Assam has become one of the most exciting regions in the world for tea in recent years, even as it has endured a painful shift from an area known for mass produced, low-margin black teas- the type that goes into generic supermarket teabags- to one where small holder independent growers are taking centre stage by making better, more authentic teas that are true to the region’s terroir.
This month we’ve added a new tea - Assam Gold- to our collection. This is a whole leaf tea with lots of golden tipped leaves, and represents Assam tea at its very best. This tea joins our New Day Assam- another high quality orthodox tea- which together with Assam Gold forms the base of the top tier of Assam teas available on the market now.
Both these teas are made in the summer, during the highest quality ‘second flush’ harvest. Only the top two leaves and young buds (or ‘tips’) are finely plucked from the bush to make this tea, and then carefully crafted using the orthodox method.
What makes these teas even more interesting is that they come direct, fresh from the latest season from the producers, via Assam Tea Heritage, a small factory in northern Assam founded by tea pioneers Rajen and June Baruah.
Assam Tea Heritage is leading the way to the reevaluation of the region by supporting a network of small tea growers in the region of Assam to develop the highest quality specialty teas, leaning on Rajen’s 30 year career working in the tea business.
Each farm measures no more than 4-5 acres which helps to cultivate tea using more natural methods. Rajen provides technical support and coaches growers on how to upgrade the quality of their leaf. Strong emphasis is put on strengthening the farm ecosystem and the use of sustainable farming practices like using natural composting and nitrogen fixing plants to improve soil fertility.
Rajen is considered something of a tea maverick and revolutionary in the local tea growing community. What Rajen and his family who are also closely involved in the business are doing goes beyond simply tea making; they’re helping to empower a previously marginalised community, both economically and socially, by offering a viable alternative to the outdated plantation model of tea growing.
Of course, mass market industrially produced tea is still very much available in Assam. But the difference is that now there is a viable alternative away from this model of tea growing, and the end result is tea that is complex, multi layered, malty and pure magic.
Try Assam Gold for yourself here.