you. They are better but I need a break.

mrmopar

Oh I know about that. I am finally getting mine after 4 days of the bug.

__Morgana__

Hope everyone gets back to normal soon.

boychik

Shu is the best medicine. They were drinking it one cup after another. My kids call it rice tea

boychik

Thank you Morgana

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91
379 tasting notes

this graceful tea has long gypsy curls, winding into cocoa, then twisting into malt. each arch is pronounced, distinct, but before long it wisps away and i must sip again. i am left with no bitterness or puerh mossiness…. just a memory of refined grace and surprise that this is in fact a puerh.

my cup has become a dark limpid pool of beauty. such a gracious gift from stephanie! thank you so much. most certainly the most evolved puerh i’ve ever tasted. so this is what the next level tastes like…..

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 0 sec
Cavocorax

That sounds lovely!

Sil

Cavo….it IS!

Garret

You just turned one of my favorite ripe teas into a poetic experience! Thank you for writing that up, my friend! Beautiful.

Stephanie

Yay! So glad you enjoyed it :)

JustJames

a beautiful tea deserves beautiful language.

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81
1426 tasting notes

Wow.

Wow!

Wow…

This is good. Thanks, Sil! Definitely staying on my shopping list. I suppose I’ll share it with my
Mom or brother. Maybe.

Sil

hahahahaha i seem to recall the box was largely for your brother :P

OMGsrsly

Shh! :D Yeah, they’re splitting what’s left. It’s just so good! Mandala has risen to the top of my ‘to buy’ list…

Sil

some fabulous stuff at mandala. I’m holding off, hoping for a black Friday sale so that it can be one of my tea orders for that day

OMGsrsly

Exactly! I hope they take PayPal. I haven’t checked yet due to No Internet. Gonna be another week or two before it gets connected!

Sil

garrett takes paypal :) If you’re shipping to canada and not a tea mule, he’ll invoice you after letting you know what the shipping price is to canada…at least that’s my understanding.

OMGsrsly

I don’t have a tea mule, sadly. And shipping across Canada would probably be just as much as shipping from the states!

Dexter

Awesome, glad to hear that you love this.
Mandala website is not set up for shipping outside the US. They welcome international orders, you just need to email Garret and tell him what you want – then as Sil said, he lets you know what shipping will be and sends you an invoice from PayPal. Also, Garret in an amazing, friendly, knowledgeable, fantastic, awesome person. If you have any questions don’t even hesitate to email him.
I too am trying really hard to not put in an order with them. I need to try some of their black teas….

Sil

dexter – just give me a poke when you see some show up on my tasting thread. I’ll send some your way…i picked up a couple..

OMGsrsly

Thanks! Good to know. :)

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96
372 tasting notes

Casey bought me some Mandala Teas for Valentine’s Day, and he let me open them up a day early…Oh, and he’s even letting me listen to Smokey Robinson tonight while we drink it. (He’s almost exclusively into metal.)

This one is wonderful. It ‘s unique among shou puerhs I’ve tried, and I’d say I’ve had a moderate amount of experience. What a treat! It’s somehow reminiscent of a fine caramel-filled chocolate. Yum.

Flavors: Caramel, Chocolate

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 30 sec 2 tsp 6 OZ / 177 ML

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76
1333 tasting notes

Thanks Terri Harplady for sending a bit of this to try along with the HH teabox! I used one teaspoon of leaves… these leaves just look chocolatey.

Steep #1 // cooled the water a few minutes // 1 min
This cup looked very pale in color… maybe I wasn’t supposed to let the water cool at all. The flavor wasn’t strong enough for me! I definitely should have steeped longer. I don’t see anything special OR dark with this one. I’ve had some pu-erhs that have been pitch black in color after seconds. The flavor is so mild it is tough to describe…

Steep #2 // cooled after a couple minutes // 3 min
This cup was darker… the color of root beer! The flavor was better too, but still not the strongest pu-erh I’ve had. It would be a nice intro pu-erh for anyone to try. The flavor does have hints of unsweetened chocolate and some cinnamon actually.

Steep #3 // just boiled // 10 min
Hmm… still not super dark. But the flavor is pleasant… hard to discern from the pumpkin bread I had while sipping though. Not dark enough for me! But I can say there was no ‘over steeped leaves’ flavor or anything.

If only I knew the perfect way to steep this one! But I have one more teaspoon to try with….

Stephanie

I like a loooong hot steep and a lot of leaf for this one. KAPOW it gets dark! The serving size is supposed to be a whole tablespoon I think :(

Tea Sipper

Aw, I had a feeling I wasn’t using enough leaves.

Stephanie

:( Maybe you can get a tasty 4 oz cup with the last tsp. Let it steep as long as you can stand to!

Tea Sipper

I’ll try that, if I remember!

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92
206 tasting notes

I am beyonf frustrated! This is my 5th attempt at this tasting note! Where do they keep dissappearing to?! I’m about to give up! So as a result, the notes are getting shorter and shorter.
I got this tea from the lovely Stephanie.
Wow they were not kidding… this smells just like cocoa powder, and oh man! This is soooo dark. Like coffee dark!

http://www.flickr.com/photos/20741867@N05/10892734496/

I wish I could have done the proper amount of steeps this tea deserves, but I had to cut myself off at 4:30 as I have to be in bed by 8:30 for work at 4AM. Having said that, I did manage to get 3 great steepings.
The first steep was definitely that bittersweet 90% dark chocolate taste. Yumm!
The second steep was more of a semi sweet 50% dark chocolate. This was probably my favorite steep. The last steep was creamy! More of a milk chocolate feel. I cannot wait to give this tea the time it needs to reach its full potential. I am looking forward to it! Thank you!

Also I forgot to post this on my tasting note from last night on my sTEAp shoppe black and white tea. I stopped by tjmaxx last night and found these gems! Delicious!

http://www.flickr.com/photos/20741867@N05/10880969955/

Stephanie

Yay! I’m glad you liked it! Congrats on the Turkish delight too- looks delish!!!!!

BrewTEAlly Sweet

Loved it! Thank you soooo much!

BrewTEAlly Sweet

My picture didn’t post….of the tea I’m getting frustrated with steepster right now

BrewTEAlly Sweet

There I tried for the 7th time…maybe it’ll show up now

TeaBrat Amy oh

I know some people write their tasting notes in a word processing program and then copy into Steepster. I never have, but it is frustrating!

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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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87
207 tasting notes

Dexter3657 sent a sample of this my way – thank you for the amazing samples and introducing me to Mandala tea’s!

The first 2 infusions tasted sweet and nutty. I wasn’t getting any cocoa flavour and wondered what I was doing wrong. Perhaps I under-leafed a little. I went for a 3rd infusion and let it steep for about 5 minutes. Ahhh, there it is. Cocoa. This is really good.

I think next time I won’t be so timid with the leaves, and add more.

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