16 Tasting Notes
This one is a fascinating comparison to, say, WT2’s Tyler. If you just listed off the tasting notes: vegetal, grassy, dry-toast cracker, etc. – they’d sound like the same tea. But they’re like mirror-universe versions of each other, and perfect examples of the house styles. Where Tyler drops you into the oily, rich sweetness of grassy umami, only occasionally emerging into sharp cracker, Whispering Sunshine is all crispness and subtle prickles on the tongue and lifting up, up, into brightness.
My gut says that Crimson Lotus came, like me, into puerh from the green tea/white side, because Whispering Lotus has some of the pleasures, sort of, of long jian or certain white teas, and the energy of that fresh green crispness, where Tyler starts you in the green and throws you down into a well of quiet richness.
Both are great teas, and it’s kind of worth tasting them side-by-side.
In like two decades of steady tea drinking, this stands as one of the absolute heights of experience. The first sip, my eyes rolled back in my head, I let out a guttural bark, and said, “Oh holy godDAMN.”
It’s not big-flavor-flavor-note tea. It’s what W2T seems to do best, which is this eerily perfect gestalt, this harmony across warm flavor and rich texture and glorious subtle qi and mood mellowingness. I’ve tried this tea out on the pu-erh beginners, and they’re like, “it’s nice and smooth,” and get more excited about the big-camphor fat-flavor stuff. It is, as Paul himself suggests, not for beginners. But it is beautiful, in a way that’s extremely, extremely hard to unpack.
Pro-tip: the second time I drank Bosch, I only took it to 16 steeps and had to leave. The next morning, I was on my way to work, and thought, “What the hell,” and threw the remains of of yesterday’s Bosch into my glass tea thermos thingy. I was worried it would be a waste. Instead: whole new realms of subtle warmth and oiliness and richness unlocked. As I was leaving my car, and actually dropped the damn tea thermos and watched it shatter, and my first thought was: “Oh NO not the BOSCH.”
There is a direct line from W2T’s Milk, Cream and Alcohol to this to Tuhao As Fuck. They are all these deeply creamy, deeply mouth filling, subtly dairy, subtly sweet, not at all cloying things. Each is appropriate to its price. Poundcake ain’t some weird candy thing (although maybe if you’re used to camphor-power it might seem so) – but its full range of bizarre German-baking spices is totally cool.
My friend Dave always claims he has low sensitivity to delicate flavors, and demands the ultra spicy and the outrun scotch. He came to visit and I gave him a weekend of puerh. He didn’t get the first few, and I expected to have to pull out the ultra-heavy camphor and smoke bruisers to get through to his palette. But this, weirdly, is the one that converted him. It’s not a bruiser – it’s in that ultra classic w2t vein of subtle thick textured gestalt feel, with noticeable body effects. But this won Dave’s heart. And later I took him through the camphor and smoke beasties, and he did surely like him. But when the weekend was over, he decided to go full in, ordered his own tea tray and gaiwan, and the one whole cake he bought himself was this one.
I’m not normally a jingmai person – it’s nice and all, but I tend to prefer dancong for my gentle floral aroma. That doesn’t seem like what sheng is for, you know? But this stuff, this stuff totally floats my boat. Thick and honey and vibrant, layers of subtle shifting sweetness and than this wild, raw weirdness. It reminds me like tide pools or sea urchin roe or something, and it’s totally unhinged. Love this stuff.
I’ve been searching for a new wuyi supplier after the one I’ve been using for about 8 years started going unreliable on me. After a fairly wide net, my new favorite is Tea Yuan, and this is the first of their teas that really captured my heart. I’m normally not a huge rou gui guy – it often seems cloyingly and dumbly cinnamon. But this stuff has weird, dry life – like a lovely clean glowing ocean of a not actually cinnamon, but just the dryness of cinnamon. Subtle and alive.