Assam tea is a black tea which is named after the region of its production, Assam, a northeastern state of India. Assam tea is manufactured specifically from the plant Camellia sinensis var. assamica (Masters). The same tea plant is also traditionally used for making tea in the Yunnan province of China. Assam tea is mostly grown at or near sea level and is widely known worldwide for its malty flavour, body, briskness and strong, bright colour. Assam teas, or blends containing Assam, are often sold as "breakfast" teas. For instance, if you visit the Irish breakfast tea, a maltier and stronger breakfast tea, you will find that it is also made up of and consists of small-sized Assam tea leaves.
By the late 1830s, a market for Assam tea was being assessed in London. In the years 1840 – 1860, the work of production and cultivation of Assam tea was taken over by the Assam Company, which used to operate from the districts in Upper Assam. The local kacharis made up the bulk of the workforce. A visit to London and the positive feedback led the East India Company to visit and inaugurate a long drawn process wherein they initiated the dispossession of agricultural land and forest commons through the well known 'Wasteland Acts'. This Act allowed significant portions of the province to be transformed into tea plantations by private capital. This ultimately led to the boom and expansion of Assam’s tea industry during the early 1860s.
The Assam tea plant is grown in the lowlands of Assam, unlike the ones from Darjeeling or the Nilgiris, which if you visit will find are grown in the highlands. It is cultivated in the valley of the Brahmaputra River, which has an expansive area of clay soil that is rich in the nutrients of the floodplain.
The climate in Assam varies between a cool, dry winter and a hot, humid rainy season— which are conditions that are ideal for growing tea. Because of its long growing season and generous rainfall, one should visit Assam as it is the most prolific and the largest tea-producing region in the world. Every year, the tea estates of Assam collectively yield approximately 1,500 million pounds (680,500,000 kg) of tea.
Assam tea is generally harvested twice, in a "first flush" and a "second flush". The first flush is generally picked during late March. The second flush which is harvested much later, is the more prized "tippy tea", aptly named because of the golden tips that appear on the leaves. This second flush, tippy tea, is sweeter and more full-bodied and is generally considered superior to the first flush of tea. The leaves of the Assam tea bush are dark green and glossy and fairly wide in comparison to those of the Chinese tea plant. The bush produces delicate white blossoms.