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Awesome Assam Tea

We are now about 200km east of Darjeeling in the Brahmaputra Valley. We were escorted to the Gymkhana Club, which was originally the residence of Rai Bahadur Nilambar Datta family, who were amongst the pioneers of the plantation industry in Assam. It is hot! But before bedtime, we have a late lunch at the Assam office of the Toklai Tea Research Institute and have a very late afternoon visit to the Keyhung Tea Estate which is owned by the largest tea producing company in India, McLeod Russel. Imagine my surprise to see a golf course by the tea fields! The course is a part of the tea estate.

[caption id="attachment_2351" align="aligncenter" width="600"]the region of Assam the region of Assam[/caption]

Assam teas are low-grown (unlike the Darjeelings). They are world famous for being full-bodied, strong and prized for a malty characteristic. Their liquor is pungent (sharp taste and smell), astringent (drying sensation in the mouth), and orange-red to dark red in colour. As we were treated to Keyhung's tea in the lounge both milk and sugar were offered as Assam teas are commonly drunk with both. They make great breakfast teas because they are so hearty.

[caption id="attachment_2365" align="aligncenter" width="600"]It's late as we are leaving Keyhung, our first stop in Assam It's late as we are leaving Keyhung, our first stop in Assam[/caption]

We are in Assam just ahead of the monsoons. The tea growing areas experience very high rainfall and the temperature rises to 40C. The greenhouse-like combination of humidity and heat produces some of the finest varieties of tea in the world.

We were not that far from the Gymkhana Club where we had left our luggage, but it took a long time to get there! There was a Muslim festival that night and the streets 0f Dibrugarh were packed with men and boys all clad in white. As far as I could understand from the explanation our driver gave, we were in the midst of Laylat al-Bara'ah ("Night of Forgiveness") and there was no way to get a quick route to bed! I have never seen anything like it. I may be wrong in my understanding of this occasion so if any of my readers can enlighten me I would appreciate it.

I am looking forward to this Assam region. I like a strong black tea very much. It is what we in the Maritime provinces are used to. A common morning tea, like a King Cole tea bag, would be made up of teas from Assam. Since I have become 'steeped' in the specialty tea business, I prefer a larger or unbroken leaf for my pot, but many factories in Assam process the leaf for tea bag production. This is called CTC production, meaning Crush, Tear, Curl as opposed to the Orthodox method where the leaf is kept intact.

If you are in the Charlottetown area, be sure to stop at the market on Saturdays for samples. Make comments too, as I love to hear what you have to say! Until next week, Keep Calm and Drink Assam!

[caption id="attachment_2370" align="aligncenter" width="650"]Keep calm and drink Assam! Keep calm and drink Assam![/caption]

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