21 Tasting Notes
I bought this tea based on Don’s selection of it as one of his Teas of the Year. I wish I could get a refund. I do not see this as a pinnacle tea at all. I am truly surprised and feel disappointed, as I put my faith in Mei Leaf. In my opinion, this tea is way below average. For me, it is weak in mouth feel, taste, smell, and body sensation. I tried to convince myself the tea has merits. I let the cake rest for over a month. I waited two weeks between first tastings. But each time the tea just did not deliver. I would give this away. With the heavy marketing about Mei Leaf teas being pinnacle, I cannot understand how this tea even remotely upholds that standard. And it was not inexpensive. I feel duped.
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.
Tasting this along with other white teas from Verdant and the same family. I found this one to stand out with having a bit of an astringent grip that adds a welcomed dimension and core to the body. In terms of flavors, I am not an expert with white tea, so they all present a similar flavor profile: primarily floral with some minerality and initial sour notes. I also get perfume notes in this one. Gorgeous honey color. I should revisit white tea in general when I become more expert in tasting, but for now am happier with pu-erh, both raw and ripe. I will add that after drinking about six small cups of the three white teas back to back I was feeling a pretty funny/humorous buzz, and I’m not sure if that is attributable to just one of the teas or the combination.
This is strange but my review of the original sample I tried (further below) is glowing, but the subsequent 100-gram cake I got doesn’t leave me with the same observations. I thus think my original review may have been colored by a good mood or something. This is a fine daily drinker, but repeated sessions with the cake just don’t reveal the complexity that I may have imagined in the sample.
Original review of sample:
This is a shu puer I want to have on hand. Smoky, earthy, mineral, and then a fruity apricot character reveals itself in the middle of all that and lingers as an enjoyable aftertaste. This tea demands going beyond simple descriptors such as “creamy.” This shu has complexity, depth, and character. It does thin out fairly quickly, but rather than collapse, it moves away from the initial smoky earthiness into a lighter realm of wet wood, some mustiness, still some hints of apricot and even floral notes, all that keeps you steeping. This is a shu that I would want to share with someone new to puer and just watch the revelation in their eyes. I got this as a sample and hope to get a cake.
Flavors: Apricot, Earth, Floral, Mineral, Musty, Smoke, Wet Wood
We love the Temple Stairs here, too. Thank you for writing up your experience with it. The mini-tuocha version of this same leaf turned out well too. It is something to notice that even though they are pressed from the identical blend, they are slightly different right now because of the pressing size and what that does to the aging at this early stage. Thank you!
I am glad other reviewers had such a positive experience with this tea. Personally, of the four shu I have tried from Mandala thus far (this one, Noble Mark 2011, Phatty Cake II 2013, and Temple Stairs 2014), Temple Stairs is hands down my favorite and one I would want to have on hand for its depth and complexity. This Rama Lama Bulang would rank last among those four for me. This is primarily due to what I tasted as a definite upfront bitter burntness and initial funk that hung around for a few steeps. It does mellow out soon enough, and there is some nice smooth texture. There is more to its flavor profile than I can competently describe, so I would say this tea remains somehwhat of a mystery to me, and I would point readers to the other very positive reviews of this tea. The material itself is small, and it brews fast. My reccommendations would be: air it out for a few weeks first, rinse it three times, and flash steep it for a few rounds until it mellows out. This was a free sample from Mandala, thanks!
I cannot remember if you got a sample of the cake or of the loose leaf version of this. They are subtly different at this point. This tea has been really popular here and we have several of our coffeehouse clients brewing this in their mix of teas. Most of them are brewing it at 208, no rinse, Western-style and having very good results. We enjoy it often here in the office. I really appreciate you writing up your experience. You do very well with that.
Next time I think I will try Garret’s suggestion (cf. his reply to another review for this tea) to brew this longer and stronger.
My notes here are from brewing in my standard fashion: 5 grams, 75 ml, two rinses, and about 205 degrees F, progressively increasing steep times.
Overall, what stands out for me is:
1. Concentrated or dried fruit (apricot, Peruvian ground cherry?) flavors and particularly as a lingering and smacking aftertaste that is so reminiscent of many raw puers I have tried. This is the main highlight.
2. Leather undertones. A kind of smoky leather.
3. Personally, I did not get creaminess, but I could go along with a smoothness or maybe silkiness that another reviewer described.
4. Third steep, a buzz kicked in, really felt the qi, left me smiling and giddy, laughing out lout. After a few minutes the tea drunkeness mellowed out, but a background buzz stayed on. I could see why Garret mentioned that he drinks this tea before a run or a workout. (cf same reply mentioned further above).
This is my first tea from Mandala, and I got three more to try from them, so am looking forward to seeing if I have a favorite there. They sent me a free sample, which made my day.
Next session I will try brewing it much stronger.
Flavors: Apricot, Dried Fruit, Leather
Thank you so much for posting this review. I am really happy that you enjoyed it. Started yet another morning with this tea today and it never ever gets old. I tend to brew it with full boil to bring just a hair more of the strength out of it. It can take the full boil really well! Enjoy! I appreciate that chance to have been of service.
Dried leaves aroma: Wow, so fruity, dried apricot.
Rinsed leaves aroma: Vegetal, hay.
Steeped leaves aroma: vegetal and fruity.
Initially I got some floral notes, then lingering apricot aftertaste with some astringency, gripping. Seems to be a nice young sheng. I am not expert enough to identify more complexity like the other descriptors Verdant uses, such as plantain. I only had a 5-gram sample and so far don’t see myself stocking up on this or any young sheng that I have tasted so far. I think with experience that may change.
Flavors: Apricot, Floral, Hay