I got this as a sample from a friend: thank you!
NOTE: This green tea was stored in a thin baggie for a week or so before I transferred it to a glass jar to showcase it on our kitchen table—in a spot where no direct light or sunlight could shine on it ; unfortunately, it ended up sitting there for almost a week before I brewed it up (I was originally planning to brew it up the day after I transferred it). So the storage on my end was less than ideal. I judge that’s not a lot of time to be in less than ideal conditions; still, although it’s not likely it lost a noticeable amount of its freshness before it made it to my gaiwan, it is possible.
The dry leaf looked like medium sized, gently curled leaf, with a few thin twigs; it did not have a very strong aroma, making me think right away if this was likely a 2013 harvested tea (as of this writing, their website has no harvest date for this tea).
I am guessing there was approximately 6 – 8 grams of dry tea, I used my standard green tea brewing parameters in my blue and white 180ml gaiwan, Stevia added.
……….1st: ~175, 1’
……….2nd: ~175. 1.5
……….3rd: ~180, 1.5’ (normally I go to 2’)
The tea liquor had a clear light-green color, with a very mild vegetal aroma; I’m not certain about this, but it didn’t smell fresh to me.
1st steeping (Using Brita filtered water): distinctive vegetal green tea flavor (unrecognizable at the moment) with a bit of bitterness on the roof of my mouth (though not unpleasant).
2nd steeping (Using tap water): not much flavor, and what was there tasted flat and bitter. However, I finally got descriptor for the aroma of the wet leaf: asparagus. That I like. Still, based on the lack of flavor, I am going back to filtered water for the 3rd.
3rd steeping (Using Britta Filtered water; due to the bitterness on the second steeping, I kept the time at 1.5’): it tasted better than the 2nd, yet still with some bitterness. I judged there was no justification to go for a 4th on this tea.
The appearance of the used wet leaf is what is most notable about this tea. I have dissected the wet leaf of literally dozens upon dozens of green teas (I actually used to take pictures of them), so I believe I have much experience to draw from in terms of what I judge to be quality Chinese green tea. After the first and second steepings the tea in the gaiwan appeared to have a beautiful deep green color and looked to me like quality leaf. Yet, once I dumped it out on the counter and looked closely at it I was a little surprised at what I saw. Yes, I am detail oriented, and so those reading this may find this is a bit much, but to me there are several interesting things to note. Most of the teas I have had are what I consider to be artisan, single-estate, loose-leaf Chinese tea. I have found that the leaf of single-estate teas to be of uniform size and color (I believe the leaves of single-estate teas come from the same variety of bush, are all picked within a relatively small time frame, and are chosen by a relatively strict standard as to size of the leaf).
First off, although there were lots of stems, many of which where large (not too uncommon), there were a few nice looking buds as well. I checked the description on Mandala’s website, and its not clear if this is ‘single-estate tea’ or not (with leaf of the same age and type of bush), yet I don’t believe I have ever seen a whole-leaf Chinese green tea where the leaf varies so much as in this tea: there are a number of large army green colored leaves along with a few much smaller and much lighter green colored leaves. It looked to me much like some of Teavana’s green teas I have dissected in the past. Furthermore, this tea does not have the fresh appearance that the rest of the green teas I have been drinking this spring have (a few of the leaves in this tea looked shriveled). Although Mandela has harvest dates for many of their teas, because I didn’t see a harvest date on their website for this tea, I assume it is not of the 2014 harvest (harvest dates for green teas in particular are important, because most green tea looses significant value—flavor, aroma, and freshness—after about a year or so).
Overall, although I liked the aroma and initial appearance of the wet leaf, I was not impressed with this tea. The flavor was lacking, and there was more bitterness than what I normally find in a green tea. Still, it may not have ‘showed up’ for me for a number of reasons, perhaps due to storage, and perhaps because, as some green teas are, this one is finicky and needs to be brewed in a very particular way (a way I did not use). In terms of value, I judge this tea is very highly priced at $8/OZ, as there are at least a few teas I can find that are fresh and at least the same quality, for much less (even through English language online venders). Still, for a number of reasons, including potential storage issues, and because this tea is probably from the 2013 harvest, my final judgement on this tea is inconclusive.