2023 Space Girls from Crimson Lotus Tea
Hey friends! Today’s review is of the 2023 Space Girls sheng puerh from Crimson Lotus Tea, one of my absolute favorite vendors out there. I’ve always been a massive fan of their stuff, so when they reached out and offered to send a tong of Space Girls for review, I was beyond stoked and willing to taste it. I’ve also never had a tong before, so opening that traditional bamboo covering holding the 4 cakes inside was quite a fun experience. I also absolutely love the wrapper artwork from Stasia Burrington; Crimson Lotus always does such a stellar job with their wrappers (i.e. Dark Depths), and Space Girls is no exception.
Space Girls is a 2023 single-mountain blend from Nannuo mountain, which CLT describes as brewing “fresh and floral with a sweet grassiness. It is juicy and strong with a rich color, minimal but present bitterness, and a clear Nannuo "yun". It is potent but perfectly palatable. It has a medium thickness with a growing throat sweetness.” It is a continuation of CLT’s puerh “Yunniverse” series, as they’ve released this pressing before in previous years, though in years past, the blend differed for each cake. With the 2023 blend, the Space Girls cakes are each 50g of the same material in each wrapper, each cake having their own unique Space Girl. CLT also does not offer samples of this tea as they want everyone to have the opportunity to open a tong, plus the cakes are 50g and the price is a reasonable $39.99 per tong, or 200g of sheng, making breaking up cakes fairly unrealistic for sampling. So, without further ado, let’s jump on into today’s review!
5g of leaf
100°C/212°F water (spring water was used)
Dry Leaf: The dry leaf has notes of sweet grass, slight watermelon rind, alfalfa, and sugarcane. These cakes are pressed pretty tightly, though, so getting off those 5g required use of The Bingslayer pick.
Warmed gaiwan: When placed into my warmed 100ml gaiwan, the notes shift slightly to a slight smokiness with pleasant aromas of brown sugar, sugar cane, and honey. There’s also a stronger floral aroma, reminiscent of orchids. It’s quite enticing and I can’t wait to dig into this session.
Rinse 3s: The aromas are more creamy and floral, like an orchid. The rinse is a pale gold color and tastes of light florals with a nice vegetal undertone, like a nice sheng should. There is a subtle, gentle sweetness to the tea as well.
1st steep 5s: The brew is a darker gold, now, with a slight astringency to it. It tastes fresh and bright, with notes of orchids and cream and a slight vegetal undertaste reminiscent of fresh asparagus. There is a lingering citrusy aftertaste to this, adding to the brightness of this steep, as well as a fairly solid huigan for early on. It’s almost cooling in the throat, very lovely to experience.
2nd steep 5s: There is a solid astringency building, though it gives way to that lovely floral sweetness again, like a creamy flower and a melon rind. It is a very nice and gentle tea so far with that signature Nannuo kick, which at this early steep is fairly subdued.
3rd steep 10s: There’s that Nannuo bite now, it’s coming through nicely! Nannuo material always packs a bit of a punch that is quickly subdued by a controlled honeyed sweetness, so it will be fascinating to see how this note evolves with further steeping. That kick is immediately subdued, fading into a gentle, juicy sweetness, reminiscent of honeyed watermelon almost. It’s citric with slight vegetal notes to it, similar to green grape skin or watermelon rind. There’s also a pleasant creamy stone fruit note popping through, sort of like peaches and cream. The qi is definitely kicking in, hitting first in the chest as it goes down, migrating upwards to behind the eyes after. It’s a sneaky little energy on this tea that quickly builds.
4th steep 15s: The broth is thicker-bodied now with a growing sweetness on the tongue and throat. It almost feels cooling to breathe in, similar to breathing in when one has a mentholated cough drop or mint in their mouth. The sweetness is quite impressive on this steep, tasting remarkably like honey.
5th steep 20s: Those subtle melon flavors are still coming through, though there is a noticeable astringency on the tip of my tongue now. However, this is where the beauty of a sheng puerh comes through- it’s a mouthwateringly slick tea this steep, producing a fair amount of saliva in my cheeks, something that I absolutely love about sheng. The “yun” is definitely prominent this steep (“yun'' itself is difficult to describe in puerh- think of it in this case like a lingering sweetness in the throat and the feeling in the mouth; for more visual thinkers, think of a topographic raised relief map. With a topographic raised relief map you have varying textures and dips, each indicating different terrains; in this case, the puerh is like that. The “yun” represents that sort of mineral-laden taste, lingering sweetness in the throat, and the different feelings you experience as you drink this steep). This steep is also more prominent in that cooling effect, with a very nice, chesty qi that you feel going down the chest as you drink, almost like a cooling through the chest before turning into a comforting body-warming sensation. Normally I don’t mention the qi on teas, but this one definitely has a special feeling to it that my body absolutely loves.
6th steep 30s: It’s a lot thicker and slicker-bodied now with that intense cooling to the throat and mouth still present. The vegetal sweetness is more subdued, as is that astringent Nannuo kick; the Nannuo bite keeps it interesting and engaging as I continue drinking. This steep also stimulates saliva significantly. It's wild how badly I want to just chug this tea by the mugful at this point.
7th steep 35s: The brew is a nice, dark gold color now. It’s slick and thick with a more prominent mouth-drying effect.
8th steep 45s: The astringency and drying effect it has are both stronger now, though still fairly subtle in comparison to other younger shengs I’ve had. It’s remarkably creamy, too, with that slick mouthfeel as I sip. The qi is more heady now, as the energy now feels more like a warmed towel wrapped around my forehead. That yun is more pronounced here than in any of the previous steeps, being a hard-hitting minerality that leaves an impressive lingering sweetness after sipping.
9th steep 60s: The tea itself is starting to thin out with a more tinny/metallic note coming through, though that sweetness is still present.
10th steep 120s: The sweetness is still incredibly strong, with a subtle minerality (think drinking diluted mineral water) with lots of fruity, citrusy flavors, though I believe the leaves have given all they can at this point. That being said, it’s ultimately a clean, smooth, juicy, and cooling brew, definitely enjoyable.
I decided to call it after 10 steeps, though you likely could push it a few more steeps if desired.
Space Girls is a lovely example of the beauty and splendor of Nannuo material. It has a softer profile with more subtle tastes that can be coaxed out with hotter water and longer steeps, though that does potentially risk pushing the bitterness a bit as well. These subtle flavors are there, lurking hidden in the shadow of the powerful and looming huigan, honestly one of the strongest I’ve experienced from a younger sheng. It's creamy, floral, and sweet, everything I want in a young sheng. The energy on this is lovely as well but does sneak up on you, so make sure you have food in your stomach or can handle the punch of qi as it builds. While the early steeps are thinner and much more subtle than the rest, they still pack a solid Nannuo punch. For the price, $39.99 for all 4 mini cakes, that works out to be about $0.20/g (20 cents a gram), which is a great price for single-mountain Nannuo sheng with great aging potential. I also got 10 steeps out of this, which roughly equates to about ten cents a steep (~100ml of tea each steep).
If you’re newer to sheng puerh, or you prefer shengs on the sweeter and more floral side, Space Girls is the sheng for you. This also is a sheng that I see great potential in as it ages; I would bet that the Nannuo astringency will fade into a more honeyed-sweetness flavor as the cake ages, bringing more of those sweet, stone-fruity flavors to the forefront. For a younger sheng, it really does give you a good bang for your buck, so-to-speak, as it hits hard without being overly aggressive like some younger shengs tend to be. Crimson Lotus Tea definitely did a great job with this blend and I can’t wait to see how it develops with age. I would recommend this to anyone newer to sheng wanting to learn about the flavors of young sheng without the harsh bitterness some can have, or those who prefer shengs on that sweeter or more floral side. The Space Girls definitely deliver an out-of-this-world sheng session that will leave you glad you ordered.