Review: Thunderbolt Tea Arya Ruby First Flush 2008

Darjeeling Tea, Thunderbolt Tea Add comments
Stephen’s Teaview Snapshot
Thumbs up!"A complex earthy/sweet/vegetal Darjeeling that continually transforms itself on your palette... I don't know that I've had a better Darjeeling than this, ever."
Stephen’s Teaview: 9.5/10
Other Teaviews: Vanessa gave it 9/10, Kari gave it 7.5/10, DL gave it 8/10
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thunderbolt-arya-ruby.jpgI received a wonderful little package from Thunderbolt Tea the other day, shipped direct from India.  It was wrapped in a light cotton fabric and was almost entirely covered with customs and export stamps.  I've really never received a package like it - quaint, unusual and exotic... it looked almost as if it were from another era. Inside were four samples of Thunderbolt's 2008 crop.  I knew the first one I would try was the Arya Ruby.

From Thunderbolt Tea's web site:
As the Arya Ruby fans know that Arya Ruby leaves are quite large, but not flaky. They are well twisted and rolled. Well withered and fired. The leaves are from AB2 Clonal bushes and is rather a clonal tea. Its not greenish in appearance because its made in quite a different manner and in very limited quantity. It has the overall first flush characteristics yet differs from the "tagged First Flush appearance characteristics". First Flush teas on the whole is perceived as having a greenish appearance whose cup is to have a weak body. This tea overrides the concept, yet is a First Flush tea. The infused leaves are rather chocolaty-brown which opens up into actual size of the green leaf when plucked by tea laborers. It has a fragrance that is floral and fruity which is also accompanied by some buttery and more of chocolaty aroma.

As stated above, it is not a weak cup, but has some body which may appear to be strong with a greater strength - the beauty of this tea is that though it has a strong body, it is smooth, fruity, flowery with no pungency at all. A chocolaty (caramel) taste can be found hidden which reveals itself. A cup for those tea connoisseurs who like smooth tea with the characteristics of First Flush tea. Usually smooth teas are from the Second Flush offerings having a mellow output in the palate.

Of all the 2008 Darjeelings on Thunderbolt's site, the Arya Ruby appears to have the highest rating.  And after tasting it, I can see why.  Nevertheless, the first sip was a bit... well, almost off-putting.  It had that earthy/papery taste that I sometimes find in Chinese teas, almost fetid, like mushrooms feeding off the rot on a forest floor.  But thankfully that initial shock faded away entirely after the second sip... the tastes were still there, but they gradually transform on your tongue into a complex mixture of sweet and vegetal, earthy and almost smoky.  I found that the more I drank it, the more delicious it became.

I've brewed this three times now, on different days, and strangely enough the first sip is always a bit of a shock.  Even when you know what to expect, the first sip of this tea is markedly different.  I can't really explain why that is, but I am curious if anyone else has had the same experience.  Each time the first sip makes me wonder if I'd done something wrong with the brewing parameters, and then from the 2nd sip onwards it mellows out and just becomes a delicious cup of tea.  Strange.

If you're a fan of Darjeelings, and especially if you like complex brew with an intense, chewy mouth-feel, this is certainly the blend for you.  Its a bit expensive at $29.99/100g, but remember that shipping (direct from India) is free, so in the end its not so bad.  Plus you'll get a fancy little cotton-wrapped package in the mail.  :-)

— To purchase Thunderbolt Tea Arya Ruby First Flush 2008, or for more specific information on ingredients or the story behind this particular tea, click here to go directly to the manufacturer's web site.

Teaviews Member: Stephen Stephen
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