Brewed in an all-too-infrequently-used yixing pot…a delicious afternoon.
“This tea has been comforting me during the ice storm today. Hope all my fellow Midwestern Steepsterites are warm and safe! I'm going to go build a fire now...seems appropriate :)” Read full tasting note
“I haven't felt much like drinking tea lately, and even less like writing about it. My dog of 14 years passed away over the weekend and the days leading up to it were pretty tough. I'm trying to...” Read full tasting note
“This is delicious! The first steep was a little light...hint of dark chocolate powder. The 2nd steep was deeper, richer, like putting a pinch of gourmet dark chocolate powder on my tongue &...” Read full tasting note
“I saw Terri Harplady steeped Special Dark for like 7 minutes and I totally needed to try it! I tasted it at 5 minutes and WHOA THAT IS FREAKING DARK! Rich, burnt chocolate with almost a nutty...” Read full tasting note
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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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
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).
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.
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!
I think I’m just not cut out to like Pu-erh. It’s not from lack of trying. I’ve bought a half-dozen samples from various sources, but never pu-erh specialists. I was excited about the unfavored TTB, primarily because it promised an importunity to sample many of the highest-rated pu-erhs. If I didn’t like those, then pu-erh just wasn’t for me. My first attempt (Mandala Wild Monk) didn’t end to well, though some of the blame may fall on my steeping technique. This was my second attempt.
Not wanting to use too much of a limited sample, I went western-style. The nose was light. The flavors were deep and dark; earthy with hints of chocolate and a tinge of bitterness. Not exciting me the way I hoped it would. Reminds me a bit of a medium-quality Yunnan. As it cooled, I could hold it in my mouth longer, and feel the power and complexity, but the flavor profile isn’t one that I enjoy: earthy and woody and dark. I wound up rating this fairly high because it was interesting, but it isn’t a tea that I would buy.
(From the Unflavored Traveling Tea Box)
MzPriss wrote a tea note earlier today saying this tea took her to her happy place. Since she was kind enough to add some of this to the tea box I thought I’d give it a try and see if it took me to a happy place, too.
Whoa… this is crazy good. MzPriss recommended a 7 minute steep, but I wussed out at 4 minutes after doing a quick rinse. The resulting liquor was very dark and the smell was earthy. The first few sips I drank plain. The taste was unsweetened cocoa and earth with maybe a hint of something nutty in the aftertaste. After adding a bit of sweetener I tasted dark chocolate and stone-fruit. There was still some of the earthy flavor and a definite nuttiness in the aftertaste. Like I said, crazy good.
I did a second steep of the leaves for 8 minutes. It was longer than I intended, but I wasn’t as worried this time. Since I was experimenting I added sugar and milk to my cup. Now I taste chocolate and caramel. As the tea cools I get more of the earthy, kind of spicy notes in the tea.
So, here is another tea I’m going to buy. This tea is begging to be experimented with. I want to try much shorter steeps, very long first steeps, all day sessions… this is a tea of wonderful possibilities.Delicious.
Oh Special Dark, I had such high expectations from you. Maybe I read too many reviews, maybe I just put you on a pedestal before even drinking you.
But you taste thin :( and dare I say almost weak? Now don’t go feeling bad, compared to a regular black tea you are a fine specimen. I just…expected more from you. I wanted you to work so badly. I did short gong fu steeps and long western steeps but you never lived up to my expectations.
I think the next time we work together it might be best to gasp add some milk and sugar but there’s only so many times I can stand the disappointment, It’s not your fault , I know there are plenty of others that love you and I may have to pass you along to one of them.
I cringe as I rate you but I must be truthful. I’m sure you are a good tea, we just aren’t soul mates.
My first foray into Pu-er and I was not prepared for the intensity of Special Dark. The first infusion and I realized that Pu-er is in a totally different taste dimension compared to where I’ve been with tea. Luckily I was once and avid coffee drinker and straight black was my preference. So after I sat up and took notice of this foundational shift I am relishing my 2nd infusion, and immersing myself in decadent chocolately bliss.
Oh my, what devilish temptations have I opened myself up to? To late now, 3rd infusion coming up. :)
Not even really sure what to say about this one. It’s the only pu-erh I can say at this point that I can drink more than one cup of. :) It’s very interesting but I’m not sure I can pick out any specific flavors, it’s just very unique. Not what I associate with pu-erh, which is good. Thanks for the sample, boychik!