2189 Tasting Notes
A free sample from Mandala in my last order. I contemplated several of their black teas, but didn’t purchase any of them so it was nice to get this one (#–6) as a sample.
No steeping instructions on the website, so I went with a somewhat conservative wiry-Chinese-black-tea western steeping method. I should note that I was somewhat concerned my water filter wasn’t working properly since yesterday the two highly-rated Mandala teas I drank were lackluster. But I changed that filter recently, so I didn’t think that could be it. This tea convinces me that it was not.
It smells amazing brewed; a bit of grains, molasses, perhaps some notes of caramel and chocolate. The taste is lovely; sweet, with most of the notes from the scent. There is also a bit of raisin. It really reminds me of some of the Fujian black teas I’ve had, although I know it’s not from Fujian. It does also have a little bit of sweet potato, like a tippy Yunnan, but it’s not a strong component. The liquor has nice body and is oh so smooth. All in all quite a delicious black tea, and I’m really happy to have gotten a sample of it.
Equusfell tried to foist this sample onto me after she disastrously steeped it grandpa-style (i.e., leave it in the cup forever, no rinse) quite a while ago when she was just starting to get into tea. I was going to just drink it, and then I decided it would be perfect to use in one of our gongfu sessions to really introduce her to what puerh is all about. I’m not the biggest puerh fan, but I appreciate its subtleties and understand it as a tea, and I was really happy that the session turned out very well.
I think I probably should have done two rinses instead of one, since the first steep was still a little overbearing. It’s been a while since I’ve had a puerh, and I admit I enjoyed “walking in the woods” once again. My first thought was, tastes like a sheng. The earliest steeps had some woody notes and autumn leaves. Then suddenly some really juicy apricot with hints of vanilla came to the forefront. As steeps progressed, it became more minerally and more smokey, with hints of leather.
Overall a fun tea to have a session with, and I think it was a good introduction to the wild and crazy world of sheng.
Quick note about my gongfu experiences with this one. Equusfell and I shared it yesterday in a nice little session. I feel that I enjoyed it a little more gongfu-style, but it still fell a little flat. Not enough rose, and the base tea just didn’t seem to work very well with it. Still no creaminess or floral notes (other than the added rose). Not sure why this one didn’t turn out for me (when the base definitely worked with some others), but so it goes.
Aww, I thought this would be the last or second-to-last tea in my cupboard, but then I realized I had never added a couple of free samples that Mandala sent me with the order. (Side note: this tea has more “flavors” listed at the top than I have ever seen!)
Anyway, I finally get to try Mandala’s much-vaunted milk oolong (#–5). For a while it was never in stock, and then I never got around to ordering it. But I finally did order it, and now I am finally trying it. The dry leaf certainly smells like what I am looking for: sweet, buttery, and a slight tang of fruitiness. Steeped, the “tang” goes mostly away, and yes, it very much smells like buttered popcorn. Perhaps kettle corn, with a hint of sweetness. I think that part of what is evoking that is a note of toastiness, particularly toasted grains.
The flavor is lighter than I expected, at least while it is very warm. Perhaps I should allow it to cool some. Hmmm, mayhaps I need to gongfu this one. It’s just not wowing me right now. When it was still hot it was not very flavorful. Now that it is lukewarm it has at least gained some creaminess and a bit of peachiness. It tastes more like what I was expecting, minus the sweetness (suprisingly). Maybe a hint. Definitely I think I need to futz with the parameters.
I still need to do some notes for the gongfu sessions I had with Equusfell yesterday, but for now I will continue with the cupboard sip-through because I am almost done!! This tea (#–4) represents the Mandala order for smart soak that also included some tea. I had read good things about it, so I threw a small pouch of these cones in the order.
I think I will need to play around with steep parameters for this one. This time, I used 4 cones for 12 oz of water, steeped for 3 min at 205°F, which is close to the given parameters. Actually I steeped it for three minutes, sipped it, and then decided it was too weak so I put the cones back in for a bit. It came out decent, but not as good as I was hoping. I think my downfall was putting it back in. Or maybe I need fewer cones for longer. I dunno, but the main flavors were general earthiness and maybe some dark chocolate, but not very predominantly. It reminds me a good amount of Black Dragon Pearls. I think it needs to be a little lighter for my tastes, and hopefully some sweetness will come out. Fortunately I have enough cones to play around with them a bit.
I had a much better experience, both gongfu and western, with this tea (#–3) than with the rose oolong. It’s been a long time since I had a magnolia oolong, so it’s hard for me to compare, but I did really enjoy this one. After using it in our gongfu session last weekend, I had a little over my normal quantity of leaf, but what was I going to do with half a teaspoon? So I used all of it but lowered my steep time to compensate.
I think perhaps the magnolia works better with the base? Here I get the creaminess from the Jin Xuan that I was missing in the rose oolong. The florals are thick and rich, but in no way overwhelming or perfumy. Just that they have body and substance. Magnolia can be slightly jasmine-y in flavor, I find, and I get hints of it here. A little fruitiness. Overall a very nice oolong.
Finally getting around to more of my Tea Ave samples. By now I’ve tried 2 of 3 (plus a bonus), and this one (#–2) is the last one to try. Funny, since by rights it should have been the first one I grabbed given that I love rose. I’m brewing this one western style using my typical green oolong method. I will take the rest home to gongfu, perhaps this weekend.
Some people may appreciate that this tea has light rose notes. They are definitely present, but playing around the edges. I myself prefer a much stronger rose flavor, since rose is one of my favorites. I could forgive that, however, if the base was anything to write home about. I find it a little meh. Vegetal, a little buttery, but lacking the creaminess I would expect from a Jin Xuan. I will say that I get a little bored by Taiwanese high mountain oolongs, although I have them as the base of a few other scented teas and enjoy them well enough. Even in Tea Ave’s own Ginger Lily, it worked better. I think this one is just so dominant in the flavor, and one-note (vegetal). Maybe it will be more nuanced in gongfu. That said, I drank it easily enough.
The thing that sets me off the most about this is the price. Right now, the sale price is more than double what I would pay for a rose green oolong from Dammann or Taiwan Tea Crafts. Now, I am not one to cast judgement at spending a lot on one tea, as I have done my damage with some reserve teas in the past, but their prices seem a tad excessive to me for the product. I am grateful that they sent me the samples to review (as well as the aroma cup set and such), but I will be perfectly honest in my review: I expect mind-blowing for that price, and this is decidedly not.
My parents gave me this tea (#-1) for Christmas, but I am just now getting around to trying it. I’ve never gotten tea from this company before (in my hometown), but mostly because many of their teas seem to be wholesale blends and not unique to them. This one, however, seems unique. It also doesn’t appear on their website.
I love bourbon, and I love bourbon cream liquor. This tea is pretty tasty, but I don’t know that I would call it a bourbon cream tea. Chocolatey with a bit of cream, yes, no doubt due to the large amount of cacao hulls in the blend. Not sure why bourbon = chocolate. Their Mint Julep black tea, presumably also bourbon-based, also has cacao hulls in it. The most bourbon-y tea I’ve ever had was a shu puer, but that was more the taste of the barrel. I wish for more vanilla/cream in this, which is supposed to be a cream tea. Overall a tasty cup, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to restock it.
OMGsrsly also sent along this one (#0!), and I thank you, but this is a big NOPE for me. I don’t even like sage that much to begin with, and one sip gave me an intense “bleh!” reaction. Could not take any more. Super bitter and super sagey. I even steeped it cooler and shorter than I normally would have because I looked at reviews here before and people said it could go bitter. I don’t even want to know what it would taste like at boiling and 3 minutes.
Another tea (#1) from OMGsrsly! Thanks! At first I thought this had been slightly contaminated by the Blackberry Sage that she also included, but I think I was just smelling the lavender. I was worried this would be too “herby” for me, but the lavender definitely calmed down a bit in the brewed tea.
This is a tea I need to drink fast, when it is still hot. Then it was quite nice, with red berry and bergamot notes, and no bitterness to speak of. But as it cooled the lavender came out and it became a lot more bitter and astringent. Alternately I do need to try it with less leaf, as suggested by the company and OMGsrsly. :)