Black Tea Spotlight: Assam

There are three major tea-growing regions in India. Nilgiri; the least known, Darjeeling; which mostly produces high-end premium tea, and Assam; a region best known for producing robust black tea in sufficient quantities to make it the world’s largest tea growing region.

State of Assam
State of Assam

The state of Assam is located in northeastern India. It holds the distinction of being the second region to produce tea commercially, after China. There is a strain of the tea plant native to the region, but when the British first grew tea there in the early nineteenth century, they used plants from China. This was a tricky business since the Chinese guarded their secrets closely, trying to keep their tea monopoly intact.

The British experienced great difficulty getting the Chinese plants to thrive, but they persevered. Their luck improved when they began growing a hybrid of Indian and Chinese tea plants. The first Assam tea – 350 pounds worth – arrived in London in late 1838. That year saw the Chinese export 30 million pounds of tea to England. By the early twentieth century, India produced 350 million pounds of tea annually.

Harvesting Tea in Assam
Harvesting Tea in Assam

There are many high quality teas produced in Assam, but much of the tea grown there is what some would categorize as everyday tea. Golden tips on the ends of the leaves characterize better quality black teas. Though often more expensive, tea that has more tips typically produces a smoother and more flavorful cup.

Assam has diversified and now produces modest amounts of other types of green and white teas, but to this day it is black tea that the region is best known for. Much of the harvest goes into popular blends such as English Breakfast, Irish Breakfast, and Scottish Breakfast. So if you’re looking for a good pick-me-up or just some very nice black tea, try opening your eyes with a cup of Assam tea!

5 thoughts on “Black Tea Spotlight: Assam

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  3. Nancy

    I make fresh iced tea every day, and drink it “straight”, no lemon or sweeteners. I’d experimented with different teas and combinations available at my local grocers. Then I brought some bags of Assam tea back from a vacation to Dublin, and was blown away by how rich and smooth it is. On the TV series, “Bones”, the 4th season premier was “Yanks in the UK”, wherein an ongoing part of the story line was Booth ridiculing English tea and wishing for a strong cup of coffee. At one point they are guests of minor royalty in a castle, and he absentmindedly drinks his tea. He raves about it and asks what it is. The reply: “Assam”.

  4. For me, as a tea-crazy Brit, it has to be Assam. Some people think it’s very strong, but that’s all about how you make it. The flavour, though, is sublime.

    Assam powers my blog at!

    If you’ve never tried Assam, do try it – the English way, with milk, of course!


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