Review: Thunderbolt Arya FTGFOP1 Clonal (2009)

Darjeeling Tea, Thunderbolt Tea Add comments
Jamie’s Teaview Snapshot
Its OK"My first tastes were fresh, sweetly springy and vegetal with a slight astringency that left a clean taste in the mouth."
Jamie’s Teaview: 6.5/10
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thunderboltaryaclonalThis offering from Thunderbolt is my second experience with a first flush darjeeling. This particular offering is a "clonal" meaning that some or perhaps all of the tea plants have been specially bred and selected (I assume through a method of grafting or cloning) to produce particular results that are highly esteemed. I found a brief and fairly helpful definition of how clonal is to be understood in terms of tea from the Dragonwater Teas website. "One tea type that is common among higher end tea estates is the Clonal variety, often designated as (CL) in tea names. Clonal teas come from plants bred for specific qualities and are therefore some of the most sought after teas. In the Darjeeling and Assam regions of India, clonal varieties often display a good selection of deep golden tips. Clonal refers to the method of controlled breeding of plants to produce the best results. A practice rarely seen in the tea industry due to the expense."

This Darjeeling had leaves ranging in length from short to long, but most were medium length. In terms of color, the tea was quite dark in the leaf, but there were occasional green, tan and brown leaves interspersed. This didn't seem to be a tea that was astoundingly tippy to look at, and I am curious as to whether the second flush of this tea sports more of a golden tippiness to it. The smell of the dry leaf is earthy and vegetal with a little maltiness and a little sweetness peeking through. I steeped this tea basically as I would a green, to try something new with this darjeeling sample and out of respect for its first flush status. Using water heated to 185, I steeped three minutes.

My strong impression of this tea while steeping was of a very fresh flavored, vegetal tea. There was a sturdy sweet scent underlying all that became more predominant as the infusion time ticked along. Brewed, the cup had a healthy cider color to it with a fresh herbaceous/vegetal scent and a general sweetness vying for the upper hand. I found the flavor to be quite mild with the scenting being more bright and aromatic than the taste. My first tastes were fresh, sweetly springy and vegetal with a slight astringency that left a clean taste in the mouth. Very bright and mild, really, with a bit of a sweet floral element developing as the cup cooled just slightly. It was hard to discern from sip to sip whether the vegetal or the sweet aspect of the tea was more forward. This playful quality in the tea was an attractive feature.

I made a second infusion of this tea also at 185 degrees but taking five minutes to infuse. As in my first experience with a first flush Darjeeling, the dancing, moving quality of the first infusion was notably toned down in the second infusion. I found it easier to concentrate on this now very smooth and much more floral cup. The vegetal and sweet qualities that seemed to be vying a little crazily for center stage in the first infusion have come to grips with one another and merged pleasantly to produce a very smooth and quite floral cup. I noted no bitter elements to this offering in either infusion.

I found this an interesting and enjoyable tea. So far, the first flush darjeeling teas are a lot of fun to try as they have a real energy and life to them (fluid in more ways than one, perhaps?) with many flavors and aromas being prominent, sometimes in the same sip. Thunderbolt is now offering 20% off of all 2009 Spring First Flush Darjeelings right now as the summer time Second Flush is coming into season. The discounts might make it a nice time to sample a few of these interesting offerings, if you've not tried them before.

— To purchase Thunderbolt Arya FTGFOP1 Clonal (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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