Assam Tea: Origin, Characteristics and Preparation

Assam tea is named after a large state in India, located in the north-east. Assam tea is obtained from Camellia Sinensis Assamica, a different plant from the Chinese one. In fact, its larger leaves result in a very full and perfect black tea.

The Assam Region: An Ideal Area for Tea Cultivation

The Assam region borders Bhutan and Tibet to the north, Burma to the east and south, and Bengal to the west.

Assam is essentially a low- and mid-mountain, highland region, traversed almost entirely by the middle valley of the Brahmaputra.

Its tributaries form the flatlands of the region: humid plateaus, heavily foggy and vegetated.

The Climate of the Assam Region

In terms of climate, Assam is said to be one of the rainiest areas on the planet. This characteristic favours the growth of rich tree plant life and the cultivation of various species among which the most widespread is tea, which is endemic in that area.

In fact, the Camellia Sinensis Assamica variety is native to the valleys of Assam. This plant was then transplanted to various parts of the world to produce tea with certain characteristics of aroma, flavour and colour.

Assam Tea: British Solution Against Chinese Tea

During the rule of the British East India Company, East Bengal and Assam became the most fertile lands in the British Empire.

The East Bengal Delta was considered the ‘rice basket’ of the Indian subcontinent. The Assam valleys fed by the great rivers were home to vast tea plantations and became famous for the production of high quality Assam tea.

Foundation of the British East India Company

The British East India Company, competing with the Dutch Company and the French Company which were outgunned by its superior might, was to become the most influential trading enterprise of its time.

The British East India Company also acquired military and administrative functions in the administration of the vast Indian territory.

Hit hard by the economic and political developments of the 19th century, the British East India Company gradually declined and then disappeared in 1874.

Replacing the Import of Tea with Production

The Company presided over the creation of British India, the so-called Raj, pioneered tea cultivation in India, which had previously used tea as an ingredient in cooking and as a medicinal decoction.

The large cultivations that existed in Assam were therefore created to meet the growing demand for tea in Europe and particularly in Great Britain.

Camellia Sinesis Assamica: A Different Tea Plant

Botanically, Camellia Sinensis Assamica is different from the typical Camellia Sinensis of China and surrounding areas.

The leaf is larger and thicker. It has a very full flavour and is generally very suitable for black tea processing.

Characteristics of Assam Tea

Assam black tea is considered a full-bodied tea. If it is of high quality, the liquor has a bright, dark amber-red colour and is clear.

The aroma can have different nuances but should always be very fragrant, full, sweet with a hint of tobacco, malt and honey or even fruity and spicy notes.

The flavour is slightly tannic, with a pleasant bitter note. In the flavour of a high quality Assam tea, one can find notes of chestnut honey, sometimes citrus.

The sensation on the palate is a roughness that gives way to a taste that explodes in a thousand nuances.

How to Prepare Assam Tea in the Perfect Manner

Assam tea is suitable for breakfast, or with the accompaniment of biscuits, cakes and sweets in general.

To prepare a perfect cup of Assam tea, use water at 95 degrees and let it steep for about 4 minutes.

The amount of loose leaf tea varies between 4 and 5 grams per cup.

If you prepare Assam tea in a large teapot, of about 1-litre, remember to add a few extra grams of loose leaf tea.

It is common to say “one teaspoon for each cup and one more for the teapot”.

Assam tea goes well with creamy milk or lemon slice and can be sweetened, although we recommend drinking it pure at least the first time!

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