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Recent Tasting Notes
I received this YEAAARRRS ago. But somehow have only tried it now? It really does seem like this one would be all flash, no substance, with that shiny foil and odd shape. BUT NO! It’s delicious! There really aren’t any negative qualities about this. It’s a decent amount of leaf when it unravels, as the shape somehow seems tightly packed. I can’t really be specific about flavors at the moment, but it was tasty enough to me. If it’s rich enough, I will usually call that a win for a ripe! Four great steeps. Why do I doubt Mandala? (at least how much I will enjoy their puerh?) They pick good stuff to sell!
I don’t know how to describe this tea…
I guess it’s the 2nd or 3rd Sheng I’ve had, but it really has a character all its’ own. The wild monk has come to visit.
This is from a 1oz loose bag and not the cake.
The body lingers on the tongue, it’s both bitter and sweet on the finish. The liquor is smooth and viscous. There’s a lot going on in the background which comes to the surface and leaves me wanting to poke my taste buds further into the cup, they are firmly awake after sipping this.
Maybe this is what people mean by “Shengy tang?” The tea has taken over my palate and is setting up camp for the long run. Maybe mushrooms or loam? I can’t get past the lemon/tang on first infusion, it makes my lips curl at the edges. The amazing thing here is the depth, especially compared to lighter or weaker teas.
As the tea cools, I taste the smoke come through, followed by an overbearing syrupy sweet/sour.
The nose on wet leaves is sour vegetables, bok choy and malt vinegar.
Definitely above average, lots of depth and character. I’m not craving this every day, but I did end up coming back to it because I wanted to explore again. That’s worth some points in itself.
Second infusion I had a friend try some, he pulled grapefruit which is apt to describing the sweet acidity this tea leaves in the mouth. Minutes later and the Hui Gan is still peaches and cream.
edit I stepped the water temp down to 170 DEGF from higher temps and the nature has improved, the tea is more balanced.
Flavors: Dark Bittersweet, Lemon, Sour, Tangy
I sort of waited to see if something would smack me into full note-taking mode here, and nothing did. I find I am enjoying shengs, but I can’t really tell why…? The floral and cedar/sandalwood tasting notes provided by Mandala got me pretty excited to try this; I think maybe I just need to sit more quietly and focus to find them, as it was nice but without any specific flavor-angels singing to me. Hm.
I’ve been loving the rain, but today felt like spring and I got so much done in the sunshine! ’Twas glorious, and inspired me to put some spring into my pot with these fragrant green joy-nugs.
Big big lilac everywhere. The first steep whispered smoke, actually(!) — then more expected flavors of grass and cornsilk, with creaminess after a few steeps.
Not the most refined leaves — the bottom was a little thin, and flavors were more distinct than melded — but a little sunshine-bringer nonetheless.
Flavors: Corn Husk, Creamy, Grass, Lilac, Smoke
Lilacs, lilacs, lilacs. Butter and green peppers. Lovely.
One time when I was a kid, my dad cut a whole bunch of purple and white lilacs off the bushes in our backyard and put them in a big jumbled pile. He asked me to take them up the hill to my mom. I looked down and I’d somehow managed to pick up all the purples in one hand and all the whites in the other. It blew my little mind that this miracle had occurred.
Flavors: Butter, Green Bell Peppers, Lilac
Sipdown, as I took my last brick to a class I’m taking this week. I steeped it grandpa for the morning. Unremarkable brewed this way — initial steeps were too strong, and later steeps very weak. In a narrow metal tumbler, I just didn’t find much to appreciate beyond the fact that I’m happier when I’m drinking tea than not.
Used a whole brick for this first session; I felt like half would be underleafing and I didn’t want to fraction it out any more than that, so in it went. Such pretty colors pressed into these pats of leaf.
Steaming leaves were both floral and vegetal, with some cream and butter. I actually didn’t break the brick up much, as I thought the large amount might benefit from the water having to do a little more work to suss them out. First pour without a rinse already has a nice full mouthfeel, with cream and vegetals dominating. I expect the florals will arrive in time, but how fun that they are waiting while we do something else for a minute.
Butter, cream, vegetal, and very… wispy… floral through subsequent steeps. The florals actually aren’t coming through like I was readying for them to, based on the package’s “this tastes like a high mountain oolong” claim. It’s lovely, to be sure, but I wouldn’t call it flowery. There is a bit of a cooling white tea note here. Every time I bring the cup up to my face I smell a tiny bit of funk, then when I search for it again it’s gone. Mouthfeel remains full, little to no astringency.
A nice little trip, and I have two more bricks left to explore with.
Flavors: Butter, Creamy, Vegetal
Little sample from Garret with my first Mandala Tea order. Opened it right up because it called to me. Not taking big effusive notes, as I wasn’t even planning on leaving one, but it’s a nice little session that convinced me otherwise. I’ve noticed some berries (darker on the leaf nose, and lighter as the session progressed), fruit, mineral, a bit of roast that is not at all the primary note, marshmallow at the end of the second steep. There’s an earthiness that actually reminds me of rooibos, which I don’t think I’ve experienced from an oolong before. Quite smooth, pretty thin/light mouthfeel. This isn’t my sirens-blaring-weak-in-the-knees kinda cuppa, but it’s really nice. I’d drink it again even if I don’t order it myself.
Flavors: Berry, Fruity, Marshmallow, Mineral, Roasty, Rooibos, Thin
Dag nabbit. I just lost my entire note!
Hello Steepsters :) Internet and tea-drinking took a backseat to nursing myself back to full health and attending to more pressing affairs this month. Sorry I dipped out in the midst of the “Tea Tag” thread taking off. Now that I’ve caught up on y’alls tealogs and have one more tasting note to add of my own, I’ll pop in there.
I managed to drink through an entire bag without taking one note, so this tasting note is for yesterday’s bowl. Spring 2022 harvest.
The aroma is vegetal-sweet and savory much like split pea soup with bacon. Thick, rich and sweet with low-toned but clear nutty-umami taste. I think about corn husk, sweet roasted chestnut and hazelnut, molasses and malt, peas, scallops, straw and white wine. Earthy-vegetal undertone like lightly smokey grilled asparagus and seaweed. The tea becomes more pungent and astringent with each top off. It’s a powerful tea that for me is not to be drank on an empty stomach. It went well with some vanilla yogurt and heavily buttered toast. If sheng pu’er upsets your constitution, I’d steer clear.
My first cup of this tea many months ago when it was very fresh was grandpa in a narrow thick-walled glass. In their description, Mandala likens this to an unoaked Chardonnay, and that’s exactly what the first cup was like! Now the white wine is more of a background vibe than an upfront character.
This is likely the same tea as Yunnan Sourcing’s Yunnan Pine Needles Green Tea I had before I joined Steepster. I remember not liking it back then as it was too intense and nutty, which is a flavor profile I often have trouble appreciating. It’s still not much my style but I can say this style of Yunnan green tea has plenty to offer.
Flavors: Asparagus, Astringent, Chestnut, Corn Husk, Earthy, Hazelnut, Malt, Meat, Molasses, Nutty, Peas, Pungent, Rich, Seafood, Smoke, Straw, Sweet, Thick, Umami, White Wine
This thermos is a beauty. Great proportions and a sleek visual contour which is amplified by the double wall glass construction. Smooth bamboo lid. Mandala’s pretty logo is well placed toward the bottom, which I appreciate, letting the color and transparency of the brew shine. The teas that produce the greatest visual appeal are my Chinese and Taiwanese teas, specifically green, white, unroasted oolong and lighter, fruitier red teas.
Functionally, it’s well constructed with high quality, moderately thick double walled glass that stays gently warm to the touch, not the typical thin, finger-scorching walls of most Chinese made glassware. It also doesn’t retain so much heat that it overbrews teas, unlike a stainless steel thermos (which also alters the taste of tea). Regardless of the thermos’s perceived sturdiness, it’s still glass so must be handled with care, especially while washing since the glass is so smooth. The neoprene sleeve takes away from the aesthetic but gives the comfort of knowing the thermos is protected when I put it in the side pocket of my backpack or lay it on my passenger seat before heading to work. For filtration, a shallow strainer screws into the basket, or it can be used alone. The two-part strainer allows for different ways to brew and drink your tea. The basket is big enough to hold up to 4 grams of my largest loose-leaf teas like big leaf Yunnan and Taiwanese reds, and can accommodate the unruly expansion of 3 grams of balled oolong with some cramping. I haven’t had any leak issues from the cap unless screwed too tight. Screwing until just closed plus a little nudge lets the steam create a vacuum that prevents leakage. The gasket inside the cap is easy to remove and clean.
Overall, I’m very happy with this beauty. My only issue with it is that I must use a bottle brush to clean the inside.
Now this was a weird one! This was the last tea I drank before I got sick in September, and prior to trying it, I had never previously tried black tea powder. I expected it to basically be prepared like matcha, and I was right. To me, it kind of came off somewhere between a Yunnan black tea and either a ripe pu’erh or a Liu Bao.
I prepared this tea by dumping approximately three grams of loose tea powder in an eight ounce mug and then adding a little 212 F water. After mixing the water and tea powder into a paste, I filled the mug with 212 F water and stirred briskly with a spoon. That’s it.
Prior to preparation, the tea powder gave off aromas of dust, earth, wood, old paper, smoke, and grass. After preparation, the aroma profile of the tea liquor did not seem different from that of the tea powder. In the mouth, I detected notes of earth, mushroom, forest floor, dust, grass, lemon rind, wood, cocoa, old paper, leather, smoke, and cream that were balanced by hints of ash, raisin, caramel, nutmeg, roasted walnut, brown sugar, coffee, roasted chestnut, betel nut, and cinnamon. The tea liquor was very gritty and bitter in the mouth and possessed a pronounced astringency. The aftertaste was odd, reminding me greatly of either a ripe pu’erh or a Liu Bao from Guangxi.
Honestly, I still have no clue how I feel about this tea. It was strange and not something I would be in any rush to try again, but at the same time, it was not exactly unpleasant. I kind of hated it at first, but the more of it I drank, the more I warmed up to it. If you can get past the gritty texture, the bitterness and astringency of the tea liquor, and the odd combination of aromas and flavors, this is actually something of a fun little offering with more depth and complexity than one should reasonably expect.
Flavors: Ash, Astringent, Bitter, Brown Sugar, Caramel, Chestnut, Cinnamon, Cocoa, Coffee, Cream, Dust, Earth, Forest Floor, Grass, Leather, Lemon, Mushrooms, Nutmeg, Nuts, Paper, Raisins, Smoke, Walnut, Wood
Tuocha is tidy and dark and basically looks like every ripe tuo cha. The dry leaves don’t have much scent beyond a vague dry earthiness. The wet leaves smell like leather while the broth is sparkling and richly amber instead of going that full coffee dark you sometimes get in a shou although it does go more darkly opaque in the 3-5th infusions before settling into a ‘black/red tea’ color. The flavor has elements of cedar and sawdust and some wet wood. This tea is an excellent daily drinker or work tea. Its maybe a little shallow and it doesnt have some of the staying power but I think a lot of that has to do with it being a tuocha with more of a dust elements. The tea is (expectedly) a lot more broken up which just lets it brew out faster but it delivers a punch for the fist ~8-10 infusions which is pretty good. While it doesn’t have a complex or nuanced series of infusions, it is pleasant to drink, has no hint of musk or funk, and even has some prominent flavor notes.
Brewed in 100ml purple clay teapot.
Flavors: Cedar, Earth, Leather, Sawdust
Ashmanra’s sipdown challenge – February 2023 Tea #4 -A tea swap tea or gifted tea
I wanted to finish these leaves here from Kawaii433 before they got any older. The last time I used only a teaspoon and a teaspoon just didn’t seem like enough at the time. Today I used at least two teaspoons for a big mug. The flavor was better! These long leaves taste almost like a Laoshan green, just not as strong. Nutty, creamed corn, a bit vegetal, a bit like spring flowers somehow. Definitely better with more leaves. Not astringent or overdone at all.
Steep #1 // 2+ teaspoons for a big mug // 30 minutes after boiling // 1-2 minute steep
Steep #2 // 25 minutes after boiling // 2-3 minute steep
2023 sipdowns: 15
From Kawaii433! Thank you very much! I love a fantastic green, I sighed just typing that. Unique looking leaves here, which is a weird thing to say about a tea (but I see more than one tasting note mentioning the look of the leaf). The flavor is lovely – sweet creamed corn, one of my favorite flavor profiles in a green tea. I’m not sure if it was the way I steeped it, but the flavor seemed a little light at times. But looking at the brew basket, maybe this is one of those teas that needs more than one heaping teaspoon. I have a little more to try again! This tea gets a very high Steepster rating, so I will definitely try something different next time.
Steep #1 // 1 heaping teaspoon for a full mug // 35 minutes after boiling // 1-2 minute steep
Steep #2 // 25 minutes after boiling // 2 minute steep
This mini from the Mandala sampler looks like this photo and the only English on the wrapper says “Lao Cang”. So I will post this here. Another tasty puerh, though not as strong to me as the two that I have previously and recently tried from the sampler. If I need a ripe puerh to be one thing, it needs to be Strong. But there aren’t any negative puerh qualities here either, so that’s fine with me. Not bad, not great. To be honest, the water might have been a bit cool on that first steep anyway. Notes of cocoa, berries. Looking at the leaves, they also look like large quality leaves. Seems to be the standard for Mandala. This one is a little light for me and sadly there are the most of these in the sampler. oooo… what if I steeped two at once in a big mug?!?! I will have to try that.
Steep #1 // 29 minutes after boiling // 3 minute steep
Steep #2 // 3 minutes after boiling // 3 min
Steep #3 // just boiled // 6 min
Ashmanra’s sipdown challenge – May 2023 Tea #5 – May 11 – National Eat What You Want Day
The most distinct thing I can describe of the mini tuocha I steeped today, it looks like there is a brown sunflower on the wrapper. I thought I had found that using two of this tiny tuochas really works best with this particular tuocha, and I really wanted to use two of them, so that is what I did (points to the prompt for today). Rich deliciousness. Not a sipdown. However, it looks like this one isn’t even on Steepster. So I was mistaking this tuocha for the Lao Cang. Oh well, you can’t really go overboard with ripe puerh but I will have to try a single tuocha at some point, rather than two.
edited to add: Some actual FLAVOR notes since I haven’t written any for this specific tuocha yet. It has a nice unoffensive flavor! Deep, rich, no negative qualities, a little biscuity. I do not regret accidentally steeping two of these at the same time! Rating: 92. But again, I have to try a single tuocha, since I have a sneaking suspicion I love overleafing the ripe!
So I have no idea the name of this mini puerh, so I will file any Mandala mini I can’t identify by Steepster photo under the Mandala sampler. I forgot to mention in the previous note, JakeB sent the sampler! Thank you, JakeB! Keep in mind this sampler is at least probably eight years old and is NOT the current Mandala variety of mini tuochas they have available. The white wrapping has a big brown circle and drawings of clouds at the sides. I can tell when the leaves unravel, this is another mini made with higher quality leaves, as they are quite big. The flavor is also rich for a mini – biscuity, bready. Second steep, the same plus cocoa. Third, a little weaker but still very delicious! I like this one a lot. Rating: 93 (I don’t want to rate the entire sampler based on one of the types in the sampler.)
Steep #1 // 29 minutes after boiling // 3 minute steep
Steep #2 // 17 minutes after boiling // 3 min
Steep #3 // just boiled // many minute steep
I recently saw that Shae wrote a note for a mini tuocha and the wrapper looked familiar… that I might have it in my Mandala mini tuocha grab bag. I did indeed have some of this wrapper design in that bag, and upon unwrapping the tuocha, I noticed it said 2012 and 2013Bada and Mengsong and made in 2014. The description for this one says that as well, so thanks to Shae, I figured out what one of the mini tuochas actually is! Maybe most of them say what they are on the wrapper…if I’d actually unwrap them and steep them up.
Anyway, this is delicious. Quite dark for a tuocha. Notes of coffee, dark chocolate, bready, and none of those pesky negative puerh qualities. Usually I would say a mini tuocha does not have enough leaf that I would normally use to my tastes, for a full mug of tea but this one passes the test! It is dark and rich enough! I wanted to mention ‘walnut’, while not trusting myself, but I notice derk mentions walnut, so now I can trust that. The fourth steep was fading in flavor a bit, so I’d probably only steep three mugs in the future. High quality for a mini tuocha, just as Mandala attests. Both derk and Kawaii433 say this is the best mini tuocha, and I might agree! I’d buy these but like Shae recently found out, not possible. Such a nice discovery in my sampler. I really need to go through and see if my detective work (with the help of Steepster) can figure out the other mini tuochas…
Steep #1 // 1 piece for full mug // 17 minutes after boiling // 3 minute steep
Steep #2 // 14 min after boiling // 3 min
Steep #3 // 7 min after boiling // 3 min
Steep #4 // just boiled // 10 min