ASSAM – North India
These are the black teas grown on the banks of the Brahmaputra River and elsewhere in the northeastern province of Assam - the world's largest, single, tea producing area. This area is 120 miles to the East of Darjeeling on the borders of China, Burma and Bangladesh. At this longitude, the banks of the Brahmaputra River are the wettest and least hospitable regions of the world. During the monsoon (from April to September) the temperature rises to 95 F. It is in this huge natural greenhouse that nearly a third of the tea grown in Indian flourishes, yielding roughly 200,000 tons per year including some of the finest varieties in the world.
Good Assams are outstandingly thick-bodied, malty-tasting and delightfully strong and pungent both in flavour and aroma. Lower quality varieties are less distinctive and often merely harsh. The liquor ranges from amber to dark red. The dried leaves vary from black to gray or reddish brown, depending on the season, and sometimes have white or golden tips.
While not generally considered on a par with the finest Darjeelings, top quality Assams are great teas, even though plantations are situated at relatively low altitudes. Because of their full- bodied, pungent character, Assams are used widely in blends and combine nicely with more delicate, lighter bodied varieties. They go particularly well with milk, which will mellow out any undesired harshness, and can also be superb when drunk plain. The Best Assams, often labeled "Vintage Assams" - the "Vintage" refers to leaf quality, not age and are sold by specialty stores at premium prices.