What is Assam Tea?

Map of India with ASSAM marked in green

Assam Tea is tea made from the Camelia Assamica tea bush that grows exclusively in the silt-rich Bhramaputra River valley of Assam in northeast India.

Where is Assam? Assam is in the north-eastern tip of India (marked in green on the map) and borders Bangladesh and Burma (now Myanmar). It is the largest tea growing region in the world. This is rain forest country, very wet, very green, very wild. The Camelia Sinensis plant from which tea is made grows close to the sea level. Assam experiences some of the heaviest rainfall in the world :10 to 12 inches per day during the monsoons (mid May to end June) which is the peak tea picking season. The tea bushes flush at a furious rate and have to be plucked on a continuous 5-7 day cycle. Daytime temperatures rise up to 103oF and this together with the extreme humidity creates a hothouse effect that give Assam Tea its bold, malty taste.

What is special about Assam Tea? Assam tea is a robust tea,   bold and strong with a distinct earthy aroma. It has a bright coppery-red color and has a rich, creamy taste. Assam tea is the perfect morning tea and the ideal afternoon picker-upper. It is the beloved Breakfast Tea of the British.

Why do the British add milk to tea? Assam tea is strong tea that is high in Tannin: a natural anti-oxidant. Tannin is also present in dry wine- it that thing that causes the inside of the mouth to pucker and resluts in the chalky, dry taste at the back of your mouth. When milk is added to strong Assam Tea, the protein binds with the tannin and softens the taste. This is exactly the same reason why wine and cheese go so well together.

How is the tea picked? Very selectively and entirely by hand. Premium Assam tea is made from tender leaf tips. The part that is plucked is either ‘two leaf and a bud’, ‘one and a bud’ or just the pubescent tips. The quality of the  leaf decreases from the bud downwards. Good leaf is good tea and this is where good plucking scores. Experienced tea pluckers use the balls of their fingertips and not their fingernails to pluck the tea in order to avoid bruising the leaves.

Tea talk on Tea Buddy
Types of Assam tea: ORTHODOX & CTC
How is Assam Tea Made?
Is global warming changing the flavor of Assam Tea?
Shona Patel’s debut novel Teatime for the Firefly is a love story set in a tea plantation in Assam. You can read more about it HERE.  She is represented by April Eberhardt Literary.


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