Crimson Lotus Tea‘s Dark Depths is a shou puerh that was pressed last year but released earlier in this year. When it was released, I was chatting with Char from Oolong Owl and she was pretty excited about it. I believe she had said she tried it in loose leaf form a while back and was expecting it to be something special. Char’s opinion is one that I trust, so her recommendation was enough for me and I blindly ordered a cake as soon as I could.
Breaking the Cake
Dark Depths has a medium-light compression and is fairly easy to break apart, with extra broken bits and dust kept to a minimum. The dry leaves smell earthy, with absolutely no funky note at all. I gave the leaves one quick rinse and they came alive with notes of molasses, caramel and maybe apple, although that last one might be reaching a little bit.
For this session I am using 3.8 grams of tea in my 55ml gaiwan, 100C water and after one rinse I started with a five second infusion and added on an additional five seconds for each remaining steeping.
The first infusion is pretty light and could have been discarded as a second rinse, but there were no off notes so I drank it. There isn’t much flavour but there already is a long lasting sweet aftertaste. The second infusion takes a massive jump up in flavour – it’s woody and sweet with notes of herbs, molasses and peat. The last couple sips of this infusion have just a little bit of bitterness which grows throughout the third steeping. If you’re adverse to bitterness, I wouldn’t worry about it, this tea is very nicely balanced.
Infusions four through six see an increase in both the molasses and herbal flavours, and the aftertaste keeps lengthening each infusion. I wouldn’t call Dark Depths a thick tea, but it is definitely a heavy tea. Hitting the midpoint of my session I feel like I just ate a massive serving of shepherd’s pie and need to lie down for a bit. I start getting a mad case of the shou sweats as the warmth starts to move out from my core to my extremities. The level of bitterness rises again through the fourth and fifth steepings, but it’s never overpowering and manages to remain well balanced with the sweetness.
The power of Dark Depths reached it’s peak at the seventh infusion then takes a sharp drop off. Each remaining infusion takes a pretty drastic step down until the tenth infusion when I wrapped up the session. Through these last few steepings the bitterness had disappeared and the main tasting note was sweet molasses.
I have to say, I think that Crimson Lotus has absolutely been killing it with their shou offerings and Dark Depths is no exception. It’s not the most interesting option, like the intense vanilla taste you get from the Nannuo shrooms, and it’s not crazy expensive and unique like the “one-of-a-kind” shou’s put out earlier this year, but it’s a wonderful tasting tea with a good amount of depth at a great price. At $50 USD for a 200g cake I have no problem recommending this tea to absolutely anybody who enjoys shou puerh, and its clean processing would also make it a good tea for somebody new to dip their toe in with. If you’re on the fence you can pick up a sample, but personally I’m glad that I blindly caked this one.