An enjoyable spring sip, we’re here to answer your frequently asked questions about Assam teas as well as highlight our favourite single estate varieties.
How is Assam tea different from other Indian-grown teas?
While Indian teas like Darjeeling and Nilgiri flourish in the highlands, Assam teas are grown in low floodplains. The Brahmaputra River that runs through Assam carries rich clay soils down from the mountains of Tibet. These soils then enjoy fantastic irrigation when monsoonal floods flow through the plains from May to October. As a result, the region yields lush tea bushes that are ready to harvest between March and November.
The height of the picking season is one of the hottest and wettest periods of the year. Sometimes, temperatures soar as high as 38°C! This humid, greenhouse-like terroir is what gives most Assam teas their characteristic strength and deep malty palates.
Assam teas are also unique in how they slightly differ from the standard tea plant. One of the foundations of tea teachings is that all tea categories (black, green, white, and oolong) come from the one plant, Camellia sinensis. However, there are actually two varieties that stem from this species: Camellia sinensis var. sinensis and Camellia sinensis var. assamica. The latter variety is the plant that produces Assam tea!
Where in India are Assam teas grown?
The answer is in the question…the Assam state in northeast India! Specifically, the largest amounts of the best quality black tea are thought to come from the district of Sivasagar in the division of Upper Assam.
Among the 119 tea estates in the Sivasagar district are Hajua and Mangalam. If these names ring a bell, it’s because The Tea Centre’s very own Hajua Assam and Mangalam premium teas come from these estates! Similarly, Joonktollee and Dhelakhat are also grown in Upper Assam, but in the neighbouring Dibrugarh (former) and Tinsukia (latter) districts.
Even outside of Upper Assam, you can find this delicious brew growing in the North Assam district of Udalguri. This is where the brilliant Dimakusi Tea Estate grows and processes our bestselling Assam Dimakusi tea.
The Tea Centre also stocks teas from Lower Assam. Namely, Assam Rani from the rural Kamrup district. Due to its location at the tail end of the Brahmaputra River, this brew sports sweeter flavours and more chocolate-ty aroma in comparison to our other Assam teas.
Is Assam tea indigenous to India?
The original Camellia sinensis plant was native to China. However, it was the British who spread the broadleaf assamica variety across the world after finding in the jungles and banks along the Brahmaputra River (circa 1820s). Of course, the people of the region were utilising the plant long before the British. In fact, Assamese people weren’t just brewing the leaves, but cooking and eating it as a vegetable too!
Because the assamica variety also grows in China’s Yunnan province, this suggests that the plant was most likely brought to Assam thousands of years ago by migrating tribes. However, no one knows for sure.
Highlights from each Premium Assam Tea Estate
From the very tip of the tea plant comes Joonktolle SFTGFOP (Super Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe). This grading indicates that only the finest and smallest whole leaves go into this tea.
While the Joonktollee Tea Co. is known for making some of the best CTC Assam brews, this particular batch is an orthodox tea made from whole leaves!
This tea plantation has been around since 1874. Therefore, this is one of the most traditional high-grade Assams that you can enjoy from India.
The Tea Centre’s Assam Hajua is a beautiful black tea as seen by its SFTGFOP grading. This estate does not produce an abundance of orthodox leaves, which makes this tea all the more special.
Hajua is an estate best known for wonderfully tippy leaves that produce a rich and smooth flavour. Nicknamed “shelter of the swans”, the 199-hectare estate is also renowned for being the first fully clonal tea garden.
Not just an amazing infusion to sip but a source of culinary inspiration! You can’t go past our scrumptious Hajua and Honey Pound Cake recipe here.
Moreover, the Mangalam Tea Estate also produces 100% clonal material that lends itself to high-quality crop yields!
In fact, this estate recently won an award from the Tea Board for obtaining the highest yield per hectare in the Sivasagar district. Such an award could only be obtained by estates who paid close attention to detail with their teas.
This loose leaf is also similar to Joonktollee in that the estate is accredited to produce orthodox teas. For these reasons, Assam Mangalam SFTGFOP1 has the most golden tips out of all our premium Assam teas.
What are “clonal” Assam teas?
Clonal teas come from plants that have been propagated through cuttings rather than seedlings and demonstrate consistently high quality and fuller flavour. Tea farmers also cultivate clonal teas to withstand drought, flooding, disease, and pests.
As the most productive tea-growing region in the world, Assam is responsible for about 13 per cent of the world’s tea production. Specialising in commodity CTC tea (for teabags and blends) and orthodox tea (full, loose leaf tea), the demand for Assam teas has been increasing exponentially in the last two decades.
What are the common taste characteristics of Assam tea?
All Assams tend to have an overall malty taste and are a full-body brew that lends itself well to milk. This is also why you see Assam pop up in breakfast tea blends. Its bold profile makes it the perfect tea to start the day with!
Robust, cognac brews have made Assam especially popular amongst strong tea drinkers who enjoy something hearty. Along with milk, it also tastes amazing with sugar and honey.
Or, if you’re the type that normally takes their tea with a slice of lemon, instead use a slice of orange in an Assam brew. The malty notes of the tea are better complemented by the sweeter citrus.
Assam Mangalam SFTGFOP1 is a limited-edition tea that’s only available until stocks last! You can find it online here.