2016 “Space Girls” – Crimson Lotus Tea

A wild review appears!

Well, I’ve taken quite a bit of time to figure out exactly what I would like to do with this blog. The original intent was to focus on education and occasionally write reviews, but that seemed to go out the window and I had a terrible time motivating myself to review the ever-growing pile of puerh samples. While reviews may make an appearance, they will most likely be in a varied format and I’ll focus more on a singular, weekly post with more research and education.

That being said… The review that follows was written in August 2016. Since then, the tea has been released to favorable reviews. To the tea!

Today’s tea is the 2016 “Space Girls” from Crimson Lotus Tea. Space Girls is a sheng puerh (生 – sheng; literally “raw”, 普洱 – puerh) pressed into 100 gram square bricks (方茶 – fangcha; literally “square tea”).

Snagged from www.crimsonlotustea.com

Luckily for me, I had this tea before it was pressed into its tight squares. I tend to dislike both fangcha (square) and zhuancha (brick) because they’re hard to break apart, age inconsistently, and are difficult to re-wrap. The maocha (毛茶 – maocha; literally “rough tea”) that I received was quite beautiful – big, full leaves with some buds throughout.

Beautiful maocha

Steeping

Since I was using maocha, I did a flash rinse and a short first steep. If your chunk of tea from the fangcha is tightly compressed, you might want to let the first steep sit slightly longer to open the leaves. Another option is to rinse your gaiwan with hot water, then put the leaves into the gaiwan, replacing the lid. The residual steam will help to open the leaves, as well.

The rinse was rather viscous with a bright sheng flavor, slight notes of asparagus, and a slight astringency (涩味 – sewei; literally “astringent taste”). The first full steep is very smooth with a growing astringency. The taste has a vegetal/green bean nature, but it’s not overly vegetal.

Relevant: SPAAAAAAAAAAAACEEE

Steeps Two through Four- Steep two and three have a growing tobacco taste – not in an off-putting way, but more in an “I don’t know what else to call it” way. Moving into steep four, the tobacco taste dies down and the tea delivers a smooth, crisp taste with vegetal undertones. The hint of astringency brings the sheng puerh experience full circle, balancing the sweetness, astringency, and green, vegetal taste. The tea has also developed a nice yellow-gold color.

Space bound…

Finishing the Session

Steep five brings through more of the floral/orchid nature of this young tea which grow through the rest of the session. I only got to steep eight with this tea, since it’s relatively young. Overall, the tea produces a mild qi, a good level of viscosity, and light vegetal/floral flavors. The tea might not boldly go where no tea has gone before, but it’s definitely a good entry point into puerh, the final frontier.

Until the next cup.

2016 “Whispering Sunshine” – Crimson Lotus Tea

Today, I’m taking another puerh from the huge pile of 2016 spring samples. Today’s tea is the 2016 “Whispering Sunshine” from Crimson Lotus Tea.

I actually don't own a cake, so... photo credit to www.crimsonlotustea.com
I actually don’t own a cake, so… photo credit to www.crimsonlotustea.com

Whispering Sunshine is a sheng puerh (生 – sheng, 普洱 – puerh) pressed into a disk shape (餅 – bing; literally “cake”). The material is from Bai Ying Shan (bai ying shan; literally “white warbler mountain”). I had a sample of the maocha (毛茶 – maocha; literally “rough tea”), so I really got to see the long, full leaves that are present in the cake.

This just looks sooooo good
This just looks sooooo good

Steeping

Since it’s a very young sheng, you don’t need to rinse it for very long (or at all, if you don’t want). The rinse tasted as if it were from Jingmai (景迈) – notes of butter, honey, and overall sweetness. The first five-second steep is lightly vegetal with a distinct creaminess. There are also tastes of crisp green apples and a little bit of spice.

2016 whispering sunshine CLT steep 1
Light and sweet with bright energy

Steeps Two through Four – These next few steeps are a journey through the life of a young sheng. It’s finally hitting it’s stride and giving some of the bitterness, astringency, and floral nature that you expect to find in young, abrasive sheng. Steep two actually hit me with some energy and a strong headfeel. This was followed up by some cooling notes on the tongue. Steeps three and four built up the floral aspects of the tea and an increase in the vegetal flavor. The overall taste is still light and sweet.

2016 whispering sunshine CLT steep 4
Delicious session so far

Finishing the Session

Going into the fifth and sixth steeps, there’s a much stronger vegetal/floral nature and some pointed bitterness. Lots of bitterness and astringency (苦 – ku; literally “bitter”, 涩 – se; literally “astringent”); however, these are followed by a pleasant sweetness. The tea starts to get very heavy in the stomach. I think it’s no longer whispering to me anymore.

Happy cat, happy life
Happy cat, happy life

This tea finishes off by slowly fading back into the original sweetness found in the rinse and first steep. The tea may whisper, but through the heart of the session, it sure had a lot to say.

Until the next cup.

2000 “Old Warrior” – Crimson Lotus Tea

Today’s tea is an amazing treat – the 2000 “Old Warrior” from Crimson Lotus Tea. This is such a treat because good, old shou is hard to come by. There are some good aged shous that I’ve had, but this one promises to be special.

Love the calligraphy
Love the calligraphy

Old Warrior is a shou puerh (熟 – shou, 普洱 – puerh) pressed into a melon shape (金瓜 – jingua; literally “golden melon”). The dry leaves are very flaky and pretty easy to pry off of the pressed form.

2016 old warrior CLT dry leaf
Gimme dat shupu

Steeping

I did a short rinse of this tea. Since it’s older, you might dump it out, but I always drink the rinses unless the tea looks sketchy. I find that tasting the rinse from a shou gives you some hidden storage notes that you might not get in full steeps. This rinse reveals mild humidity and a traditional storage along with some underlying sweetness. Based on the rich brown color, you can just tell that this tea is going to be good.

Note on traditional storage: I’ve seen a lot of differing opinions on storage, but to me, traditional storage is “wet storage” (more humidity) for several years followed by “dry storage” (less humidity). In the tea’s early steeps, you can taste this humidity, but it quickly fades after the first few steeps. This usually indicates that the tea has aged in a drier climate after the first few years of humidity. In my personal opinion, this is my favorite type of storage for aged puerh, sheng or shou.

2000 old warrior CLT steep 1
Note to self, don’t take pictures at work

Steeps One through Four – The first steep was for 10 seconds and yielded a myriad of wonderful aged shou flavors – dark wood, sweetness, and a subtle ripe cherry note. I did notice a slight bitterness on the back of the tongue. The next two steeps (20 and 30 seconds, respectively) were just as delicious. Deep aged, clean shou taste that when you taste it, you just know how special it is. Building to steep four, the heart of the session, it’s clear that this tea underwent a lighter fermentation, meaning that some of the material was still green when originally pressed, allowing the tea to age in a different and more complex way.

Steep 4, again with the horrible glare
Steep 4, again with the horrible glare

Finishing the Session

I’m just going to stop here. Words can’t quite explain the depth or longevity of this tea. If you’ve ever had a really good aged shou, I would challenge you to try this tea and see if you don’t have a new favorite by the end of the day. For 20 cents per gram, you really can’t beat the quality. This tea steeps for days. I think I gave up around 18 steeps. Everything in this tea is completely on point for me – fermentation, storage, and flavor. I can only think of two other great shous that rank up with this one. Maybe one day I’ll have a triple threat match with all three of them. As long as the old warrior doesn’t get me first.

2000 old warrior CLT wet leaf
That’s some beautiful leaf

Until the next cup.

2014 “Cloudy Days” – Crimson Lotus Tea

Overview

Today’s tea is the 2014 “Cloudy Days” from Crimson Lotus Tea. This tea was pressed and released in Spring 2016. Cloudy Days is a shou puerh (熟 – shou, 普洱 – puerh) that is pressed into 200g cakes.

The clouds are rolling in...
The clouds are rolling in…

I’ll be using a 8g chunk of this shou in a 100ml gaiwan. The dry leaf looks pretty delicious and smells rather sweet.

2016 cloudy days CLT dry leaf
Do I eat it or steep it?

Steeping

Rinse/Steep One – I did a quick rinse of about five seconds. As soon as the water hit the leaf, the tea gave off a delicious caramel scent. The tea didn’t really open with that short of a rinse, so I steeped the tea for 20 seconds. Big mistake… Although the tea carried a very strong caramel scent, it was also heavy on fermentation scent. The liquor was largely murky, which isn’t uncommon for me to see in a lot of younger shous. The taste of this longer steep was very heavy in fermentation taste (堆味 – dui wei; literally “pile taste” from the wo dui [渥堆 – wet pile] process).

Steep 1
Steep 1

Steeps Two through Four – After that steeping disaster, I went back to a 10-second steep for the second full steeping to limit the overwhelming fermentation taste of steep one. This tea is so good. Nutty and heavily earthy.

I kept steep three at 10 seconds and the tea produced a delicious sweetness. If you’ve ever had birch beer or taken a piece of bark off of a birch tree and chewed on it, you might have a flashback when you drink this tea.

Steep four is what I call the “heart of the session.” I’ll refer to that term a lot in my tasting notes, but it’s based on my theory that the fourth steep is usually the one that can tell you the most about the tea that you’re drinking. From the fourth steep of this tea, I get a thin viscosity, birch taste, sweetness, and a deep brown/red color.

Steep 4
Steep 4

Finishing the Session

For the rest of the session, I continued to get deliciously sweet shou. The flavor started to thin out around steep eight and continue to wane. This tea really needs to sit and rest for a while before it’ll be a great tea, so I’ll probably toss it in the pumidor and break it out in the winter for another session.

Wet leaf after the session
Wet leaf after the session

Final Thoughts

Overall, this is a delicious tea, but needs more time before developing into a better shou. It does have potential though, so I’ll most likely hang onto a cake of this tea and let it age and see how it compares in the future. For just 11 cents per gram of tea, this is a good buy, though not the cheapest shou; however, there are very few that compare in price for this quality.

Until the next cup.