I purchased a cake of 2018 Dark Depths Shou Puer online a few weeks after it was released. I was teased by the original art, by Carl Faulkner, which is hung in Crimson Lotus Tea’s living room and I couldn’t wait to give this tea a try. My cake arrived sometime in June and I had it aired out for over a month before tasting.
Leaf and Steeping Method
The dry leaf has sweet earth and incense scent.
My ratio was on the conservative side for shou as sometimes I like leafing harder, but I went with 1 gram of leaf per 15ml of vessel size, gongfu steeped in boiling water. During the two rinses, Dark Depths was cloudy but cleared up quite a bit after. The hot wet leaf continues the sweet earth and incense scent.
Tasting of Crimson Lotus Tea’s 2018 Dark Depths Shou Puer
First and Second Infusion: First sip and wow, Dark Depths Shou Puer is aromatic. It sips in ultra-creamy thick and smooth, gliding through. The flavor is light to start and sweet with an aftertaste of earth and wood. For the second infusion, the sweetness intensified.
Third, Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Infusion: Dark Depths hits inky black.
The main feature of this tea is the thick smooth texture. It is sweet and the balance of shou earth and wood is perfectly balanced. There is a background of rich darkness looming like we were just skimming the lake and there’s thick mud below. Dark Depths Shou Puer also leaves a sweet inky aftertaste.
Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, and Tenth Infusion: There is a soft minerally note and feel coming through. As a sip, Dark Depths Shou Puer is of sweet while balanced between earth and wood. The aftertaste has salivation, leaving a mineral and rock sugar taste melting in my mouth. These steeps are still thick and almost bone brothy as it sticks to the throat.
This late in the game the tea feels and tastes mostly from the throat – the thick madness descended there and I’m tasting some mix of sweet earth and the odd driftwood with the mineral softness being the surface.
Eleventh, Twelfth, Thirteenth, and Fourteenth Infusion: Dark Depths Shou Puer brew lightened considerably but it is still thick to sip and leaves an oily slick mouthfeel. The flavor is still rock sugar and earth, with a long aftertaste. I wonder if most of this is lingering aftertaste being thickly reapplied. The final infusion I did for 15 minutes. It is light and sweet with a touch of incense to it and still drinks with an oily mouthfeel to the end.
2018 Dark Depths Shou Puer is perfect for those who love their shou with a generously thick texture, sweetness, and balance. It has not a lick of funk, wet pile or fishiness. That said, it is amazing easy drinking. Tasting note wise it isn’t as complex as Crimson Lotus Tea’s other more expensive shous like 2017 Stormbreaker and 2010 Black Gold, but Dark Depths holds it own for texture and feel. A beginner will like the lack of funk and ease to drink while a seasoned drinker will be of interested in the aftertaste and texture.
Dark Depths also resteeps incredibly well for a 2018 shou, so you get your money’s worth there. I can see this tea being a contender to play with ratios more – going harder will get an inky result and the slow ride to inky depth might make for a good thermos or grandpa style tea.