drank Special Dark by Mandala Tea
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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I have far too many interests. Tea is one of them.

Background in bioethics, medical anthropology, and evolutionary biology with aspirations of eventually going into a medical field. I also have strong interests in theater, computer science, and food (which shouldn’t be particularly surprising).

Brewing method is usually Western style for black teas (2-3 minutes at near-boiling), “grandpa style” for shu pu’ers and longjing, and gongfu (with a gaiwan) short steeps for sheng and shu pu’ers (two 5-second rinses, then 5, 10, 15-second steeps with a gradual increase in steep times to taste). The gaiwan is also used for oolongs though I sometimes use a brew basket if the gaiwan is occupied and I’m taking a break from pu’er.

I enjoy black teas, pu’er, and oolongs (leaning towards aged, cliff/Wuyi, or roasted/dark), depending on my mood. I don’t usually drink green tea but do enjoy a cup every so often.

My rating methods have changed over time and as a result, they’re very inconsistent. For the most part, as of 11 November 2014, unless a tea is exceptional in some way (either good or bad), I will refrain from leaving a numerical rating.

The final iteration of my rating system before I stopped (note: I never did get around to re-calibrating most of my older notes):
99 & 100: I will go to almost any lengths to keep this stocked in my cupboard.
90-98: I’m willing to or already do frequently repurchase this when my stock runs low.
80-89: I enjoy this tea, and I may be inclined to get more of it once I run out.
70-79: While this is a good tea, I don’t plan on having it in constant supply in my tea stash.
50-69: This might still be a good tea, but I wouldn’t get it myself.
40-49: Just tolerable enough for me to finish the cup, but I don’t think I’ll be trying it again any time soon.
Below 40: Noping the heck out of this cup/pot.

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