This is the first Crimson Lotus tea that I’ve tried (I’m waiting for the 2017 sheng to come out). I’ve had the cake sitting in my pumidor for a month or two as I like to give pu’er plenty of time to make themselves at home. The bing itself is quite nice looking, with minimal amount of dust and debris sitting at the bottom of the wrapper. The cake is satisfyingly soft and easy to break thin, intact chunks from, but does not totally come apart on its own like the Yong De Blue Label I reviewed earlier.
I used 11g of leaf in my 160ml Jianshui clay teapot, giving the leaves a brief 10s rinse followed by a 10 min. rest before I began brewing. I did a total of eleven steeps, for 13s, 13s, 15s, 20s, 25s, 35s, 50s, 80s, 2 min., 3 min. and 4 min. according to my mental clock. Like with the dry leaf, the wet leaves didn’t have a very strong aroma. Following the rinse, they had a smell of dark, sweet hay, which is within the typical shu pu’er spectrum.
As I was using primarily chunks that were about the size of a coin and didn’t rinse the tea for that long, the color of the first steep was still somewhat pale as was to be expected. It did have some body and a surprising amount of sweetness for a first infusion. At first the tea came across as a pretty typical shu pu’er, but as I was sipping my second cup, I felt there was something different about this tea. Part of it had to do with flavor, but more so it was about the sense I got from the tea. Hard to say if I was imagining it, but it felt to me like the tea may have had a slight cooling sensation and perhaps even made you feel slightly good. Especially for a first infusion, the steep was actually very nice.
The second steep produced a much darker liquor as one would expect. There was also more body and hints of coffee and maybe a bit of chocolate in the taste, with the tea leaving a dark chocolate bitterness lingering in your mouth. A nice infusion. The following third steep was almost totally black, with only a slight red hue revealing that it was in fact not coffee. The tea had much less body now, while the flavor had shifted back towards a sweeter profile with some of the coffee/chocolate still going on. There was also something in the aftertaste I didn’t quite recognize. I also noticed that the tea made your saliva taste sweet in your mouth.
The fourth infusion remained nearly as dark, with the tea having more body again. There was less sweetness and the flavors had shifted towards a darker part of the spectrum. I tasted slightly roasted and nutty flavors, with still small hints of the coffee/roasted coffee bean going on. I quite liked this infusion. It had a nice body and was very pleasing to drink.
The color of the fifth infusion was still quite dark, but not quite as dark as before. There was also less body than in the last steep, but still some. It kind of felt like the tea caused your saliva the thicken in your mouth. It had a different kind of sweetness to it than before, and as the tea cooled down a little it got even more sweeter and almost syrupy. The next infusion was still a fairly dark brownish red, but by this point the liquor was getting noticeably lighter. The taste now had a much more noticeable mineraly character, which even extends to how I would probably describe the sweetness. Again, I did not really spend time confirming this, but it felt like there may have been some mouth cooling going on. The tea was still performing well, but based on past experience, I got the sense that we were probably exiting the middle steeps and entering the late steeps now. The flavors were coming across as perhaps somewhat thinner without being watery or necessarily weak in strength. I have no complaints about this infusion, even though it wasn’t necessarily as solid as earlier steeps. The aftertaste was again somewhat mineraly in the beginning and developed into something quite nice over time.
Surprisingly the following infusion was still about as dark as the last one and it still retained a bit of body. The flavors changed again. I’m not sure how to describe the taste, but I liked it. While the tea tasted great, at the same time for me personally this infusion felt like it was more about things besides the flavor – how it felt and how it made you feel – attributes that I appreciate most about great tea. I must say this infusion was really darn nice, especially for a this late steep. Even though this tea offered many excellent infusions, I would say this one was definitely my favorite from this session.
The next steep was the eighth. It had a much lighter color. Despite this, the tea still maintained a very stable strength. Again the sweetness present in the tea was slightly different from before, although this infusion wasn’t predominantly sweet. I might describe it as a slightly berrylike sweetness, but I’m not sure. The flavors became darker in the next infusion. Less sweet, while still maintaining a good amount of flavor.
I happened to take a smell of the leaves before drinking the tenth steeping and they had a surprisingly pleasant smell to them. After some pondering I came to the conclusion that they smelled like nectarine, or at least I believe that’s the correct fruit. I haven’t had it since my childhood, but I’m talking about a fruit with a fuzzy skin and not an entirely sweet taste to it. The liquor itself had a considerably lighter color to it now, but in terms of flavor it hadn’t lost that much strength and it was still very drinkable. The tea had a prominent fruity sweetness to it now and it was quite surprising how sweet the tea actually was. The aftertaste that the tea left in your mouth was most definitely nectarine or whatever fruit it was that I smelled in the leaves. The tea may have still even had some body to it.
I did try doing an eleventh steeping, but although the taste wasn’t necessarily watery, the color was very light now and the flavors were starting to thin out considerably. There was however a huge amount of sweetness to the tea still, although the aftertaste wasn’t necessarily the most pleasant. I probably wouldn’t recommend stretching this tea too far, but your results may vary so experiment.
Overall this was a really excellent tea, and I’m really happy to say that about a shu pu’er. So far I’ve had trouble developing an appreciation for shu pu’er and finding a tea that I genuinely like, but this tea was a very pleasant surprise and excellent from start to finish. The tea is dynamic, interesting, rewarding, and the longevity is about what you’d expect from a ripe pu’er, if not slightly above average. I try to reserve the “Recommended” stamp to only teas I would buy more of myself if I ran out and I’ve only given it to one tea before this, but I’m happy to say that Lucky Cloud now joins that group. I will have to try out more ripe pu’ers to see what I like, but unless I find other teas that I like even way more than this one, I’ll likely be ordering at least a cake or two if not a whole tong, provided it does not sell out before then. Crimson Lotus did an excellent job sourcing this one and now I probably have no option but to sample their other shu pu’ers as well.