Origins of Assam Tea
The story of Assam tea is about being discovered by a Scottish adventurer, Robert Bruce, who noticed tea-like plants growing wild near Rangpur. This was in 1823 and Bruce was on a trading mission. Bruce was reportedly directed by Maniram Dewan to Bessa Gam who was the local Singpho chief. Bessa Gam showed Bruce how local tribesmen (known as the Singphos) brewed tea from leaves of this bush. Bruce made an arrangement with the tribal chief to give him samples of these tea leaves with seeds, as he planned on having them scientifically examined. Robert Bruce passed away a few years later, never having seen this plant being properly classified.
In early 1830, Robert Bruce’s brother, Charles, sent a few of these leaves to a botanical garden in Calcutta to be properly examination and it was then that this plant was officially classified as a tea variety and named Camellia sinensis var. Assamica. And the rest, as they say, is history.
The Strong Black: Assam tea taste
If your core taste preference is for strong black teas, Assam is a good starting point for exploration. It is the largest single tea producing region in the world and a core of the British style of tea. Most of the tea gardens in Assam are at sea level, and thus, the tea takes a lot of its maltiness. With its strong body, it has a brisk profile and a bright color.
Assam is the largest tea producing region in the world and lies on the banks of the massive Brahmaputra river. The region experiences hot and humid conditions which have a greenhouse effect on the environment. Assam black teas produced are from a native variety of the tea plant, which has only two original varieties, Chinary and Assamica.
Tea grades produced in Assam
The tea manufacturers in Assam generally carry out two harvests a year– the first flush which begins late March and goes on until late May; and the second flush which is usually in June and makes the famous “tippy” tea. The tippy tea from the second flush has a fuller body and is sweeter, therefore considered as superior to the first flush.
Tea estates in Assam are known for producing both Orthodox as well as Assam CTC (Crush, Tear, Curl) tea variety. Apart from these, nowadays, a substantial amount of Assam green tea and oolong is also produced. Popular grades produced by the tea industry in Assam include the whole leaf, broken leaf, fannings, and dust. Of these, only the latter three can be produced via CTC method and leg cut manufacturing process.