Friday, July 3, 2015

Crimson Lotus Tea, 2008 Bulang Imperial Grade Shou / Ripe Puerh

Crimson Lotus Tea Description:
This tea was featured in the Serious Eats article Where to Buy Amazing Tea Online.

This dark puerh comes on strong quickly. It will brew thick and dark at the beginning but then mellow into a light sweetness. The leaves are all small buds and carry the name "Imperial Grade"

The Bulang mountain range is the famous home to some of the best puerh tea gardens in all of Yunnan. These leaves were harvested from trees 100 years old and blended by the Menghai Yunhe Tea Factory from different areas in Bulang at altitudes averaging 1600 meters.

This is one of the shou puerhs that really stood out to me during our 2014 sourcing trip. It's everything I want in a shou puerh. It has a thick mouthfeel, with a hint of astringency, and sweet aftertaste. It's truly delicious. I can and do drink this one every day.

These are generous leaves and can be brewed 15 times or more. Use 5-7 grams of leaves and brew with 8 ounces of water at or near boiling. Rinse twice for 3s each. Start with quick steeps under 10s. With each re-steep adjust the steep time to your taste.

Sample provided by Crimson Lotus Tea

My Review:
When Crimson Lotus Tea offered to send samples of their pu-erh, I informed them that I had been very ill and was not sure how long it would take me to feel up to preparing tea and writing the reviews. They sent them anyway and told me to take my time and get well. So thank you Crimson Lotus Tea for your patience and your kindness.

I used the company product photo above to show what you get if you order a brick. To the right is the sample packaging I received.

This is a resealable black coated aluminum bag with a simple label. The suggested steeping instructions are not on the label but are in the product description on their website.

Opening the bag, I catch the aroma I expect. It is partly hay and part barnyard. With a little experience you learn not to fear that scent as it is a natural part of the process.

Examining the sample reveals a lot of cinnamon brown buds. The company description says this is made with only small buds.

I did not try to pry it apart, so I can't comment on how tightly it is pressed.

I used my press today because it was already out and I am thirsty. The clay pot might have been a more traditional approach. Per the directions I used near boiling water and did two 3 second rinses.

Unless you are a regular follower, you have no idea how hard rinses are for me to actually do. The reason for them is to rinse the leaves of dust and to wake up the leaves. I always end up drinking the rinses (as I did here), so normally I skip this step and just add time to my first steep.

For the first mug I steeped for 10 seconds. Also per the instructions I am using 8 ounces of water for each steep. I am thrilled to see a company recommend a real cup size. I personally do not enjoy over leafed tiny cups of tea. Feel free to disagree.

The result of my effort is a hearty root beer colored brew. If it had a good foamy head on it, this would almost pass for a stout ale, except for the pink tinting. It is kind of pretty.

The leaf chunk is still fairly intact and solid in the middle. The edges show some definite signs of breaking up. The leaf is shiny black.

The wet leaf aroma is much like the dry scent but stronger. Don't be alarmed as the taste seldom resembles the leaf scent.

In fact, it bears little resemblance to the aroma. Up front this has a mild bite. What is fascinating is the feel is thick and creamy along with the bite. Two different sensations layered over each other and it works. After the bite settles in, this drifts into a taste that reminds one of horse tack (leather). Finally it melts into a smooth sweet finish.

The leaf is capable of lasting through 15 steeps according to Crimson Lotus Tea. I am not going to be able to confirm that here (though I have little doubt), but I am going to have time for one more cup before posting.

Cup two was not timed. I poured the water into the press, replaced the lid, and nearly immediately began pouring into the cup. The brew is much darker. It looks ruby red as it pours. Though darker in the cup.

This cup continues on where the first left off. The big differences are the addition of a cedar note up front changing to the leather, and the bite coming late in the sip. Oh, just caught a hint of smoke when I exhaled. Neat.

This is a really nice shou. It is complex enough to be interesting, but not so complex as to demand deep concentration. This would make an excellent everyday drinker.

You can find Crimson Lotus Tea, 2008 Bulang Imperial Grade Shou / Ripe Puerh here.

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