2011 Phatty Cake Pu-erh from Mandala Tea

phattycakeTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Pu-erh

Where to Buy: Mandala Tea

Tea Description:

The material we chose is grade one leaf picked in 2006 and ripened in 2007.  The raw material is from the most remote area in Lincang and is far from cities, roads.  This makes for a very pure tea with no worries about pollution from cities.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

Confession time:  I have been putting off trying this 2011 Phatty Cake Pu-erh from Mandala Tea for a long time.  Why?  Because it’s pu-erh.  It’s all about that seemingly ingrained attitude toward pu-erh.

Fortunately, since it IS pu-erh, a little aging isn’t going to hurt it and may actually prove to be beneficial.

Since it’s a rainy night and I wanted something mellow and contemplative to sip on a night like tonight, I figured it was the right time to finally try some of this Phatty Cake!  I pried some of the material off of the cake – just enough to be about a bamboo scoop of tea leaves – and put it into the bowl of my gaiwan.  Then I heated my kettle to 190°F and did a 15 second rinse before infusing the leaves for 30 seconds.

I didn’t take this for the usual 45 second infusion because by the time we reached 30 seconds, the tea was quite dark.

This first infusion is quite nice.  Mellow.  Deep and smooth.  No astringency.  A sweet, caramel-y flavor with notes of earth.  The earthiness reminds me of mushroom and tobacco.  Now, I’v never actually tasted tobacco, but my father had a pipe at one time and the taste of this tea evokes thoughts of the aroma I remember from the pipe tobacco.  As I continue to sip, I pick up on a raisin-y quality and the sugary sweetness that goes along with the dried fruit.

My second infusion (30 second infusion) tastes a bit earthier than the first.  Definitely a stronger tobacco note.  Toward the finish, I’m picking up on a slight mineral-y note.  I am still getting that deep sweetness – but it’s more of a dry fruit sweetness than a caramel-y note this time.  I’m not getting much caramel this time around, and I miss it.

Later infusions mellowed out a little bit on the earthiness – and I was grateful for that.  I found the second cup to be a little too earthy for my liking and without the lovely caramel-y notes to accompany those earthy tones, it was a bit of a disappointment.  But my third infusion (another 30 second infusion!) had a lighter earthy note and it was sweeter with notes of molasses.  Quite nice!

I found that I liked this tea better with each infusion after the third infusion.  As I’ve already said, the second was a bit too earthy for me, but after that, I was experiencing some really delightful sweetness from this tea.  I also noticed that as those earthy flavors lightened up a little, I was able to explore some wonderful flavors, including a hint of mint!  That was a pleasant surprise!

Mandala Tea doesn’t have their Phatty Cake in Cake form, but it is currently available as a loose tea.  Mandala is a top-notch company, I recommend them highly!

2011 Mahei Sheng Ancient Tree Pu-erh from Wymm Tea

MaheiSheng2011Spring1Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Pu-erh

Where to Buy:  Wymm Tea

Tea Description:

This is a sheng pu-erh that brews bright yellow liquor with a delicate taste and silky texture. The tea is full-bodied with minimal astringency, and brings back a prolonged honey-like aftertaste.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

This 2011 Mahei Sheng Ancient Tree Pu-erh from Wymm Tea is quite a wonderful tea!  It has a really lovely honey note to it that I don’t usually expect when I drink pu-erh.  It’s not often that the first thing I really notice about a pu-erh is the strong honey tones!  

One of four little bundles of pu-erh that I received from Wymm Tea.

This has a light vegetal flavor that is – to me – reminiscent of a buttery green tea.  I get a slight creaminess from this cup: a light, buttery vegetative note.  It is wonderfully smooth with no astringency and no bitterness.  It’s mellow yet flavorful and really quite pleasant to sip.

My second infusion was a little less smooth than the first and I’m picking up on some citrus notes as well as a hint of astringency toward the tail.  The creaminess of the first cup has waned and while I’m finding this tea to be different than the last cup, it’s still quite lovely!

The vegetal notes are a little more defined now and I’m not sure if that’s because the creaminess has waned or if it’s because these notes are emerging.  They are lightly herbaceous.

My favorite thing about this cup is the aforementioned citrus notes and the honey notes – I like the way these two profiles taste together.  There is a nice balance to the flavors of this tea and this is something that remains consistent through it’s many infusions.

Later infusions maintained their honey-like tones.  As I continued with the infusions, I noticed that the vegetal notes that I noticed especially in the second infusion began to transcend into a fruit-like note, reminiscent of melon.  Some floral notes began to emerge.

What I didn’t get – throughout those many infusions, I lost count after about six! – was a briny or fishy flavor.  I didn’t taste a strong, earthy quality that I normally associate with a pu-erh.  If you’re someone who tends to shy away from pu-erh because you don’t care for those strong flavors, you really should try this one!  This is a really lovely pu-erh and a very interesting tea – one that’s well worth trying!

2011 Douji “Nuan Jiang Shan” Ripe Puerh Tea from China Cha Dao

doujiPuerhTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Pu-erh

Where to Buy:  China Cha Dao

Tea Description:

Douji’s Riped Puerh Series.

2011 Douji “Nuan Jiang Shan” (Warm River Mountain) Ripe Puerh Loose Leaf Tea 200g

Recommend Douji Product, good for collecting, limited product due to its low production!

Aroma – Mellow, unique.

Flavor – Thick, Smooth and Sweet.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

With my first sip of this 2011 Douji “Nuan Jiang Shan” Ripe Puerh Tea from China Cha Dao my first reaction was one of surprise!  I couldn’t believe I was sipping a Pu-erh!  This tastes so sweet and fruity!  Where’s the earthiness I was expecting from a ripe Pu-erh?  After a couple of sips, a slight earthiness does develop, but only after I had the opportunity to explore the other flavors that this unique Pu-erh has to offer.

The aroma of the dry leaf is sweet and mildly earthy.  The wet leaf has a stronger earth note, much more like what I’d expect from a Pu-erh.  The brewed tea has very little fragrance.

The sip starts out pleasantly sweet – not at all cloying – and the sip is abundant with fruit notes.  Like juicy, ripe peaches and melon.  There is a distinct vanilla tone to this as well … almost creamy!  As I continue to explore the tea, I notice notes of wood.

The earthiness doesn’t reach the palate until I’ve consumed about half the cup, and even then, it is such a faint hint of earthiness that if I wasn’t so intently focused on everything I was tasting … I might have missed the earthy tones all together.  This is the kind of Pu-erh I’d recommend to someone who typically avoids Pu-erh because of that earthy/fishy/brine-y sort of taste … because I’m not getting that at all.

After reading TeaEqualsBliss’s thoughts on this tea, I found myself surprised again … because I just didn’t get the earthiness that she experienced from this tea.  I got a delicious, delightful sweetness and an incredible smoothness.  This is a lovely Pu-erh – one I’d highly recommend to all tea lovers out there!

PS:  I’d love to hear any of your thoughts on this tea as well!

Yunnan Golden Strand (Spring 2011) from Stone Leaf Teahouse

Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  Stone Leaf Teahouse

Tea Description:

The most delicate combined with the robust; a skilled harvest of just the tips of the tea plant, exposed to the outside world for one day, then processed as black tea. Features characteristic earthy tones of Dian Hong, yet yields an incredibly soft, sweet cup. Notes of grape, slight pepper, and olive.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:


I do love a good Yunnan, and when its a golden Yunnan, I love it even more.  This is really very good – surprisingly sweet!  Yes, other Yunnan teas have been sweet, but, I don’t think I’ve found one that is quite like this.  It has notes of caramel, sweet cocoa and grape that seem to intertwine to create a sweet taste that is very palate pleasing.

And of course, there are the hints of spice, but, here, the peppery notes are quite subtle, lying beneath all that yummy sweetness.  There is just enough peppery taste (and aroma!) to put a little vigor into the sip, and it offers a nice transition from the initial sweetness to the more savory tone that the sip takes as it moves toward the tail.

This savory note reminds me a bit of artisan bread.  You know the specialty bread that you can find in bakeries with olives baked right into the bread?  That’s what this tea seems to evoke.  It has a deep, bread-y, bake-y kind of taste to it, like freshly baked bread, and then there is a smooth, rich flavor that is quite similar to the taste of olives!  These flavors offer a really delicious contrast to the sweetness at the start of the sip.

What I’m liking most about this cup is that through it all, from the start of the sip where it is sweet and sumptuous, to mid-sip where I notice a slight prickle of pepper, on to the savory qualities of the tea, I notice absolutely no bitterness, and very, very little astringency.  This is a black tea for those who sometimes avoid black teas for the bitterness and astringency.  It is so smooth and yes, even decadent, that you may just change your mind about black tea!

I love Yunnan, so I’m not surprised that I love this one too, but, what does surprise me is just how good this Yunnan is.  It’s a standout, because it’s better than most Yunnan teas that I’ve tried!

2011 Sun Moon Lake Red Tea from The Essence of Tea

Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  The Essence of Tea

Tea Description:

This exquisite hongcha comes from Sun Moon Lake in Taiwan where it is grown on old trees (>100 years old). The leaves are hand picked. The quantities of this are very limited in each production.

The flavour is excellent with enough character to prevent it falling into that bland sweetness often found in hongcha.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

I have tried maybe a handful of the “Sun Moon Lake” type black teas and each time I try them, the more impressed I am by this variety.  The flavor is sweet with notes of chocolate and rich, dried fruit notes (I taste notes of sugary dates and raisin).  There are lovely notes of malt and something that’s been freshly baked – like a good, crusty loaf of bread.  Something with a nice, chewy crust with it’s hints of caramelized taste.

This tea has a very pleasing, full-bodied taste and texture.  It has a fair amount of astringency toward the tail, but no bitterness to speak of.  There is a savory note that is most noticeable toward the end of the sip.  This savoriness develops as I sip, but I don’t know that I would refer to it as bitter.  It isn’t sweet, it is more like a sour note, like the hint of sour you taste when you bite into a fresh, juicy plum.  It is mostly sweet, but there is just a hint of sourness in there to keep it interesting.  That is what I taste here.

Overall, the taste is very smooth and rich.  It is one of those teas that would please even the most discriminating tea connoisseur.  It’s stunning!  Then again, I’ve yet to find a tea from this company that I’ve not enjoyed – they’ve all been top notch!