A few months ago, I won a sampler of four Thunderbolt Darjeeling teas on the Thunderbolt Tea Facebook page. What lucky fun! I drink a lot of tea, but until recently I’ve mostly been a stranger to Darjeeling.
All of the teas in the sampler are lovely when made correctly, and I was surprised to find how each rewarded at least 3 infusions, yielding an attractive and tasty brew each time. The cow skull is optional, but a distinctive aesthetic touch.
Margaret’s Hope Silver Moon (2010 Second Flush):
Subtle but full of flavor with a nice acerbic edge, smooth.
Singbulli White Jade 2010:
The first time I made this tea, I failed utterly. I used what a quick Google search suggested was the standard Darjeeling method: about one teaspoon per cup, steeped for three minutes with boiling water. This way, I achieved a pretty but nearly tasteless liquor. After a little advice from Benoy Thapa (of Thunderbolt), I managed to produce a very nice tea. Steeped at about 180 degrees for 5 minutes, using about a tablespoon of leaf per cup, it brews up a nice honey brown, with a full slightly woodsy aroma and sweet subtle flavor. Later, I made this tea in a gaiwan, again with cool water, and was greeted on the first infusion with an extremely pleasant burst of dried apricot flavor and aroma; two more delicious infusions followed before the bitterness overtook the deliciousness.
Arya FTGFOP1 Autumn Flush 2009:
This is my favorite of the four. It shares with the others a taste and texture that I’d now call “a character of classic Darjeeling,” but then as I swallow there is a burst of flavor at the back of the tongue that is just delightful.
Arya Diamond Second Flush 2010: This is a good, seemingly classic tea, perhaps the smoothest of the bunch. It doesn’t have, and doesn’t really need, any interesting or unusual flavor notes.
I’m not likely to make Darjeeling my mainstay as a result of these, but tasting them–and interacting with the Thunderbolt staff–was a lovely experience.