41 Tasting Notes
Another nice medium-bodied sheng from Mandala with a spicy, sweet, mildly tart, and slightly citrusy profile. The aromas were hard to place in the early steeps, centering around tart / savory / spicy notes that I could not isolate. In the later steeps these became fruity-sweet, then tart stonefruits, green apples, and lemons.
I went with cooler water to try and bring out the sweetness, and short steeps (5/7/9/11/… seconds).
This sheng had an oily mouthfeel in a couple of early steeps, then became a rounded one in the mid-steeps. The spice note was not intense yet it was very present, if that makes any sense. In some steeps it was felt more than tasted, which contributed to a lively feeling in the mouth. I got a hint of pine sap in steep 4, but no smokey taste. When the sweetness made itself known it struck me as being similar to apples.
Not as energetic as yesterday’s 2014 Leaf Nei Fei, but still gave me a strong uplifting energy by the end of the 20th steep (which I did all in a single three and a half hour session … whew!). Mandala describes it as a feeling of “calm vibrancy”, which is pretty close to how I feel now.
Overall I really enjoyed this one, and will probably lay in a cake to age.
Leaf porn: http://instagram.com/p/9DSYJzli5Y
Flavors: Spicy, Sweet
A very nice medium-bodied young sheng with notes of pine, spice, citrus and tart stone fruits in the cup. On some later steeps I also picked up some Granny Smith apples and a faint herbaceous quality. The flavors were not too complex, but the aromas were! As the session progressed I smelled pine sap, split pea soup, cinnamon, apple pie, Meyer lemons, honeydew melon, lemon meringue pie and loquat. I did the session with fairly short steeps (5/7/9/11/… seconds).
The most outstanding quality for me is how this tea reacted with my Qi. After the first three steeps I had to walk away for a number of hours because I had so much energy I could no longer sit still. That happened again after the next four steeps as well, but to a lesser degree. I was able to finish the session (steeps 8 through 19) in one sitting since the energy had subsided a bit by then. This would be a good tea to drink when I have to get up and get things done.
Mandala notes that the tea is very young and not incredibly complex, and my session bore that out. As of this writing a 357 gram cake is only $37, so it might be worth putting one away for a few years to see what it does.
Flavors: Citrus, Herbaceous, Pine, Spicy, Tart
I have to agree with Dexter and Sil on the 2015 harvest of this tea. It’s a pale comparison to the 2013 and 2014 versions. Missing is the rich chocolate aroma and the profound cocoa notes in the cup. It came across as thin, with just a hint of cocoa and malt and a slight underlying sweetness. I’m not going to rate this just yet. Perhaps if it ages another 6 months or so it might get a little better.
So here I was drinking the same tea two days in a row. Inconceivable! (Yeah, also just finished reading The Princess Bride).
A couple of days ago I had my first session with this tea where I pushed it pretty hard with the timing (15/10/10/10/15/15/15/20/25/30/45/90/…) and thought it was good but not very complex. kieblera5 noted in the comments on that tasting that they really enjoyed it, so I decided to give it another try.
I did a second session last night with much shorter steep lengths (5/7/9/11/…seconds) and got a lot more out of it. Aromas of tart stone fruits (sour cherries through apricots) dominated the session, but hints of cloves and stewed figs made brief appearances toward the end. The cup had wonderful sweet, spicy, citrus, tart and herbal notes, with cloves making an appearance or two.
The first steep felt like the tea was still opening up, but from then on it was a great ride. Steeps 5-8 were my favorites with a well-integrated flavor profile of the above tastes and numerous exclamation points in my notes. Steep 19 was a bit of a hail-Mary at 10 minutes. This tea did not give me heartburn like so many young shengs do, so that’s a big plus.
I did all this in a single session starting at 10:30 PM and finishing up at 1 AM. I was pretty tea-drunk by this point and the wife was fast asleep so I woke up the cats, arranged them as an audience in front of me and proceeded to recite the history of Florin as documented by the great historian S. Morgenstern (not the abridged version that William Goldman did; it left out all the subtle satire on the excesses of European royalty). By 4 AM the cats were asleep with limbs akimbo and two were snoring, so it was time to call it a night.
I’m upgrading my rating on this and will probably procure some more as it’s a great sheng to drink now. Recommended for those who like an accessible young sheng that’s primarily sweet-tart-spicy.
Flavors: Citrus, Herbaceous, Spicy, Sweet, Tart
Well my nearly year-long tea buying hiatus has ended. I know what you’re thinking … how did he do it? Easy. I stayed away from the friendly enablers here on Steepster for much of it. Also traveling a lot for work helped.
I bought samples of the current shengs from Mandala, and this one was first into the gaiwan.
I started with a flash rinse, a 5 minute pause and a 15 second opening steep. This first steep was unusual for me. I got a numbing sensation on the top of my tongue like when you eat a dish heavy in cloves, tingling in the back of my throat, and a lively mouth feel in a citrus-spice way but which was really neither. I was unable to put my finger on any definite notes.
Subsequent steeps were more conventional. Medium bodied, with a rotating array of spicy, tart, sweet and fruity notes taking center stage. The aroma was primarily tart stone fruits, with some apricot in the later steeps. I got a calming energy that was good for focusing on work.
I pushed this tea pretty hard in terms of timing, ranging from 10 seconds to 3 minutes over 15 steeps, and the 7 grams of leaf filled my 100ml gaiwan to the brim. I never got any smokey notes, which is good since I don’t tolerate those well. The sample was a single chunk pried from a cake. It had loose compression and I was able to tease individual leaves out of it without too much trouble.
I’m going to have to try this again with shorter steep times to see if more complex notes emerge.
Overall quite enjoyable and a possible candidate for buying a cake to age a few years.
Flavors: Citrus, Spicy, Sweet, Tart
This review is of the 2012 spring harvest, which as of this writing (12 March 2015) is still available on the Yunnan sourcing US site.
I’ve had this tea for over a year, and it seems to be getting better with some age on it. I use a little Yixing which I’ve dedicated to Yunnan black teas. With this much leaf in the pot, short steeps are in order (3/6/9/12/etc. seconds). I normally take it through 15 steeps, with the first 10 being the best but the last 5 are still quite tasty.
The tea starts off with lots of malt and sweetness, morphing into a honey note and finally into a bee pollen and honey sweetness that is just outstanding. Hints of Yunnan spice, sweet citrus and faint tartness appear at times, along with strong floral notes.
This is my benchmark Yunnan black tea for sweetness. I break it out at least once a week, and just placed an order for more. A truly magnificent harvest. Recommended.
Flavors: Citrus, Floral, Malt, Spices, Sugarcane
Finally got around to prying a chunk off this brick. Brewed gongfu style. Got some faint smoke in the first three steeps but then it subsided. Camphor, pine, citrus, pepper, and a nice underlying sweetness dominated the first six steeps, yielding to sweetness, slight pepper and a pleasant tartness in the next six. The liquor was a beautiful, clear amber color. Overall a very nice sheng which I’ll drink it sparingly to see how it ages over the coming years.
Flavors: Camphor, Citrus, Pepper, Pine, Smoke, Sweet
I’ve done a number of gongfu sessions of this sheng over the past several weeks, trying to dial in the brew parameters. I landed on using much cooler water than I normally would to emphasize the sweetness, which can be significant in some steeps. This tea does not have a lot of caffeine so it’s a good candidate for an evening session for me.
I don’t get the honey notes the vendor describes. For me it’s more like sugarcane in the early steeps, along with some floral notes and a hint of Yunnan spice. A pleasant tartness creeps in during the middle steeps and remains through the end. I’ve been averaging 13 steeps per session.
Considering it’s reasonable price, I’ll lay in another cake or two for the future. It’s a good sheng for when I’m in the mood for sweetness.
Flavors: Floral, Sugarcane, Tart
I found this to be a very smoky sheng. Pine smoke dominated the aroma and flavor through the first six gongfu steeps before stepping aside and letting it’s true nature come through, although I got some smoke in the retro-nasal exhale through the 11th steep. Once the smoke did subside I found some floral notes in the aroma and a fairly strong and pleasant tart and sweet combination that finally tapered off around the 15th steep.
This sheng has some power and legs, but it’s just too smoky for my tastes.
Flavors: Floral, Smoke, Stonefruit, Sweet