Our Assam tea collection is growing, no surprise since it is one of our favorite tea types. With over 300 tea estates in the Assam Province in northeastern India, this tea is also certainly plentiful. Time for a battle of the Assam Estate Teas (no, not all of them — just a select few). How else do hubby and I decide which we like best? Don’t worry, no blood was spilt, just a bit of tea here and there.
We decided to start with three Assams that we had on hand: BorengajuliEstate, Tarajulie Estate, and Scottish Breakfast (okay, so it’s not exactly an estate tea, but it is a favorite made mainly from Assam with a bit of Keemun added in).
Step one in any battle is lining up the troops, so we lined up our subject teas as follows:
With the troops lined up and standing attention, we engaged in the initial skirmish — the dry tea comparison. Visually, all three teas are Orthodox Assams, not CTC Assams, and are quite similar in their dry, pre-steeped form, as shown here:
Aromatically, the three teas in their dry, pre-steeped form are quite different. Though they all tend to have a maltiness to their fragrance, they differ in the strength of that characteristic as well as what additional aromas they have. Assam 1 is lighter and a bit earthy. Assam 2 is mushroomy, earthy, and richer smelling. Assam 3 is woodsy/fruity.
On to the next skirmish — the steeped tea comparison, first plain and then with milk and sweetener. All three were steeped in boiling water for 5 minutes. Then, each was strained into another container.
The tea liquid comparison, plain: Assam 1 was dark reddish brown with a malty, rich fragrance. Assam 2 was a lighter reddish brown with a very typical Orange Pekoe fragrance that many of us raised on grocery store bagged black tea have come to associate with tea. Assam 3 is a shade of reddish brown in-between the two others and smelled malty but also a bit fruity and faintly smoky.
The tea liquid comparison, with milk and sweetener: Assam 1 had a flavor that was rich and caramelly as well as malty. Assam 2 was too mild, the milk overwhelmed it, even though we had been careful to use only a minimal amount. Assam 3 had a taste that was in-between the first two, a taste that was sprightly and lighter in quality and held up through the milk.
The battle is done. So, which Assam tea is the winner? Well, once the smoke cleared and the last drop was drunk, they all proved good in their own ways. Assam 1 and Assam 3 are great milk-and-sweetener teas and, as such, are very fulfilling. However, for a lighter Assam that can be drunk plain, Assam 2 is a fabulous choice. It seems that of these three, there is no winner, just differences that makes each great in its own way. Pick whichever satisfies your preferences and enjoy!
About Tarajulie Estate — The estate lies on the Bramaputra River plain in the shadows of the Himalayan mountains and was purchased by the George Williamson Group of companies in the mid 1980’s. The deep and sandy soil is kept moist with a very hot and steamy monsoon season and has a chance to dry out and go dormant during a relatively dry and cool winter. These are perfect conditions for the Assam tea bush (Camellia Sinensis assamica). The estate produces only orthodox manufactured tea.
About Borengajuli Estate — This estate, fabled for it near perfect teas, is deep in the jungles along the banks of the Brahmaputra River. The air is wonderful, and you get a clear view of the Himalayas. No wonder those teas have such a reputation for excellence among tea merchants and tea drinkers alike.
Don’t miss A.C.’s blog, Tea Time with A.C. Cargill.
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