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.