Part of a series on evaluating online tea stores.
A look at Thunderbolt Tea in the areas of quality, selection, and tea community.
Selection: Thunderbolt’s location and connections with Darjeeling estates allow it to offer a first chance at teas. That means fresher teas. It can also mean that it buys lots or batches in a just-in-time manner. Some of the small batches they acquire may sell out quickly. These factors greatly affect the amount and variety of teas available at any time. Generally, Thunderbolt offers First, Second, and Autumn flushes. They may also have white, green, wulong and pearl teas produced in the Darjeeling area. It is also possible to find different lots or batches from the same estate during the same harvest. A careful read of product descriptions often gives clues to how these batches differ. They may come from different sections of the estate where harvests came from different clonals, sub-varietals, or tea bushes of different age.
The challenge of the product selection is the labyrinthine nature of the store’s navigation. It can take several clicks to get to the real info you need. Prices are sometimes not revealed until a shopper arrives on the individual product page, significantly hampering quick surveys for price comparison.
Tea Community: If you look at the bulk of Thunderbolt’s social media activity, you get the appearance that Benoy Thapa is a one-man show. Benoy’s personality and approachability make Thunderbolt’s Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest and blog active, engaging, and inviting.
Conclusion: Good choices but hard to find what you want. A lot of backtracking and extra clicks needed, but a little extra determination will yield deeper product knowledge and a much more nuanced menu of darjeeling teas.
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