When British were making plans to grow tea in their colonies, they were experimenting in Darjeeling with camellia sinensis var. sinensis. This is because they thought that the climate there was similar to tea growing areas in China. Around the same time Charles Bruce, a British botanist discovered a wild-growing tea tree species in Assam which was camelia sinensis var. assamica. Very soon after this discovery, the tea plantations in Assam also started.
I drank Assam occasionally while I was living in the UK, but none of them made an impact on me as much as this did. It is the highest category (apart from golden tips -buds only- which is extremely rare) according to Indian Orthodox tea categorisation. SFTGFOP STANDS for Super Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe. For me, it was one of the boldest black teas I have ever tasted. Perhaps astringent but also rich in woody, earthy, smokey, malty notes. It also had an unsweetened honey effect on my tongue, which is difficult to explain. Think about you are eating honey, but you are not tasting any sweetness. It was there.
I could not help but compare this tea with Yunnannese black teas (Dian Hong) as they are both made of camellia sinensis var. assamica. However, most Dian Hongs are much sweeter due to the high number of tips they contain. According to 'Harney and Sons Guide to Tea', the reason for the briskness of the Assam teas is that they are made very quickly. This is due to environmental factors whereby the tea makers have to rush to process tea in the humid air from May to June. As the guide says, Assamese teas are oxidised in less time than any other good black teas. I also cannot help but speculate that shorter oxidation time might mean higher temperature. And this would be causing the sharp astringency and bold character of this tea. Although these sounds negative, these are the reasons why Assamese black teas are so popular.
Origin: Assam, India
Harvest time: 2019
Leave colour: Shades of dark brown with occasional golden tips
Liquor colour: Dark cupper
Tea aroma: Woody and smokey
Tea taste: Full-bodied with malty and unsweetened honey undertones
Steeping/brewing: Steep around 5 gr of the leaves in 90-100°C water and for about 10 sec in gongfu style or up to a minute in Western-style. You can brew the leaves many times (until the taste is lost). To each infusion add additional time. Experiment for a result that suits your taste.
Shelf life: Up to 3 years or more