Mandala Year of the Dragon Ripe Pu'er -2012

Tea type
Pu'erh Tea
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Dried Fruit, Earth, Fig, Leather, Apple Skins, Bread, Mushrooms, Chocolate, Creamy, Grain, Hay, Honey, Sweet, Vanilla, Wood, Cream, Plum
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Edit tea info Last updated by Kawaii433
Average preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 45 sec 5 g 5 oz / 142 ml

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37 Tasting Notes View all

  • “This is a sample that Garret sent with a recent order. Thanks you SO MUCH, Garret! I never drink as much Puer as I’d like to. I just don’t have time to do multiple short steepings all the time. My...” Read full tasting note
  • “Yes, it’s Oolong Owl Black tea week, but I need some shu pu’er while I do Operation: Clean House for Thanksgiving. Good time to crack open some pu’er samples too! I found this pu’er to be similar...” Read full tasting note
  • “I just got my new glass mug from Mandala and I figured that I should pick a sample that I haven’t tried in a long time to break it in. I chose Year of the Dragon because…well, it’s the first one I...” Read full tasting note
  • “I received this a while back from Garret at Mandala with an order. This tea is the exact tea you should give a first time puerh drinker. This tea has the smoothness and creaminess noted in earlier...” Read full tasting note

From Mandala Tea

2012, the Year of the Dragon!

We are excited to offer yet another Mandala Tea exclusive pu’er tea! When we first smelled and tasted this ripe tea in loose leaf form in early winter of 2011, we knew we wanted to buy the entire lot and that we did. This cake is the result of our excitement!

The raw material was picked on Jing Mai mountain in early spring of 2010 from 40 to 50 year old trees that are now growing wild as the plantation had been abandoned. In 2011, the leaf was fermented over a period of 46 days in Menghai town of Xishuangbanna at a small pu’er workshop.

The pressing of this Mandala Tea exclusive was done on 3/1/2012. Once steamed and pressed, the cakes were moved to a special drying room where the humidity was slowly lowered in the cakes in order to remove any moisture in them. We then had them moved to a special warehouse in Kunming for another 50 days before they were custom wrapped and shipped to us. One can tell from the photo of the partially picked beeng that the integrity of the leaf is the same on the inside and the outside of it.

The result is an incredible cake of ripe pu’er tea, one that is aging perfectly in our humidity and temperature controlled vault.

Spring-picked, wild arbor ripe tea is extremely rare and not at all easy to come by. We have been wishing to make a cake like this happen for a while and we are ecstatic over the deep, rich aroma and flavor of this offering. Our pickiness over raw material and our patience has paid off. We make wishes that you enjoy this Mandala Tea offering as much as we do. We appreciate the opportunity to make teas like this available in the West to our fine customers!

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37 Tasting Notes

3294 tasting notes

This is a sample that Garret sent with a recent order. Thanks you SO MUCH, Garret!

I never drink as much Puer as I’d like to. I just don’t have time to do multiple short steepings all the time. My solution is to go with 7Grams steeped 3 minutes in my mug. When it comes to Shu, this almost always results in an amazing cup of tea. I resteep adding a minute, & again adding another minute, etc until the tea has nothing left to give.

So, that’s what I did. I’m on the 3rd steeping now & it is still rich & dark, sweet, & delicious!! The sample is generous enough that I’ll get to try it again using shorter steepings, & I promise I’ll give a much more detailed report then, but for now I can say that I’d like to pick up a cake of this, plus I’ve been eyeballing another yixing pot on the mandala site, & some other things, LOL. It’ll probably be another month before I can afford to buy anything (well…there is the Butiki order that I need to finalize tonight…but after that, I need to go back to the Hiatus Group, cuz I’ve been bad!).


I think I ordered this one… So yay on that!

Terri HarpLady

There you are! Where you been all day, working? ;)


I feel you on the being bad but frankly the good sales on high quality teas have been too good to pass up!

Terri HarpLady

yup, it’s just so hard!


Terri….13hr days yesterday…came home at 8:30 and passed out on the bed. Didn’t eat etc… working from home today but i’m still swamped so not sure how active i’ll be today :(

Dag Wedin

Thats good advice. I usually skip puer when i don´t have the time to set up gon fu brewing. will try some western brewing!


So happy that you enjoyed this one! It is really beginning to open up and develop now. I really look forward to one to two more years of aging on this one. It is not easy (or inexpensive) for me to find this wild arbor spring tea for pu’er so I bought as much as I could to have pressed into these cakes. Usually when I do a pressing I have 20 to 100 lbs left to sell as loose-leaf, but because of the small quantity I could get my hands on, I had the entire purchase pressed into these cakes.

While my preferred method for most any tea is gong fu, there are times when that isn’t gonna cut it. For instance, before a workout or a run, I’m not going to sit around and drink 1 ounce servings of tea. No sir! I’m gonna brew it up loud and proud in a 16 ounce pot so I can really hydrate and just go with longer infusions.

Tea… when I go to bed at night, I have a smile on my face already excited about the first tea of the morning. Where there’s tea, there’s hope, right?!

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1271 tasting notes

Yes, it’s Oolong Owl Black tea week, but I need some shu pu’er while I do Operation: Clean House for Thanksgiving. Good time to crack open some pu’er samples too!

I found this pu’er to be similar to Yunnan Sourcing’s 2012 Dragon on Jing Mai (my review ) as it has similar abrasive clay and campy notes in the first few steepings with a gorgeous deep orange red colour. They are also jing mai tea mats, which I didn’t know until sitting down to write this, hoot!

However, I much prefer Mandala’s Year of the Dragon as it is much more mellow, no fermentation weirdness and creamy notes in mid to later steepings. The creamy notes are fantastic and this tea just gets better and better each steeping. I’d say Mandala’s pu’er is more of a cuddly mother dragon one whereas the Yunnan Sourcing one is more of a scary bite first ask questions later dragon!


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97 tasting notes

I just got my new glass mug from Mandala and I figured that I should pick a sample that I haven’t tried in a long time to break it in. I chose Year of the Dragon because…well, it’s the first one I saw.

I am going to try something a bit new. I am going to use the same brew time throughout. I’ve settled on 15 seconds.

1st Steep-
I may be a bit in love with this tea based on first impressions and I am deeply regretting not buying a cake. Very creamy and absolutely no earthiness. The only comparison I can think of is dates. Dried, dark yummy dates that I wait for at Christmas time and hoard them.

2nd Steep-
It’s getting to be more of a prune flavor. I don’t want to say that because most think of prunes as unappetizing but that’s what I’m getting with this steep—dried prunes. And it is yummy.

3rd Steep
Still tastes like a cross between dates and prunes…can’t decide which one. But it’s delicious.

4th Steep-
Still with the prunes but kind of candied because there is almost a burnt brown sugar aftertaste that you get with candied prunes.

5th Steep-
It’s starting to lighten a bit. Not much but enough that it doesn’t look so much like coffee. It’s lightened to the taste of raw figs. Oh boy.

I am now upping the steeping time to 20 seconds.

6th to 8th Steeps
Still figgy. A bit of candied fig taste with a brown sugar background.

I upped the time to 1 minute

9th to 12th Steeps
Still figgy but less so. Some vanilla notes peeking through at various levels of intensity.

13th Steep-5 minutes
Tastes like vanilla extract without the alcohol. Can’t say it’s not pleasant.

14th Steep-15 minutes
I think this tea is done. Tastes like hot water.

I love this tea. It hit every single flavor profile that I found appealing. Figs, prunes, dates…that’s like heaven to me. I’m a weird one I know. And as a bonus, I loved my new mug too. It’s adorable. It’s short and chubby and looks like it should be wearing a bow-tie. No, I am not crazy…I named it Stuart…maybe a little crazy.

P.S. This tea experience was completely different from my first time around with this tea. Just realizing that now when reading my tea note.

Boiling 0 min, 15 sec

oh good….i’m excited to get this now :)


LOL will just add it to the list……

Terri HarpLady

I think I ordered a sample of this one


Terri, you did :) Grace, your package shows out for delivery today on the shipping software.

As far as this YOD ripe tea you reviewed, it has already gone through some very positive changes since its pressing last year. So excited to see what 2 more years will bring out in this cake. I was only able to press 25 kgs of this tea (100 cakes)… it was all I could buy from that supplier. The wild spring picked stuff is quite rare to find for a ripe tea. I’m really happy you are liking it!

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304 tasting notes

I received this a while back from Garret at Mandala with an order. This tea is the exact tea you should give a first time puerh drinker. This tea has the smoothness and creaminess noted in earlier tastings and a bit of a surprise to me. This tea is made with jingmai material that usually has a citrus twang to it. This is absent of any of that. I think if you wanted a good puerh to sit back in the chair and relax this is a good one. It has a good depth of flavor with no off or earthy taste to it. It has no drying of the tongue like some shou does and leaves a light cocoa vanilla taste. A well made tea in my book.

205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 30 sec

My friend! Thank you for the review of this tea. I’m excited to hear that you enjoyed it. It has really changed since its pressing. It will open up even further in the next year, too. The Noble Mark cake is also opening up and that is amazing stuff.

I am just nailing down the supply of this years 4 leaves for the new Noble Mark blend! Though, I will likely change up the blend a bit and rename it :) Nothing stays the same in the world of tea, that’s for sure :) Though the Phatty Cake II is dang close with just the tweak of adding the larger grade 3 leaf!

Wishing you joy,


Garret, you always have some of the finest teas out there! I think this is due to a lot of diligence and painstaking process to get things “right”. It is this kind of attention that keeps your customers for life! Hey on day we got to have a cup and take a spin in that old mopar thing I got!


Count me in for the spin in the mopar thang! I will always have a great love for things mopar – I know I told you about the 74 Charger, but I also had a sweet 74 Duster, 318, yellow with a black vinyl top. Golly, that was fun, too! But my first love will always be the Charger. Dang, I miss that car sometimes.

And thanks for the nice words about the teas. Man, you have no idea how that makes my day come even more alive. Life is cracklin’ with possibilities!


Correction: ’72 Duster!


I bet if you still had the vin number it would be VL29G2B.


YOu’re gonna have to explain that one to me, sir!


VL=duster, 29=2 door sport coupe, G=318 engine, 2=production year(1972). B= Hamtramck assembly plant Michigan.

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1040 tasting notes

I received this as a sample with my last Mandala order. Thank you Garrett for including it for me.

I drank a couple of steep of it last night and thought it was a bit mild for my tastes. It was a nice Pu’er, but didn’t have enough flavor. The flavor that was there was nice and smooth, no rough edges, I just wish there was more of it. This is just a little too gentle for my tastes. Sooooo I took the leaves I was using and dumped the rest of the sample in with them added cold water and put it in the fridge to cold steep.
This is my first experience with cold steeped pu’er. OMG WOW!!! Why have I not been doing this sooner. This is AMAZING. I love it. You just get a touch of the classic pu’er flavor, but it’s refreshing and oh so good. I don’t think I would want to cold steep a big bold pu’er, but this was PERFECT. I may have to order some just to have it to cold steep.


I really need to try that soon!


this just sounds so awesome…


I was hesitant to try this, couldn’t imagine, but now I’m a believer. Cold steeping pu’erh is fantastic.

Terri HarpLady

I think I’ll take the leaves from the Puer I was drinking earlier & steep them over night in the fridge. I know they still have plenty of oomph left in them. :)


Hey, gang! Garret here, live from Riviera Maya in Mexico. Last-minute decision to get out of dodge before the tea buying season really starts and get some r and r… So thankful that I bought loads of tea to drink on this trip for there is nothing here save for the obligatory tea bags. The locals are fascinated by the tea thermos and a gringo who knows more about tequila than them :) New tea connections here in Mexico! It is so funny that you reviewed this tea for it is one that is here in Mexico with me, along with much Noble Mark (loose-leaf version) and some new greens. I’m sure customs saw my bag go through the x-ray and did a double take – tea gear and lots of tea taking up half my bag!

thank you for writing this review and the info on the cold brew for our friends here – good stuff… This YOD ripe is still quite young and over the next little while, we are going to see much change in this cake. Sadly, I bought all of the material that was available from that producer (I’m a stickler for spring-picked, wild-arbor teas) and was only able to press 120 of these cakes. Of course, I’m saving at least one tong (7 cakes) for myself :) Joy to all!

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921 tasting notes

Yours truly is immensely sleepy today, courtesy of the desire to get up early, basically resetting my sleep schedule because being nocturnal was getting tedious. Clearly I need more tea to wake myself up with, maybe keep myself awake with some painting, and then maybe a bit of reading or Minecraft. I have been busily stalking 4JStudio’s Twitter feed, they keep posting update teasers and I am super excited for new blocks to build with. The new biomes excite me too, but that means I will need a new world, or just wait til the Xbone gets to an affordable by me price and I can just expand my world. For now though, as soon as the update drops that means lots of building fun in my creative world.

This is a Shou after my heart, Mandala Tea’s Year of the Dragon 2012 Pu’er, specifically because dragons are near and dear to my heart, specifically my favorite dragon, Ben, even if he did spent the entirety of 2012 being insufferably smug since it was his year. Originally harvested in 2010 from 40-50 year old trees in Jing Mai, it was pressed in 2012, March 1st, 2012 to be exact. I felt myself lucky, because my sample of this Shou came with the Nei Fei, which I have kept stored away in a little box…for reasons. The aroma of the leaves is immensely earthy, it is rich and sweet with notes of pine loam, oak loam, a deep humid forest, and a tiny bit like prunes. At the very end of the sniff there is a gentle woodiness that reminds me of an old cedar trunk, with a slight crispness like the air before snow.

Into the elephant pot the tea went, after a rinse and the first steep the aroma is so earthy and woody. Like a mix of oak and pine wood that is both wet and dry, with sweet molasses and undertones of mineral and loam. Again this tea reminds me of a humid lush forest. The liquid is rich, woody notes of stems and loam with wet wood and a molasses sweet finish.

The first thing I notice from the first steep is how much it reminds me of a fallen tree, notes of earthy loam and wet wood combine with moss and mulch. It gently coats the mouth and goes from loamy to sweet figs, molasses, and a touch of prunes. The finish has a slightly bitter oak gall note, though the aftertaste is molasses and that lingers for a good long while.

Onward to the second steeping, the aroma of this one is still quite woody, but the woodiness mixed with a creamy sweetness gives the shou a bit of a vanilla quality. This mixes really well with the loam notes, sweet and earthy. The taste takes a note from the aroma and is quite sweet this time, it starts sweet, stays sweet, and finishes sweet. With notes of vanilla and molasses, figs and prunes, and a touch of honey, these notes mingle with pine loam and wet oak wood for a mellow and sweet sip.

The third steep had much in common with the second steep, as did the fourth. I did not notice much of a change until the fifth steep where the aroma and taste go almost entirely woody, with strong notes of wet pine wood, loam, and oak wood. It has a sharpness along with the molasses sweetness, this Shou is the right amount of woody and earthy in balance. I think I need to add this cake to my collection, because it turns out Ben likes it…which it would be weird if he didn’t, what with being a dragon and all!

For blog and photos:

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15049 tasting notes

Dexter sent more of this my way – a good validation that i DO still want this on my wishlist to buy eventually. This is still creamy and deliciously smooth, with no earthiness to it. over the course of multiple steepings this changes to a fruitier sort of tea – jam/fig notes and then eventually there are some slight vanilla notes, but not too strong. This is a great puerh. Thanks Dexter!


I need to stop buying pu’erh (massive amounts in my cupboard)
I need to remember how much I LOVE Mandala pu’erh.
I need to remember how much “other stuff” I have.
I really should not buy any for a year or so and then just go back to Mandala. I think I would be a happier pu’erh drinker if I did that…..
Happy that you still love this one. :)


I’m with you on that one. in terms of a single vendor with offerings i like, mandala is there for me in puerh land. there are a few bellyrub ;) that i love as well as a few YS but both those are always so overwhelming for me.

I’m not buying any puerh this year…just working on the cupboard (unless it’s a flavoured tea, since that’s a different beast even for puerh)


Oh for sure there are good ones out there from other sources, but it’s a process finding them. I find I LOVE most from Mandala and like the rest – haven’t had anything that I really disliked. Buying from there has much better odds of loving them than other sources.
Yes – flavored tea is a different animal – doesn’t count the same as straight tea. (and I find I’m moving back towards the flavored stuff – how weird is that…)


I should buy some of this. Not a fan of earthiness.


maybe stick to sheng then krstinalee?


Dexter, I’m really starting to side with you wrt shou. Although I’ve liked what I’ve tried from Crimson Lotus as well, Mandala has been consistently to my taste… recently, at least. :)


I am with you Dex, mine is way out there! Control….

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1812 tasting notes

After drinking water for most of the day, I made a cup of this, western-style. The first oddity was that I drank water for most of the day. The second oddity was that I made this western-style, steeping for four minutes instead.
It was pleasant, but not big on flavor. Perhaps I did not use enough leaf, or perhaps this would be better with a gong-fu brewing.

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253 tasting notes

I really tried to like this tea since I enjoyed the others in the sampler pack so much, but this one didn’t do it for me. I found the flavor weak and the taste generic even after increasing steeping times. Eventually after just a couple of short gong fu steeps (like 4 or 5) the flavor was all gone, so…yeah not the best shou experience I’ve had.

Boiling 5 OZ / 160 ML

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306 tasting notes

This is a pretty mellow and easy-to-drink Puer. It’s really quite calming in that way.

The first tastes I got from the sip were of leather, earth, and dried fig. The wet leaves also smell of dried fig. The infusion color is a deep, dark brown as with most ripe Puer. There really isn’t much change from one infusion to the next, but it does seem to become even more mellow and with a bit of a dull sweetness to it. It’s a pretty agreeable Puer, despite not being a very complex-tasting one.

This puer may be a bit too much of a smooth-talker, giving me a bit of a cloying feeling. I think I need a little more to ponder on in my shu puer, a little more substance.

Flavors: Dried Fruit, Earth, Fig, Leather

Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 5 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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