The Tea Spot’s Assam loose-leaf tea and Steepware were recently featured on the Anderson Cooper Show in a segment where we learned that Dame Judi Dench drinks only Assam tea. Assam is the tea many of us wake up to, whether we know it or not, so the saying “If Strength Is Your Weakness, Assam Is Your Tea” clearly applies to many tea drinkers. This brisk black tea is blended into most English and Irish breakfast teas. The presence of hundreds of different estate Assams makes this one of the most prolific of all tea regions in the world.
Everything about this tea is big, including the plant it grows on and the leaf. The varietal of tea plant that comes from Assam is Camellia sinensis assamica, and it is about twice as big as the Chinese varietal Camellia sinensis sinensis. The larger leaves from Camellia sinensis assamica produce a darker and stronger tea, which makes it well suited to milk and sugar. You can always pick out an Assam among other black teas by its distinctive malty aroma and honey finish. Even though it’s a strong tea, Assam is velvety smooth, and steeps into a beautiful dark brown liquor. When you add milk to the tea, it turns a characteristically ruby color.
Assam is one of only two regions in the world with native tea plants (in addition to South China). This very moist Himalayan valley is over 500 miles long, following the Brahmaputra River. Assam gets over 100 inches of rainfall annually, and parts of it look like a tropical jungle. Assam is also home to the largest wildlife sanctuary in India, where you can still see the rare, one-horned Indian rhinoceros and the Asiatic elephant.
Congrats on your appearance of the Anderson Cooper show. What a wonderful recognition you’ve received. It must be so heartwarming when your hard work is identified this way.
I just returned from Costa Rica – a serious coffee producing country. I was realizing that their climate is not so dissimilar from India – with areas of high elevation and tremendous rainfall. I can’t help but wonder if anyone has considered growing tea there…..!
That’s so interesting Michelle – I’ve often thought that regions that grow good chocolate could be excellent environments for tea cultivation as well. Coffee may need similar conditions to chocolate, but I’ve not studied its climes… But the only places I know of where we see serious tea and chocolate cultivation side by side is in Africa. The South American question may be more cultural. It makes sense that the biggest tea producing regions are also amongst the top per capita tea consumer regions.
And thank you, it was surely a tremendous honor for us to get that call from The Anderson Cooper Show!
Assams are certainly some of my favorites for cooking with tea, with their various flavor profiles, from earthy to malty. And given their suitability to drinking with dairy, they make a great base for any cream- or milk- based desserts, including sauces, mousses and ice creams. Pot de cremes, creme brulee and flans all benefit from infusing their dairy bases with highly fragrant Assam teas. Sessa and Banaspaty estate Assam rank among my favorites.
Robert, I love Sessa Assam, and will need to try the Banaspaty… thanks for the tip! Maria