Know Your Tea

Assam Tea

Assam tea is named after the region of its production, Assam, India. Assam tea is produced specifically from the plant Camellia sinensis var. assamica. Assam tea is indigenous to the state of Assam. It is mostly grown at or near sea level and is known for its full-bodied cup, briskness, malty flavour, and strong, bright colour. Assam teas, or blends containing Assam tea, are often sold as "breakfast" teas. For instance, Irish breakfast tea, a strong and malty breakfast tea, consists of small-sized Assam tea leaves....

The state of Assam is the world's largest tea-growing region by production, lying on either side of the Brahmaputra River, and bordering Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, and very close to China. Assam is not just the largest contiguous tea-growing area in the world, but It is also home to endangered species like the One-horned Rhino, Red-headed Vulture, etc and of course, impressive diversity. The daytime temperature rises to about 36 °C (96.8 °F), creating greenhouse-like conditions of extreme humidity and heat. This tropical climate contributes to Assam's unique malty taste, a flavour for which this tea is well known.

Although Assam generally denotes the distinctive black teas from Assam, the region produces smaller quantities of green and white teas as well, with their distinctive characteristics. Historically, Assam has been the second commercial tea production region after southern China, the only two regions in the world with indigenous tea plants.

The introduction of the Assam tea bush to Europe is related to Robert Bruce, a Scottish adventurer, who encountered it in the year 1823. Bruce reportedly found the plant growing "wild" in Assam while trading in the region. Maniram Dewan directed him to the local Singpho chief Bessa Gam. Bruce noticed local people (the Singhpos) brewing tea from the leaves of the bush and arranged with the local chiefs to provide him with samples of the leaves and seeds, which he planned to have scientifically examined. Robert Bruce died shortly thereafter, without having seen the plant properly classified. It was not until the early 1830s that Robert’s brother, Charles, arranged for a few leaves from the Assam tea bush to be sent to the botanical gardens in Calcutta for proper examination. There, the plant was finally identified as a variety of tea or Camellia sinensis var assamica, but different from the Chinese version (Camellia sinensis var. sinensis).

Elevation: Teas in Assam are grown at elevations ranging from 45 to 60 metres above the sea level.

Annual Rainfall: 250 to 380cm.

Tea Attributes: Assam Tea has a rich, deep amber colour and is famous for its rich, full-bodied cup. It is known for its brisk, strong and malty character, making it a perfect tea to wake up to. The distinctive second flush orthodox Assam teas are valued for their rich taste, bright liquors and are considered to be one of the choicest teas in the world.(Source: Tea Board of India)

Geography: The tea plant is grown in the lowlands of Assam, unlike Darjeelings and Nilgiris, which are grown in the highlands. It is cultivated in the Brahmaputra River valley, an area of nutrient-rich clay soil of the floodplain. The climate varies between a cool, arid winter and a hot, humid rainy season—conditions ideal for growing tea. Because of its long growing season and abundant rainfall, Assam is one of the most prolific tea-producing regions in the world. Each year, the tea estates of Assam collectively produce approximately 680.5 million kg (1,500 million pounds weight) of tea. Assam tea is generally harvested twice, in a "first flush" and a "second flush". The first flush is picked during late March. The second flush, harvested later, is the more prized "tippy tea", named after the gold tips that appear on the leaves. This second flush, tippy tea, is sweeter and more full-bodied and is generally considered superior to the first flush tea. The leaves of the Assam tea bush are dark green and glossy and fairly broad compared to those of the Chinese tea plant.

It is a storehouse of nutrients that can boost your overall health in various ways.

Strong immune system

Rich in high minerals and antioxidants, Assam tea helps in making the immune system stronger, thereby making it easier for the body to fight off colds and coughs.

Reduces fat

It is proven that regular consumption of Assam tea helps reduce unwanted fats from our body. Black tea blocks the deposition of fats into the cells and is very useful for losing excess weight. It also helps in increasing the rate of your metabolism by giving you a boost of energy.

Fight cancer

Although there is no cure for cancer, Assam tea contains phenolic compounds that contain antioxidant properties that can help inhibit the spread of cancer. A cup of Assam tea will keep you hydrated and fight cancer.

Aids digestion

Those who are suffering from indigestion, having a cup of Assam tea after meals help in digesting the food quickly. If ginger is added to this tea, it helps to relieve stomach cramps in women.

Maintains oral health

Consuming Assam tea, chewing raw leaves or gargling with tea helps improve oral health, and prevent and heal cavities.

Improve heart health

Many researchers have shown that consuming Assam tea in the right dosage every day can reduce the risk of heart attack by 50%. The active ingredients in this tea play an important role in reducing the risk of high blood pressure, prevent blood clots and relaxing blood vessels. Therefore, tea is associated with reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease like heart attacks.

Darjeeling Tea

Darjeeling tea is made from Camellia sinensis that is grown and processed in the Darjeeling or Kalimpong Districts in West Bengal, India. Since 2004, the term Darjeeling tea has been a registered geographical indication which refers to products produced on certain estates within Darjeeling and Kalimpong. The tea leaves are processed as black tea, although some estates have expanded their product offerings to include leaves suitable for making green, white and oolong teas....

The tea leaves are harvested by plucking the top two leaves and the bud of the plant, from March to November, a timespan that is divided into four flushes. The first flush consists of the first few leaves that grow after the winter dormancy of the plant and produce a light floral tea with a slight astringency; this flush is also suitable for producing a white tea. Second flush leaves are harvested after the plant has been attacked by a leafhopper and the camellia tortrix so that the leaves create a tea with a distinctive muscatel aroma. The warm and wet weather of monsoon climate produces leaves quickly, but they are less flavorful and are often used for blending. The autumn flush produces teas similar, but more muted, to the second flush.

About 10 million kilograms are cultivated every year, spread over 17,500 hectares of land. The tea has its own special aroma, that rare aroma that fills the senses. Darjeeling tea has been savoured by connoisseurs around the world. Like all luxury brands, Darjeeling Tea is aspired to, worldwide. It is also referred to as “champagne of teas”.

Camellia sinensis was first planted in the Darjeeling region in the mid-1800s. At that time, the British were looking for an alternative tea supply outside of China and attempted to cultivate the plant in several candidate regions in India. The newly discovered variety assamica and variety sinensis were planted, but the steep drainage, cold winters and cloud cover favoured sinensis. The British established numerous tea plantations, with most of the workers being Gorkhas and Lepchas from Nepal and Sikkim. After independence, all the estates were subsequently sold to companies in India and regulated under the laws of India. The Soviet Union replaced the British as the primary consumers of Darjeeling tea. As Darjeeling tea gained a reputation for its distinctiveness and quality, it was further marketed to Western Europe with many estates acquiring organic, biodynamic and Fairtrade certifications and the Tea Board of India pursuing authentication and international promotion of Darjeeling teas.

Elevation: Teas in Darjeeling are grown at elevations ranging from 600 to 2000 metres above the sea level.

Annual Rainfall: The average annual rainfall in Darjeeling ranges around the 309cm mark.

Tea Attributes: The Darjeeling tea when brewed gives a colour of pale lemon to rich amber. The brew is said to have remarkable varying degrees of visual brightness, depth and body. The flavour emanating from the brew is a fragrance with a complex and pleasing taste and aftertaste with attributes of aroma, bouquet and point. The organoleptic characteristics of the Darjeeling tea brew are commonly referred to as mellow, smooth, round, delicate, mature, sweet, lively, dry and brisk.

Geography and climate: Darjeeling tea is grown in the Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts, an area bounded by Nepal to the west, Bhutan to the east and Sikkim to the north. The Tea Board of India defines "Darjeeling Tea" as having "been cultivated, grown, produced, manufactured and processed in tea gardens in the hilly areas of Sadar Subdivision, only hilly areas of Kalimpong District..., and Kurseong subdivision...of the District of Darjeeling in the State of West Bengal, India." The tea gardens are located on the slopes of the Eastern Himalaya, between 600 and 2,000 metres in elevation. That physical geography of the Darjeeling Himalayan hill region, between the Himalayas and the Bay of Bengal, results in the land experiencing cool air with dry winter months from November to February followed by monsoon weather in the summer months from July to September. The subtropical and wet temperate forest cover that developed under these conditions left slightly acidic loamy soils with high organic contents. Being on steep slopes, the soil is well-drained and deep enough for long root systems, necessary to anchor the soil on slopes. Being on the slopes of the hills, at high elevations where cool dry air interacts with warm moist air, there can be persistent fog or cloud cover during the growing months. These are ideal conditions for the Camellia sinensis sinensis plant which flourishes with well-drained, slightly acidic soils, with periods of dormancy, and limited direct sunlight.

It is a storehouse of nutrients that can boost your overall health in various ways.

1. Provides Essential Antioxidants

Darjeeling tea is abundant in antioxidants such as the arubigins and theaflavins. Together, these complex compounds fight free radicals, neutralize harmful chemicals during digestion, and remove toxins. The deficiency of these antioxidants accelerates cellular damage, increase the risk of chronic illnesses, and accelerates the ageing process. Drinking Darjeeling tea bridges the deficit in antioxidants.

2. Reduces the Risk of Cancer

Darjeeling tea contains polyphenolic compounds that inhibit cancer growth in various ways and stop tumour development. Darjeeling tea also has anti-mutagenic properties that reduce the frequency of cellular mutations.

3. Ensures Adequate Hydration

When it comes to fighting dehydration, dietician, doctors, and nutritionists recommend drinking at least eight glasses of water a day. Adding a cup of Darjeeling tea can help your overall hydration levels.

4. Relieves Stress

Stress plays a significant role in high blood pressure, skin conditions, heart problems, asthma, depression, arthritis, and anxiety. In other words, stress leaves your immune system in a vulnerable state and opens a floodgate of diseases. Darjeeling tea relieves stress by regulating the production of a stress hormone called cortisol.

On another note, a single cup of Darjeeling tea gives your body a small dose of caffeine to restore mental alertness and improve concentration. In some cases, you may even feel an energy boost.

5. Boosts Cardiovascular Health

Darjeeling tea increases blood flow and reduces the oxidation of LDL cholesterol. It is also rich in quercetin. The compound has been found to reduce the risk of atherosclerosis, which is the buildup of plaque in the arteries that can lead to a heart attack or a stroke.

6. Facilitates Weight Loss

Studies have shown that drinking Darjeeling tea reduces belly fat and accelerates weight loss. Tea blends with higher oxidation levels are more effective for weight loss than their alternatives. Semi-oxidized Darjeeling tea is very effective in facilitating weight loss. Scientists believe it could be due to the high concentration of catechins, which are natural antioxidants that increase fat burning and stimulate metabolism.

7. Reduces the Likelihood of Parkinson's Disease

Many researchers in India believe that certain bio-active compounds in Darjeeling tea, particularly L-theanine, may play an active role in preventing neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's. Older adults are more susceptible to Parkinson's than their younger counterparts. It is because of a combination of stress, poor eating habits, and an unhealthy lifestyle.

Dooar-Terai Tea

Dooar-Terai Tea is a region spread below Darjeeling, at the Himalayan foothills. The tea-growing areas in the division of Jalpaiguri of West Bengal, along with a small part of Coochbehar District, is popularly known as Dooars, which is bound by Bhutan and Darjeeling district in the northwest, Coochbehar district and Bangladesh in the south, and Assam in the east. Dooars (which means doors in Bengali, Assamese, and Nepali) is the gateway to the North East and Bhutan. Although tea cultivation in Dooars was primarily orchestrated by the British planters through their agency enterprises, there was a significant contribution of Indian entrepreneurs who set up a substantial number of new plantations with the issuance of grants of lands in a phased manner. The region produces around 226 million kgs of tea, accounting for about one-fifth of India’s total tea crop....

Elevation: Teas are grown at elevations ranging from 90 to 1750 meters above the sea level.

Annual Rainfall: About 350cm.

Tea Attributes: The Dooars-Terai region teas are characterized by a bright, smooth, and full-bodied liquor which is a little lighter in colour than Assam tea.

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