|"it is totally handcrafted, with absolutely no machines involved. Hand picked, it is laid out to dry in the sun for six to eight hours, and that's it. The result is a lovely sight to behold; whole leaves and bud clusters gently curled and still a light emerald green, as if they'd been plucked from the tea bush only a few hours ago. "|
This tea is white not in appearance, but in the sense of being minimally oxidized, or in this case, hardly at all if any. According to Benoy, it is totally handcrafted, with absolutely no machines involved. Hand picked, it is laid out to dry in the sun for six to eight hours, and that's it. The result is a lovely sight to behold; whole leaves and bud clusters gently curled and still a light emerald green, as if they'd been plucked from the tea bush only a few hours ago. The fragrance is both floral and vegetal. Due to the very specific sun requirements, it can be made only during the First Flush (late February to mid-April) and Autumn Flush (October to November) seasons. Benoy worked closely with Mr. S. Roy, manager of the Arya Tea Estate, on this tea. The Arya Tea Estate is certified organic and dates back to the 1700s.
When asked about brewing instructions, Benoy gave the following advice: "There are no strict instructions when it comes to tea brewing because it should be prepared according to one's liking. For example when we talk of First Flush teas, a considerable amount of astringency prevails which is liked by some and disliked by the other. Hence, if steeped for less time, astringency is also less. Standard brewing instructions for white tea - 2.5 grams of tea for 140 ml cup water with water temperature about 185 deg F maximum. Let the water not increase above this as this may destroy all the goodies that are in the white tea. Steep it for about 4-5 minutes (you can experiment the timings with longer and shorter steeps to suit your palate). If the water is hard, try filtering it first. That's it, it should be ready."
Following Benoy's directions, I infused 2.5 g in one cup of 185F water for four minutes. If possible, it is best to weigh this tea, rather than spoon measure it, as a spoonful of the large curly leaves is mostly airspace.
The resulting liquor was a pale golden green and smelled very much like fresh raw corn and corn stalks, with a hint of freshly popped popcorn; very sweet and vegetal, but with a hint of the floral sweetness of a Darjeeling, too. The flavor was rich and mouth filling, almost thick on the tongue, vegetal, sweet, astringent, like a Japanese green tea, with a faintly sweet Darjeeling finish. As the cup cooled, the sweetness came more to the forefront, in both taste and fragrance, showing more of its Darjeeling roots. You could almost call this a hybrid flavor, as it embodies aspects of white, green, and Darjeeling. It is a very unique and tasty combination.
Returning to the pot, I found the leaves a bright, fresh spring green. They had already been open; now they were supple and visibly whole. It looked like I'd picked a handful of leaves from a tea bush and tossed them into my teapot, unprocessed. This may be what the very first teas were like, before people learned the various ways of rolling and oxidizing them.
A second infusion yielded a cup very similar in color to the first, but quite different in taste. The astringency was all but gone, and the flavor was now more vegetal, a little oceany, with a bit of sweet stone fruit and a sweet, mouth watering, slightly vegetal finish. It's worth letting the tea cool a bit, as the flavors come out more as it does.
While the combination of flavors might not suit those who looking for a classic white or classic Darjeeling, I really liked the unusual mix and the complexity of it.
The Thunderbolt Tea website is one of the most interesting out there, too. There is a wealth of highly detailed information about Darjeeling tea, as well as the charitable work they do, supporting education for tea workers and their children. Arya Pearl and the Thunderbolt Tea website both highly recommended!
— To purchase Thunderbolt Tea Arya Pearl 2009 Autumn Flush, 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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