Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Review: Thunderbolt Tea, 2nd Flush Sungma Clonal Wonder 2009

I've been enjoying a lot of Darjeeling lately. The snow is falling, and I find something so comforting about the deep, rich aromas I find here.

Benoy of Thunderbolt Tea sent earlier this year a package of teas, which I have been slowly working my way through to review. Today's is Sungma Clonal Wonder.

I've been drinking this tea on and off for several months. It's very consistent, in that I can create a very appealing cup of tea under various conditions of weather, and mood, and the normal variations of a day. With a couple small children, I often find myself making a pot of tea in the middle of the wonderful noise and chaos of a world of toys, and homework, and changing tables. Oh, and my business, which I'm supposed to be working on right now.

A clonal tea is often a bit expensive, because a specific tree was chosen for its beautiful qualities, and then through a rather intensive and time-consuming process, propagated until enough new clonal plants exist for a harvest. I can see why this one tree made the cut. So to speak.

The dry leaves: ranging from almost black, to deep brown, to reddish, with maybe 10% silvery-white tips. There's a lovely sweetness that I can enjoy in the leaves, even before they are steeped.

I used three teaspoons of the leaves and steeped in a Tea-iere from JINGtea, which only holds enough space for two cups' worth. And so when I decanted into a crystal pitcher, I added another cup of boiling hot water to make up the difference. Then I set the timer for 5 minutes, allowing the complexities of the cup to develop in the pitcher before I drink.

And it's worth the wait. This has a deep honey-brown color, transparent to the bottom of the pitcher, but it gets pretty dark down there. The flavor: rather astringent, but quite smooth, for all that. A faint, faint hint of smokiness, adding a depth to the burnt honey and dark fruitiness. The life of the tea seems to be sensed mainly at the back of the throat. There's an absence, if I might use the term, in the high register, making this tea more like a piece played on a solo 'cello, rather than one performed by a whole string quartet, which is what I typically look for in a Darjeeling. A lovely, comforting pot of tea.

The lovely image above, "Girl with Red 'Cello Case," is by Ted Szukalski and can be found on his Web site.