Crimson Lotus TeaEdit Company
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Recent Tasting Notes
Crimson Lotus might just be my favorite Western vendor when it comes to shu pu’er. Most of their ripes that I’ve tried I’ve really liked. The flip side of this is that I haven’t really been into the majority of their sheng offerings. Interestingly, most vendors do exhibit a certain “house taste” when it comes to their own pu’er pressings, even if they weren’t involved in the production of the tea and it’s not a blend. All of this is to say that when Crimson Lotus releases a new shu pu’er, I consider it a fairly safe blind purchase.
And that is exactly what I did with this tea. Even though I did take my time, I did finally order both a cake and a sample of this tea (so I don’t have to break into the cake immediately). The artwork is great (even if not exactly original) and the mention of some Lao Man’e being mixed in enough to make my ears perk up.
After letting the tea rest a few weeks, I had my first session with my cousin who is also a fan of tea, but much more casual compared to me the passionate teahead. Shu pu’er is his favorite and he has highly enjoyed some of CLT’s other ripes, so we were both pretty hyped for this tea.
We used a 140ml gaiwan with around 12g of leaf. The tea brews dark, bold and bitter. I don’t know how much Lao Man’e is in this and how similar the other teas are, but that profile seems to very much dominate the taste. It’s a good kind of bitterness though and doesn’t persist. Bitter dark chocolate is essentially the flavor profile I get from this and it doesn’t change all that much over the course of the session. Some steeps might have a hint of the characteristic grapefruit I get in good Lao Man’e, but I could be just imagining it knowing there’s some Lao Man’e in here.
Overall, the taste is nice – as long as you like ripes with some bite to them – but ultimately not dynamic enough to remain interesting. What makes up for that, however, is the mouthfeel. This tea brews up thick and in its prime steeps feels like pouring molten chocolate down your throat, coating everything in its wake. Not as good as Hai Lang Hao’s best ripes, but still very good. If you value texture and mouthfeel, this is your kind of ripe.
Another highlight of the first session was the cha qi. Me and my cousin are both more sensitive to cha qi than the average drinker, I wager, my cousin even more sensitive than me. This tea got us really wasted, swinging wildly from giggly to stoned over the course of the session and many things in between. It could very well have been just amplifying the emotions we were experiencing at that moment. Whatever the case, the cha qi together with the incredible texture made the session very memorable for us.
After returning home, I drank the rest of the sample (8.5g) in my 100ml Jianshui teapot just to check if the tea was in fact as good as the first session led to believe. In terms of flavor, the tea was very similar. I got a lot less chocolate and more of a typical shu profile (with the fast bitterness of course), but otherwise it tasted very much like the same tea. The texture on the other hand was interestingly not as great brewed in Jianshui. Maybe it was just a fluke, but I did get essentially the same experience, simply in somewhat weaker form.
As a side note, I’m thinking of discontinuing to use my Jianshui pot for future ripe reviews, because my Yixing zini pot performs much better. In cases where I don’t have quite enough leaf for a satisfying session in that teapot, I’ll use a gaiwan instead. The 100ml Jianshui is great for casual sessions where I do four brews in a row, stacking two in my cha hai and two in one of my bigger cups, but when evaluating teas I’d like to try to bring out the very best of them that I can.
Then we get to the elusive cha qi. I’m not sure if I got much in my second session. Maybe some but nothing major. Could simply be that the psychoactive effects weren’t as evident when not trying to hold up a conversation. I may add an edit to this review if I remember in regards to how my future sessions go in terms of cha qi.
Overall, I’m very happy with my purchase of this tea. Based on my first session with it I’d rank it among my favorite ripes to date. The second session while still good didn’t deliver quite on the same level, but hopefully that was just a fluke. The bitterness might be a deal-breaker for some, although this is not a tea I’d recommend buying because of its taste. To get the most out of it, I think one must absolutely value mouthfeel and texture. The cha qi – if you get it – is also a potential big bonus.
To compare The Way with Yunnan Sourcing’s 2019 Lao Man’e, I think The Way is overall higher quality. The longevity is much better and so is the texture. For me the YS wins in terms of taste. The first two or three infusions still bring a literal smile to my face every time I drink it. It’s that good. Shame the flavor goes from great to good and from good to average over the course of a session, whereas The Way holds up much steadier across the infusions and gives you more brews. I’ll need to experiment with leafing the YS harder to see if I can improve the longevity. I may also need to experiment with blending the two together. I would love the taste of the YS together with the mouthfeel and potential cha qi of The Way.
In closing, I highly recommend The Way. It is definitely worth a sample if it sounds like your type of tea. I’d consider the price quite reasonable relative to the quality. Mine is going to be saved for special occasions. While I’m short on space, I may even consider getting a second cake…
Oh, and to shamelessly plug my cousin who is a composer, you can find his music if you search for Markus Junnikkala. He mainly does orchestral music, but has also released dark ambient, electronic, etc.
Flavors: Bitter, Dark Chocolate, Grapefruit
Gongfu!I was very curious about this one after reading a review from TheOolongDrunk over on instagram & I’m glad I went for it because I’m enjoying it a lot – definitely has a lot of the characteristics of Jingmai sheng that I like so much; incredibly soft texture, smooth floral undertones, and a great sweetness that permeates each steep. CLT describes this as a “mellow treat” and I honestly couldn’t agree more, though I appreciate the VEERRRRYYY delicate astringent finish that adds to a slightly more complex and textured session. To be honest, I’m not sure I completely agree with “honey” as a flavour description of the beautiful sweetness – but regardless I’m definitely not disappointed in the tea in the least bit. Lovely, lovely session!
Here’s a fun thing about western style brewing. You take your basket out of the cup and put it in the lid, and the water left in the leaves slowly makes it way out and down into the lid where it stews with the bottom leaves. Come back before you brew your next cup and enjoy the ‘slurp’. The slurp really tells you about the tea, magnified 10×. The slurp on this tea was just heavenly.
Was really looking forward to this one. Think I’ve got it sufficiently hydrated, it’s got a complex rich smell on the cake, but polite. The first sniff of the soup was a delicious aroma of the spice melange and peppercorns. It was so inviting I kept searching for it.
I brewed this short and cool based on derk’s tasting note. I figured it had the power and it sure did. Thanks derk!
Drinking this tea is angelic on the hot – no dominant flavor poked out, it was just superior in it’s stature. I had half of it gone before it cooled enough for me to get this fantastic tingling as I drank it with incredible returning coolness. Flavor has hints of softer things like maybe dandelions and jasmine. Perhaps needs more time to open up and hydrate before I get a more full flavored profile. So clean and inviting that I can’t wait to brew another cup and try and figure it out.
Flavors: Dandelion, Jasmine
I’m currently slamming a cup of this western style. This is the best sheng I’ve had to date, which is admittedly a small sample, but I’m not sure what else I could ask for. Bright floral notes I can’t further articulate at the moment followed up by nutmeg minus the bitter. It’s smooth and not quite thick or thin but what I think is excellent mouthfeel. Every sip I take a huge inhale of the bouquet swimming out of this. It’s like yancha disguised as a sheng which I find magical. As it cools the nutmeg starts to coat the tongue in the aftertaste with a gentle astringency and mineral notes evolve. I could drink this every day.
Flavors: Floral, Mineral, Nutmeg
I have read the notes and well I have to say, it isn’t much pleasing read. Hopefully my experience will be different, and maybe even better. Thank you derk for sample!
I decided to brew 5 grams (mostly very loose leaf) in my 125 ml gaiwan. I did 10 seconds rinse which I have dumped. The wet aroma isn’t much pleasing. It smells quite sour and maybe with stonefruits. A bit of meadow flowers.
1st steep, 8 seconds.
Pretty much mild, a bit on sweet-honey side.
2nd steep, 15 seconds.
Oh, much rougher. And pretty much boring. Very drying and astringent too. Not my cup of tea.
3rd steep, 20 seconds
Hm. It’s not bad, but there isn’t much noticeable, but Togo ’s note says about herbals and vegetal. At least a bit smooth.
4th steep, 25 seconds
Oh well. Another same cup.
5th steep, 30 seconds
I guess I will try a few really long steeps to see any difference. There is nothing different in those steeps. It’s not even interesting in wet leaf aroma. Maybe hints of apricots.
6th steep, 2 minutes
It didn’t help.
Flavors: Apricot, Astringent, Flowers, Herbs, Smooth, Vegetal
Snuck in this early afternoon session yesterday before I’d completely lost all natural lighting in the apartment. I feel very unmotivated to Gongfu when there’s no natural lighting, so I quickly powered through the tea before it was totally black. Eight or nine steeps in about half an hour; I got wicked tea drunk and very drowsy/sleepy afterwards from how relaxed I was feeling. Ended up having a two hour “nap” shortly afterwards…
This shou is deeply earthy and camphorous, with notes of petrichor, molasses, wet wood, potting soil, and dried Medjool dates. Very, very clean and smooth though; with a great coating sensation down the throat. Exactly the kind of profile that I love most in a shou.
Pretty nice; almost spicy. Definitely some bitterness. Has a honey-like sort of scent, and some floral notes. Slightly tart on later steeps. It’s an interesting tea; I like it quite a bit, for a young sheng (which is not usually my preferred tea type).
Flavors: Bitter, Floral, Flowers, Honey, Spicy, Tart
This is a very mellow and approachable young sheng, one that I have been burning though because it really seems best drunk sooner rather than later. It’s a pleasant contrast from the 2019 autumn Lao Man’E cake I bought along with it, which is a promising but powerfully bitter tea that will need to do some hard time in storage to temper it. Individual flavor notes are hard to pin down, but the texture is silky and perfectly astringent and the hui gan is very pleasant.
My order came with a 20g sample of the 2018 version of this tea, which I have not yet tasted. I’m curious to see how that one handles aging further.
Flavors: Hay, Honey, Sweet, White Grapes
captain’s backlog teadate 26-may-2020
dry leaf smells like strawberries and chocolate with an undertone of apricot
warm leaf has a deep fruitiness like overripe strawberries mixed with syruped apricots
rinse is the same with the addition of forest floor
the tea is difficult to describe beyond being smooth, mellow and bitter. alkaline with a light sweetness and a light fruity finish.
third infusion: MEL-LOW. light menthol in chest
fourth infusion: properly zoned out
Smooth and settled but obviously not in an aged way, maybe a bit muted, deceptively heavy, savory and alkaline. Moderate young bitterness and mild green astringency are there, increasing with each steep after maybe the fifth. Didn’t brew this one out due to the combination of total relaxation and growing astringency.
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I’ll be coming back to this cake very soon.
Flavors: Apricot, Astringent, Bitter, Chocolate, Forest Floor, Fruity, Heavy, Menthol, Smooth, Strawberry
captain’s backlog teadate 25-may-2020
i was spotted in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest by my friend
but it wasn’t me
i was drinking tea the first night at work father’s house
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[7g, 110mL clay pot, boilingish]
Super floral wet leaf! The tea has that wild profile with a clear bitterleaf-hay base accented by light woodsy, musky and grape-berry fruity flavors. Turns sour later. Light, buttery mouthfeel early. Good thing I’m drinking right after dinner. The heavy alakalinity hit my body hard. It took a while but that chest-thumping energy finally hit. Not finding it to be heady at all.
Like some other Chinese wild teas I’ve tried, I’m not finding this favorable in terms of body effects. I’m hoping to one day find one that works for me.
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tonight i had a modest 4g in a 60mL gaiwan while cooking fajitas
i recently finished off a bag of Whispering Pines’ The Ranger, a blend of yesheng hongcha (wild tree black tea) and lapsang souchong. what a bangin’ tea. it got me super pumped to drink through the variety of yesheng puerh in my collection, which is what i’ve been doing this past week. i’m awake and feelin’ just fine. Slumbering Dragon and other yesheng are very kind to my sensitive nature when i listen.
Flavors: Apricot, Bitter, Blueberry, Cream, Floral, Forest Floor, Hay, Herbaceous, Lychee, Mineral, Muscatel, Tart, Vegetal, Wood
One of the last samples from a tea swap with derk. I am not sure why it got unnoticed for so long, but I dug it up at a good time, as I’ve been drinking various Lao Man E samples recently.
Compared to huangpian from the same village sold by Bitterleaf Teas, this one seems quite a bit more oxidized. It is one year older of course, but that can hardly account for such a stark difference. It is quite smooth overall, both in texture and taste, and has distinctively more herbaceous profile than other Lao Man E teas I’ve had. Of course, the trademark bitterness – creeping, long-lasting, and lacking abrasiveness – is there, but I find it less reminiscent of grapefruit skin here.
At this stage of my sample, the tea had no discernible aromas, I am unsure if that is indicative of the tea in general though. The taste is a bit fruity at first, but quickly becomes very herbal. Later infusions are more mineral and somewhat yeasty as well. The body is medium to full and there is a cooling mouthfeel. I found the cha qi to be a bit sedating and defocusing, which makes the tea less suitable for casual brewing than it otherwise would have been.
Flavors: Bitter, Fruity, Herbaceous, Herbs, Mineral, Smooth, Sweet, Thyme, Yeast
Starts off with a great mouthfeel, very viscous, rolls around. It feels on my tongue like what I used to call a ‘sea cucumber’ toy felt in my hand. Unfortunately I can’t find a picture online of the toy. Leaves a clean swallow followed by lots of side-tongue tingling that later turns pleasantly metallic. Astringency is controlled. Overall, very mild vegetal-dry grass like taste accompanied by bitterness that is also controlled, though it does become more pronounced. Soft and yeasty, honeyed plum-melon aftertaste is light and short. It reminds a bit of some Yiwu flavors. Peppery warmth in throat. Thin stevia-like returning sweetness sits at my sinuses. I feel in the future a lot of camphor will come out in this blend as I can in its young age already feel it in my ears, throat and chest. Sweating, calm, tight feeling in my head like there are dry florals hiding in the tea. Edit: That tight feeling later developed into a headache. It’s a good tea that in its current state doesn’t jive with my constitution.
As far as the leaf, one is still olive green; another noticeably browner, my guess is aged or autumn leaf or maybe even wild material. Some leaves, like oolong, possess oxidation along the serrated leaf edges. It all looks healthy and somewhat stemmy.
Delicate in taste yet strong feeling in the body (acidic in the gut), certainly a clean tea. Good tea for stepping up from more introductory sheng. Not my bag but I’m happy to sit on the rest of this sample for several more years. Realistically, it won’t last that long.
Fun fact: one half of the wrapper art is tattooed across my shoulders.
Flavors: Bitter, Brown Sugar, Camphor, Dry Grass, Floral, Grapes, Honey, Melon, Metallic, Mineral, Pepper, Pleasantly Sour, Plum, Smooth, Thick, Vegetal, Yeast
An amazing example of what heavy storage can do to sheng puerh. I’m very averse to “dank” notes but brewing 8g in a 240ml nixing pot seems to mute these entirely. Thick and oily liquor, sweet, smooth, earthy, beetroot aromas. I would note beetroot in the flavors below but steepster sadly doesn’t have it yet. Later steeps reveal slight vanilla. Despite being smooth and easy to drink, this tea still seems a bit controversial; my mother hates it, she thinks it tastes dusty, while my friend loves it.
Flavors: Earth, Sweet, Thick, Vanilla, Vegetal, Wood
For once, my palate seems to fall in line with Togo’s. No sense in typing up my impressions since I find his review markedly similar to my experience.
Of all the sheng I’ve tried so far from the extinct sampler pack I purchased, Jingmai LOVE strikes me as one of the most agreeable (along with Hidden Song) despite the strange combination of aromas and tastes. Lots of characteristics to play around in if you want but nothing is so complex you would walk away overwhelmed by any one facet. In other words, a nice, safe sheng for explorers.
For me, the dry meadow florality is one of those things that doesn’t agree with me. And the energy I associate with sheng of that floral nature is difficult for me to handle. It feels anxious.
Flavors: Apricot, Biting, Bitter, Black Pepper, Citrusy, Cucumber, Dry Grass, Floral, Honeysuckle, Meat, Mineral, Osmanthus, Smoke, Tangy, Umami, Vegetal
Oh. That’s nice.
I can be pretty sensitive to perfumey teas. Really dry florals in a tea can give me headaches, whereas pungent, heavy florals like citrus blossoms and bulb flowers can be wonderfully intoxicating. Based on the reviews of Moon Princess, I wasn’t looking forward to trying it.
I did not find this tea to be perfumey in the slightest. Highly fragranced, yes, as autumn teas are said to be, with impressions of tobacco, lemon, honeyed plum and jasmine. The taste is weaker but still satisfying, kind of like dry grass with dark honey that comes in and out. Nothing dominates. The swallow leaves a citric, lemony aftertaste that lingers and even an appreciable cooling sensation. The medium body deposits a soft, oily bitterness that coats the tongue, eventually leaving a numbing sensation. Later, the bitterness reminds me of blueberry skins and lavender. At first, I wasn’t feeling much energy but I later notice it, calm and defocusing. Its delayed presentation is well accepted.
I’m so far enjoying my first session with Moon Princess. While the fragrance is stronger than the taste, the liquor overall has a good balance for a young sheng, lacking the penetrating bitterness and lashing astringency that might turn away more timid explorers. Nice oolong-style daily drinker that reminds me something along the lines of a lavender-infused dark honey lemonade with blueberries, jasmine and a hint of mint. I don’t think any sheng has ever given me such a detailed impression as this one.
Flavors: Bitter, Blueberry, Dry Grass, Floral, Jasmine, Lavender, Lemon, Mineral, Mint, Plum, Sweet, Tobacco, Winter Honey
I preferred the Shou to the Sheng of the Simple Family, but this is still a great deal! It reminds of W2T Daily Drinker except for a few things:
Bit More Bitter
I’d recommend a big pot for one of these slices; it really tones done the bitter and allows the chunk to open up better. This is another great travel tea and it works for people new to puerh. There is a lot of fresh grassy tones along with some floral qualities. The best aspect is on exhale, it’s sweet sugarcane and jasmine! I blow through these travel cakes quick, for you just pop some in a hot thermos and BOOM you got grandpa style puerh for the hike of the day!
Flavors: Bitter, Freshly Cut Grass, Grass, Jasmine
I was actually impressed by how nice this tea was. I find that the lesser offerings from these west puer-veyors to be pretty great (Milk&Alcohol, Daily Drinker, Whispering Sunshine)! The “pie” comes in easy break away chunks. The compression is a little too tight for my taste, for it takes a loooong time for the tea to break apart in the pot. The flavor is straight-forward and clean. For me, I always look first for a clean direct tea in shou puerh; theres a lot of funk out there! This is one of those cocoa woody puerhs, and I think it does best on the road. This is a no fuss brewer that you can make on the go and share with new friends without them giving you the “ugh” shu face. Cheers to Glen for making an easy-goer!
Flavors: Bitter, Chocolate, Cocoa, Smooth, Wet wood