I was fortunate enough to receive a free 20g sample of this tea with a teaware order. I used 11 grams in my 160ml Jianshui clay teapot and after rinsing the tea for under ten seconds and letting the leaves rest for twenty minutes I proceeded to do a total of nine infusions. The timing for these was around 12s, 12s, 15s, 17s, 22s, 30s, 45s, 75s and 2 min. according to my mental clock.

The first steep brewed a dark, murky red. The tea was… interesting, different. It carried a certain mature confidence about it. The tea had strength, but expressed itself in subtle ways. The taste was that of wood and bark, with maybe a faint hint of chocolate. Some of the typical shu sweetness was already present as well. The flavor lingers in a pleasant way. For a first steep this was very promising.

The second steep brewed darker as is to be expected. The tea was smooth, tasting of woody cacao. The soup wasn’t that viscous, but it felt big in the mouth. Again the aftertaste lingers nicely even though it’s subtle. The tea was very drinkable and had a nice calming effect that made you want to stop and take a moment for yourself. The next steep brewed even darker and was the best infusion up to that point. Words cannot really express what was great about it. It’s not the taste that made it shine; it’s more of a feeling. Attempting to describe it in terms of simple flavor notes and other such things would be doing a disservice to the tea, so I will refrain from doing so. I will simply say that it was very good.

The tea started to get sweeter in the fourth steep. It was very pleasant to drink and felt slightly warming as well as still quite calming. I was beginning to feel the qi. The tea started to get simpler in the next steep, which felt somewhat premature. It was still quite nice, with maybe the faintest note of dark cherry, but not as nice as before. The flavors continued to get lighter in the following steep, but despite this the tea was still in a place where many other shus would be happy to be at this stage. I could still detect some small hints of qi.

For the seventh steep I pushed the tea a bit harder and this brought some life back into it. It still wasn’t complex in terms of flavor, but boasted a very full taste to it once more. There was perhaps a roasted note to this steep, especially in the finish. Despite extending the time by full thirty seconds for the eighth steep, the tea brewed a lot thinner than I’d expected. It was also super simple now despite still brewing reasonably dark. The taste was slightly woody with mostly basic sweetness. It wasn’t weak, however.

The ninth steep was the last one I did. To my surprise it brewed stronger again, with a bolder, darker flavor instead of the basic sweetness from before. I’m assuming the tea could have still gone on, but I decided that I’d most likely seen most of what it had to offer so I decided to call it here. I was sessioning this tea alone and nine pots of tea was more than enough tea for me.

Shu pu’er is a category of tea I still struggle with. Crimson Lotus’s Lucky Cloud was the first one I ever liked and that one is from Jingmai material. This one also being from Jingmai material, but from older trees and with more age on it, I was excited to try it. I’m glad I wasn’t disappointed. This marks the third ripe pu’er I can say I genuinely like. I like the flavor profile, but at the same time the strengths of this tea lie elsewhere. I could be influenced by knowing the age of this tea, but this feels like the first shu where I can actually taste the age on it and this one isn’t even that old. Looking at the leaves at the end of the session, they aren’t totally black but instead a dull brown, which based on what I’ve heard would indicate that they haven’t been fully fermented and there’s still some room for the tea to evolve. Even though this is already seven years old, I see potential in it to improve. I’m not sure about the exact longevity of this tea, but I’d say I didn’t push it quite enough in some of my steeps past the first few. It came across as rather forgiving, so I’d probably recommend pushing it a bit too much rather than cutting it short, but this tea tastes great almost regardless of how you brew it.

I ordered a cake of this based on this session, so if you’re looking for a recommendation, I can’t do much better than that. The only issue here is the price. Is this tea worth the price? If ripe pu’er is a very casual tea for you, then maybe not. If you are looking for something special, however, this might be what you’re looking for. Order a sample and taste for yourself.

Edit: Based on my recent experiences with this tea, I’ve decided to change my original rating from recommended to neutral. You can read more on my current thoughts in a comment below.

Flavors: Bark, Cacao, Roasted, Sweet, Wood

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 11 g 5 OZ / 160 ML
TJ Elite

After a short break from this tea, I’ve had three sessions with it over the past couple months. Two were in a Yixing zini teapot and one in a silver lined gaiwan. My first session in the zini pot was dominated almost from start to finish by a very prominent mushroom broth flavor as well as what I’d describe as saltiness or something close to it. The second session in clay was similar, although this time instead of the saltiness I got a very prominent mineral taste – real mineral water galore. The mushrooms were there in the silver as well for the first few steeps, but after that were replaced by more of a dry wood taste. The session in silver was my least favorite as the tea seemed to have even less sweetness than the zini, but was also more drying.

I’ve heard people describing certain shus as mushroomy, but this was the first time I’d tasted something I’d describe as such. While interesting, I didn’t personally find this flavor profile all that pleasing or rewarding. Considering the number of people who seem to dislike mushrooms, I would wager a flavor profile like this being rather niche and an acquired taste. I don’t know if the tea has changed in my storage or if the differences come from difference in clay (Jianshui vs. Yixing zini) or if my palate for shu has simply developed over the past year or if all these are true, but originally I recall this tea tasting a good kind of woody, right now it feels like something different. At least in its current state, the flavor profile isn’t my favorite, but hopefully it will continue to evolve.

As one last note, after drinking many high-end ripes since first trying out this tea, my horizon in terms of what ripes can offer has greatly expanded and while this tea is leaps above most shus on the market in terms of quality, I would now consider it more of a mid-tier ripe than a high-end one. I think Crimson Lotus Tea’s own Storm Breaker at ten dollars less for a bing blows this tea out of the water. For me a phenomenal ripe offers many of the same qualities I’d look for in a good sheng and in that respect this tea doesn’t really deliver.

I will continue drinking through my cake and if my thoughts on this tea change once more I will revisit my notes and rating.

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TJ Elite

After a short break from this tea, I’ve had three sessions with it over the past couple months. Two were in a Yixing zini teapot and one in a silver lined gaiwan. My first session in the zini pot was dominated almost from start to finish by a very prominent mushroom broth flavor as well as what I’d describe as saltiness or something close to it. The second session in clay was similar, although this time instead of the saltiness I got a very prominent mineral taste – real mineral water galore. The mushrooms were there in the silver as well for the first few steeps, but after that were replaced by more of a dry wood taste. The session in silver was my least favorite as the tea seemed to have even less sweetness than the zini, but was also more drying.

I’ve heard people describing certain shus as mushroomy, but this was the first time I’d tasted something I’d describe as such. While interesting, I didn’t personally find this flavor profile all that pleasing or rewarding. Considering the number of people who seem to dislike mushrooms, I would wager a flavor profile like this being rather niche and an acquired taste. I don’t know if the tea has changed in my storage or if the differences come from difference in clay (Jianshui vs. Yixing zini) or if my palate for shu has simply developed over the past year or if all these are true, but originally I recall this tea tasting a good kind of woody, right now it feels like something different. At least in its current state, the flavor profile isn’t my favorite, but hopefully it will continue to evolve.

As one last note, after drinking many high-end ripes since first trying out this tea, my horizon in terms of what ripes can offer has greatly expanded and while this tea is leaps above most shus on the market in terms of quality, I would now consider it more of a mid-tier ripe than a high-end one. I think Crimson Lotus Tea’s own Storm Breaker at ten dollars less for a bing blows this tea out of the water. For me a phenomenal ripe offers many of the same qualities I’d look for in a good sheng and in that respect this tea doesn’t really deliver.

I will continue drinking through my cake and if my thoughts on this tea change once more I will revisit my notes and rating.

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I’ve been drinking loose leaf tea since around 2014 if I remember correctly, but the summer of 2016 is when I really became passionate about tea and I started brewing gong fu style at the start of 2017. While oolongs were my first love, I drink mostly pu’er these days. I do drink other types of tea with varying degrees of regularity as well, so I don’t discriminate.

I only review pu’er and don’t designate scores to any of the teas to encourage people to actually read the reviews and not just look at the scores. I tend to be thorough, so my reviews can run quite long, but I do try to always gather my thoughts at the end. These tasting notes are as much a record for myself for future reference as they are a review of the tea, so the format is something that’s geared to satisfy both.

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