Review: Thunderbolt Tea Arya SFTGFOP1 China 2009

Darjeeling Tea, Thunderbolt Tea Add comments
Jamie’s Teaview Snapshot
Thumbs up!"Primarily, this tea was wonderfully sweet and very floral, with a light and consistent astringency that was very pleasurable and gave a very fresh feeling to the taste. The flavors in this offering are quite focused rather than being all over the page."
Jamie’s Teaview: 9.5/10
Other Teaviews: Lynn gave it 8.5/10
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thunderboltaryachinaThis particular tea is a first flush offering from the Spring 2009 crop. It's my third sample of a first flush offered by Thunderbolt this season (and my third sampling of a first flush Darjeeling EVER). Before I mention that this tea knocked my socks off taste wise, I'd like to note that Thunderbolt is offering free shipping, worldwide, on orders placed right now amounting to $49.00 or more. Further, all of their first flush teas are currently 20% off. That's a pretty sizeable discount in combination.

To start, you've noted that the tea is designated as a "China" variety, and if you find that curious, others do too, including myself. Like most things, it's really not very mysterious. I'm including an excerpt from James Norwood Pratt's New Tea Lover's Treasury which is very helpful in explanation. "An additional explanation for Darjeeling's uniqueness is the type of tea plants grown. Most are of the China or China-hybrid type, which are found almost nowhere outside China (and Japan) except in Darjeeling and the Causasus. These plants are more resistant to cold than India's native bush, the Assam..." I thought this was interesting as well because in terms of Assam production, the Chinese tea plants did not fare as well, as I understand it. But in the case of the Darjeeling region, probably owing to high altitude and other conditions unique to their place in the world, the Chinese tea plants (and clonals of them) have done very well, adding to the singularity of Darjeeling offerings. It's also interesting to note that the Chinese tea plants are known for producing fewer leaves than the Assam plants. This would be a big part of the reason that Darjeeling is such a pricey tea.

The dry leaf is dark green with a mixture of wiry and curly leaves. It has an incredibly aromatic nose - strong, fresh and vegetal with sweet floral undertones. A little bit of fruitiness even makes its way into the nasal spectrum.

I boiled water for this sample. I let it come to a full boil and then sit a minute or so. I was cautious with my steep and held it to three minutes near exact. As the hot water worked its magic with the leaves, the scent came up lovely and aromatic with a warm sweet floral scenting becoming predominant, with spring verdant notes as well. After three minutes I had a beautiful pale cider colored cup before me. I was prepared for this cup to be somewhat similar to my two previous first flush Darjeeling experiences. In those two tastings, the first infusion was a dancing blend of flavors vying for center stage. Both were very aromatic, and both had me intrigued and delighted, but it wasn't until the second infusions of both cups that the flavors settled down and a smoothness entered the scene. I was somewhat expecting this tasting to follow suit. But I was quite wrong.

This offering from Thunderbolt is really smooth right out of the pot. It's the best first flush I've tried (n.b. from an extremely limited store of experience) in terms of discernability. By that I mean only that the flavors were more settled and lacking some of wildly aromatic and flavorful rambunctiousness of my previous tastings (which are a lot of fun, too, don't get me wrong). Primarily, this tea was wonderfully sweet and very floral, with a light and consistent astringency that was very pleasurable and gave a very fresh feeling to the taste. The flavors in this offering are quite focused rather than being all over the page. I've not ever had such a wonderfully floral tea before that wasn't scented intentionally with flowers. The floral notes didn't remind me in particular of any flower or flowering shrub, but the distinctness of the floral character was overwhelming - delightfully so.

A second infusion of this tea yields another cup full of flavor. It has a smoothness not tremendously different from the first infusion. This is where this tea departs from my previous tastings. Rather than being a tamer, settled version of the first infusion, the second infusion of this tea is full bodied, smooth and full of taste. It's a wonderful expansion of the first infusion rather than feeling like the resolution to a somewhat pitched first infusion battle. In that sense, I found this tea extremely approachable and I highly recommend it to someone new to first flush Darjeelings. I am interested to read reviews of first flush darjeelings at this point. They have a character quite unique to my limited experience and I really think quite a lot could be written about them. Hopefully, that has been written and some exploration will yield more information on this fascinating tea of Darjeeling!

My overall impressions are that this is a simply wonderful example of a first flush Darjeeling. Intensely aromatic, wonderfully and flagrantly floral, sweet and remarkably smooth. This variety had a nice, extremely consistent astringency with no bitter overtones. While this tea had a unique and dramatic flavor, it was very approachable and quite delicious. I'm delighted that I have enough sample left to savor some more cups of this delightful first flush.

— To purchase Thunderbolt Tea Arya SFTGFOP1 China 2009, 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.

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2 Responses to “Review: Thunderbolt Tea Arya SFTGFOP1 China 2009”

  1. Lynn Says:

    Nice review, and nice tea! Wouldn’t it be neat if we could all sit around a table together sometime, sharing impressions?

  2. jamie Says:

    That would be a great way to enjoy it…with a group, small or large, all of whom really were interested in the tea and its background and enjoying the experience. Fun to bounce impressions off one another and see the expressions on faces…

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