Special Dark

Tea type
Pu-erh Tea
Not available
Brown Sugar, Cacao, Chocolate, Cocoa, Dark Chocolate, Dates, Drying, Earth, Fig, Milk, Raisins, Smooth, Dark Bittersweet, Malt, Cherry, Cookie, Stonefruits, Mushrooms, Cherry Wood, Oak wood, Sawdust, Wood, Caramel, Leather, Bitter, Grain, Hay, Plums, Baked Bread, Honey, Stewed Fruits, Cream, Nuts, Coffee
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Bulk, Loose Leaf
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Not available
Edit tea info Last updated by looseTman
Average preparation
Boiling 2 min, 15 sec 6 g 10 oz / 301 ml

Available from 1 seller.

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145 Tasting Notes View all

From Mandala Tea

Per Garret: Special Dark Offically Retired 7/2/15
A Very Sad Day Indeed! :-((

We call this Special Dark for good reason. This decadent tea is hand crafted in small batches within cotton bags, and fermented more extensively requiring great attention and intention. Creamy, rich, dark, and smooth. This cocoa-y indulgence is one of our most unique pu’er teas. An excellent change-up from the norm for you lovers of the shu.

Pu-erh that is more lightly fermented can hardly be oversteeped in early infusions, but this tea should be approached differently. We suggesting easing in with quick infusions before experimenting with the full power of the Dark Side.

About Mandala Tea View company

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145 Tasting Notes

149 tasting notes

This sure brings back memories. It basically got me through two or three years of final exams. I stocked up on a ton of it back then and still have a bit left over, but unfortunately either my tastes have changed, my storage wasn’t great (I was just getting into pu’er and didn’t have much of a storage system back then), the water I use now is different (I’ve noticed some differences in flavour of other teas since I moved apartments), or a combination of the above.

It still tastes pretty good. The chocolate/raisiny favours really come out when hot and there’s a light cottony dryness to it, but it’s not as vibrant as I remember it being. It tastes much flatter when cooled down, so maybe it’s best if I wait until after summer to drink this.

Looking through some of my past tea notes, I realise my preferences have gone from light and fruity teas (and many flavoured teas) to light and floral teas (with still some flavoured teas) to darker teas like shu and roasted oolongs and malty blacks (fewer flavoured teas) to predominantly shu (but pickier than before), young and middle aged sheng (can’t really afford anything truly aged since I don’t want to risk anything that precious with my unsettled life and therefore likely unstable long-term storage), dark/roasted oolongs, and black teas. It was only three years ago I thought my tastes would stay relatively stable.

Even now, while I’ve stayed in the last set of shu/sheng/roasted oolong/black preferences for some time, my tastes have changed. I’ve gone from preferring sweet, floral, and delicate shengs to ones with a bit more of a pleasantly bitter edge and some camphor/apricot/smokey notes with a lasting aftertaste. A lot of the shus I enjoyed earlier on in my shu exploration phase leaned towards chocolatey and/or coffeelike— now I prefer ones that are slightly fruity and sweet, and pay more attention to the aftertaste. Even my black tea preferences have shifted a little from Fujian/Assam/SF/Autumn Darjeeling to Yunnan/Taiwan/Assam/less Darjeeling (though the shift in Darjeeling may be due to shifting more funds towards pu’er). I’m pretty sure my oolong preferences have remained relatively unchanged after shifting from green/unroasted to dark/roasted, so I guess I was sort of right there.

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2273 tasting notes

I have had this a couple of times lately but haven’t logged it. Last Wednesday night I drank several cups of it in the evening and was WIDE awake until around 3 am! That may have been the tea, the cake I had with it, or just a fluke.

I had it again today. A friend is moving away and we met for possibly the last time. She has recently become quite sensitive to gluten, so my daughter made some delicious flourless chocolate cookies for us, and I made deviled eggs. It was all we could come up with on short notice that was gluten free! It was good, though, and she really seemed to love it.

This is the friend who thought she disliked tea, and I introduced her to puerh and to Teavivre’s Jasmine Silver Needle and she in turn got her mom totally addicted to puerh. Don’t you LOVE it?

This is a great tea to serve with sweets because it doesn’t compete, it complements. I also like serving it when I think the fats in the food might be hard on the system. I suppose it is preventive maintenance.

This is not a horsey puerh at all, but rather one of the smoothest. It is very mild yet flavorful. We drank two steeps western style in a large pot and the second steep was as good, as flavorful, as dark and tasty as the first. It is not the darkest puerh I have had, but it is indeed very, VERY special.


Dear ashmanra, I just purchased SD and have started to become acquainted with it. I can see how this tea would easily complement sweets. What brewing parameters do you favor for this “very mild yet flavorful” shou? Thanks!


Since we were drinking a lot of tea that day, LooseTman, my daughter used a 22 ounce pot and about three and a half teaspoons of leaf. It was steeped for about four minutes for the first steep and four and a half for the second, using boiling water.


Thank you! Pu’erh by the pot – I’ll have to try that!
Do you typically brew pu’erh Western of Gong Fu style?

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22 tasting notes

I completely forgot I had this. It was part of a shu sampler I bought from Mandala approximately a zillion years ago and promptly forgot I even had. I found it a few weeks ago while cleaning, and tried it a few days after and then never made a note of it here. Usually I wouldn’t but!!!! suprisingly, I really liked this. Not even a just “for a shu” kind of like. This is something I’d keep in my cupboard if it were still around. This is the first time outside of nuggets that I’ve actually gotten those rich dark chocolate notes everyone talks about out of a shu.


too bad it’s all gone :(

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503 tasting notes

I had this at an earlier time, and it wasn’t as “wowing” as others made it out to be. So, I decided to let it rest for a little and revisit before doing a review, and I am so glad that I did…

The dry leaf has very little scent to it. I opened my jar and could only catch whiffs of slight fermentation and some dust; however, there was a light sweetness in the background. I placed a generous amount of these strands in my warmed gaiwan and gave it a shake. Then, the scent came forth! The strands gave off a sweet hot coco mix scent. I took in the dry cacao powder aroma. I could note a lingering milkiness behind this decadent scent. I washed the leaves once and prepared for brewing. The chocolate aroma became muddled in the steeped leaves. The outstanding tone were fruit and a mild bitterness. The chocolate tone wrapped around these fruit scents like little jam filled desserts. The taste was fantastic! The sip begins with straight dates. The flavor moves into some more raisin tones with wet tobacco. Then, there is a prominent fig note. I noted a light pleasant bitter tone in the aftertaste. The next drink brings on a sweeter atmosphere with brown sugar and light honey. I began to experience a nice head feeling with a warm stomach; The qi has commenced. This brew has a lot of complex tones. The chocolate began to show its face at the second steeping by appearing dry and slightly unsweetened. The next steeping brings on its true face by being presented as rich, dark, and heavy with some earth tones. This brew has a lot of mouth feeling and it fills the palette. The body is thick and smooth and goes down easy. The qi continues to build and is an ever rising focused feeling. I experienced plenty of mouth action and hair prickling. This is something I could drink all night. I love brews that hit you with a full body of flavors steep after steep. The brew morphs to heavy chocolate tones with some drying in the background; moreover, there is a smooth creamy texture that lubricates the mouth. This is a well developed brew, and I am glad that I awaited its recovery. However, the brew dies down dramatically at about the eight or ninth steeping. The brew grows watery, pungent, and consists of solely fermented tones. Personally, I have little appreciation for these tones, but I do know people that enjoy this. All and all, I enjoyed this session, and I will be squirreling away some. I am sad to hear that this was discontinued. I can now understand the uproar from the tea community upon hearing of this tea’s demise. Thankfully, it can live on from the other tea hoarders and I ;)


Flavors: Brown Sugar, Cacao, Chocolate, Cocoa, Dark Chocolate, Dates, Drying, Earth, Fig, Milk, Raisins, Smooth

Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 7 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

Since some of us still hoard it we should go on a quest and find something similar.


A quest! #challengeaccepted


I await the highest bidder…


Very nice note. I’m glad you got to experience the magic. I love it too much.

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603 tasting notes

This one has been in my collection for a long time now and I’m slowly moving through everything I have. I’m typically not a puerh drinker, but seeing that it has received great reviews, I must give it a try.

First Steep: I’m surprised to see how dark this cup is given the short steep time. No wonder it’s called Special Dark! Sipping… hm, this is nicer than I thought it would be. I first taste bits of dry bark, wood and cocoa. There is a shadow of dirt that I pick up in most puerhs, but it sits in the background and doesn’t grow too strong. The cup also has a vague creamy element which I’m enjoying. Really looking forward to future cups!

Second Steep: This one is a bit more.. earthy. There is something a little tangy about this cup, too. I’m not sure if it has to do with the earthy note combined with the dry bark flavor, but it’s definitely a little strange. That being said, it is drinkable and there is still that nice chocolate note – a bit weaker than the first cup.

Third Steep: Reminds me a bit more of the first cup. I still taste bark mixed with a bit of dark chocolate and dirt. This cup also has really nice sweetness that wasn’t as prominent in previous cups.

This is definitely one of the better puerh teas I’ve had and I love that there isn’t that fishy scent or flavor. Yum!

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871 tasting notes

Big thanks and also big apologies to Sil. She put this one in the GCTTB 3 for me at my request and I am just getting to it now. I have been wanting to try this one for a long time and I wanted to make sure I had enough dedicated time to really give it a good try.

So most of you here on steepster know that I just don’t like pu’erh. I have tried many a tea and know what I do and do not like. The problem is, that I really, really want to like pu’erh. I just don’t :( So I wanted to give this one a try as it is so highly rated here on steepster as well as elsewhere in the tea universe.

I brewed this one as per the recommended instructions on the packaging. 1TBSP per 8 oz boiling water, first steep of 30 seconds. The brewed tea is quite dark. It has a gentle sweet smell. I am getting hints of wet moss as well as dried wheat noodles. I know that must sounds super appetizing. It tastes quite thick and creamy. There are very slight notes of dark chocolate, like 85% cocoa, but the strongest flavour I am getting is wet black soil. As it cools more, the “earthy” types notes become stronger.

For the second steep, I added 15 seconds as per the recommendations. It brewed up very dark, just like the first steep. The smell of the brewed tea is the same as the first steep. The flavour profile is also the same as the first steep but the liquor is not as thick.

For the third steep, I again added 15 seconds as per the recommendations. It brewed up noticeable less dark than the first two steeps. I found the scent to be much more earthy. There is a slight mushroom scent to it I think. The taste is again much more earthy. Decomposing leaves, I am getting that slight mushroom flavour, just like in the scent. There is no sweetness to this steep, as well as no cocoa flavour.

I did not attempt a fourth steep, even though the description on the tea packaging states this tea can get as many as 4 steeps.

Overall, the answer is still that I just don’t like pu’erh. I am confident enough in all of the teas that I have tried to be able to say that. I just don’t like the taste/flavour profile in pu’erh tea. I am happy to have had the opportunity to try this tea as it is so highly rated, so I know it is just not the teas I have tried.


glad to help out! It’s nice to be able to cross things off lists :)

Louise Li

Hi Lala, it maybe the coffee drinker in you not liking pu-eh.
I am a coffee addict, and I can’t stand pu-eh.

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424 tasting notes

I always hate those long, drawn out posts that go on and on about the different steeps, so I’m going to make this fairly abbreviated and let the pictures speak for themselves.

I gave the pu an initial rinse and dumped it. Then the first steep was 30 seconds. This steep was super dark, a little bitter, notes of leather and tobacco. I decided to dump this one too and go with a shorter steep (15 seconds) this time. The second steep was delicious. Strong dark tea flavor, hints of leather but very pleasant and WHOA is it possible that I already have a tea buzz?

Full review and photos: https://tealover.net/2015/06/special-dark-ripe-puer-2006-mandala-tea/


Yes it is….

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659 tasting notes

Thanks to KiwiDelight for sending me some of this! I decided to have it gong fu style with boiling water. The dry leaf has a nice, promising cocoa smell. The first infusion was 15 seconds. It brewed up a lovely amber color. The flavor was thick bittersweet chocolate. The second infusion was 30 seconds. It came out darker than the previous steep. Again, lots of lovely cocoa notes. My dad showed up at that point and I stopped taking detailed notes, but I think I got about 7 total steeps out of this one. Later steeps were more malt than cocoa, but still quite lovely. Sipdown!

Incidentally, I thought this was a black tea. Turns out it’s a ripe pu’er. I haven’t had the best experiences with pu teas, but this one is making me think I’ve just been drinking the wrong ones. Hmm.

Flavors: Cocoa, Dark Bittersweet, Malt


Yep there are some good shou’s out there and this is a good one :)


I don’t recollect sending you some O-O

Glad you enjoyed it all the same! It’s amazing Western style also.


Kiwi, I think it was part of our Secret Pumpkin swap six months ago!


No wonder I couldn’t remember xD

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2815 tasting notes

Finally finishing off this sample given to me by a Steepster friend. Now I can’t remember who it was, it’s been so long. Whoever you are, thank you!

It was a difficult week for me. I am still sending out job applications and I had a very lengthy interview for a job I really wanted. Found out on Monday I didn’t get the job and I’ve been kinda down all week just burying my head in the sand, doing nothing but obsessing over tea and avoiding more job searching. I might be coming out of my funk a bit today but I am just so sick of this job searching process! I have to remember to enjoy life.

So here I am with a nice cup of pu in a cute yixing teapot. I’m not sure why I don’t have any of this tea but I will need to pick some up in the future. It’s so smooth and I’m really digging the cocoa taste. I also pick up a faint bit of cherries. Something about it seems a bit leathery too, not that I would normally be chewing on a piece of leather, but you know what I mean….

This is a nice companion to a quiet evening. It’s hard to go wrong with any puerh from Mandala but something about this seems almost decadent. Quite lovely.

Boiling 0 min, 30 sec

Searching for a job is brutal. Last time it took me 5 months, and March is probably the worst time of the year. Just keep trying and enjoy your tea!


Sorry to hear about the job interview…I have definitely had a few of those myself. It hurts and you think to yourself, “What did I do wrong?” and wonder what to do differently next time. This is certainly the tea to fall back on though. Hope it gave you a nice comforting hug!


@faybingler – I’ve been looking for 8 months now!
@amariel – thanks… :)


Wow, that sounds awful! I hope you find something soon!


I’m looking for work too. Hang in there.


Thanks, MsWhatsit. :)

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294 tasting notes

This is probably the only Shu Puer to really have earned my favor. I like Shu Puer in general, but aside from this one, none have ever really stood out to me as being unique or particularly enjoyable. Admittedly, I’ve probably had less than 10 different ones.

After a rinse this tea smells strongly of cacao and stone fruits. The brewed infusion tastes quite like unsweetened cacao, and in later infusions this is balanced by a dark fruit flavor something like dried fig or bing cherries. The aroma of the brewed liquor is like sugar cookies.

This one lasts plenty of infusions and delivers such a nice, rich flavor, with very little of the mustiness that most shu Puer have. I really like this. Best ripe Puer I’ve had so far!

Flavors: Cacao, Cherry, Cookie, Fig, Stonefruits

Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 4 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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