What Is Assamica Tea?

Many people drink tea as part of a daily breakfast or afternoon ritual, but few know how many varieties of tea exist across the world. One of these teas is the Assamica strain. 

Assamica tea is a strain of black tea (Camellia sinensis) that originates from the lowlands of northern India. Assamica tea has a more smoky, robust flavor than other strains of Camellia sinensis. Assamica tea has the same health and mood benefits as all strains of black tea. 

Assamica tea is one of the most popular tea strains in the world and has been cultivated by humanity for thousands of years. Read on to learn more about the Assamica strain and the benefits it offers for tea drinkers. 

Where Does Assamica Tea Come From?

The Assamica strain of black tea comes from the lowlands of northern India from the Assam region the tea is named after. This area of India is the world’s largest producer of black tea. Unlike other varieties of black tea, Assamica tea (also known as Assam tea) is grown at or below sea level.

This results in a strain that has a robust, full-bodied flavor in comparison to other types of tea. 

Most of the tea that is cultivated and exported from Assam is sold as black tea, but Assam tea is also harvested as green and white tea variations. Green and white teas are the same plant, but less processed than black tea. 

While Assamica tea plants may be grown outside of the Assam region, only those teas cultivated and harvested within the Assam region are allowed to be sold and classified as Assam tea. Here are a few facts about the Assam tea region:

  • There are a little over a hundred separate tea companies that cultivate tea in Assam
  • The tea plantations in Assam cover over 2.1 million hectares of land. 
  • The district with the largest number of Assamica tea estates in Assam is Dibrugarh. 

Even though it originates from a very specific part of the world, Assamica tea rose to become one of the most popular strains on the planet through the intervention of the British East India Company. 

Assamica Tea and the West

In 1823, Assamica tea was introduced to the West by the Scottish adventurer Robert Bruce. On his travels through Rangpur, Bruce encountered wild specimens of the Assamica tea plant growing and took some as samples for examination back home. 

Once the tea samples were examined back in England, it was determined that the tea was a different variety than the black tea monopolized by the Chinese in the international market. Seeking to gain a niche market, the British East India Company moved into Assam and began exporting Assamica tea back to England. 

As the British Empire expanded, so did the love for British-exported tea. The Assam-based English Breakfast Blend became the favorite tea not only of England, but also its many colonies. 

what is assamica tea

Cultivation of Assamica Tea

There are several characteristics of Assamica tea that cause it to differ from other strains. Most of these are to do with the climate that Assamica tea grows in, which includes the following influential factors: 

  • Rainfall: Unlike teas that are grown in dry mountainous areas, Assam tea is grown in wet lowlands that experience frequent rainfall and regular monsoon seasons. This amount of rain leads to tea plants that can grow from 20 to 60 feet tall. This is huge compared to the low-lying profile of other tea plants.
  • Tropical temperatures: While other strains of black tea are grown in cooler, more temperate regions, Assam tea is grown in weather that is hot and tropical most of the time. This leads Assamica tea to have an earthier, more robust flavor. 

No matter what strain of black tea is cultivated, there are multiple steps involved to bring black tea from harvest to the product that is commonly steeped in hot water across the world.

Processing of Assamica Tea

Here are the basic steps for processing black tea in Assam

  • Withering: In withering, the tea is left out to wilt on bamboo or straw racks so that they’re soft enough for the tea leaves to be rolled without tearing.
  • Rolling: Once the tea leaves are withered, the leaves are rolled to help release their natural flavor and color.
  • Oxidation: After rolling, the tea leaves are gently unrolled in a humidity and temperature controlled environment and spread out on racks for several hours of oxygen exposure. This turns the green leaves a coppery red color.
  • Drying: After tea leaves are oxidized, they are dried with low heat to halt the oxidation process and prepare the tea for long-term storage.  

Green and white Assamica teas are processed slightly differently than black tea. In green tea, the step of oxidation is skipped. In white tea, both the rolling and oxidation steps are skipped—tea leaves are only withered and dried after harvest. 

Is Assamica Tea Good for You?

Like other types of black tea, Assamica tea is mostly cultivated for its mood-enhancing and medicinal properties. Many scientific studies show black tea to have significant health benefits when ingested as part of a regular diet. Drinking black tea has been shown to reduce the risk of the following medical conditions: 

  • Kidney stones
  • High cholesterol 
  • Diabetes
  • Osteoporosis
  • Cavities
  • Parkinson’s disease
fermented black tea leaves

The medicinal benefits of black tea are thought to originate largely with its antioxidant compounds, which have been shown to have cancer-fighting properties, along with other benefits that make tea good for you.

Here are some of the benefits of drinking Assamica tea: 

  • Increased alertness and wakefulness: The caffeine present in black Assam tea provides a pleasant stimulant effect that reduces fatigue.
  • Improved mood: As a hot drink, Assam tea is one of the beverages that has been shown by science to make a person feel friendlier towards others and be perceived as friendlier by others.
  • Reduced stress: Research shows that drinking tea reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the blood. 

Offering the same stimulant properties as coffee with a smoother effect, Assam tea offers plenty of medically-relevant reasons to drink it other than its strong flavor. 

What Is the Flavor of Assamica Tea?

Assamica tea is one of the teas that is featured in the “English Breakfast Blend”, which is a tea blend that has a more robust flavor than black tea from other regions of Asia. Assamica tea has a malty, earthy flavor with notes of citrus and chocolate with a nutty aroma. Assamica tea is said to have a full-bodied astringent flavor with a slightly sweet aftertaste. 

As a flavor component, Assamica tea is often added to Earl Grey and Chai tea blends. Assamica tea is a popular foundation for chai because its strong flavors stand up easily to chai’s blend of aromatic spices. 

How to Serve Assamica Tea

The proper way to prepare Assamica tea is to steep the tea in a teapot of hot water for three minutes. While traditionally Assamica tea is served without milk or sweeteners, many cultures across the world now add these to Assam tea for mouthfeel and flavoring. 

Final Thoughts on Assamica Tea

Even though it originates from a relatively small region compared to other tea varietals, Assamica tea is now exported to every market where black tea is consumed. Along with the many medicinal and mood-enhancing benefits it provides, a warm cup of tea provides a basic human comfort enjoyed by people young and old from every country on Earth. 

If you love tea as much as I do, pin this what is assamica tea post to your favorite tea-loving Pinterest board and pass it on for others to enjoy! Pinkies up!

what is assamica tea