Crimson Lotus Tea’s Slumbering Dragon is a tea I’ve been curious about since getting into puerh, but for one reason or another never pulled the trigger on. When the new 2019 version came out recently I decided it was time to see what it’s all about and ordered a sample. This puerh comes from a remote area of Kunlu Shan that produces a very small amount of tea each year. I’d suggest checking out the product page linked above as well as watching this video, as it’s quite interesting but there’s simply too much info to sum up quickly here.
The dry leaves are strong smelling, with a bright plum aroma. After a rinse more depth comes out and I get notes of peach, pear, and stronger plum. My sample was a nice sized chunk and it looks to be very loosely compressed. I had no issue at all pulling it apart with my hands. The leaves are a mix of large and small (although mostly large) and theres a big variance in colour, from dark brown to light green. I thought it was blended to be like this, but it’s actually an unblended cake and this is just how the leaves come off the trees.
Slumbering Dragon starts out with a full and robust flavour, even right off the rinse. I usually give a sip of the rinse then toss it down the sink before starting my session, but this tea immediately caught my attention and I didn’t want to waste a drop. It’s unique and I’m not sure what to compare it too for the taste. Bright and crisp, smooth, and definitely fruity but I’m at a loss for a direct comparison. Through the first couple of infusions a bitterness grows that reminds me of a Lao Man E, but softer and most certainly more enjoyable to me. The fruit notes become clear in the second infusion and I am getting definite apple and pear flavour. The aftertaste is immediately bitter, then slowly turns sweet and back to bitter again. The texture is just killer – thick and oily. I was chatting with Glen from Crimson Lotus as I was drinking and he asked if I noticed a slipperiness in the swallow, and I really love that way of describing it. Many aspects of this tea are new to me and I don’t know how to translate it to words, so I’m glad he offered that one up because it nails it, in my opinion. The third steeping is all around larger and more full with no new notes.
The fourth steeping is overtaken by bitterness. Again, this is definitely a Lao Man E, Apsrin-like bitter but much to my surprise I’m loving it. I didn’t want to use Asprin as a descriptor because, for me at least, it conjures up a negative image and to my taste buds this tea sitting just right… but the comparison does work well. The fifth steeping sees some fruitier notes struggle to appear, and they manage to fight their way through for the sixth infusion. Plum joins the earlier notes of apple and pear, and a light sweetness provides a bit of respite from the harsher tone.
Slumbering Dragon mellows out for the seventh and eighth infusions and by the ninth it’s completely chill, silky and smooth. Earlier infusions might not be for everybody but I think by this point I could give a cup to anyone and they would enjoy it. At the eleventh steeping I see the first decline in flavour and the tea begins a slow descent that ends at the fifteenth infusion.
This is a tea that took me by surprise. On paper it’s not one that I think I would have enjoyed, but had the budget allowed for it I would have ordered a cake immediately after wrapping up my session. According to Crimson Lotus, the bitterness will mellow with age but I could see the bite being a draw for many people, myself included. I’m curious to try out an older version of this cake to see how it compares, but I love where this is at right now and would very happily drink it now before it chills out. Slumbering Dragon isn’t a puerh that I would recommend everybody runs out and blindly cakes without trying first, but whether or not you like that bitter bite I think everyone should at least sample this and see what you think. For me it’s a great example of how a tea can be a bit more on the punishing side but still absolutely lovely and pleasant.