image4The Yiwu Iron Forge shou puerh from Crimson Lotus is a very popular tea produced under the Crimson Lotus Tea label. Its popularity is partly due to its affordability and value.For $38, you get two 250g bricks of tea. This puts it in the middle of the price range for a shou puerh, but I think it’s safe to say the quality is closer to the higher end of the spectrum.

Perhaps what makes this tea the most interesting, however, is the size of the leaves. Usually, shou puerh tea leaves are on the smaller side, In a shou puerh, leaf size is not necessarily an indicator of quality, but might determine how long it is able to steep in a gongfu cha session. In the case of the Yiwu Iron Forge, the leaves are able to steep for twenty or more infusions, a truly remarkable longevity.

image5The two bricks come packaged in an aesthetically pleasing bamboo cover. Although the wrapper looks good, it isn’t very functional. Expect to have a backup plan when it comes to storing this tea because after the first unwrapping of one of the bricks, it can be difficult to get everything back together again. I don’t consider the packaging of a tea to be of great importance when I make a purchase (It’s the tea that counts, not what it comes in), but it’s just something to keep in mind.

image2The dry leaf is large, dark and shiny with an aroma that reminds me of barbeque potato chips. The aroma is smoky, woodsy and pleasant, but the barbeque smell does not transfer to the taste completely.

The first infusions of the Yiwu Iron Forge show heavy wood notes with some smoke and grain sweetness supported by a thick body. The first infusions are remarkably smooth with very little astringency.

The middle infusions show a thinning body and the exchange of grain sweetness for a rock mineral sweetness. The smokiness falls away and the wood notes remain. The smoothness improves with all astringency disappearing, leaving a silky, velvety mouthfeel. The middle infusions could last for ten or more infusions depending on water temperature and leaf quantity.

image3The final infusions present a body similar to that of a white tea with an increase of the mineral sweetness mentioned before and the wood notes remain. The liquor at this stage is very light but remains viscous.

The energy coming off of this tea is one of the most powerful I’ve ever experienced in a shou puerh. In the middle infusions, I could feel my entire body heating up and my face reddening. It may not be the best choice for a hot summer day but would be perfect for this time of year when you’re trying to warm up.

Overall, this tea is composed of interesting and high-quality large-leaf material and has a great longevity that would pair perfectly with a movie on a cold winter night. It remains a part of my collection of “go-to” winter teas and I fully expect it will remain there for a long time to come.

You can purchase the Yiwu Iron Forge here