Crimson Lotus Tea

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Recent Tasting Notes

Gongfu!

I had a really lovely and really long virtual tea session with a handful of IG tea friends yesterday – like something like three and a half hours long? I fit a pretty hefty handful of teas into that longer session including this one. I had to admit, shamefully, that I have owned this cake since it first was released but this was my first time trying it.

If you don’t know the background of this cake… You could call this sort of a “collab” with TheOolongDrunk and Crimson Lotus where the blend of pu’erh was kind of made to be listened to alongside Lana Del Ray’s album “Honeymoon”, and the wrapped art was done by Stephanie (both her and TheOolongDrunk are former Steepster members and just tea friends in general). So even though I wasn’t listening to music while drinking this tea over this virtual tea hangout, I was joined by both TheOolongDrunk and Glen (the owner of CLT) – and that’s definitely the next best thing to drink it with music IMO

With that said, I was soooo tea drunk by the time I got to steeping up this tea and I already have a hard time mentally tracking tasting notes when I’m having conversation with people – let alone like five people. So no real tasting notes here other than to say that I found it sweet soft and floral at first but progressing into more vegetal minerality and biting texture later on. I got seven or eight steeps I think, and it was just a nice evening filled with that warm “tea buzz” feeling and solid conversation.

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CLT Beneath an Emerald sea 2018
212f, 7.1g, 100mL gaiwan, trader Joe’s Pure New Zealand Artesian water
dry leaf: fruity in a dried hawthorn candy sort of way, slight floral/grassy aspect

5s rinse

wet leaf: slight savory, tiniest hint of smoke, fruity

5s: slight bitter, touch of vegetal, light sugar sweet on aftertaste.

7s: stronger bitterness upfront, sort of bland vegetables, and then a lightly sweet aftertaste. Something about it reminds me of something medicinal. Drying on front of tongue.

10s: stronger bitterness again. This will either encourage me to stop drinking young shengs or buy a kettle that does 5 degree increments instead of 10 or I could’ve just pour boiling water into cha hai before into gaiwan. Whatever. I had a light breakfast beforehand, but slight pain in upper right abdomen, so my stomach is still not used to too young sheng. once you get past the bitterness, a refreshing sort of crisp floral aftertaste follows. Nothing too intense, but sort of lingers in background. A sort of black pepper hint as well.
15s: I decided to put in the extra effort to pour into cha hai before gaiwan starting here so I don’t hate my stomach later. But since bitterness still there, not sure if that really helped much, if at all lol. Taste wise, has taken on a slight subtle floral note too. A touch of mint in the aftertaste. Overall, something reminds me of noodle soup w/ fresh carrots. Sort of an oddity.

21s: Bitterness w/ a bit of an orange peel-like edge. Session was entertaining enough for me, sure, but wouldn’t purchase any more after this sample is done. Bitterness here isn’t it offset by enough sweetness or other things that are more in line with my preferences for drinking now, and life has not settled down enough to the point where I could theoretically purchase cakes for aging long-term. Slight honey in taste.

26s: similar bitterness w/ a honeyed hint.

31s: like before, but lightened. Oddly enough, aftertaste here lingers noticeably longer than that of any previous steep. I ran out of the fancy Trader Joe’s New Zealand Artesian water, so back to Brita filtered tap and back to 212f.

35s: slight medicinal bitter, honeyed mint aftertaste.

45s: nondescript taste, but hint of sweetened mint in aftertaste. Sort of cooling.

2min: Bitter w/ fruity undertones. Predicted not too much more interesting from here on out, so off to the thermos.

thermos overnight: Light bitter w/ honeyed undertones. Nothing too exciting.

I know year of tea makes a difference, but this tea in particular out of CLT’s offerings came highly recommended (based on reviews of various years) but I can’t say I was blown away overall. For $/g (.235 if you buy the 200g mini-cake), it’s really not a bad value if you can handle or enjoy the bitter aspect.

derk

I do believe that if my body doesn’t respond well to a tea, I shouldn’t be drinking it. Same goes for comestibles. 2016 version of this tea was pretty good and friendly. Worth a try if somebody offers you a sample.

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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

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 12 g 5 OZ / 140 ML

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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!

Photos: https://www.instagram.com/p/CMImuHuAEOg/

Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4L7gw4VgbIE&ab_channel=YoungRisingSons

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93

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

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 3 min, 15 sec 2 tsp 14 OZ / 414 ML
derk

Well now I’ll have to try my cake with lower temp :)

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90

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

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 4 min, 30 sec 2 g 14 OZ / 414 ML

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70

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

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 30 sec 5 g 4 OZ / 125 ML

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Gongfu!

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.

Photo: https://www.instagram.com/p/CJYoSU8gI0g/

Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ERA4lD-Wlfg&ab_channel=Jakey-Topic

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68

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

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 3 g 2 OZ / 55 ML

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84

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

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Half of the sample that remains. This one is yummy. Fragrant. Juicy. Sadly sold out, but CLT provides many options.

Preparation
8 g

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80

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.
- - - - —

I’ll be coming back to this cake very soon.

Flavors: Apricot, Astringent, Bitter, Chocolate, Forest Floor, Fruity, Heavy, Menthol, Smooth, Strawberry

Preparation
Boiling 7 g 4 OZ / 110 ML

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