Crimson Lotus Tea: Storm Breaker (Spring 2017)
Vendor: Crimson Lotus Tea*
Price: $0.40USD/gram ($79.00USD/200g)
Compression: Tight (typical shou)
Season: Spring 2017
Link to Tea: Click Here
Brewing Vessel: 100ml Standard White Ruyao Gaiwan
Leaf/Water Ratio: 1g/15ml
Water Temperature: 212 Fahrenheit / 100 Celsius
Steeping Method: 1 flash rinse; 15 second steeps until dead
Chocolate. Intense chocolate. Thick, like fudge. Zero wet-pile funk. Slightly woodsy.
Cocoa powder, sugar snap peas, and water chestnuts were running through my mind the entire session. There is nothing fishy, damp, or funky about its profile. This tea is soft, subtle, and inoffensive.
Extremely slick, extremely smooth. Coats your entire mouth with a lubricating sweetness. Tickles your cheeks. No bitterness, no astringency. Deceptively thick. The first few steeps, it seems somewhat light, mellow, and airy--then it pulls out the artillery.
The first few steeps, the tea went straight to my head, and I felt an intense yet relaxing buzz. Then it traveled throughout my body, making my limbs feel lighter. By the end of the session, I was struggling to sit still. There is a deceptive amount of energy in this tea, and it evolves throughout the session.
Storm Breaker has none of the "off" warehouse/storage/wet-pile flavors commonly found in shou. It also had an impressive longevity. Most shous tap out after ~8-10steeps, but this one just kept going. This tea could easily push beyond 15 steeps, depending on your brewing parameters. It's insane that, for being so freshly processed, the tea tastes and smells like it's had plenty of time to rest.
The tea's evolution happened pretty rapidly. It started off slow in the first few steeps, then it seemed to peak all at once (extremely rich, dense, and thick), and then for the remainder of the session it was soft and sweet until it eventually died (but still thicker than the average shou). I was hoping that its decadent profile would linger a bit longer, and maybe it would have if I had upped my brewing time with each consecutive steep. Also, $79.00USD/200g for a shou is, admittedly, an off-putting price.
So, let's cut to the chase here: $0.40USD/gram for a year-old shou made of old tree material from Menghai.
Is it worth it?
The answer isn't just flat-out "yes" or "no," especially when Crimson Lotus offers some pretty damn good shou for under half the price (e.g. Lucky Cloud, Iron Forge, That's No Moon, etc.). During the session, I kept asking myself two main questions: (1) "What does this shou have that the others don't?" and (2) "For what this shou does have, is it worth the price?"
To the latter: Crimson Lotus offers 20g samples of this tea for $9.00USD ($0.45USD/g), and I can confidently say that the sample, without a doubt, is 100% worth it. If you brew this tea solo (~50-75ml vessel), then you'll get a solid 4 sessions, which breaks down to $2.25USD/session. But what about a beeng? Or even a tong? If you trust that Crimson Lotus isn't telling ghost stories about old tree material from Menghai wet-piled in a small batch by true craftsmen (which I trust, by the way), then you can understand the price. High-quality base material commands a higher price. Expert processing commands a higher price. Pressing small batches commands a higher price. Taking all of these factors (and more) into consideration, one can understand why Storm Breaker isn't $0.10USD/gram. At that point, it's more about whether or not the tea speaks to you; and if you have a palate for rich, creamy, and exceptionally sweet shou, then it will.
*Sheng Gut has no affiliation with Crimson Lotus Tea. This review was not commissioned, but this sample was a gift from Glen and Lamu.