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Recent Tasting Notes
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
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
Today it smells like dried basil and an ant colony. Ohhh sweet larvae. And sweetened egg yolk?
It tastes like the idea of the essence of lotus seed moon cake added to a bottle of spring water with grass living in it. Cooling, herbalmint finish.
Flavors: Basil, Egg, Grass, Herbal, Mineral, Mint, Nutty, Pastries, Spring Water, Sugar, Sweet, Umami
Not sure if 2022 harvest (I think that’s what I ordered?) or 2021 because that’s what it says on the bag. It does taste very fresh whichever year it was made!
Been having bowls and grandpa glasses, both leafed heavier than usual for greens. Fragrant, mild, soothing, tonifying. Understated.
I wonder if it’s the same leaf used to make Mandala’s Yunnan snail-style biluochun because of that tendency to lean pretty heavily into sweet scallops. This also has the same kind of bitterness and astringency as the snails and those qualities develop over the same length of time.
Like it, don’t love it but will have no problem finishing it. I’d probably buy another small bag.
Flavors: Apricot, Grass, Marine, Spring Water, Sweet, Umami, Viscous
Pulled from TTB 2022, shared by Inkling.
Oh wow, oh wow.
I nearly bought one of everything from Mandala’s website after my first sip of this. I’m still probably going to go back and buy a few somethings.
Started with a 15-second rinse, followed by a couple minutes rest, and then a 10-second steep. Increased steep to 10-20 seconds in subsequent cups.
This somehow reminds me of both a candle shop during the holidays and an outdoor flea market. It’s leather and spices, I think that’s the connection. It’s so comforting and familiar.
If anyone has recommendations for others like this, please share! I’d love to find something similar since I know this is no longer available.
Flavors: Bread, Fruity, Leather, Spices
Nothing like the therapeutic soak of Chinese green tea leaves in a bowl of hot water.
Soothing, creamy much like soymilk with a forward sweetness balanced by fine grass astringency, fine sorrel acidity, fine wet granite minerality. Hints of buffalo grass and leafy herbs.
The leaves float. Good news is they’re edible.
I will be sure to order Nine Lotus from Mandala with my next order to bathe longer in these leaves’ calm. Thank you yet again, Kawaii :)
Flavors: Buffalo Grass, Creamy, Grass, Herbs, Mineral, Soybean, Sweet, Tangy, Wet Rocks
Tea #3 for the day. I spent some time Friday night updating my spreadsheet with the uncatalogued tea floating around the living room. Final count is over 300!! Which is not great…I’m taking in tea faster than I’m drinking it. And not just in number – weight as well.
My pie chart is interestingly even. Tea count has pretty equal amounts of black, white, oolong, raw, & ripe with little bits of green/herbal. But I mostly drink blacks, oolongs and whites. Therefore, I need to work on drinking ripes and raws.
Tea itself: bright & fruity, citrus?, creamy aftertaste 205F, 2min. Not a lot to it.
Very enjoyable! I wanted to add my voice here to even out some of the other reviews. I found the first 4 steeps to be incredibly rich and complex, with prominent notes of honey, berries, and pastries. After steep 4, the sweetness dropped off and I did notice the “green pepper” note that other reviews talked about, although I didn’t mind it. It looks like the other reviews were from 3+ years ago, so this tea seems to have improved with age!
I enjoyed a smokiness in first couple of steeps.
Started to notice some oak, ash, maybe tobacco, and yes some bitterness.
Giving some time between steeps helped notice some apricot aftertaste, but not as forward as in other raw pu’ers. Some butter also in aftertaste, but subtle. I had tried this tea a few years ago as a sample, and I still have a bit left, so am trying again. Am being cautious not to drink too much because some reviews note its potent chi, and I recollect that as well from a few years ago. For me, it is an interesting tea to try, especially as I imagine the high altitude and pristine environment from where it came.
The combination of aromas in the dry leaf smells almost exactly like a brand of Swedish snus called Ettan, which has the obvious rich tobacco smell as well as walnuts and chocolate.
Those same notes come through in the warmed leaf along with a spicy dark rye and a vague flowery quality. Rinsing enhances the spiciness and brings out warm yeast bread dough and mahogany furniture.
The taste is warm but the tea doesn’t warm the body. In the mouth is a clean swirl of tobacco, mahogany, goji and cucumber, very light bitterness; clean and oily. The aftertaste is sour and feeling in the body acidic which leaves me thinking this tea will benefit from time stored. I get that kind of sourness that cucumber can possess and also that of fermented cacao beans. Something also reminds me of coconut husk.
I don’t have enough left of this free sample provided by Mandala to bother storing. If this is still offered by Mandala in a few years, I’d consider buying a cake. A clean, oily shou that tastes like tobacco and mahogany is much welcome, compared to those that are muddy and taste of potting soil.
Flavors: Acidic, Bread Dough, Cacao, Camphor, Chocolate, Coconut Husk, Cucumber, Dark Wood, Drying, Flowers, Goji, Metallic, Rye, Smooth, Sour, Spicy, Tobacco, Walnut, Yeast
Another 2020 harvest green tea acquired as a stand-in until the new harvests arrive in full swing. I’ll probably be ordering Chinese greens this year from stateside vendors since I never buy enough of them to justify the more expensive and faster shipping options (been waiting on a small package from Teavivre for 2 months, ugh).
The dry leaf smells buttery-nutty with dark cocoa powder and an herbal undertone. Wet leaf aroma is alkaline. It reminds me of butter-browned napa cabbage, barbecued oysters, farro, earthy-sweet cooked snow peas, rice crackers and anise.
I’ve been brewing this in a gaiwan with a lower leaf:water ratio to mitigate the less-than-fresh qualities that are apparent in grandpa and western steeping (it can turn brassy and buttery-toasty dry grass quickly). The liquor aroma is sweet and nutty; the texture is buttery soft and smooth on the sip. Delicate notes of buttery rice crackers with seaweed bows, lemon, fresh oysters, sweetgrass. A clear quartz-like minerality presents with some salty astringency as it swallows juicy. The tea becomes fruitier, dry grassy and more astringent as steeps progress. There’s a unique aftertaste of custard apple and rice crackers moving to buttery-creamy apricot-osmanthus and toasted rice. Can get bitter if oversteeped.
Valley Peak was the first tea I ever tried from Mandala many years ago, in the days of using mason jars and a fork to simulate a gaiwan. I remember it being so gentle and satisfying. It can be likened to a Dragon Well (however varied those are) but I find it softer, less intense and depending on the Dragon Well’s processing and provenance, less like chestnuts.
Flavors: Anise, Apricot, Astringent, Buffalo Grass, Butter, Cabbage, Cocoa, Cream, Dry Grass, Earth, Fruity, Garden Peas, Grain, Herbs, Honeysuckle, Lemon, Marine, Mineral, Nutty, Osmanthus, Rice, Salt, Seafood, Seaweed, Smooth, Sweet, Toasted Rice, Toasty
Even though fresh harvests of other green teas are becoming available, I went ahead and bought a 2020 harvest to satisfy the immediate desire for green tea.
The 25g didn’t last more than a few weeks after I opened it. I never took notes so this is a recollection and not the best one at that.
Found myself gravitating to brewing in a glass gaiwan and it lasted for many steeps. Thick, clean and sweet with quartzlike minerality and the following mild qualities: soybean and soy-milkiness, green chestnut astringency, raw asparagus bitterness and a lemony citrus tone to balance. Very gentle honeysuckle floral quality. Sometimes I’d get fleeting peach. There is a moderate herbal note like anise-tarragon. I like those green, pungent notes that come out when brewing with a higher leaf to water ratio.
Grandpa is thick, mild and juicy. Western brings more astringency and florality.
A good tea if the time it took me to drink through 25g is a testament to my enjoyment. Recommended as a good, clean and solid green tea that takes well to different methods, though I never did try upping the temperature. I can’t believe it’s been 5 years since this tea was last reviewed.
Flavors: Anise, Asparagus, Chestnut, Cookie, Herbs, Honeysuckle, Lemon, Milky, Mineral, Peach, Soybean, Sweet, Sweet, Warm Grass, Thick
Started with a quick rinse per Mandala’s website, though probably not the full 10 seconds. The tea is light, even with the full 2 teaspoons but a chocolaty flavor does come through. I see a lot of other flavors listed on Steepster but my palate’s not so refined as all that. So chocolate it is!
8 ounces water + 208 degrees + 20 minutes
The second steep isn’t as flavorful as I had hoped. It does have more flavor as it cools, but it’s a little drying. I’m also picking up this mineral note that I didn’t notice in the first steep. I have enough for one more cup, so I’m going to hold my rating until I try it again. Maybe no rinse next time and a little less water. Thanks for sending this one my way, Michelle!
Flavors: Chocolate, Drying, Mineral
Nearing the end of the packet, I can say I think I prefer this tea gongfu, which isn’t usually the case for me and green tea. It tends to develop more astringency western and grandpa but it does overall do well with various methods.
In a gaiwan, the gentle character of the tea shines. It’s round, thick and soft with just enough astringency to balance. The sweetness is soothing, soymilky-nectar. Do I taste lactose? As it opens up, I taste the scallops I’ve noted before and green peas. Very subtle mintiness. Aftertaste moves back and forth between white peach and ham. I feel a small flame alight in my body. This tea easily goes for 7 or 8 infusions in a gaiwan. I have been measuring the leaf to find this tea’s sweet spot and I think 4g:150mL is it.
Compared to the last Yunnan imperial biluochun I had, this is sweeter and milder, without a strong floral note; less vegetal, and I don’t get any black pepper notes with this one. Sweet scallops and ham are present in both.
A very gentle, tonic tea <3 good for those womanly monthly moments.
Flavors: Astringent, Creamy, Garden Peas, Marine, Meat, Milk, Mint, Mushrooms, Nectar, Peach, Round, Salt, Seafood, Soybean, Sweet, Thick
Yay, first fresh green of the year. Thick, sweet, smooth and round. My smart-ass boss asked what the phluck I was drinking (grandpa in a glass cup). I think he said something about seaweed. My work partner-in-crime said it looked like an anemone in the cup. For all the marine references, it’s amusing in a tea snoot way that I think this tastes like fresh, sweet scallops. Maybe I’m not crazy? I felt so crazy this morning, though, that I left work 2 hours in. Turns out the vaccine is kicking my ass 2 days later. Shame I’m glued to the bed with fatigue and aching arms and legs – it’s a beautiful day and the garden needs working.
I found myself kind of at a loss for how to brew this tea so I opted to empty the entire 4g sample in my 150mL glass gaiwan and do somewhat short steeps.
This tea, while a past year’s harvest, has so much more character than the Huoshan huang ya I had a few years ago at Imperial Tea Court. It is subtle, yes, but it has a slick and oily medium body that carries a sweet and alkaline taste, like a mix of corn husk, gently roasted buttery nuts, some kind of mild, sweet seafood like squid, quartz-like minerality and hint of anise. It’s a little cooling-spicy in the throat, too. Short, sweet, buttery and flowery mouth-watering aftertaste. Gentle nourishment with no bitterness or astringency.
Thank you for the sample, Mandala :)
Edit: It’s on sale right now.
Flavors: Anise, Butter, Corn Husk, Flowers, Grass, Marine, Mineral, Mint, Nectar, Oily, Roasted Nuts, Seafood, Smooth, Spicy, Sweet