Gopaldhara Red Thunder Gold

Gopaldhara Red Thunder Gold - dry leaf

These leaves arrived on my tea table in the form of a generously sized 10 gram sample that was kindly included in a recent purchase I made over at the very highly recommended What-cha web shop.

This tea is from the Gopaldhara tea estate, which is in Mirik valley. Located at 1,700m to 2,100m elevation, Gopaldhara is one of the highest tea estates in Darjeeling.

The leaves are of the AV2 cultivar, and are graded as FTGFOP1. They were harvested during the Autumn (November) 2016 flush.

As What-cha say…”The tea’s unique taste is as a result of the leaves being subject to freezing temperatures due to its high elevation growth combined with late season picking, the frost causes leaves to wilt and fermentation begins at a slow rate while the leaves are still attached to the plant.

The “Gold” part of the name refers to the fact that this tea includes a relatively high number of tips. As is the case with the similarly named Yunnan Gold, those tips bring an inherent sweetness and smoothness to the tea. Interestingly enough, if you weren’t paying close attention it would be quite easy to mix the two teas up, as both are comprised of small, fine, heavily oxidised leaves flecked with those golden highlights, but as we’ll soon see, they are quite different once those leaves get down to business with hot water.

Steeping method
Weight of dry leaf: 3 grams
Infusion style: Western
Steeping vessel: 200 ml porcelain kyusu
Water temperature: 100°C
No. & duration: 3 infusions @ 1, 1½, and 2 minutes

Wow!

This tea delivered a truly intense flavour and aroma belt! Orchids and lychees wrapped round a large, gold brick. A West-Bengalese Gargle Blaster.

A brown sugar candy feeling lingered on in the cup long after it had been emptied.

The tea had a pleasant enough colour and body, but nice as they were they were always going to be playing understudy to the smell and the taste on offer.

a cup of Gopaldhara Red Thunder Gold

The “WTF!!!11!!??” factor might have been ramped up by the tea’s physical resemblance to Yunnan Gold fuelling expectations of a similar taste profile.

On the second steeping a touch of astringency appeared that dulled the sweetness somewhat. One infusion later the aromatics and sweetness had begun to fade, effectively going on holiday and leaving the astringent note in charge of the shop. This wasn’t unpleasant, mind, just a bit of a let down after all the intensity of the first round.

In retrospect this might just be one of those teas where you have to say hang the economics of it all, and forget about extracting any kind of purely financial sense of value out of the leaves. Next time, (if there is a next time for me with this tea, and I sincerely hope there is…) I’ll probably skip the third infusion, maybe even go full-bore and attempt just 1 steeping at 1½ minutes or thereabouts, try to find that sweet-spot where you coax out all the flavour and scent with just a hint of bite.

Gopaldhara Red Thunder Gold - used leaf

To sum up, then, this is a cracking Darjeeling, quite different from the norm, but in a very nice and as What-cha say unique sense. Good stuff.

Note to self – stop relying on freebies for Darjeeling supplies. Put hand in pocket and actually buy some…

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