Chances are you’ve had Assam Teaat some point during your tea drinking adventures. If you haven’t tasted it as a single origin black tea, you’ve most surely had it in a blend. Most commonly an English, Irish or Scottish Breakfast blended tea. Of the 3 more common Indian/Sri Lankan classics (Assam, Ceylon, Darjeeling) – Assam is my favorite. I drink it daily and fully admit to it being a slight addiction. (Ok… maybe more than slight.)
Assam is a black tea grown and named after the Assam regionwhich is located in upper Northeast India and borders Bhutan. It’s mostly grown at or near sea level and is known for its body, maltiness, color and sometimes complex fruity, almost jam-like notes. This area of India (the state of Assam) is the world’s largest tea-growing region. Its known for high moisture/precipitation and during monsoon season its not uncommon for there to be 10-12″ of rain or more per day.
Daytime temperature are typically around 97˚F – which creates extremely humid conditions – much like a hothouse/greenhouse. It’s because of this very humid/tropical climate that Assam gets its signature malty taste for which it is known.
It’s specifically made from Camellia Sinensis Assamica which is the same plant used in the Yunnan Province/region of China. It’s no wonder I love this tea. Aside for my lust for Assam, I’m obsessed with many teas from the Yunnan region. Teas like Golden Monkey, Yunnan Golden Tips and Golden Monkey are high on my list for coveting.
It seems there are two Scottish Roberts (Robert Bruce and Robert Fortune) to whom we owe gratitude for changing tea history with the discovery (and/or stealing in the case of the later Robert) of a single plant: Tea.
So thank you Robert Bruce, the Scottish adventurer (not the Outlaw King) for “opening the door to the great Assam tea industry’ in 1823 when he stumbled across the wild tea plant growing in that region.
Our current Assam is Organicand a beauty. I’m often asked what tea would I chose for a satisfying, classic breakfast black. My answer is always: Assam.Though our Breakfast blend,Darjeelingand new Keemun Mao Fengare divine specimens in their own right, it is Assam that holds the key to my heart. I’ve rarely had anyone come back after my Assam suggestion and say that it “wasn’t their cuppa tea.” It holds up well to invasion (cream and sugar) but is glorious in its natural state without any embellishments. Highly recommend. Brewed at around 2 minutes seems to be the right timing for my tastebuds. Give it a shot and see what works for you.
I could go on and on like the TeaNerd that I am about my love of Assam, trying to convince you that its one fine black tea, but instead I’ll just offer this Code: TeaGiving2 so you can take 25% OFF on Day 2 of our 25 Days of Tea Giving to see if it turns into TeaLove for you as well.
I’ve been romping around in oversized pajama pants, a sweatshirt and soft wool socks holding a mug of tea every day since I arrived.
I’ve wanted to stay at Addy Sea for years but there was never an open opportunity until now. It was random, as many things are, and yet it arrived right on time when I clicked their website to see about winter rates and discovered a writing retreat listed for the first week of March. It didn’t take much convincing after that to find out more and book it along with my room.
A mere 2.5 hour drive from Washington DC on a late Sunday afternoon had me arriving at the Inn when it was dusk. I had the prearranged code to get into the main parlor and the code to unlock my room was waiting for me on the welcome piece of paper at the arrival desk. That little handwritten note with check-in information ended with this: “There are cupcakes in the fridge.”
Up I went… two flights of wonderful creaky stairs to the 3rd floor and room #10. I opened the door and the view of 3 large windows facing the ocean and the sound of crashing waves started a chemical reaction that I’m vaguely familiar with. I think it’s called relaxation. I dropped my bag, opened the window and stared for a very, very long time.
That word popped into my head like an order rather than a suggestion. I rummaged through my tea travel bag – always filled with Pearl Fine Teasalong with my Bodum travel water kettle, or as I call it: Little Green Giant (LGG). Certainly the best investment any tea lover can make. There is nothing worse then staying somewhere that may filter its hot water through a Keurig or coffee maker. One can never know. So one must always be prepared. If ever there was a way to kill a cuppa, it’s like that, and frankly, I’d rather drink nothing than expose my tastebuds to that chaos. I call it “Tea-PTSD” and because of that, my LGG always comes along for the ride. And isn’t also nice to have a kettle in the room to boil water on demand? Common in most Asian countries – but not here in the US.
With LGG heating up, the “make-your-own-teabag” is on deck with our Ginger LemonTisane. The power in this concoction seems to wipe away sore throats quickly which has been lingering for a few days now. So now its time to sit. With hot cuppa tea. In semi-darkness listening to crashing waves and looking for stars.
The next morning I’m up at 7am thanks to the eastern sunrise shining into the room, LGG is plugged in, rolling a boil and Assam is on deck awaiting to take a dip. I sip and stare at the horizon for a time and then make way down those creaky old steps to breakfast which is held in what looks like a dining room out of aJane Austen novel. In fact, that’s what I referred to it as the entire time I was there: The Jane Austen Dining and Tea Room.
It is only then as I’m enjoying breakfast that I realize: I am the only guest in the entire Inn. Just me. I texted this phenomenon to a friend, and her text back was: “Writing. Alone in an inn? It sounds like the Shining.” My reply? “Naaaaa.” Though there are stories floating around on different websites where people have heard noises, it is a house built in 1901 out of wood and located directly on the beach. What house wouldn’t creak? And what malevolent spirit would reside in a house with this much warmth, beauty, and direct view of the sea that serves cakes and tea at 3? I’d like to think Jane herself pops in now and then to oversee the tea room and make sure the Royal Albert Country Roses china is in place, as she grabs a pen to sit and write by the fire.
The small buffet held warm eggs and bacon, freshly baked muffins, fruit, greek yogurt and a selection of cereals. As you can guess, what I was most interested in was the tea collection which was presented in a lovely classic wooden box with selections from Lipton and Twinings. Sadly, no can do. But also, not a problem.
As I’m digging through my canvas tea travel bag to pull out a gorgeous Darjeeling 2nd flush, I meet Sarah who works at the Inn part time and is also the owner of Swell Cakery nearby. Sarah bakes many of the tea time treats at Addy Sea. Sarah also loves tea. So I reach into my bag of tea tricks and pull out a tea for her to enjoy the rest of her day.
A lot has happened already and it’s only 1030am. The other writers have arrived, we all gather around a table closer to the fireplace in the Jane Austen dining room, and I learn that all of them are tea drinkers. I obviously offer to be the Tea Facilitator and share my personal stash with them each day. With our own hot water urn on the table for endless re-steeps, this makes it even easier to be creative and to sip tea without having to get up for a refill. Brilliant!
And this became the routine for the next 3 days: writing and tea, writing and tea, cheese and crackers, chocolate dipped macaroons, another round of tea and a walk along the ocean. As one might say in the time of Jane Austen’s: “How heavenly.”
I have only good things to say about Addy Sea : from the rooms that felt like home with soft eco-friendly coverlets and fluffy pillows, the oversized bath towels and eco-friendly bath products, the courtesy hairdryer, the bottle of wine by the fire, the extremely friendly and respectful staff, the change of flowers on the tables every single day. Cinde’s wealth of information, humor and willingness to try a a new tea; Steve’s lightening quickness to fix a rather lazy shade in my room; Sarah’s tasty gluten-free tea treats; Tiffany’s cheery personality and gift of chocolate covered strawberries; Jason’s one-on-one chef demonstration on poaching the perfect egg… And their willingness to accommodate and treat this Chief Leaflike she was a long lost friend, as she did research and drank tea by the sea for 4 days.
While at the World Tea East Expo in Philadelphia we learned some interesting facts from Devan Shah, President of ITI. Did you know that…
Tea bushes were discovered growing wild in Assam in 1836
12 chests of tea were sent as the very first shipment to London in 1839
First tea auction was held in India in 1861
India became the largest exporter of tea to Britain in 1899
Devan described the teas of India like its regions and the people who live there. Very interesting concept…
Assam: The Strong One“If strength is your weakness, Assam is your tea”
The teas are like the people: bold, robust, harsh and aggressive
Birth place of Indian Teas
Worlds single largest tea growing region
Worlds most used tea
900,000,000 lbs of tea is produced yearly
Is a very large leaf like the teas in Yunnan, China
Darjeeling: The Exotic One
Known as the Champagne of Teas
The people of Darjeeling are peaceful, are low spoken, soft and feel like they live in Nirvana on top of the world
80 + tea gardens located in the misty section of North-East India
7500 ft elevation
1st Flush is called “Easter Flush”
Europe/Germany are the largest buyers of 1st flush teas but Japan is showing strong interest as well
Flavors are often vegetal, green, mild, and astringent
2nd Flush (Spring)
Rains start to arrive until June/July
Some of the best Darjeelings are produced during this time of year
The green leaf hopper (similar to Taiwan) is part of what makes Darjeeling have the muscatel flavor
Very attractive tea with purplish browns, greens and silver tips
Coppery infused leaf has a penny color like a fine wine
Rain teas, produced and picked every 4 days
Produced from Mid-July to October
Has more color and strength then other flushes
More abundant and often used in blends
Light copper, brownish with a malty aroma
Produced late October – November
Nilgiri (Blue Mountains): The Forgiving One
First teas planted in 1859
Like the people of South India: intelligent and peaceful
You can’t over steep a Nilgiri tea
One of the best teas to use to make a chai concentrate
Less tannins and doesn’t cloud which makes it perfect for iced tea
Has overtones of a 2nd Flush Darjeeling but cost is less
8500 ft altitude and grown year round but best time is Oct – Mar
Nilgiri is the only Communist state left in India
Which tea region do you most associate with? Are you a bold Assam character? Are you more gentle like a Darjeeling? More forgiving like a cup of tea from the Nilgiri region? Something to think about as you brew that magical cup of Indian tea.
All of a sudden, I’m fascinated with honey. Honey producing, honey bees, honeycombs, worker bees, honey facts. All of it. I had no idea honey was so complex and magical. I’m in awe of those little honey bees that work so hard for us to enjoy some sweetness in a simple cup of tea. We must thank the honey bee – especially the worker bees (who are female, only live 6-8 weeks and do all of the work) for gifting us with such sweetness. Read on if you want to learn more…
10 Fun Facts about Honey
In order to produce 1 pound of honey, 2 million flowers must be visited.
A hive of bees must fly 55,000 miles to produce a pound of honey.
An average worker bee (female) makes only about 1/12 teaspoon of honey in its lifetime.
It would take approximately 1 ounce of honey to fuel a bee’s flight around the world.
Honey contains vitamins and antioxidants, but is fat free, cholesterol free and sodium free!
Honey is less than 20% water.
Honey speeds the healing of open wounds and also combats infection.
Beeswax is edible. If you’ve eaten a Gummy Bear, you’ve eaten beeswax.
Honey is the only produce with NO EXPIRATION DATE.
Tea and Honey are a perfect match! Both are known to contain antioxidants which help prevent damage to cells and tissues
23 Honey Varieties(Did you know there were so many? I didn’t)
ACACIA – made from nectar collected from Acacia tree blossoms which produce a honey that is remarkably clear and pure. Popular and sweet with a mild, delicate floral taste.
ALFALFA – light in color and mildly scented floral aroma. Its delicate nature doesn’t overpower other flavors making it a perfect with tea. Not as sweet as most honey.
AVOCADO – tastes nothing like the fruit, avocado. Dark, fairly rich and buttery in flavor.
BASSWOOD – one of the few varieties that that is light color but has a strong biting distinctive lingering flavor. Very good with teas like Earl Grey.
BLUEBERRY – made from the tiny white flowers of the blueberry bush. Light amber in color, has a pleasant flavor, a slight tang, and a blueberry aftertaste.
BUCKWHEAT – hard to find. The darkest of honeys with a full-bodied flavor. Rich in iron. Popular with honey lovers. Has been found to contain more antioxidant compounds than some lighter honeys.
CLOVER – a classic honey with a mild sweet taste. One of the most available and popular varieties.
EUCALYPTUS – a special herbal flavor which carries a hint of menthol. Traditionally used as a protection against colds and headaches. Try it in your morning or afternoon tea.
FIREWEED – One of the most popular honeys. Very smooth, delicate, and buttery in taste.
HEATHER – thick, amber in color. Strong, fragrant and floral with a very lingering aftertaste that is almost bitter. High in protein content.
LEATHERWOOD – a native eucalyptus found in the south-west of Tasmania, Australia and is the source for 70% of the country’s honey. Excellent on wheat toast. Adds a fantastic aroma to tea.
LINDEN – light yellow color and a delicate, fresh, woody scent. Known to have sedative and antiseptic qualities. Used in the treatment of colds, cough and bronchitis.
MANUKA – found only in New Zealand’s coastal areas, and comes from the flower of the Tea Tree bush. Said to be antibacterial and helpful for healing of sore throats, colds, indigestion, stomach ulcer, acne and pimples.
ORANGE BLOSSOM – light in color, mild in flavor with a fresh fruity scent with a fragrant citrus taste.
PUMPKIN BLOSSOM – harvested once a year in the early fall. Dark amber-colored liquid with a light floral fragrance. Tastes nothing like Pumpkin Pie. A seasonal honey – limited as the bloom is short and does not produce much nectar.
RED GUM – found in Australia. A darker honey with a thicker consistency, bold taste and higher level of antioxidants compared to others.
REWAREWA – found in New Zealand. Full bodied and malty. A classic dark red premium honey with a caramel, slightly burnt flavor. Quite unusual.
PINE TREE – from Greece. Less sweet, a little bitter, with a strong aroma. Rich in minerals and proteins. Resistent to crystallization.
SOURWOOD – light-colored, delicate, with a caramel or buttery flavor, and a pleasant, lingering aftertaste.
SAGE – produced in California. Light in color, heavy bodied and has a mild but delightful flavor. Slow to granulate, making it a favorite variety among honey packers.
TAWARI – from New Zealand’s Tawari trees. Golden in color with a creamy butterscotch flavor.
TUPELO – a premium honey produced in northwest Florida. Heavy bodied but with a mild, distinctive taste. One of the sweetest honey varieties.
WILDFLOWER – also known as “multifloral” or “mixed floral” honey. Its color can vary from very light to dark. Flavor range from light and fruity to tangy and rich.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, or rather honeycomb. Honey seems to be an uber-super-duper food that just happens to have a natural affinity with tea. Lucky us!
Today, December 12, 2008, you can read a cool article at Mail Online UK by Jenny Hope on tea and womans health: “Women who drink three cups of tea a day may be protecting themselves against heart attacks and strokes.”
Newsmax.coms article on June 20, 2008: “The clearest consistent evidence points to an association between tea consumption, in excess of three cups per day, and a reduced risk of myocardial infarction or a heart attack.Dr. Ruxton found that drinking up to eight cups a day would deliver optimum benefits from polyphenols without affecting sleep quality.”
I hover around 8 – 10 cups a day so I should have the heart of a infant. Or, I should be glowing…or levitating… or something like that. Here’s an 11th fun fact about honey: When adding honey into tea, wait till it’s not too hot to avoid destroying its natural goodness.
* If you liked what you read, please recycle. Send to someone who might be interested!
As a self proclaimed “tea snob” sometimes its hard to wrap my hands around a trendy blend. Especially some that are just… the oddest of concoctions. I’ll refrain from mentioning anything specific, but one that comes to mind is a tea with so much strawberry in it I dumped it out immediately. It wasnt tea, it was Strawberry Quick!
We don’t sell “crazy blends.” I like a blended tea that keeps with the integrity and mission of the company which is to: source and sell the best leaf with the best flavor. Quite simply: I like quality. Recently, a fellow TeaPeep & tea merchant strongly recommended I give chocolate tea a try. Here is what happened:
I loved it.
With just a touch of local honey (buy local!) to boost the chocolate flavor – you’ve got yourself one of the best secrets out there! Rich, smooth and creamy it reminded me of sitting fireside in Vail … watching everyone ski and snowboard into each other.
Do you have a chocolate addiction? Consider yourself a choco-holic? Like a chocolate-y snack around midnight? Try chocolate tea to satisfy the craving. I highly recommend this wonderful, surpising tea as a way of enjoying chocolate and tea without… consequence. (ie: calories).