Special Dark

Tea type
Pu-erh Tea
Not available
Dark Chocolate, Dark Bittersweet, Caramel, Chocolate, Leather, Malt, Wood, Mushrooms, Cocoa, Earth, Bitter, Grain, Hay, Plums, Baked Bread, Brown Sugar, Raisins, Honey, Dates, Stewed Fruits, Cream, Nuts
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Edit tea info Last updated by Jason
Average preparation
Boiling 2 min, 15 sec 6 g 10 oz / 309 ml

Available from 1 seller.

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120 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.

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120 Tasting Notes

628 tasting notes

I tried this tea out on my mom yesterday and she liked it! Yay! She’s a black tea drinker, so I think this one turned out to be a easy puerh for her to drink. She didn’t sound too enthused about the wood flavor I get in other puerhs, so this was a good choice. We enjoyed it with chocolate-dipped biscotti! Yum!

I also brought a raw puerh for comparison, but I just showed her and my dad the dry leaf, to which my dad said it smelled like chocolate….what?!!! I’ll have to brew up one of those in the future so they can smell what it’s really like….not chocolate! Ha!


yay for great experience!

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828 tasting notes

Sipdown! (124) (Yay I’m halfway to 100!)

Giving this tea a second chance today! I found that I didn’t enjoy it much gong fu style, each steep was bitter to me. Apparently this is unusual? So today, I’m trying it Western-style to see if I find it more agreeable that way. I did two teaspoons in boiling water for 7 minutes.

Meh, I guess this tea is just not for me. I will say that I think I prefer this method to gong fu, because it doesn’t taste as strongly woody as before. However, it’s still quite bitter. To me, it kind of tastes like biting into a bar of baking chocolate, and I do not consider that a pleasant experience. I added some sugar and soy milk to see if that would help temper the bitterness, and it did lessen it slightly. However, I don’t really want to buy a tea that I have to drink with sugar and milk.

I’m really kind of torn on whether or not to rate this, since it seems everyone else loves it. But I’m not really biased here so I don’t see why not… Hmm!

Boiling 7 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

I think you used too much tea for 8 oz of water. I would try again with only 1 tsp. Less tea usually means less bitterness.


Also, I think seven minutes is way too long, try only 2 or 3 minutes.


1 tablespoon is the recommended amount, actually…


I know a lot of people on here like to brew this up Western style. Me? I brought this tea over here to the US cause I dig it gong fu style, very short steepings. I guess for a 5 ounce gaiwan, I use 2 tsp or so, maybe a hair more, but I’m doing a rinse and then steepings that are “touch and go” for the first 3 or 4, slowly increasing time. I’ve enjoyed more than my share of western brews of this, though :)


When you hit 100 are you off hiatus?

Cameron B.

Marz, that was the original plan but we shall see! :P

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118 tasting notes

Aroma: Damp earth
Liquor Color: Deep red
Liquor Flavor: Dark, rich, woody, bitter coca
Notes: This one was dark, and super rich. A little too much so for me but I can see why people like it. I’ll give it a whirl again with less leaf and take it from there.

Boiling 0 min, 45 sec

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361 tasting notes

I received an 8g sample of this with my last order. I used the whole thing. This tea was good. I steeped it six times in a 160ml teapot. First 10 sec, then 10 sec, 10 sec, 15 sec, 30 sec, and 30 sec. I immediately noticed the chocolate notes. They were very strong notes of bitter chocolate in the first two infusions. The chocolate notes changed their character in the remaining four steeps. They took on the notes of half bitter chocolate, half sour plums/dates. This tea has no remaining fermentation flavor to it, the tea broth has cleared. I just bought another four ounces of this, and I had not yet tried this sample that Garret gave me with my last order.

Flavors: Dark Chocolate, Plums

Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 8 g 5 OZ / 160 ML

I brewed the tea in this great little pot. It pours really well. It was the first time using this pot.


The pot is gorgeous. i love the tray too. where did you get it?


I bought it from a great EBay vendor called Streetshop88.


That is I bought the tray from Streetshop88. I bought the Gaiwan from an Amazon seller called Ufingo.


Said Gaiwan, meant teapot.


Ufingo is a great seller. Here is a link for the pot. When I bought it I got a set with a Cha Hai and six 50ml teacups.


OMG. i gotta get this teapot. I shouldnt show it to TheTeaFairy;)

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345 tasting notes

Well I thought I’d bust this one open and try it while I’m just sitting around today. I’m not getting the cocoa/chocolate that people write about. It’s very dark and reminds me of coffee. I don’t really know what things it all tastes like right now but dark is a good descriptor. It’s ok but I dunno, gotta try it some more I think.

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1740 tasting notes

Brewed in an all-too-infrequently-used yixing pot…a delicious afternoon.


Yay! Hope it also helped that nasty cough of yours :-)


It did, until right now, which is probably due to me not drinking any for the past twenty minutes! Time for a resteep.


Special Dark! Just brewed this up for a coffee-addicted friend in the shop yesterday. I don’t think he’s gonna be coffee-addicted for long. He adored it. He sent a message a couple of hours later and said the energy he got from that tea is so much cleaner than coffee. I’m not saying he should quit coffee. I’m just saying he should start drinking tea. The rest will take care of itself :)

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59 tasting notes

I haven’t logged here in awhile. Life has been busy, but also, in my home the computer seems to always have someone sitting in front of it (I’m going to have to make more of an effort to steal a bit of time and log what I’m drinking).
I made this tea this morning (it’s out of my ifjuly supply of awesome tea), and to say that I’m loving it would be an understatement. I followed ifjuly’s instructions that came in the baggie of this sample (her little notes with each tea are my favourite…), rinsing, then 30 sec. steep, followed by 20 sec. additions after that. She also added in a bit about it being good with a tad of milk and sugar…. So, I jumped right in and tried it like that, even though I’d never do that on my own, but only because I’d trust that woman with my teacup anytime. ANYTIME! Needless to say, it’s delicious that way. Which, thinking about it now, of course it would be, since the characteristics of pu-erh are so ‘baked good’-like to me.
This tea is amazing. Comforting and so yummy.
Thanks, ifjuly for once again making my tea experience incredible.

Flavors: Baked Bread, Brown Sugar, Caramel, Raisins


She is amazing! This tea is amazing!


Really happy you enjoyed the Special Dark. It’s one of a kind. I keep working at sourcing super-duper small batch ripe tea like this. It’s out there, just not always so good. Thanks for writing the review! With gratitude, Garret


Thanks for sourcing such wonderful tea!! :)

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2072 tasting notes


So I really don’t like pu’erh teas. Perhaps one day my tastes will develop enough that I grow to enjoy them but so far that has not happened. Nonetheless, Cavocorax was generous enough to share a sample of this with me so I figured it was at least worth trying it.

When I first sniffed the dry leaf, there was nothing offensive about the smell so that was comforting. I boiled the kettle, rinsed the leaves for 30 seconds, and that brought out the fishy pu’erh scent that I hate so nerves kicked in. I then steeped the tea for 30 seconds and the result is not as bad as I anticipated given the smell while rinsing. Luckily, there is no fishy taste in this cup however, it is not the cup of liquid chocolate that so many others seemed to experience either. Instead, it is a little bit mushroom and a little bit of dark chocolate and I don’t know about you guys but chocolate-covered mushrooms seems like a weird snack. Ultimately, though this is far more tolerable than other pu’erhs I have tried, I just don’t think I am a pu’erh fan. I am very grateful to Cavo for the chance to try this out though because it has received so much love on steepster lately that I was actually a bit curious. Plus, if I can’t enjoy this one, I feel it is safe to say that pu’erh is just “not my cup of tea” (sorry for that :P).


I’m the same way, it makes me feel like something is lacking me somehow, but maybe with time…


Maybe. I mean, I never thought I would outgrow my flavored black stage but more and more I find myself reaching for straight blacks so perhaps pu’erh will come with time. Though, tbh, it is nice being able to completely overlook a type of tea when shopping.


I am in that same place, starting to want straight blacks more and more.


Mmm, chocolate covered mushrooms. ;) I think the earthy/mushroomy taste is super neat, but it’s not something I crave often. I drink the flavoured bready puerh teas way more frequently.


I got mushrooms too. But I like it with cream :)


I tend to steep this for a long time – like 8 minutes? It brings the chocolate out, but I can’t say if it enhances the mushrooms or not…

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260 tasting notes

Method 1: 1.5 tsp, 4 oz, 208 degrees, seconds: 30, 45, 60, ru kiln gaiwan. Then I blended these together to make 1 cup of tea

Method 2: 1 tbsp, 8 oz, 208 degrees, grandpa style

Method 3: Slightly less than 1 tbsp, 8 oz, 195 degrees, 2 and 3 minutes, Forlife brew-in-mug strainer, Dr. Who mug

Dry Leaf Aroma: chocolatey forest. This smells like Pennsylvania forests when you’re out for a nice hike. But then someone came along and dumped chocolate in the forest!

Brewing Aroma: Cocoa and stuff. It smells pleasant, but earthy. I can’t pick out the exact thing it reminds me of.

Flavor: The first method used shorter steeps. It was good, but it didn’t knock me off my feet. I could taste some of the chocolate notes, but it didn’t seem to have as much complexity as I expected.

The second method was quite unpleasant. The package says you can’t oversteep pu’erh. Since I love grandpa style tea so much (lazy), I decided to just let it sit and see what happened. Well I beg to differ, but you certainly CAN oversteep pu’erh! LOL. I call this one: The Burninator. It tasted like burnt dirt.

The third method was the goldilocks. Finally, woo! I took a sample out at one minute, two minutes and three minutes. Two and three were the best. I think I actually liked two the best, but you can’t go back! So I drank it at 3 minutes. The flavor is kind of hard to describe. I can taste a little cocoa, and some earthy flavors, but I can’t put my finger on them. I haven’t had many pu’erhs, so maybe I’ll get better at that as I go along. It’s a very rich tea. I suspect it would go well with some decadent dessert. I’ll be trying that soon! I would definitely buy this again.

195 °F / 90 °C 3 min, 0 sec 3 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML
Cameron B.



Burninating the countryside, burninating the peasants!

Cameron B.

Burninating all the people in their THATCHED ROOF COTTAGESSSSSSSSSS!



If you add some milk and sugar or maple syrup you can have a nice treat ;)


We need someone to make a Trogdor tea.

Cameron B.

Definitely lapsang souchong…


Boychik: I’ll try that when I buy some more maple syrup!

Cameron: Totally agree. Maybe I’ll buy some and make a blend. :)

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294 tasting notes

As soon as the hot water hit this, and I got a whiff of pond water, I started to panic. What did I do? What did I get myself into? Why did I trust all the reviews. This isn’t going to taste sweet and chocolaty and caramelly. This is going to taste like licking pond scum. I stood there in fear during that 1st 30 second steep.

Tentatively, I took a sip. Nearly holding my breath, it seemed like it took an extra second for my mind to register what I was tasting. Hm, what’s this? This isn’t pond water at all! I don’t really know what to say about that first sip. I was baffled, no bad notes about it. I didn’t really taste any cocoa in those first few sips. It was much lighter than I expected, sweet, and almost caramelly. By the time I finished my first cup, I had decided I needed to skip class today and continue to experience this tea (I mean I didn’t have my notebook, that’s why I skipped class. Not because of tea. Good girls don’t skip class because of tea).

Second infusion, I went 45 seconds, and this time I got more cocoa notes. Again I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that puerh isn’t as dark and bitter and I guess straight coffee-ish as I expected. This is my first straight puerh, and the only other one I had was minty so I didn’t like it. But this? This is good.

I followed the increase by 15 seconds directions until the 5th steep, where I went up by a minute. MMM I’m definitely getting cocoa powder this time. And caramel. I drank about half the cup, and then saw the Ghiradelli Dark Chocolate with SeaSalt Caramel squares on the counter. I dropped on into my cup, and made up the 6th infusion (3 minutes) and poured that into too. Oh my decadence. This is like sweet sinful chocolate dessert in a cup. So chocolaty, with notes of caramel, some almost nuttiness, and a sort of earthiness. This is like a very complex and delicious hot chocolate. Oh my word. I’m sure I can get some more out of those leaves, but for now my tummy is nice and full and satisfied.

Not bad at all for what essentially is my first puerh, and my first Mandala order!

205 °F / 96 °C 3 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

I really regret not trying this when it was in a TTB.


Its really good! I can send you some if you like?


Sure! Let me know if there’s something in my cupboard you would like in exchange.


(warning, my cupboard isn’t 100% up to date. I’m hoping to clean it up this weekend, but it’s mostly accurate.)


Thanks for writing this up, Mandy! What a great ending to the story :) Yay!

Cheri – until midnight tonight you can check out all kinds of our loose ripe pu’er for 50% off. We’ve never done this kind of sale in 9 years of importing tea. If you have any questions, let me know. http://shopmandalatea.com/sale-items.html

I hope you are both having a super sweet day! Garret


I saw in one of your tasting notes that you have Milk Oolong from ThePeriTea coming in. If you’re willing to part with some I’d love to try that! I meant to order some Milk Oolong from Mandala and was so mad when I realized I forgot. If not I’d also love to try Lemon French Macaron from Butiki (:


Phew! Mandy I’m so happy you got your fairytale ending with Special Dark, yay!!!


My Mandala order arrived today and I gave this one a try, but I am going to try again before I write it up. I definitely found some chocolate/cocoa, but it wasn’t sweet or caramelly. I liked it, but I think I can get more out of this.


I’m tempted, Garret, but I’m completely new to pu’er. I wouldn’t know what to order, and I’d be worried I’d order the wrong thing. I think even though it’s an amazing deal, I’m going to have to sit this one out. I’ll try the sample of it from Mandy, and see what I think.


Sarsonator how long did you steep it for? I saw a lot of people found more cocoa and caramel coming out with longer steeps. Also the more times I steeped it the more caramel and cocoa seemed to come out. And if you aren’t against sweetening your tea, a touch of sweetener really draws out those notes

Cheri I also got Temple Stairs in my order, I haven’t tried it yet but I’d be more than happy to send you a bit of that too. It’s supposed to be a good beginner puerh from what I understand. Probably what I should have started with but I went for this one instead. I’m a complete newbie to puerhs too (;


I’d be interested, sure.


I did 30, 45, 60. I’ll try one long steep and see how that goes. :)


Don’t tell garret, but I cheat….I do five minutes. Then I go mmmmmm!!!

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