The Long Journey Of Assam To Becoming The Most Reliable Breakfast Teas
Distinctly malty and robust, the state of Assam in India is known to produce the world’s best black teas
I would like to believe that we will live in a time when stress will be optional. For now, stress is part of every adult’s life. The levels may vary but the far-reaching impact of stress has not gone unnoticed.
Tea, nature’s miracle herb, has been gaining more and more popularity for being a healthier alternative for caffeine levels as well as for detoxifying the body. Assam, in the eastern expanse of India, has been the seat of a world-famous black tea and still holds the attention of tea lovers.
The pure natural tea has a unique malty character which can tasted when it is taken with milk as well. The high caffeine content of Assam Tea makes it an ideal hot morning beverage.
While tea as we know it was first cultivated in China, a variant f the same tea bushes have been growing in the wild in Assam for almost as long. The local nomadic tribes claim to have been eating the leaves of the tea bushes for thousands of years.
Spread across both sides of the mighty Brahmaputra river, the loamy soil furnished by the river every year through floods has lent its share to the exquisite malty flavor of the tea grown in the region. In fact, it is Brahmaputra that defines the difference between the Chinese and Assamese variants of tea.
The consistent rains in the region have contributed to the growth of the tea bush and the bright coppery colour in the leaves that is visible after the leaves have been steeped.
Another significant difference between the Chinese teas and Assam teas is the elevation at which they grow. While the tea plantations of China are at a higher elevation, the bespoke Assam teas are grown in the lower lying regions — almost plains. This makes the two teas, both grown on the Southern Himalayan slopes, so distinct from each other.
Assam Tea is loved across the world and there are a few terms that one hears quite regularly in reference to this world-renowned black tea.
Malty: The most distinct flavor of teas from Assam, it is a unique characteristic sweet caramel characteristic. The malty nature makes it relatable to whisky lovers around the world as well.
Tippy: A term used for unopened tea leaf buds that are often picked with the second flush teas and lend a distinct texture to the Assam teas of the season. These are considered the premium picks.
Robust: The overall experience of Assam Tea is a standalone one. It is a bold, outstanding flavor which is best referred to as a robust cup.
CTC: This is one of the processes of tea leaves after they have been picked. The Crush-Tear-Curl (CTC) process is the main cause of the release of tannins that are found in plenty in the Assam teas. Excessive tannins can be very sour to the palate so choose whole leaf or CTC according to your taste.
Kill-Green: Also called ‘fixing’, it is a manufacturing process that halts the browning of tea leaves by blocking the enzymes responsible for oxidation. This helps in retaining a greenish infusion of tea leaves.
Bagantime: The tea gardens of Assam have a different time zone! Yes, the time in the garden is an hour ahead of the Indian Standard Time. ‘Bagan’ translates to ‘garden’.
Why do we add milk to Assam Tea?
The roasted black tea from Assam is rich in tannins which lend a very pungent and overwhelming characteristic to the tea. By adding milk to the cup, not only does it mask the excessively strong flavour but also becomes sweeter to the palate. And hence, delicious! Unlike Darjeeling Tea which is astringent in nature, Assam Tea works very well with a dash of milk.
There is no dearth of experimentation that has been done with Assam tea as it is a robust flavour which can be paired with many natural ingredients with fantastic results.
Smoky Assam Tea is very high on that list as this harvest from higher elevation estates in Assam are a unique blend of traditional Assam chinary and the Chinese counterpart.
A touch of bergamot rind added to a cup of Assam tea makes for the perfect traditional Earl Grey tea! And that’s not all, black tea is the perfect base for a host of blended teas that the world looks forward to each morning.
One of the contributing factors to the power-packed Assam taste, are the people who pick these priceless teas. The tea bushes in Assam are required to be pruned regularly to keep them at waist level. This facilitates the tea pickers to easily reach the best tea buds.
Across tea gardens in India, women are preferred for picking tea as their hands are better suited to pluck the leaves without damaging the entire branch of the bush. Similarly in Assam, one finds more women tea pickers as opposed to men.
The rich cultural fabric of Assam integrates the bountiful gifts of nature, including tea, and makes for one of the best natural experiences in the world.
Have you visited a tea garden in Assam? Share your experience with us!