If you love tea as much as I do, you’ve probably heard a little bit about Assam tea – but what exactly is it? Interestingly enough, odds are that you’ve already tried it. Not only is Assam one of the oldest teas in history, but it’s also a staple ingredient in countless other tea blends across the world. In this article, you’ll learn all about what makes Assam so special.
The Origins of Assam Tea
Assam is a black tea derived from the plant Camellia sinensis assamica, which thrives almost exclusively in India, China and Japan, although it’s believed that the plant occasionally grows wild in South Korea as well. It grows in muddy soil near clay deposits and is usually found near water, namely the Brahmaputra River in India.
The production of Assam tea is so vital to the local economy that 1 in every 6 Assam residents work in nearby tea fields. Although Assam’s bold, complex taste is the result of its high maintenance growing criteria, once it’s developed, it creates a very flexible tea base which is compatible with most other types of tea.
FUN FACT: There are currently over 775,000 acres of Assam tea in production in India. That’s over 1200 miles of land dedicated exclusively to the growth and development of tea!
The Perfect Blend
Assam tea is delicious enough on its own, but where it truly shines is in its versatility. Assam is the number one ingredient in most natural black teas worldwide. Many different types of black tea such as Earl Grey, Irish Breakfast and Darjeeling owe their full-bodied flavor to the inclusion of Assam.
Caffeine, Carbs & Calories
One thing which many tea drinkers find appealing about Assam is its high caffeine content. Most black tea contains about 50mg of caffeine, comparable to half a cup of coffee. Assam, however, can contain anywhere from 60-112mg of caffeine, depending on exactly how long you let it steep. As you can imagine, it’s widely beloved by caffeine fanatics across the globe.
Like most other black teas, when served without extras, the tea itself contains 0 calories and 0 carbs. Those extra add-ins like cream and sugar, however, can easily bulk up the calorie count.
What Does Assam Taste Like?
Assam has been described as having a rich, somewhat bitter, malty taste to it. The aroma is very similar to what you’d expect from your standard cup of black tea. When served alone, it has a coppery brown color. The longer you steep your tea, the more intense and bitter the flavor will be. Likewise, you can remove the tea sachet sooner to achieve a lighter taste.
FUN FACT: Because the flavor of Assam varies slightly based on the weather at the time it was grown, no two cups will ever taste completely identical. Every cup of tea is a new, unique experience.
How to Improve the Taste
If you’re looking to improve the taste of your Assam tea, you likely won’t need to leave your kitchen. Some simple ingredients you can add to adjust the flavor include cream or milk, honey, sugar, or fresh mint leaves. Assam has a natural bitterness, so these extras can mellow it out and reduce the intense flavor.
How is it Made?
Tea pickers in Assam are the first step in the production process. The Assam plants are picked several times over the course of the year between March and November. In the winter, from December to February, the tea gardens stop producing and are tended to for basic maintenance and prepping for the next cycle. The weather during each harvest period also affects the flavor of the resulting tea batch.
Once the Assam has been picked, it’s brought to a factory for processing. There, the raw tea leaves are rolled, curled, and torn into the tea blend we all know and love. Amazingly, the tea making process from picking to packaging only takes about 24 hours. After that, it’s distributed into other tea blends and ready to hit the market.
Brewing Assam at Home
It’s easy to enjoy the flavor of Assam from the comfort of your own home. Here’s how you can kickstart the process:
- First, you’ll need to boil some water. You should use a tea kettle if you have one available, but otherwise, you can also microwave a mug of water. Note that the taste will be slightly flatter with a microwaved cup.
- Once the water has come to a boil, submerge the Assam tea sachet into the cup and allow it to steep. It’s recommended you allow it to steep for at least 3-5 minutes to bring out the full flavor. If you’re using loose leaf tea, you’ll need a tea strainer or infuser to make it.
- Next, you can add your optional fixings to taste and enjoy! Make sure to remove the tea bag once it’s steeped to your desired strength.
Where to Find It
You can find Assam tea almost anywhere. Because it’s so widely used in other tea blends, most black tea you purchase from the supermarket will contain Assam, even if it’s in very low amounts. Assam has a high caffeine content compared to other teas, so you’re more likely to find it in breakfast blends.
If you’d rather purchase Assam in loose leaf or sachets online, there are countless websites where you can find great deals on it all the time. One of the most reputable high-quality tea companies, Vahdam, is based in India and offers countless blends of Assam at reasonable prices.
Why You Should Try Assam Tea
Assam tea has a lot to offer tea drinkers in the long run. If you’re already a fan of black tea, Assam is the natural next step on your journey to becoming a tea connoisseur. If you’re not sure you’re ready to commit to a new blend, pick up some breakfast tea to start. You’d be surprised how Assam hides in plain sight – but its delightful flavor is impossible to forget.