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Recent Tasting Notes
Got this one as a sample. It was roasty and smooth, not anything to make it stand out from other Wuyi Oolongs. I bet this would go well with grandpa style brewing. I might stick with big red robe which is usually my Oolong of choice and was in my order from Mandala. This tea was just ok for me. The third steep was a lot less flavorful than the first two.
Flavors: Nutty, Roasted
This tea apparently has been around for a long time. I see reviews that date back 7 years ago. hehe My quick thoughts are that it was a delicious super roasted black tea. I drank it once the way Mandala suggested and gongfu cha style many times. Lots of notes of baked bread, dark cocoa, malt, dried fruit, stonefruits, chocolate, some mineral towards the end of the infusions. It was smooth and really easy to reach for and an easy sipdown. I’ll probably add this to my next order. I’m just now exploring their black teas since I enjoyed their oolongs and pu’erh tea very much.
Flavors: Baked Bread, Chocolate, Cocoa, Malt, Mineral, Muscatel, Roasted, Smooth, Stonefruits
Gongfu Sipdown (611)!
This was a free sample in my last Mandala Order, along with a roasted version of the tea. I had the roasted version last weekend and this was something I steeped up during the week. I actually expected, fully, to enjoy the roasted version a lot more than the greener version but I was just SO enamored by this tea – plus I actually remember what it tasted like; so I think this was the clear winner of the two.
I got around nine steeps from this – but that was pushing the envelope a little bit. I also paired it with the two Columbian mini mangoes that I got from the market. Those mangoes were the most amazing mangoes I have ever eaten; about the size of an egg, and just packed with very sweet, juicy, floral mango. I started with eating them while drinking the tea and the combo worked – but I did ultimately pause my session midway through to just finish the mangoes because they were SO GOOD that they needed to be appreciated all on their own.
Highly floral tasting oolong – most distinctly lilac. I used to have a lilac bush in my front yard, when I was a small, small kid living in Eyebrow, SK. I think I was like four or five years old. My favourite thing in the world was daintily picking the lilac petals off the bush and filling a mason jar with them, which I would then haul around with me to smell or feed to our labrador. Smelling the steeping leaves, after they’d initially opened up, REALLY put me right back to those childhood memories with the lilacs. In addition to tasting amazing, it was nostalgic as hell for me – and actually made me a little bit emotional.
Apart from that brilliant, full bodied and silky lilac note I also felt like there was a mix of orchid, gardenia, and elderflower to the infusions – but not as intensely as that lilac note. Very fresh, very “Springtime Flowers”. Mouthfeel was buttery/silky in general too; soft on the palate. There was a gentle sweetness throughout, but especially in early steeps before the florals hit their peak; sort of like a more delicate sugar cane note or a trace of the sweetness and coconut taste from coconut water. Very, very clean finish.
Mandala really knocks their greener oolongs out of the park – but this is something I probably wouldn’t have ordered for myself based on the description so I think I was just all the more impressed with how this sample steeped up. It was intoxicating, and lovely.
Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kFvgaVmGC5o
(Something very peaceful about this song, but also a little haunting?)
This is a one off Sample provided to me by Mandala. I really don’t know what to expect with this tea though.
I brewed it 212F/2:30/12oz I don’t know how much was in the sample though but I used up the entire thing.
This one has an interesting flavor to it. I’m getting tobacco, cherry, and a bit of metallic flavor. Also there is some amount of Malt and Bitterness to it as well for the black tea itself. It’s certainly not a bad tea. It just has a different flavor to it. Good tea though. I’ll give it a rec.
Flavors: Bitter, Cherry, Malt, Tobacco
21 days left until we move! and kiddo decided today was the day to start rolling back to front lol. pulled this one out first thing this mornig as i’ve been dying for some of my puerh. still can’t really take the time for a good long session, but i can drink a few western brew cups during the day if i start early. Going to make sure i save a little of this one for the new house, but man i am a fan! it’s up there as a western brew with some of my other mandala favourites.
Been drinking this one a bunch lately – always western brew with multiple resteeps. I really want to have a gonfu session with it, but there just hasn’t been any time with all the excitement. It’s not special dark but it ranks right up there with noble mark and a few others of garett’s delicious shu puerh :)
oh man. i had this tea yesterday western brew and it was amazing. I really hope i have time to try this gongfu style but at the moment, western is where it’s at given i don’t always have a lot of time with the little one to really sit and enjoy my tea with quite the same depth as i used to. cant even tell you why i loved it so much beyond it being dark and delicious. :)
Since the dashboard is slow right now, I’ll post this today instead of tomorrow:
Another lovely sample from Kawaii433! Thanks again. :D I’ve never had this one. And I love trying any ripe pu-erh. I went with a smaller piece of pu-erh for a not-quite-full mug (again to have another steep session on a later day). After the rinse and a three minute steep it seems this pu-erh is hardly unraveled yet, though the brew is already quite deep brown. No unpleasantness in flavors or fragrances here. The most distinctive quality is a starchiness that really lingers well after the sip. Quite sweet and like the best sort of mushroom (I don’t like mushrooms but this flavor is fine.) Somehow, this is a tough pu-erh for me to describe. (Kawaii, you are already amazing at flavor notes. haha. I’m failing at these flavor descriptions lately.) All the steeps were somehow the same flavor, though the first cup had the most starch. I had to physically break apart the leaves before the fourth steep because it was still in a solid piece, despite all that boiling water! This pu-erh is tasty enough, but I usually like when I find distinct flavor notes.
Steep #1 // smaller piece for a not-quite-full mug // 13 minutes after boiling // rinse // 3 minute steep
Steep #2 // 8 minutes after boiling // 3 minute steep
Steep #3 // just boiled // 3 min steep
Steep #4 // just boiled // 10 minute steep
2019 sipdowns: 40 (Lupicia – Cassis & Blueberry)
Grandpa brewed this morning at work today – very good tea for grandpa; the little ginseng coated leaves sink like rocks at the bottom of the mug and ginseng is so sweet that the tea will never get bitter. Just taste really richly of ginseng; which is what I wanted this morning when I chose a ginseng tea.
Subsequent top ups get gradually less ginseng heavy, but still have floral sweetness and a nice woody/resin like quality to them as well.
Plus, it’s the oolong that just keeps giving.
Drank this one Gongfu on my first day back in the office, post vacation, while I caught up on the 100+ emails that I had received since I’d left. It’s good to have a nice tea to sip on while doing something annoying like responding to that many emails…
Flavors: Grass, Grass Seed, Honey, Nectar, Red Apple, Red Fruits, Sugarcane, Sweet, Wood
From my “sick period” during the week.
Original plan was to drink this Gong Fu because I thought the Ginseng would be nice on my throat/stomach and the many little cups of warm tea would be comforting. However, I simply did not have the energy to get out of bed and brew that way; so I instead drank two big Western mugs (the second was a resteep) of this tea while piled under blankets in bed and binging Rupaul’s Drag Race – it was still very comforting.
Amazingly, I could still taste the sweet and woody ginseng despite all of the congestion.
Free sample yay.
Light and mild tasting tea. Sweet, lots of stonefruit notes (apricot, peach). It’s very delicate, smooth, almost creamy mouth feeling. I didn’t know the health benefits of osmanthus until I just looked it up. I would say health benefits or not, this is a delightful, smooth, floral apricot tea. Lung health, sedative effects, detoxifies, appetite suppression and more. The green tea base carries the osmanthus perfectly. I “think” I’ve only had osmanthus oolong and this is my first green tea base. Not sure though. I have only tried a few osmanthus teas but they tend to be a little too sweet for me and this one is not. It’s a naturally sweet taste and the green tea base is very smooth. As I progressed, it became more and more floral (not perfumey) but the apricots and peaches remained through the rest of the infusions.
Porcelain gaiwan, 6g, 175F, 5 sec rinse, 8 steeps: 20s, 25s, 30s, 35s, 40s, 50s, 60s. 2m.
Flavors: Apricot, Floral, Flowers, Osmanthus, Peach, Stonefruits, Sweet
Sipdown on this one. Most of the time I drank it gongfu style but this last one I prepared it as suggested. A heaping Tbsp in 8 oz, begin with 30-45 sec (I made 16 oz with 2 heaping Tbsp) and add time for additional infusions. I also added a splash of milk and ice cubes. It’s so hot today lol. The little bit of milk brought out the toast more, I can still taste the almonds, cinnamon (very light) and spices but the additional “toast” note made it even more delicious.
Flavors: Almond, Brown Toast, Cinnamon, Mineral, Nuts, Roasted, Spices, Toast
Busy day and I have more so hopefully I can add to this review.
Preliminary thoughts: Nice almond notes, as well as the spices, such as cinnamon, cloves, ginger. Stays true to the Wuyi oolong rock teas… Minerals. It says lightly roasted but I would classify it more medium to heavy. Not charcoal-smoky flavor but more roasted flavors and notes. There were caramel notes, some warm vanilla notes. Nice mineral finish.
Roasted, nutty, fruity plum goodness.
Gaiwan, 110ml, 205°F, 9 steeps: rinse, 10s, 15s, 20s, 25s, 30s, 35s,40s, 60s, 120s
I hope you are all having a great and productive day. ^^
Flavors: Almond, Caramel, Cinnamon, Cloves, Dried Fruit, Fruity, Ginger, Mineral, Nuts, Plums, Roasted nuts, Vanilla
1st (very short) steep was interesting, smelled sweet and floral/green, more like smelling a vegetable garden than say, a rose garden. The sweetness is what I tasted first, followed by bitterness.
2nd steep is where things got weird for me. Still has a little sweetness, but the bitterness is more pronounced. Couldn’t figure out how to describe it until I saw other people here saying “green pepper.” That’s it, it’s vegetables with a kick. Combined with that initial slightly-floral sweetness, it makes me think habanero minus the heat. Not sure how I feel about this as sort of flavor as tea.
With some trepidation, made a third cup. Shorter steep than I did for the second cup. Still a little bitter, but significantly less peppery. Unfortunately less sweet too, but what can you do…Just a touch of minerality in there also that I hadn’t noticed before.
I could probably make another cup, but I’m not sure I’m inclined to. Overall a very educational experience, if mostly in discovering that I do not enjoy this sort of tea. On the plus side, it’s not a one-note tea. And for a tea to wake me up to start the day, it definitely did the trick.
Flavors: Bell Pepper, Bitter, Hay, Mineral, Vegetal
Will need to write a more detailed description next time when my tea drinking isn’t interrupted by errands and other things, but I’m very glad I bought this one! It’s very sweet and light, with a little fruity/hay flavor? Reminds me a lot of Whispering Pines Tea’s Moondance white tea, which I love, but a more grown-up version. Not bitter or overpowering, but pleasantly energizing, with just a hint of a darker, woodsy-ness underneath.
Flavors: Dry Grass, Fruity
It’s been a long day, you know? Last week, I did some tree clearing on a friend’s property for fire prevention. She set up a community event to encourage other denizens of their heavily forested community to do the same. I went back today to line up all the brush and limbs and tree trunks along the roadside for a wood chipper staffed by the community fire department to chip and haul all the residents’ debris. I guess word got around what a thorough and clean job I did (it’s nice to know your work is appreciated!) and I ended up clearing a neighbor’s property. This is a nice side gig to pick up pockets of cash and there’s no pressure to cut anything down I’m uncomfortable with…. since it’s just me and my chainsaw.
When I got home, there was a tea package waiting at the front door. Not Mandala Tea, another company, but inside was a teapet, a lovely red pig to commemorate my year. Inspired by tea-sipper’s recent review of The Shu Fits, I figured a shou would be a good way to end an exhausting day and a nice dark ‘mud bath’ of a tea to soak my new buddy in.
I’m rambling. Can you tell I’m relaxed?
I have to say thank you to both Mandala Tea and to Kawaii433; the former included a sample of The Shu Fits in my last order and the latter sent a sample as part of a tea swap. I had this loose puerh a few years ago and remember it being very sweet with a red berry-chocolate-leather feel. Has the tea changed in a few years?
Yes, it has. The berries are now mostly evident in the aroma of the dry leaf, along with brown sugar, chocolate, leather and wood. The chocolate has really mellowed in taste as well as the sweetness. This tea seems to have moved into more savory tastes of chicken broth and cedar, some leather, faint mushroom, and a clean mineral finish. It’s fairly light-bodied and sips easily, depositing a pleasant aftertaste of walnut and faint milk chocolate-red berries at the base of the tongue. There is some astringency, tempered by salivation and a light returning sweetness.
All said, a pleasant evening sipper with some relaxing effect. You will find no funk in this tea. I have enough leftover to do a western steep soon to see if that will bring out some of the remembered berry and chocolate flavors.
EDIT: Mandala has some new teas out including a loose shou, Dark Star, a nod in name to the Grateful Dead.
Trying a sample of this one:
Quick rinse, struck by slightly smokey aroma. First couple cups are kind of smoky, slightly earthy, followed by a tangy and sweet flavor – kind of citrusy? Is it making me think of orange? At one point I even thought pineapple, but that’s not quite right. Not sure I can pin it down, there’s a lot going on here. At the end it’s just a tiny bit bitter and drying.
Later cups seem to have mellowed out a little. Less smoky, still a little citrusy. There’s still something I can’t quite place, something a little earthy and herbal that balance out the fruit flavor.
Altogether, it’s pretty interesting, lots of contrast. I’d try it again.
Flavors: Fruity, Herbs, Moss, Orange, Smoke, Tangy
Thanks so much for a sample of this, Kawaii433! I definitely wanted to try it, especially because the name is too precious. I was in the mood for a shu, so this is what I went with. Note: I completely bypassed the rinse. Somehow my brew doesn’t look as lovely dark as the photo. The description might be over-promising… dark chocolate, chocolate, brown sugar? Really any shu can taste like that if you’re stretching your imagination. The flavor is delicious – I do notice a bit of chocolate, but really any shu if brewed dark enough would taste like dark chocolate. I feel like I could never overbrew shu. The darker the better. But there is also a sweetness that I always appreciate in shu. Clean and clear if that makes sense. The leaves of this puerh start out huge, but then it’s odd looking in the infuser and the leaves don’t seem to be expanding. All three steeps were the same… I tried really milking the third steep but nope, the flavor remains the same. It’s certainly a delicious enough puerh, but the description really set a high bar. But maybe I like the tiny leafed puerh so it can be dark dark dark. So I’m not sure if this shu fits me!
Steep #1 // 1 1/3 teaspoons for a full mug // 17 minutes after boiling // 2 minute steep
Steep #2 // 10 minutes after boiling // 3 minute steep
Steep #3 // just boiled // 10 min
2019 sipdowns: 24 (Steven Smith’s Brahmin which turns out was in my steepster cupboard but I never actually had it? Does that count as a sipdown?)
Birthday “Cake Tea” Tasting 6/8
The only straight tea in our tasting! I’m glad at least one straight tea wound up getting included; I knew I couldn’t include simply every pu’erh cake but this one does ACTUALLY have cake in the name, so it made the cut off.
Of the people I invited to my birthday tasting, half of them were from the Store Operations department at work and the other half were a mix of people from Research & Development and Quality Control. I would call everyone present BIG fans of tea, but without a shadow of a doubt only the R&D/QC people are really big fans of straight and traditional teas – for all of us, that’s what we gravitate to the most outside of work. It definitely came across in the tasting too, because the only people who liked this tea were the R&D/QC staff members – everyone from Store Ops found it too intense.
This was actually my first tasting of this tea, and I will definitely need to try it again to get a real sense of what this is like – I don’t think the cupping style of preparation tends to do most Shou pu’erh any sort of justice; always better to Gong Fu, Grandpa, or even just brew Western. My snap impression was that this was very earthy though, with a bit of a sharper saline top note – and maybe a wee bit oceanic in a sort of “crabby” sort of way over the less pleasant “fishy” descriptor sometimes used for pu’erh.
Glad I got to share this one, though!
I haven’t been feeling the gaiwan love for several days and have been wanting easier teas to drink, so thank you Kawaii433 for sending this mini tuo cha my way :) Grandpa is the theme of the week I guess.
I must first point out the aroma because I know there are a lot of cocoa lovers here: cocoa and walnut. The tea is clean and alive for a shou. It’s very mineral and complex, with bright and dark layers moving around in a kind of creamy suspension that later turns oily. It’s like drinking a walnut tree, wood and fruit. Hints of cocoa, healthy dark soil and leather all elevated from the walnut grove floor by a pervasive brightness and light sugarcane sweetness. Clean camphor cools then warms the throat and chest. I feel grounded and calm. Definitely the best mini tuo I’ve had.