Assam is the world’s largest tea-growing region and the second most commercial tea producing region in the world after southern China. To understand it’s history, culture and trade, right from it’s roots, we decided to travel to Assam. For me, an ardent tea addict, the journey here was a very willing step into nirvana.
Assam, as per data, comprises of more than 850 tea estates and more than 2500 tea gardens, that immediately arouse an almost fanatical devotion. Today, Assam produces more than half of the tea produced in India, which accounts to around 400 million kgs of tea from it’s gardens alone. Most of the premium grade tea is either auctioned or exported to other countries, through the auction center in Guwahati. Rest, which is left, is sold to the domestic market. This is sadly one of the prime reasons why most of the well-established tea brands in India are selling very low-grade tea.
Tea is produced in the low lying areas in Assam, unlike Darjeeling and Nilgiris, which are grown at higher altitudes. This is the reason why Assam tea is brisk, malty, bright and strong, while Darjeeling tea is light colored and musky, with floral aroma. Most of the tea gardens here are situated in Jorhat, which is called the ‘Tea Capital of The World’.
Assam tea has a very rich and fascinating history. It is manufactured specifically from the plant Camellia Sinensis, Assamica family. Assam teas or blends, are sold as ‘breakfast’ tea globally. For instance, Irish Breakfast Tea, a maltier and stronger variety, consists of small-sized Assam tea leaves. Infact, English tea and Scottish breakfast tea include tea from Assam. Interestingly, Pu-erh, one of China’s most famous tea, is essentially a green tea of the big-leafed assamica. Besides it’s distinctive black tea, Assam also produces smaller quantities of green and white tea.
I spent adventurous days exploring the local markets, visiting various tea vendors, shops and learning about tea, first hand from the local businesses. One such great moments in Guwahati was a brilliant evening of tea tasting and tea-talk, with Absolute Tea. Later, we headed to 11th Avenue, an urban café and bistro, overlooking a lake. A perfect evening spot, for a cup of tea. I met the owner Gaurav Das, and had wonderful chat over few rounds of exotic teas here. I would highly recommend this place to anyone looking to spend time reading, writing or simply enjoying the beautiful view by the lake, in this tea divine city.
Thus, my TEAlightful time in Assam came to an end and after many cups of brilliant tea, I was all set to catch my early morning train to Nagaland – to discover something enchanting, from the land of the warriors. I could smell the tea in the air.