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Special Dark

Tea type
Pu-erh Tea
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Cocoa, Dark Bittersweet, Dates, Stewed Fruits, Caramel, Chocolate, Earth, Cream, Honey, Nuts
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Edit tea info Last updated by graceatblb
Average preparation
Boiling 2 min, 0 sec 5 g 18 oz / 539 ml

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62 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

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62 Tasting Notes

106 tasting notes

Mmm, definitely quite reminiscent of an unsweetened, rich, dark chocolate.

Not sure if it’s just my mind making things up after reading the description of this tea being made in cotton bags, but I did suddenly think of linens or cloths in the aftertaste. Not in a bad way, of course. More of a comforting, freshly air-dried in sunlight cloth way.

Of course, it’s finals week for me and it could just be the stress getting to me. Man, I can’t wait for this week to be over. One quiz down, two presentations (I will add here that I’m an incredibly shy person with a fair amount of social anxiety so I’m really not looking forward to that), another quiz, an exam, and a paper to go! And then another paper later next week, but I’ll deal with that one later.

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1769 tasting notes

If I had any notions of reducing my cupboard, they were blown out of the water today. I got lots and lots of tea for Christmas.

I wanted puerh after lunch to help keep the tummy happy after the holiday meal. My son and hubby usually want some whenever I have it, and this time they did indeed bring me a cup to fill. Then my eldest daughter wanted some. My, how far we have come from the days when they all turned their noses up at tea! My daughter’s fiancé had never tried puerh but he was game and gave it a try.

I am pleased to say that every last one of them liked this tea, even the puerh newbie. I made four steeps and then had to make four more. My daughter remarked that this wasn’t nearly as horsey as some we have had. I agree. It was rich and earthy, and the darker I made it the sweeter the aftertaste was.

I had high expectations and hopes for this one, and they were all met.

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37 tasting notes

Yes, again! I woke up ridiculously early (in fact, it is still ridiculously early) and headed out to my deck for a bunch of sun salutations. In the dark.It is already 64 lovely degrees and will get into the low 80s later. Right this minute, I love Texas weather. Ask me again in mid-July though. Today will be a very indulgent day for me. I SHOULD clean my house. Instead I’m doing yoga and going for a thai massage with a friend and trying a new restaurant later.

I got a whole bunch of new tea in the last week and I had every intention of trying something different this morning. And yet. Here I am sipping on a huge steamy mug of deep, dark, chocolately awesomeness with my dogs curled up in the bed. Because this is my indulgent day and THIS is what I wanted. I steeped for 7 minutes and even put in a little half and half a wee spoon of local creamed honey.

Special Dark reminds me very much of my yin yoga practice – long deep holds that you relax into. Yin is the black side of the coin. It is soft and slow and surrender.

I have an insanely stressful job and this is helping me hit the re-set button. This tea is all bottom. Like J-Lo, Kim Kardashian kinda bottom. Big, round and and full. This tea is Barry White singing Love Serenade – its alll about the little bit of naughty slow jam: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qj1QRbhEmlU


Sounds like a great day! I love yoga and hope to get back to it some day!


“I got a whole bunch of new tea in the last week and I had every intention of trying something different this morning. And yet. Here I am sipping on a huge steamy mug of deep, dark, chocolately awesomeness …” Sounds wonderful! Garret should be very very happy!


@TeaBrat – I promise you that I am not exaggerating when I say that for me, yoga was/is absolutely life changing. There are so many kinds that you can find one that works for you and makes your life better, even if your life is just fine the way it is.

@Tman – Well a whole bunch of the new tea that came was from Garret :) – but he strikes me as a pretty happy guy in general anyway. I need to get on trying all of my new Keemuns.


It’s looseTman as opposed to Tbagman :-)


@TeaBrat – I read your post about yoga wrong. You want to get back to it – not start it. I think its naptime.


I am happy LooseTman :) tea and yoga! Yoga is amazing. Yoga is life. So happy to know more tea heads who are into yoga.


The Steepster community appears to truly enjoy your teas. I look forward to the Mandala Tea experience. Congrat’s on your success!


Thanks a ton, Tman! We are the epitome of a small business. 3 people trying to make this whole thing go so it is very gratifying to be able to feel the love, that’s for sure. I began importing tea back in 2005 but since selling my wellness center and focusing only on tea (opened this new shop exactly one year ago in Rochester, MN), it is actually happening for us. Hard work, countless hours, but more and more joy to be experienced all the time. Have a great day, my friend!


You’re welcome! May you also have a great day Garret!

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156 tasting notes
I only did one brew with 8 grams in the yixing and only one 30 second steep so far. This is a very rich an velvety tea. It has notes of cocoa and slight hints of bittersweet chocolate also. It left me wanting another cup and I think it will eventually morph into a sweet caramel note in the later steeps. I wish I had done another cup last night while writing these notes but I will continue later today. This one has a certain “richness” that I have found only in the highest grade shous. It is a very impressive shou.

Flavors: Cocoa

Boiling 0 min, 45 sec 8 g 10 OZ / 295 ML

I love this one :)


It’s a keeper for sure. I may buy some of this and put it up for a decade and see how it is then.


I also thought it was impressive, and i’m so happy to have a decent supply of it. For now…nice to know you consider it special enough to want to age it :-)


Yeah when I can afford it and also the Green sheng I drank the other night. I just put 4 other orders in and I think I am going to be in real trouble for doing it….


(just make sure to intercept the mailman first…to avoid the kind of troubles I think you are referring to…just saying)


I better “bribe” the mailman you mean!


Haha! Now I know the extend of your troubles! Yes then, a bribe might be the only way out…(hmm, does he like good pu’erh by any chance??)


I shower my mailwoman in chocolate. And I love Special Dark.


I may have to pay out cash this time!

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48 tasting notes

Nothing too offense after two long rinses but nothing worth $8/oz either. I have brewed it a few different ways and still can not seem to get a “80” rating taste out of it, not a bad ripe to start with before delving into the pantheon of puer but even some big box brands ive had better and for much cheaper (still prefer rishi’s shous over this and they are almost half the price and “organic” not that it matters but it doesnt hurt).

Boiling 0 min, 30 sec 4 g 100 OZ / 2957 ML

Hi!! This is Garret from Mandala Tea, wishing you a great day. I am sorry to hear that you have not been enjoying the Special Dark. It is a very big seller here for us, but not every tea can be loved by every person.

Just out of curiosity, can you tell me what you are using for water when you prepare your tea. There can be some HUGE differences in the tea depending of the water one uses to make it. Let me know when you get a chance. I’m interested to see if that may be part of what is giving you such a different experience for this (or any other tea).

Joy and good health to you!!

Jiāng Luo

Im honored and embarrassed someone from the company of the tea I reviewed is replying(thank you for the sample of gaba black btw). Until recently I was using the filtered water from my refrigerator but the city works cut off my water last week and I have been using spring bottled water. I do not believe it is water quality but I was curious about your recommended steeping times for my gaiwan I have learned this shou tasted better after two long rinses.


I love it when I have the chance to reply to users on Steepster, I am the one who is honored :) Please don’t be embarrassed. I hope you enjoy the GABA black. It is a tie guan yin varietal leaf fully oxidized into a black tea. It’s been quite popular since we began importing it. It has a sweetness to it and also the typical tie guan yin slight sourness. Very interesting tea.

Spring water is good. I just really recommend that people stay away from RO water or distilled because of the lack of minerals. Can’t get the taste from the tea without the minerals. It is always a good idea to use water without chlorine in it, too, as that chemical tends to really zap tea of its flavor.

As far as ripe style pu’er teas, I typically do two (boiling) rinses of about 5 to 10 seconds if the tea is loose leaf, slightly longer if it is compressed. With the special dark, I start with steepings around 15 seconds and slowly increase from there. That’s how I like it. Others report using less leaf and doing longer steepings. I’m always telling people to experiment and see how they like it prepared in various ways. Some drinkers allow the brewed tea to cool a bit in the cup before they sip and that does change the characteristics of the tea somewhat. Fun to see what might make it your cup of tea :)

Great to have some conversation about it. Thank you! Garret

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505 tasting notes

This is one of those teas that seems to get a lot of attention, and is especially popular in swaps. I got my sample that way.

So, I was really debating on how to brew this baby up this morning, since I know it’s a re-steep master. And so I read a lot of people doing many short steeps, increasing steep time as they went along. I also noted the power steepers…the ones that steeped for very long periods of the…so what was I going to do?

Because I was working today, I opted to kind of mix the two. I had my usual two travel mugs of tea…my kids mug and timolino. Normally when I steep in the morning, it is the same tea, and I split each steep between mugs as to minimize the weaker steep. Today though, I didn’t do it that way. Kids mug was first steep since that one cools off faster than the timolino. Also, I opted for 1-2 minutes on the first and 2-3 minuets on the second (and the time it took me to do dishes on the third when I got home). I’m quite accustomed to a dark pu erh, so it was no biggie…I just didn’t have the time to sit and steep multiple times today, but maybe on a later day I will. Also, it was effing cold out this morning, and a deeper richer brew was A-OK with me, to be perfectly honest. The fact that it is so coffee-like with a dark brew was hearty and warming.

Do I like this? Hellz yeah. I had it with milk and sugar and it was smooth, a bit sweet and chocolatey. On this third brew, there is no astringency, no fishiness, not much earthy, or sour. It’s smooth and creamy and sweet and yummy.

It’s definitely one of the better pu erh teas I have had. I have a little of the sample pouch left, so I may look into the alternate steeping, and may not use milk or sugar.

But this is a win, so thanks to CrowKettle for tossing the rest of this package my way.

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26 tasting notes

while still tasty, I think I’ve had this so much it’s losing its complexity to me and is starting to seem pretty one-note—still, when I want something dark and nutty, I reach for it :)

most recently, been loving butter tea with this.

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