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assam tea

Mokalbari Golden Assam/Harney and Sons -ashmanra

Photo Credit: Harney and Sons

When I drink black tea, it is almost exclusively Chinese black tea. I drank more Indian black tea back in the days when I added milk and sugar, but since cutting out additions, I found that many teas from outside of China gave me a stomach ache or heartburn if I hadn’t smoothed it with milk, neutralizing some of the components that were cramping my style…and my tummy.

Golden Tip tea and finer Assams are another matter, and when I saw the photo of these leaves and read the description, my mouth started watering. It was an expensive tea, but I had been building up my Loyalty Points for just such an occasion.

The lid and inside edges at the very top of the tin are coated with a fine golden powder. This is the lovely dusting of the golden hairs from these leaf tips. And the tea is indeed comprised of almost exclusively leaf tips, tan and gold and pale brown in the tin.

The leaves are so light and fluffy. As soft and light as they are, I added a little extra to my initial teaspoon to try to hit the 2.25 gram mark for my six ounce serving.

I steeped for four minutes since it is a golden tip tea. A full leaf or broken Assam would have only stayed in for three minutes for me maximum. I am surprised at the rich color from what I thought might still be too little leaf.

Moment of truth – is this tea worth the plump price tag?

If you love high quality Assams, I would say it is.

The Harney website estimates the price per cup at $1.33. That’s right – PER CUP. That is more than most tea lovers pay for a daily drinker, but competition oolong teas and fine aged puerh tea can run much higher. I did my own figuring on my two ounce tin and came up with a price of $1.10 per cup….if I don’t resteep the leaves! Fact is, I have just made three very good steeps with around 2 grams of tea.

The aroma, first of all, was just as mouthwatering as I had hoped it would be. The dry leaf smells like candy. No kidding, I lifted the tin and was very surprised at how sweet it smells.

Once steeped, it is lightly malty with some of the same dark honey scent I find in Golden Monkey teas. Though the description didn’t mention it at all, I detected walnut. In fact, I found it to be in the forefront for the first steep. After drinking it for a bit, I notice my tongue is feeling dry. Harney puts this at a two on the briskness scale, but I would possibly give it a little more.

It has medium body for mouthfeel, but the aroma is thick and lush, giving a sense of it being a creamy tea, fooling you into thinking the body is even heavier. For you milk-in-tea folks, I would think this bodes well. It does not coat the mouth like a creamy tea, however, due to the briskness.

I tried it with a bit of food next, as I find that briskness can almost disappear with a meal. And so it does, becoming far less noticeable. So this would be hreat for pairing with breakfast or afternoon cookies! After eating, I keep drinking this tea and there it is again – drying!

The third steep is lighter with a lovely golden-orange clarity. Still brisk but less so, still sweet. Enough flavor that I don’t consider it a washout and would definitely want to go three steeps each time I make it, but I think no further than three.

If I use Harney’s estimate per cup but allow for three steeps per teaspoon, I am now paying only 44 cents a cup for a fine tea. I can live with that.

 


Want to Know More About This Tea?

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:    Harney and Sons

Description

A rare treat from Assam, comprised of nearly 100% golden tips. The Jalan family are the producers of this Mokalbari East, and they made the best Assams in 2021.

Learn even more about this tea and tea company here!

Assam Nokhroy Estate Black Tea (STGSOP1)/Simpson & Vail -Skysamurai-

This is a tea for you cream/sugar tea drinkers. Not that us purists won’t enjoy it but I find this one is lacking the appeals of a cup that can manage on its own. No dry aroma.

This is a gifted review tea so I suspect some of the other teas have leached.

However, the wet aroma is quite nice! The smell of wet peeled twigs! I love that smell. The flavor is good but just not what I would expect after smelling the leaves.

The malt is prevalent with this one. Subtle woodsy notes make an appearance at the beginning but they disappear with a bit of astringency at the end. The liquid is dark amber.


Want to Know More About This Tea?

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  Simpson & Vail 

Description

The black, slightly tippy leaves brew to a dark amber cup with a woodsy aroma. The brewed cup has the malty flavor profile that characterizes Assam teas with a pleasing, light peppery finish.

Learn even more about this tea and tea company here!

Arabian Kismet from Swallowtail Tea. . . .

I love black tea with unusual combinations of spices, so I was very excited to try Arabian Kismet from Swallowtail Tea.  This is a blend based around orange pekoe special Assam black tea with added sage and cardamom.

The full flavors of the black tea itself pair perfectly with the fresh and earthy sage, and the sweet and mellow cardamom.  This is one of those teas that will work for any occasion. It has classic black tea for those staunch pekoe drinkers and a little bit of spice for chai lovers.  But without the classic chai spices like cinnamon and ginger, this tea is much more versatile and unexpected.

Sage always makes me think of Thanksgiving, so this feels very much like a fall tea to me.  The cardamom helps that image, bringing up spicy visions of the upcoming winter spice cookies.  This tea smells like a classic kitchen or herb garden, but its flavor combination in a tea blend is a new and exciting change of pace for me.  Great for breakfast or afternoon, or anytime you want to feel a little cozy and a little dreamy.


Here’s the scoop!

Leaf Type: Black
Where to Buy: Swallowtail Tea
Description:

This delightful blend of Assam, sage, and cardamom might make you believe in Kismet after all.

Learn even more about this tea and tea company here!

Marshmallow Assam from 52Teas. . . .

Let’s talk about campfires for a sec. (Stay with me, this is going somewhere.)

It’s a summer night. You’re sitting around a crackling fire with friends. Lightning bugs are buzzing around, filling the dusk with a whimsical twinkly glow. The smoky woodsiness of the fire fills the air, and you’re blessed out on late-summer good vibes.

And what else has to be there? (This isn’t an easy one, friends.) Toasted marshmallows, of COURSE. And what do you do when you can’t be living in this midsummer fairytale? You sip this tea, of course.

This Assam is bold and malty, as they should be– but it also perfectly captures the perfect, spun-sugar-vanilla flavor of marshmallows. Beyond that, it brings that delightfully toasted, starchy flavor of a toasted marshmallow straight to the surface (especially when served with cream) in a way that’s way more layered than just aspddinf vanilla to a tea and calling it “marshmallow”. 52 Teas has truly knocked it out of the park with this one. If you’re a marshmallow lover (or a campfire enthusiast, as I so clearly am), this one needs to live in your cabinet!


Here’s the scoop!

Leaf Type:  Black
Where to Buy:  52Teas
Description

This tea is no longer available but click below for teas that are.

Learn even more about this tea and tea company here!

Organic Assam Black Tea by Mana Organics

 I haven’t bought from this tea company before, but it seems to have a social conscience. Mana Organics isn’t just focused on producing organic tea and selling it, but instead takes a more holistic approach to getting the products from farmers to customers. They focus on community development and sustainable farming in rural areas, then help the farmers get products out to the world by doing marketing and retail work. So I’m really excited about this company and I’m planning to do more research and potentially start sourcing some of my tea from here.
But on to the review!
I steeped this tea at 212 degrees for about five minutes, using 1.5tsp of leaves in about 10 ounces of water. It turns out to be a handsome teak /cedar color after steeping. It smells deep, malty, and strong. It’s very aromatic, promising good things to come.
First sip: It’s astringent, but not puckery, with a deep and bright flavor profile. There’s just a hint of bitterness at the back but then it’s gone (fortunately; it’s not my favorite thing when bitterness hangs out with me all day). But on top of that, I’m detecting sweet potato and baked squash notes! Nice. Next to chocolate, I think this is one of my favorite flavor types for black teas. Actually I’ve been looking for a good squash/sweet potato flavored tea so this is good news.
Anyway. With milk, which brings baked-squash and maltish flavors to the front, this tea is just great. In fact I’m almost finding it has a little brown sugar flavor to go with the squash flavor. So fun! (Come to think of it, I hope I’m not the only person who thinks it’s funny how similar sweet potato and baked squash flavors are. Isn’t that just strange?) There’s no bitterness now, and practically no astringency; milk is an excellent buffer for such things, which is one reason I almost invariably have milk with my tea. (Another reason is that I sometimes drink tea when I’m hungry, or even in lieu of a meal, and the milk helps keep my blood sugar from crashing.) I’m also thinking maybe I’m detecting a hint of a floral note? But then again maybe I’m making that up–it was too fleeting to be sure.

 

All in all this is a solid, strong, great tea blend and goes well with food at meals (or even without food at meals if you’re like me) and is excellent with milk. <3

Here’s the scoop!

Leaf Type: Black
Where to Buy:  Mana Organics
Description

A brisk tea with a malty, honey-sweet aroma followed deep character of taste and a pleasant pungency that will please even the most discerning of palates.Only Tippy Golden Flower Orange Pekoe Premier Grade (TGFOP1) Assam tea direct from our family’s estate, Chota Tingrai.  Healthier for you and the environment thanks to our USDA certified organic practices.  Packed onsite in re-sealable bag so you get that garden-fresh taste again and again.  Tastes, smells, and looks so delicious that we got an award in the Global Tea Championship 2017

Learn even more about this tea and tea company here!