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20th May 2020


Deep Dive Into Assam Breakfast, Summer 2019

Everything you need to know about our version of a Breakfast Tea

Assam Breakfast’s strong malt and honey flavours make it a distinctive example of a breakfast tea.

Our experience has shown us that the best flavours and the best way to support quality tea regions to thrive are from selecting pure, unblended tea that has the unique character of the specific region. So when we thought about a breakfast tea, we knew it had to be single origin and we went straight to Assam, an origin famed for producing rich, robust and malty black teas.

In this deep dive we head to the valleys of Assam in north east India for a behind-the-scenes look at how Tom, JING’s Head of Tea, creates this rich and robust breakfast tea. We’ll also show you why we selected Assam as the origin, what flavours you can expect and how to get the best out of these leaves.

Locals ride through a scenic tea garden, growing in the lowlands of the Brahmaputra river valley
Assam Breakfast dry leaf

Name A reference to the tea’s origin and its robust, breakfast-style flavour.

Cultivar Indigenous tea bushes of Camellia sinensis var. assamica

Style Blended black tea

Origin Assam, India

Terroir Assam is a north eastern state of India. The tea plantations here lie mainly in the lowlands on either side of the Brahmaputra river growing in clay soil, rich in the nutrients of the floodplain.

Altitude Picked typically at 45-60 metres above sea level, though areas of some gardens reach heights of 1,000m.

Picking Season Summer

Leaf Walnut-coloured tea leaves scattered with golden tips.

Oxidation 100%

Production Conventional

Infusion A deep ruby-red.

What is a breakfast tea?

Our Assam Breakfast is in the famous tradition of English breakfast teas. A breakfast tea is typically a blend of strong black teas, to which you might add milk.

A great breakfast tea needs three attributes: strength, colour and flavour. With black tea production spreading across the globe – from China to India and Sri Lanka, then Kenya and Argentina – tea blenders tend to combine leaves from different origins to achieve all three of those attributes. Blending tea stops a unique character from shining through, obscuring the flavour and quality of specific origins.

In order to find the ultimate expression of breakfast tea – with strength, a deep red colour and delicious, malty flavour, we knew that Assam, in North East India was the only place to look.

Why is Assam special?

Assam’s indigenous ‘assamica’ tea bushes are dark green and glossy, with broader leaves than those of the Chinese ‘sinensis’ tea plant. They also grow much longer into the summer when they benefit from lots of seasonal rainfall. This helps to make Assam one of the largest tea producing regions in the world: each season, its gardens can collectively produce around 700,000 tonnes of tea.

Assam means ‘one without equal’. The region’s name reflects the quality of its rich and flavourful black teas. Black tea is fully oxidised – that means that the leaves are rolled after they have been picked and withered and left to concentrate their flavours. The best black teas from Assam balance a rousing aroma, a rich malty flavour and notes of honey and dried fruit.

Most of Assam’s many tea gardens are at low elevations on the floodplains of a luscious green valley created by the Brahmaputra river.

Assam tea is generally harvested twice during the season. The first flush is picked in spring, and the second in summer. This second flush is prized for being much sweeter and fruitier, producing an infusion with more intense flavour, aroma and body. This flush also produces a ‘tippier’ tea, meaning it has more of the golden-tipped leaves that are a marker for those prized malty flavours.

Tom, our Head of Tea, tastes his way through some fresh teas with Mr Satyajit Bhuyan, manager of Harmutty Tea Estate

How do we make our Assam Breakfast?

During Assam’s prime second flush summer season, Tom spends a month tasting hundreds of Assam tea samples. Each fresh sample is a few hundred kilograms and is usually the output of one production line of a single tea garden.

It’s rare that a single sample displays all the attributes needed from the final blend. Each one contains the nuances of particular gardens and particular seasons, as well as human factors in how the tea was made. For every sample that is abundant in flavour but is a bit light, Tom has to balance it with another lot of stronger tea. As he builds the tea, he is ruling out anything with the slightest hint of a defect, while working hard to secure the best examples of rich Assam character.

Only a very small proportion of samples pass the test. By the end of the season, Tom will have selected around 40 samples from roughly 20 of Assam’s foremost gardens to combine into this year’s tea.

The large leaves of these assamica tea bushes are full of rich and robust character

What is this year’s batch like to drink?

Ultimately, this tea is rich, full-bodied and strong. The initial aroma is malty with a slight sweet-spice note which is warm and comforting, but still reassuringly uplifting. When you drink it, there are instant deep flavours of malt, honey and hints of dried fruit, like sweet dates. The texture of the tea is very round and satisfying. It coats the mouth completely and helps to deliver that full flavour impact which lasts for a noticeably long time without any bitterness.

Tom has designed this blend to taste great with milk. He thinks it goes best with whole dairy milk, which adds a thick, creamy texture and a natural sweetness to the tea’s malt and honey notes. Alternative milks can work too – Oatly Barista Oat Milk and Cream work best.

Drink this tea for its uplifting, fortifying, ‘get up and go’ effect.

Hand picked tea leaves, waiting to begin processing

When is this tea for?

In the UK we drink 165 million cups of tea a day and most of them are a strong, black breakfast tea. Assam Breakfast meets our daily drinking needs but breaks the mould with a big step up in flavour and quality. As a breakfast tea, it’s really suited to morning cuppas but is great for everyday tea breaks too. It’s one we certainly rely on to get us up and out, or bring ourselves back to centre in the right moments.

What’s the best way to make it?

For a 250ml serve (making it in a teapot and then pouring the full infusion into a cup with equal capacity), we usually use our One Cup Tea-iere.

This tea is really easy to make and you can tailor it to your own taste by infusing it for longer for a stronger flavour. We usually stick to a three minute infusion, using two teaspoons (4g) of loose leaf and water that’s straight off the boil. This results in a cup of tea with a nicely rounded texture that packs a punch of great flavour, and is good without milk. Let the leaves infuse for an extra minute or two, to develop a touch more malty flavour and strong body, especially if you’re going to add milk – don’t worry, it won’t get bitter. When you think it’s got to your preferred strength, pour out the whole infusion into your favourite mug for the complete, perfect cup. Make sure that you pour out every last drop from the pot into your cup. The final drops from the infusion are closest to the leaves and therefore contain a huge amount of the strength and flavour that you definitely want in your cup!

A note on milk: Always add milk second! The strength and flavour from this tea are extracted by the heat in the water if you add milk first you’ll cool the water and so you won’t extract enough flavour. Add your milk after your tea has fully infused.

 Method: 4g per 250ml; 100˚C; 3 minutes per infusion (add 1-2 mins for more strength)

Tea Bag

For a quick, no-nonsense cup of tea, our biodegradable pyramid bags work like any other. Simply add one to your favourite mug, fill it up with some boiling water and let it infuse for 3-5 mins, depending on how strong you like it. When it’s ready, take your tea bag out and enjoy the fantastic flavour. We recommend letting the tea leaves do all the work, so there’s no need to squeeze the bag – remember to add the milk afterwards so that you don’t cool the water down while the tea is infusing.


The ultimate, robust and malty breakfast tea, enjoyed with or without milk

Who is this tea for?

If you drink a strong, robust black tea every day and you like adding milk, you’ll enjoy Assam Breakfast. If you’re looking to swap your daily coffee for a tea, its bold, malty flavour and strength should hit the spot. Whether you add milk or not, and whatever your desired strength of infusion, this is a high quality, single origin tea that’s easy for anyone to make well and enjoy.

Easy to make and easy to enjoy - the perfect tea to start your day