Indian tea varies greatly according to region. Tea from Teatulia is most similar to that grown in Assam, which is the largest tea-growing area in India and perhaps the world, home to Camillia sinensis assamica, the indigenous local plant.
The discovery, in the early 19th century, was a huge boon for British traders, who at the time had to buy all their tea from China.
Competition from the Dutch, as well as internal Asian struggles between India and China, made it hard to keep up supply.
Although tea was found in Assam in 1815, it wasn’t confirmed until 1823, when the English explorer and botanis, Robert Bruce, found it growing. His brother, Charles, took over on his death.
The Bruces discovered that for centuries the local tribes had been using tea as a drink and also as a food. By the 1830s, Charles had worked out how to propagate and cultivate the plants, and by the end of the century they had developed technology to help speed up the process.
Leaves were rolled and dried by machine rather than by hand, and 8,000 machines replaced half a million people. Production expanded enough that consumption rose to 4lb per person per year by the end of the century, and Indian black tea took over from Chinese green tea as the most drunk in the world.
Assam is a wide tropical valley. In the north of the province, the fertile plains are sustained by the Brahmaputra river, one of the largest in the world.
In the south it lies against the Himalaya, which keep clouds trapped in the valley and provide the water the tea needs to grow.
More than half of India’s tea output comes from Assam. This hot, humid climate produces thick, lush tea plants with large dark-green leaves.
The flavour of the resulting tea is strong, malty and full-bodied. Its plucking season runs from March to November, with two harvests per season. This is where the terms “first flush” and “second flush” come from. The first flush, picked in the spring, has a more delicate flavour, while the second in mid-summer produces the distinctive strong Assam teas.
It is best known for black teas, which are strong enough to take milk and sugar, and often are used in breakfast blends - as in our own Strong Black.