One of the most beautiful destinations of North East India, Assam is famous for its tea plantations. Producing more than 50% of India’s tea and accounting for one-sixth of the world’s tea, the state collectively yields 680400 kg. of tea on annual basis. It houses more than 850 tea estates and 2500 tea gardens, which are spread in thousands of acres of land. Talking about the tea growing areas, Sibsagar, Jorhat, Golaghat, Sonitpur, Dibrugarh, Tinsukia, etc., are some of the districts where most of the tea gardens are found. Even the lowland region of Brahmaputra valley, hordes of Assam tea bush is grown. Tea gardens of the state not only acts as major spot for tourists but also known for engaging more than 17% of workers in the tea industry. Thanks to ideal weather condition, extensive tea growing season and generous rainfall, Assam is regarded as one of the most prolific tea producing regions of the world.
A Brief History of Assam Tea : A Scottish adventurer, Robert Bruce was the man who has discovered the Assam tea bush in 1823 while trading in the region. He found local tribesman brewing tea from the leaves of the plant. He send some samples of the leaves for scientific examination. Because he died shortly, therefore no results were highlighted. It was his brother, Charles, who have again taken initiative and sent Assam tea bush to the botanical gardens in Calcutta for detailed examination in 1830′s. There, it was identified as a variety of tea and plant was recognized as Camellia sinesis, different from the Chinese versions. The leaves of Assam tea bush are glossy and green and wide as compared to Chinese tea plants.
Commercialization of Assam Tea: The British had first set up the plantations in Assam by the sweat of their brow and today the tea industry is one of the most lucrative enterprises in modern history. With the discovery of tea in Assam, the export history of the country took a new turn. Assam and tea both are inseparable. Tea is grown both in the Brahmaputra and Barak plains of Assam. Tinsukia, Dibrugarh, Sibsagar, Jorhat, Golaghat, Nagaon and Sonitpur are the districts where tea gardens are mostly found. Assam produces 51% of the tea produced in India and about 1/6th of the tea produced in the world. On the international market, Assam tea is recognized by the official logo provided by the Tea Board of Assam. Assam tea is sold mostly through the Auction Centre at Guwahati.
Harvesting: Assam tea is generally harvested twice, in a “first flush” and a “second flush.” The first flush harvest starts during late March after a prolonged harvest break. The first flush harvest has a more fresh, fragrant, flowery and a slightly spicier character than its second flush counterparts. It is the lightest of the varieties.
The second flush is harvested in May-June and is the more prized “tippy tea,” named thus for the gold tips that appear on the leaves. It is the highest grade Assam tea releasing that full, strong, creamy and malty character, that is so true to form. The color is a rich coppery red to deep brown in the cup. It also has a slightly spicy tinge to its taste and is the most prized harvest for importers in Europe and North America.
Assam tea harvested from October to early December is known as the winter harvest (despite the harvest time being in autumn) or end-season harvest. Assam tea may come as full leaf, broken leaf with golden tips.
Specialities of Assam Tea: Assam tea is black tea, which is basically used in the breakfast. Comprising of Irish Breakfast tea leaves and English breakfast tea leaves, the tea has distinctive malty flavour which is stronger than Darjeeling’s tea. Containing caffeine content, having rich aroma, bright colour, briskness, tart and pungent flavour are some of the distinguishing factors of the tea grown in the state. Harvested two times in a year, “first flush” and “second flush”, the taste of latter tea is superior than the former one. Being eaten and chewed by certain tribes and local people, it tastes the best when served with cream or milk. For getting sweeter taste, people add sugar or honey in it.
Benefits of Assam Tea: Assam tea is considered as a stimulating beverage which provides numerous health benefits to people. As it is natural sedative and acts as stimulant, therefore it improves mental health by keeping the mind alert. It helps in decreasing daily stress, reducing blood pressure by lowering level of cortisol in the blood and thereby reduces risk of stroke. The tea leaves contain antioxidant properties, therefore help in reducing the risk of cancer. It increases oral health and enhances blood circulation.
So, do not forget to stroll around tea gardens of the state as it is one of those experiences which can be cherished for lifetime.