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

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102 Tasting Notes

95
234 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!

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 3 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML
Cheri

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

Mandy

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

Cheri

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

Cheri

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

Garret

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

Mandy

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 (:

TheTeaFairy

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

Sarsonator

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.

Cheri

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.

Mandy

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 (;

Cheri

I’d be interested, sure.

Sarsonator

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

TheTeaFairy

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

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86
108 tasting notes

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.

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 3 min, 0 sec 1 g 6 OZ / 177 ML
MzPriss

Awww :( sorry you didn’t care for it Dr Jim. This tea is my boyfriend that I will never break up with. I have some every morning. And it’s another illustration of how differently we all taste things.

looseTman

Perhaps: 5 g / 10 oz / 212 / rinse / 5 min, 10 min ?

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97
696 tasting notes

(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.
Preparation
Boiling 4 min, 0 sec
TheTeaFairy

Yes, so good this one!

MzPriss

This is my comfort tea. I promise you can do a 7 minute steep on this. But it’s great gong fu’d too – I just don’t have time very often.

Veronica

I can totally see how a 7 minute first steep would be amazing! I’m leaving the rest in the box for others to enjoy, but I’ll pick up some of my own very soon. :)

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65
75 tasting notes

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.

TheTeaFairy

Lol, to each their own. I really like it but I overleaf a little, have you tried that?

Stephanie

How long did you steep? I like 1 tbs per 8oz boiled water for 5 minutes. It is all cocoalicious then! :(

Frolic

I’ve done quite a few steeping parameters but haven’t found any that work. I do tend to underleaf in general but with this tea I’m trying not to.

How much do you overleaf by TeaFairy? I might give it another go. I really really want to like this tea!

It doesn’t ever taste bad. It’s just kinda meh.

TheTeaFairy

That’s why I think you may be under-leafing it, cause to me it’s so flavourful, tastes like chocolate covered raisins! I weigh it, and use 7g for a 6oz Gaiwan. I brew for just a few seconds the first steeps.

If I do it western style, it’s the same as Stephanie, a full tablespoon for about 5 min.

Frolic

Do you prefer the western or the gaiwan?

TheTeaFairy

Honestly, I’d always prefer Gongfu over Western if it wasn’t for the time consuming issue. But I have to say this one works really well both ways, IMHO.

Dexter

LOL LOVE this one – two big tsp/8oz steep forever – 9 minutes is not too long – IMHO it just keeps getting darker and richer the longer you steep it…

Frolic

Ok I’m going to do a really long steep with tons of leaf tonight and see how it turns out.

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13 tasting notes

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. :)

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 15 sec 10 g 5 OZ / 150 ML
TheTeaFairy

Yes, I can totally see why this tea would appeal to any coffee lover! Used to drink mine black also :-)

mrmopar

Yay! You will find this stuff will grow on you!

Garret

I just got done packaging a bunch of this tea. There is something special about such a very small batch ripe tea like this. I’ve got my feelers out all of the time for ripes processed like this one was.

I’ll never ever forget my first ripe pu’er. So exciting. And then I went to China and experienced raw pu’er and had a whole other experience. I love both styles. First tea of the day has been a ripe pu’er for years and years. The last two years, my first tea has been Noble Mark. Then I usually switch to raw pu’er and whatever else is being brewed up in the shop at any given time.

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519 tasting notes

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!

boychik

I’m glad you like it. You can make a latte with some maple syrup. It just soo good, like hot chocolate.

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501 tasting notes

Giving this one another try….

This time I rinsed then let it steep 3 min @ boiling and added milk.

The milk helped, but I’m still getting mushrooms with this! Sooo frustrating.

I really do appreciate the chance to try it though. Thank you MzPriss!

I’m going to check out the Imperial Dark again to see if I still prefer it. Funny!

boychik

I didn’t get any mushrooms. Can you make it gongfu style? 1tbsp 212F rinse short steeps like 5/10/15 sec

whatshesaid

I tried doing 1 min the first time, I could try even shorter steeps to see
Though people recommended longer steeps to get the chocolatey flavor, I get zero cocoa!

Garret

Funny to see this review as I just finished a tea class with a group of people and the last tea that I brewed up was the Special Dark. We brewed it two different ways – gongfu (with steepings starting at 15 seconds) and western style. Gong fu style, people commented on hints of pecans, walnuts and baked goods, while western style yielded comments about the cocoa notes.

6 people were in the class and it was really something to here everyone say walnuts at the same time. Uncanny almost. Nutty, even :)

Stephanie

I love it Western style!

whatshesaid

I’m going to have to try gongfu style!

MzPriss

@whatshesaid – you are very welcome. We all have different tastes. I don’t like to contemplate a work morning without a huge mug of this western style. I like it gong fu as well, but this is my happy day starter.

whatshesaid

I just tried a 15-20 sec resteep and though I didn’t get mushrooms, still no cocoa or nuts!

I hate when this happens, makes me feel like my tongue is betraying me :/

boychik

hold on, it could be water. i had some Yunnan the same as Lee, steeped the same parameters and it came out different. i used filtered tap water and she uses some special filtered one.

whatshesaid

I usually use tap water but could try some bottled water to see!

Garret

Water is HUGE when it comes to tea. Chlorine will zap tea flavor and is found in city tap water. Best to filter it out with some carbon-based filtration system. If you do get bottled water, just make sure it is spring water and not reverse osmosis or distilled. Also, check the “bottled on” date and get the freshest water you can.

Water is the mother of tea. The better the water, the better the tea. I read an old quote the other day: “if you take tea that is an 8 and brew it with water that is a 10, the tea will also be a 10. If you take tea that is a 10 and brew it water that is an 8, the tea will also be an 8.”

Tea is 99.9% water, after all :)

whatshesaid

Ok @Garret, I tried it with bottled spring water and you’re right, the taste is very different.
Next time I will do steep one that way so i can really compare!

Now I have to break the news to my husband that I’m going to need a permanent supply of filtered/ spring water, lol

Garret

Water filtration is less expensive than buying water. Additionally, you won’t have the bottles to deal with. There are systems that will sit right next to your sink. Like these: http://crystalquest.com/countertop%20water%20filters.htm

These are much more effective than the pitcher style types or the ones that attach and hang on the faucet itself. I can get you set up with any of these. I’ve been a dealer for this company since I owned my wellness center. I’d love to help, if you would like. You can shoot me an email at [email protected]

Otherwise, I’m sure that you can find similar systems near you. Make sure to get activated carbon rather than charcoal. There are also undersink models, if that might work for you better. Just don’t get reverse osmosis. No good for tea. Gives you water that is one-dimensional in flavor. You want full-on 3-D!

Wishing you all the joy you can stand!

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96
107 tasting notes

Stephanie is so awesome to include this as an extra in her swap package! And I must announce that this is my first Mandala tea ever.

I don’t drink pu’erh much. My palate isn’t adjusted for it, especially shou pu’erh. This mostly tastes earthy – wonderfully earthy, not as strong as the other few shou pue’rhs I’ve tried – though I was able to detect the chocolate and cocoa notes. Additionally, the liquor is full-bodied, brisk, and thick.

Delicious! I don’t think I’d have to drink a hundred pu’erhs to discern that this one is a good one. I’m so glad Stephanie gave me the opportunity to try it :]

Flavors: Chocolate, Cocoa, Earth

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 30 sec 2 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML
Garret

Thanks so much for writing about your experience with this pu’er! I smile as I hear about another person who doesn’t drink much pu’er but digs this one. It is a pretty refined shu pu’er and is so accessible for so many. Glad you found it enjoyable.

I am grateful that you took the time to write this up. – Garret

KiwiDelight

You’re welcome! I just had to write a review :]

Stephanie

Yay!! I’m glad you liked it, Kiwi :)

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98
4 tasting notes

A small note about myself, I do not like coffee since I was a child (I know I committed a crime! But I am not American so I guess I get a get-out-of-jail-free-card! ;p!) I mention this because most people try to find a ripe tea to replace their morning coffee but I am on a mission for a morning tea for tea not coffee…

Method: Gong Fu
I used my new gaiwan (120ml) and did 2 flash rinses. Began with a 30 second steeping and increased 15 seconds in subsequent infusions.

The first infusion has a bitter aftertaste, but a good bitter, and a nice full feeling in the mouth and almost cocoa taste in the back of the tongue. However, my favorite infusions were the ones after the first two! Bitterness completely gone by the second steeping but the thicker body and cocoa notes lingered so vividly in my mouth quickly after the second steeping. Utterly pleasant! In this pu erh I do not get any mushroom or earthiness, at least not like Phatty Cake, its tenderly sweet with toffee like notes coating my tongue. Did I mention how pleasant this pu erh is? Its very pleasant and gentle! Honey hints in the middle steepings still lingering chocolately mouth feel. I lost count on how many steepings I did but I brewed this until it was almost hot water! Loved this tea so much! Need to get more later! The last infusions were more floral with a hint of cocoa, like I said, I brewed this until I couldn’t really squeeze any for flavors!

This is truly a Special Dark pu erh! Please, join the Dark side! We have tea!

Flavors: Chocolate, Cocoa, Honey

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 30 sec 5 g 4 OZ / 120 ML

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100
127 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

TeaBrat

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

looseTman

“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!

MzPriss

@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.

looseTman

It’s looseTman as opposed to Tbagman :-)

MzPriss

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

Garret

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

looseTman

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

Garret

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!

looseTman

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

Jude

Oh yeah, after a session of yin I feel like a bird flying … so wonderful… and only discovered it in my 4th decade of life after 20 years of other types of yoga! Other styles of yoga are great but yin is different. So if this tea is like yin, I am going to have to try it.

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