Tuesday, December 10, 2013

My Cuppa: It’s All Assam to Me!

One of the most popular teas in the world is Assam. This assamica variety of Camellia sinensis is grown in the Brahmaputra Valley in the Assam region of northeastern India.  The climate in this area varies from cold, dry winters, to hot and humid during the rainy season. It's also home to some of the most nutrient rich soil.  Harvesting Assam generally occurs twice a year; once in late March, and the other, which is prime time for plucking, is during the summer months from June to August.

What is commonly sold as “breakfast” tea such as English Breakfast Tea or Irish Breakfast Tea is really Assam either on its own or in combination with other teas to create a blend. These other teas can actually be from an entirely different tea growing region such as Sri Lanka or Kenya.  As well, they are normally CTC (cut-tear-curl) teas.

Organic Golden Assam Tea

To produce Assam, it goes through most of the steps involved in manufacturing as outlined in a previous post on how to make tea. Generally, the process for Assam is as follows:

  • Plucking fresh leaves
  • Withering to reduce the moisture content
  • Rolling full leaves or mechanically pulverizing leaves to produce CTC tea
  • Allowing leaves to ferment in their own juices
  • Drying the leaves by applying hot air to extract any remaining moisture
  • Sorting leaves according to their size
  • Packing and shipping

To make a cup of Assam is fairly easy and something most Westerners are already familiar with, though I am referring to whole leaves here, not tea bags!  Properly prepared, Assam can be enjoyed on its own.  However, if you desire, you may combine it with milk, sugar, honey, lemon etc…

1.   Bring water to a full boil. 95°C - 100°C (203°F - 212°F).

2.   Measure out the right amount of tea leaves and dump them into your teapot.  I am using my glass teapot with a built-in filter.  For optimal results, 1 teaspoon of tea leaves for every cup (250 ml) of water.

3.   Water can be poured onto the leaves straight off the boil.  I like to wait for about 3 minutes before pouring the water onto the leaves.

4.   Steep for 3 - 5 minutes.  You may wish to steep a little longer if you prefer a stronger brew but not too long otherwise the liquor will become bitter.

5.   Enjoy your tea on its own or with the addition of milk, sugar, honey etc…whatever you like.

Pouring liquid gold

As always, this is just a guideline and everyone has their own taste preferences.  Feel free to play around with the amount of tea leaves, water temperature, or steep time to create your own unique experience. 

The colour of the liquor is a beautiful amber after steeping for 3 minutes.  It becomes a golden reddish colour after a longer steep time.  The brew smells like roses, even a bit like caramel to me. Cooked yams or cherries also come to mind.  The taste is smooth, a bit malty, not at all bitter or astringent even after a 5 minute steep time.  I drank the tea on its own, nothing else.
A perfect cup to enjoy!

It’s a lovely tea and I can detect similarities to the “breakfast” teas. Now all I need are some scones, jam, and clotted-cream, and I’m a happy girl!

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