Crimson Lotus Tea’s 2017 Nannuo Mini Mushrooms are something that I have been wanting to try out for a while, but for one reason or another I never got to ordering one. I have read many reviews and tasting notes on this before and the notes you see over and over are “vanilla” and “creamy,” which definitely sound intriguing to me. Recently I received a shou care package from a tea friend and included were two of these mushrooms, so I finally got to give them a shot.
The mushroom I grabbed was missing the “stem”, putting it at 3.6 grams – pretty well the perfect size for my 55ml gaiwan. After a quick rinse I was surprised that the leaves were almost entirely broken apart from the initial shape. The smell of the leaves was fantastic, with a nice note of anise on top of a classic shou scent. The second rinse was such a dark inky colour so I thought it might be ready to drink, but despite its appearance the taste was very weak and watery, so I discarded this as well. For this session I am using water just off a boil, and infusions starting at five seconds and increasing by five each time.
The first infusion is still light in flavour, but I can tell that this is going to be an interesting tea. It really doesn’t taste quite like any other shou I have tried. There is a good earthy and damp wood base, and layered on top of it is roasted nuts and vanilla – neither of which I would call typical shou flavours, or at least not the shous that I have. The nutty taste is like toasted almonds, and sometimes reminds me a bit of a longjing. The second infusion takes a massive leap in flavour and depth, which increases again for the third. The notes are the same, but it is significantly more full in taste. These little mushrooms really pack a punch. After you take a sip you get an intense and immediate cool feeling on your breath, but this, as well as the aftertaste, is short lived. This tea comes on fast and hard then leaves just as quickly.
The vanilla note seems to have peaked at the fourth infusion, then fades out. I start to notice a herbacious mint and anise flavour. I’m not sure if these flavours have been there all along and were overpowered by the vanilla, or if it’s just starting to show up now. The earthy taste also increases along with some shou funk. If you’re opposed to the funk I wouldn’t be scared away, it’s pretty mild. So far this tea has been on the sweeter side, but at the fifth and sixth infusion I get a bit of dark chocolate bitterness. The middle section also saw an increase in aftertaste. It’s still quick, but improving. The aftertaste is a faint sweetness and a touch of maple wood.
Flavour has peaked by the eighth infusion and fades out gracefully after that. If you don’t like the weaker tail end of a session then you can probably call it quits at the tenth, but I enjoyed it until the twelfth. Most of the earlier tasting notes have gone away and it fades out on an earthy note with a slight return of vanilla.
Crimson Lotus’ Nannuo mushrooms are a really great shou, and I’ll be grabbing a bag next time I place an order. The convenience of the little mushrooms matched with the strength of the liquor would make these a great pre-work tea for me, but it’s also interesting and deep enough for a more dedicated and intentional session. If you haven’t tried them yet, I strongly recommend picking. This is definitely going on my “must-try” list for any time somebody asks about shou – whether you’re looking for something different, are new to shou, or just want something fantastic, I have a hard time picturing a drinker who at the very least wouldn’t find this interesting.