Assam is a strong, full-bodied and malty brew. One term used for this kind of tea is ‘productive’ (meaning, ‘enough caffeine to animate a stuffed pet’). Assam has been the backbone of ‘builders’ tea’ for generations.
Unlike many tea plantations which thrive in highland soil, Assam’s tea is grown in deep valleys, where the intense summer heat and torrential monsoon rains produce a similarly intense flavour in the tea leaves.
Strangely, when the British Raj set up the first tea plantations in Assam over 150 years ago they spent a long time trying (and failing) to grow Chinese tea plants, even though native Assamese tea trees were growing wild. Eventually they got the right idea, ushering in Britain’s long love affair with Indian black tea.