Secrets of Assam Black Tea Unveiled – Herbs & Kettles

Secrets of Assam Black Tea Unveiled

Why is Assam Black Tea Loved For Its Malty and Full-bodied Flavors
by Poorvi Chordia
The tea pluckers of Assam working in a large tea plantation
Why is Assam Black Tea Loved For Its Malty and Full-bodied Flavors

Nestled in the wondrous northeastern part of India, Assam beckons with its unique charm and natural abundance. This captivating state is renowned for its evolving germplasm, showcasing a rich tapestry of diverse flora and fauna that flourishes in its fertile landscapes. Among its defining features is the mighty Brahmaputra River, which winds through Assam, leaving behind a legacy of mineral-rich silt that blankets the region.

The heart of Assam resonates with the rhythmic beats of agriculture as paddy and tea farms dot the landscape. The synergy of the mineral-laden soil, the hot and humid climate, and the distinctive terroir of Assam's lowlands creates a perfect storm for cultivating exceptional tea. Here, amidst this harmonious convergence of nature's elements, Assam black tea takes center stage.

The beloved rich malty notes, for which Assam black tea is celebrated globally, find their origin in this terroir. As you embark on the sensory journey of sipping Assam black tea, you're transported to coziness and comfort. This tea, whether enjoyed on its own or with a hint of cream and sugar, encapsulates the essence of Assam – a region where nature's gifts seamlessly come together to create a brew that delights tea connoisseurs worldwide.

tea pluckers in Assam are plucking fresh loose leaf teas

The History of Assam Tea

As we had discussed previously in the blog, the History of Indian Tea Part 1, tea is native to India and was produced by the Singpho tribe from wild tea trees, the leaves harvested by tea pluckers who sat on elephants. The British East India Company, which had lost the tea-opium wars, were desperate to establish tea production in India and set up a Tea Committee that found Assam to have an excellent terroir for cultivating tea. In 1836, Charles Bruce established a tea nursery in Sadiya, Assam, planting indigenous tea seed plants. With the assistance of Chinese workers, he sent a discreet sample of manufactured tea to the Tea Committee, and concurrently, seeds were dispatched to the Botanical Gardens in Calcutta for classification.

Lord Auckland, the Viceroy, approved the initial samples, and experts confirmed the exceptional quality of the tea. These native seeds grown were of the Camellia sinensis var. Assamica that are indigenous and larger, broader than the var. Sinensis and thrive in the hot, humid climate of Assam. In 1839, the Assam Tea Company was established, and by 1862, they oversaw over 160 tea gardens in Assam. With poor pay to tea pluckers and other employees, they could drive down the price of tea and further commercialize it. When the British left, landowners took over and continued the same colonial culture, which still continues in most gardens. There is now a small trend towards innovative small tea growers and small farms that bring a new life to the production of Assam tea, with the focus being on changing the colonial mentality, including improved treatment of tea pluckers and crafting high-quality small-batch teas.

a tea plucker holding freshly plucked loose leaf Assam tea

What is Assam Black Tea?

Assam teas are usually harvested from March until November. Weather, especially the rains, plays an important role in this - with too little rain giving not enough leaves, and too much rain causes flavor dilution in the leaf. First and Second Flush teas are the most significant; however, there is an Autumnal flush, too, that can be of excellent quality.

Assam black teas are grown from Camellia Sinensis var. Assamica can be through cultivars (clones) or seed planting. Assam produces both crush, tear, and curl CTC tea and orthodox loose leaf Indian black teas. CTC teas are enjoyed with or without spices (masala) in chai, while loose leaf teas can be enjoyed as is or with a dash of cream and sugar. Assam loose leaf black teas are embraced globally for their rich mouthfeel and malty flavor. As they can be enjoyed as is or with cream and sugar, Assam teas are popular breakfast teas and part of an afternoon tea.

Assam black teas are completely oxidized, which is what is most well-known. When one says Assam tea as such, it is implied that it means Assam black tea loose leaf and Assam tea vs black tea is generally implied the same. However, Assam tea farmers have recently made green teas, white teas and herbal tisanes to capitalize on the market.

Read more: A Beginners Guide To Getting Into Loose Leaf Tea

Assam Black Tea Benefits for Mind and Body

Beyond their delectable flavor, Assam teas offer many benefits extending to various health and well-being aspects. The richness of Assam black tea goes hand in hand with a wealth of advantages, thanks to natural components like theaflavin and theobromine polyphenols, which serve as potent antioxidants. These antioxidants are crucial in combating oxidative stress and supporting overall health.

One notable aspect of Assam black tea's benefits is its remarkable anti-inflammatory properties. Regular consumption of black tea has been associated with promoting heart health, supporting cognitive function, and improving oral and digestive well-being.

The theanine and caffeine content in Assam black teas further enhance their healthful qualities. The presence of theanine in Assam black tea contributes to a calmness. This amino acid is known for its relaxing effects without inducing drowsiness. Paired with caffeine naturally occurring in tea, this combination offers a unique synergy that creates focused calm. While caffeine boosts alertness and concentration, theanine works to mitigate acute stress and anxiety, creating a balanced and centered mental state.

In essence, Assam black tea not only delights the palate but also serves as a wholesome addition to a healthy lifestyle, providing a natural and enjoyable way to support various facets of physical and mental well-being.

Caffeine Levels

Assam Black Tea is known for its invigorating caffeine content, making it a popular choice for those seeking a natural energy boost in the mornings. Caffeine, a natural stimulant found in tea leaves, plays a pivotal role in enhancing alertness and combating fatigue.

The caffeine content in Assam black tea can vary based on factors such as the tea leaf grade and steeping methods. Keep in mind polyphenols in tea help provide a sustained absorption of caffeine. Usually, a standard cup of Assam Black Tea contains a moderate amount of caffeine, providing a gentle and sustained release of energy. This makes it an excellent choice for individuals looking to kick start their day or maintain focus throughout the afternoon.

The impact of caffeine in Assam black tea on energy levels is notable but differs from the abrupt energy spikes associated with other caffeinated beverages. Instead, Assam black teas offer a more gradual and sustained caffeine lift. Therefore, the jitteriness of caffeine and the highs and crashes are not experienced with Assam black tea consumption as with coffee intake.

In summary, the caffeine content in Assam Black Tea serves as a natural energy enhancer, offering a balanced and sustained boost without the abrupt crashes associated with some high-caffeine beverages. With the beautiful added effect of theanine, this creates a sense of calm, which is just wonderful. Assam black tea is a delightful choice for those seeking a harmonious and stimulating tea experience.

Shop Now: Assam Special Reserve Tea

Assam Special Reserve Tea

Tippy Assam Black Tea Flavors & Taste

The tippy Assam black tea, adorned with exquisite and delicate golden buds, stands out with its unique attributes that elevate the tea-drinking experience. This black tea’s taste has a distinctive amber hue, a visual treat that sets the stage for the sensory journey that follows.

Upon sipping the tippy Assam black tea, one is enveloped in a rich mouthfeel that lingers, akin to the enduring notes found in fine brandy. The tea unfolds a melody of flavors, showcasing complexity with each sip. Prominent malt notes provide a robust foundation reminiscent of the finest craftsmanship. Intertwined with these malty tones are hints of oak, imparting a subtle earthiness and a harmonious blend of spice, dried fruit and other secondary flavors that add depth to the overall profile.

The full-bodied nature of the tippy Assam tea is complemented by a smooth finish, creating a delightful balance on the palate. Whether savoured on its own to appreciate the intricacies of its flavor profile or enhanced with a dash of cream and sugar for a personalized touch, this tea is a wonderful beverage that caters to diverse preferences.

In essence, the tippy Assam black tea is a testament to the artistry of tea-making. It offers a captivating blend of visual allure, rich mouthfeel, and a symphony of flavors, making it a truly exceptional and enjoyable beverage.

In picture is Khari biscuit- a light and flaky puff pastry biscuit enjoyed in Indian households, often paired with chai

Best Paired With

There is an array of wonderful snacks that you can fry Assam black milk tea with. My favorite so far has been to go traditional and have it with pitha. Pitha is a gluten-free snack made of rice flour filled with jaggery, coconut or sesame seeds. We had pitha, tea leaf pakoras and Assam tippy tea at the farm of a small organic tea grower in Assam and really enjoyed our experience. You can also pair tippy Assam black tea with Indian snacks like khari biscuits, buttered toast, samosas, poha, pakoras, etc or part of an afternoon tea with scones, cookies, biscuits, cucumber or chicken sandwiches, fruit, tarts and other pastries. The adaptability of Assam black tea makes it a versatile companion for various culinary delights, catering to both traditional and contemporary tastes.

How to Make the Best Tippy Assam Black Tea

For a traditional cup using a western steeping method, we recommend taking 2.5 g of loose leaf Assam tippy tea and steeping it in 5-6 fl-oz of filtered water at 195-210 °F for 1-2 minutes. We recommend trying shorter steeping times, closer to 1 minute, if you are looking for minimal astringency and to enjoy the tea without condiments. Don’t forget to re-steep to enjoy multiple infusions. You can also steep Herbs & Kettles, whose leaf Assam black teas gongfu style to enjoy multiple infusions. If you want to add condiments like cream and sugar, heat water up to 210 °F and add the Assam tippy leaves for 2-3 minutes; add a dash of cream and sugar if wished and strain into a cup.

H&K's Best Assam Black Teas-For Breakfast & Beyond

If you are looking for a selection of Assam tippy teas, look no further, as Herbs & Kettles has the best selection of Assam black teas for your enjoyment. Each has been personally selected by us, keeping the region's unique characteristics, the type of tea and the quality in mind.

Assam Special Reserve: this is a perfect breakfast tea or afternoon cuppa. It is a loose leaf Assam Black Reserve tea with a rich mouthfeel reminiscent of a fine brandy. Notes of brandy, honey, malt, biscuit, oak bark, raisin, plum, cherry, peach, dried mango, cacao, brandy and smoke.

Assam Golden Tips: Memorable black tea from Assam contains abundant buds. Extremely rich mouthfeel with notes of malt, honey, biscuit, oak bark, cacao, and stone fruits.

Assam Black & Gold: Exceptional artisanal Assam Black Gold tea with a rich mouthfeel, syrupy with notes of honey, malt, cacao, chocolate chip, oak bark and stone fruit like apricot and peach.

Assam Golden Needle: This is a luxurious and rare hand-picked artisanal Assam Golden Needle tea with the most premium golden buds. Extremely rich mouthfeel and a superb lasting aftertaste. Notes of honey, malt, oak, cacao, yellow raisins and spice.

Shop Now: Golden Needle Tea

Golden Needle Tea

Shop Now: Golden Tips Tea

Golden Tips Tea

Other unique teas from Assam that Herbs & Kettles has are the Assam GABA tea and Assam Smoked Melody. Assam GABA is crafted specially, so it has more of the calming neurotransmitter GABA but still has the bold and amazing notes of an Assam tea. Assam Smoked Melody is a smoked tea from Assam and reminds you of a Lapsang Souchong or Russian Caravan but still has the beautiful malty notes of Assam.