While the leaves themselves play a huge role in the flavors one receives from pu'erh, a large impact is also felt from the conditions under which the tea is stored. This pu'erh in particular, after having been stored in Kunming, was brought back to the United States and stored by the folks at Crimson Lotus Tea in their Seattle facility. Their methodologies involve storing the tea in such a way that it interacts with the natural Seattle environment, the air being allowed to flow over the aging pu'erh, yet having the humidity carefully controlled in an optimal manner for pu'erh storage.
Eager to try this pu'erh, I begin my session by boiling the water and rinsing the leaves. The aromas are quite rich, yet they are more reminiscent of a strong earth smell, rather than a rich cocoa. Mushroom notes add variety to the undertones. A first steep, which lasts fifteen seconds (though they recommend a shorter time) immediately produces a dark cup. The aromas are strong, but my first taste makes me wish I had steeped it for less time. I do not mean that it tastes bad, rather it tastes fantastic, albeit somewhat strong for a first steep. Delicious, still, I let the tea flow over my tongue. The rich earthen flavors manifest the aromas I had noticed. A very, very slight touch of bitterness, like the bitterness of a high-percentage dark chocolate, teases the edge of the taste, but this may have been from steeping longer than recommended. (I use the analogy of chocolate, but this tea has no cocoa notes.) The finish leaves a clean aftertaste, and the mouthfeel is most pleasant.
Steep two lasts another fifteen seconds, getting richer and deeper even than the first. The darkness is offset by some veins of lighter flavor running throughout, like some herb notes. By no means does this tea seem as young as it is. This past weekend, I spent quite a few hours drinking a few shou pu'erh cakes from 2011, and those all tasted younger than this, having brash touches to the flavor.
At this point, I can only imagine how many more steepings this tea will provide. Thus far, I am loving the results of the Seattle storage. The depth of the tea makes for an incredibly enjoyable drink. Here are a few notes from my subsequent steepings:
- Steep 3 - 20 seconds - much like steep 2.
- Steep 4 - 20 seconds - the flavors seem broader, a bit more forest-y, with a softness that is reminiscent of moss carpeting.
- Steep 5 - 30 seconds - still delicious, very consistent flavor and color.
- Steep 6 - 30 seconds - re-noticing the rich aromas and appreciating the clarity and brightness of the tea. By now I feel wonderfully alert and clear-headed.
- Steep 7 - 45 seconds - I notice that the color has lightened, ever so slightly, despite the increased time, as has the flavor. Still, the tea persists.
- At this point, I decide to do one of my favorite parts of a pu'erh session. I take the leaves, put them in a two cup teapot, boil fresh water, and then steep them for an extended period of time in an effort to leech as much flavor from them as possible. We shall see how it tastes - tomorrow!
The folks at Crimson Lotus Tea suggest that with more aging in a humid environment, this tea will get better. Personally, I think I am going to follow their advice, because I would love to try this one again in a few years (and have some more to drink now)! On my personal enjoyment scale, I would rate this tea a 97/100, and I highly recommend Crimson Lotus Tea's 2012 Nannuo Shan Shou Pu'erh.
Photo credit to Built from Ink and Tea.
Crimson Lotus Tea 2012 Nannuo Shan Shou is available from their website, here.
This review was unsolicited and uncompensated.
Text is copyright 2015, Built from Ink and Tea.