This dark puerh comes on strong quickly. It will brew thick and dark at the beginning but then mellow into a light sweetness. The leaves are all small buds and carry the name "Imperial Grade".
This was one of those teas where I heard nothing but stellar reviews no matter where I went. Everyone just raved about it, and any time I saw a "find me a good shou" question, this one was almost certainly mentioned. So contrary to my normal cautious attitude towards new shou, I skipped ordering a sample entirely and jumped in headfirst with a full brick. I don't regret it at all.
Dry leaves - The brick is fairly tightly compressed and takes some work to pry apart the leaves without breaking them too badly. You'll notice the leaves are quite small compared to most puerh leaves (gong ting/imperial grade), and are a bit more tippy than what I'm used to seeing. The aroma is fairly earthy and sweet, with just a hint of wood and camphor.
Brewing parameters - 212F, 2 x 10s rinse, then <5s steeps at first, increasing time as needed. These leaves impart a lot of flavor very quickly.
Tasting notes - Smooth, sweet, wet wood, leaves, earthy, cacao, wheat, cherry, thick mouthfeel
This shou immediately kicks it off with a very smooth, thick, sweet broth. There is no trace of mustiness or fermentation at all, making this an incredibly flavorful and enjoyable tea right off the bat. Early on, it's a mostly sweet earthy brew, reminiscent of a fresh forest floor. Notes of clean earth, peat, dry leaves, and wet wood all mingle together to make a fantastic, inky black soup. The slight bitterness is balanced perfectly with the thick sweetness.
Steeps 2-5 mellow out somewhat, yet still retain the wonderful earthiness of earlier, but with the addition of a mild woody spiciness. It definitely doesn't have the bite of say, something out of the Menghai tea factory, but there is a bit of a spicy tinge on the back of the tongue after the sip. A nice savory huigan is starting to take hold as well.
Steeps 10-onwards just take the complexity and run with it. The flavors have mellowed significantly, but the cacao and wheat are hand-in-hand with the earthiness now, just subtle notes of cherry and even tobacco peeking in with each sip.
This is really an incredible tea. I don't like to say "favorite", but this one is certainly high up on the list of ripe puerh. My only word of caution is this: if you are new to ripe puerh, don't start with this one. It's so good it will spoil you and other shou just won't measure up.
You can buy this tea from Crimson Lotus here: http://crimsonlotustea.com/collections/shou-ripe-puerh/products/2008-bulang-imperial-grade-shou-ripe-puerh