Some things are timeless not because they’ve grown into our way of living but because there is nothing else that’s ever compared or come close. Be it Sinatra, a vintage from Bordeaux or a summer flush orthodox Assam tippy black tea – some things in life are just one-of-a-kind.
Assam orthodox tea isn’t just good. It’s one of the best in the world and fetches record-breaking prices at auction houses everywhere – from Kolkata, India to Russia to the States. With no close seconds to its strength and potent flavors, Assam’s is the preferred choice of morning and afternoon tea and has been the most important ingredient of two of the most known and consumed blends in the world – the English Breakfast tea and the Earl Grey tea.
In fact, Assam is so synonymous with high-quality orthodox black tea that almost no tea menu in any café in the world will be without a well-graded black tea from Assam’s vast and plentiful tea growing region. Doesn’t matter if it exists loose or bagged or in a cauldron doused in all sorts of flavors. If there’s meant to be tea, there’s bound to be an Assam around.
The making of an Assam orthodox tea
Soon after the discovery of the native variety of tea, back in the 1800s, tea plantations were developed for commercial purposes all over Assam. And drawing from the techniques learned from tea growers who were ‘brought in’ from China, the production has closely paralleled the oriental ways, which among others, emphasizes seasonality and the quality of the leaf pluck – the orthodox way of tea.
Orthodox methods view tea production as a reverent process, one that requires equal amounts of commitment to craft and quality. Herein, only the most tender shoots – young buds and small light green leaves prime with rich amounts of volatile flavors – are used for production, plucked by hands and at an optimum growth stage, no sooner or later.
And after almost 20 hours of withering, the wilted leaves go into rollers that curl them into thin, tight formations. Rolled leaves are treated to a couple of days of controlled fermentation, an all-consuming and tasking process that’s critical to the development of flavours. Here on, fully fermented leaves are classified as blacks, fired and dried before being graded.
Unlike the CTC way of making tea, which can ready a batch in under 2 hours, making tea the orthodox way takes time. And unlike a CTC, there are no set conventions about how an Assam orthodox tea ought to taste, although some specific combinations of flavours have come to be known as ‘distinctly’ Assam.
The emphasis, instead, is on bringing out the singular virtues and unique flavours of the leaf in the best way possible, following the development of flavours as closely as possible, at every stage of production. Seasonal variations are welcome and often result in a cost advantage, if the composite quality of the final tea is exemplary.
The Assam Orthodox Tea experience
In a cup, an orthodox tea really shines. The flavours, in comparison to a CTC, are discernibly more layered, complex, and far more refined. And the possibility of exploration and discovery, therefore, is significant, especially since no two orthodox teas are ever created equal. Some shine for their strength, some for their combination of flavours, some for a seasonal trait or two and others for just being more extraordinary than the rest.
Halmari Classic Orthodox Tea
It’s the craft and the resultant finesse, really, that makes any orthodox tea special – the way of cultivation, attention given to the soil, water and the sun, the skill of the planter and then that of the factory manager, all of which permeate into the senses by way of the cup.
Put casually, orthodox teas are swoon-worthy – first-rate material and always memorable. Contextually, orthodox teas are the kind you can proudly bring out on an occasion and also enjoy on a day-to-day; the kind that you can count on no matter the hour, the mood or the meal in front of you.
And if it’s your mornings that are you are looking to elevate, nothing comes close to the pleasure of a freshly brewed orthodox Assam black tea, something to the tune of a Classic Orthodox from Halmari, perhaps.