The Best Assam Teas for 2022 Are Bold, Brash, and Malty

Five best Assam tea brands reviewed in this post.
The five excellent Assam tea brands I review in this post.

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Assam, India, is one of the world’s most renowned tea-growing regions.

Located in the valley traced by the Brahmaputra River, Assam is a lush tropical land with ideal conditions for growing tea. Rainfall is plentiful here and the soils are rich with minerals, clays, and gravels that tumble out of Tibet and wash down to valley plains.

Today I review and recommend five excellent black teas from Assam. To skip the contents of this article and directly purchase teas, click on the links in the following popular categories.

Or keep reading to learn more about the fascinating history and culture of Assam tea. I include purchase links within my tea reviews that follow.

Table of Contents

The Uniqueness of Assam

Two vital features of Assam are the climate and the spirit of agricultural innovation.

In particular, it is very warm in Assam with many days of the year reaching above 90℉ (32℃). High ambient temperatures contribute in part to the bold character of Assam teas. To tame the boldness caused by exposure to heat and sun—and to shelter tea workers—many Assam growers plant shade trees throughout the vast tea fields.

The best Assam tea is grown under shade trees
Tea plantations in Assam may use shade trees to protect plants and workers from the hot sun.

And early in the development of the global tea industry, Assam became a center of technological revolution. First, 19th-century tea growers, working closely with British horticulturalists, discovered that hybrids of local and imported varieties of Camellia sinensis were extremely productive and yet made a quality cup of tea. Many cultivated varieties of tea grown around the world today are in fact descendants of hybrid stock from Assam.

And second, Assam tea factories introduced key innovations in tea manufacture that reduced the human labor required to process large quantities of tea leaf. These two developments, coupled with strong market demand, now rank Assam among the most productive tea-producing regions in the world.

What is Assam Tea?

Assam is best known for black teas that have maltiness and strength. To have a malty quality means to have the flavor and mouthfeel of caramelized sugars that we experience in roasted nuts, dried fruits, and baked goods such as cookies and pie crust.

Maltiness of tea emerges naturally from the soil and climate (or terroir) of Assam. High oven temperatures during factory drying of tea leaf can also enhance a malty taste. If too much heat is applied, however, then the leaf takes on a burnt finish that is not pleasant to drink. It takes a master Assam tea maker to know where to draw the line.

Strength, or boldness, of Assam black tea emerges as a thick red liquor (i.e., the part you drink) that has a pleasant touch of astringency. A little too much of the astringent in any food or drink and your lips will pucker, but a good Assam balances just right.

The color of Assam black tea is often a deep red.
A deep red color is typical of the liquor of Assam tea.

In summary, if you are familiar with the soothing delicateness of white teas, then just know that Assams are on the opposite ends of the scales of robustness and strength. And you’ll love Assams for that very reason!

Who Likes Assam Tea?

Maltiness and strength are two qualities that appeal to a range of tastes. For instance, those who want tea for a spicy chai mix or a fruity, sparkling kombucha prefer the robustness that Assam black teas offer.

Indeed, it is the twin features of strength and maltiness that make Assam black teas such excellent companions to holiday season baked treats. That’s right: food and drink with overlapping, but not identical, profiles of flavor and mouthfeel usually pair very well. In the recommendations below, I suggest a perfect Assam tea mate to your holiday pies, cakes, and cookies.

what does assam black tea taste like?
Assam black teas are excellent companions to seasonal baked goods.

If you prefer your morning breakfast tea with milk and sweetener then Assam milk tea is a perfect choice. You’ll find that the strength of the tea is tempered by the smoothness of the milk.

You can also take it straight: I prefer this tea hot and steaming in the cup, without any sugars or other amendments.

Many tea drinkers also find the full-bodied character of Assams to be reminiscent of coffee but without the jitters and tummy aches. There isn’t a coffee flavor to Assam teas but rather a deepness and richness that many associate with the mouthfeel of black coffee. If you’ve been looking for a way to get off of coffee then give Assam black teas a try.

And if you like a little pick-me-up, not to worry. All Assam black teas are naturally caffeinated with about 50 mg of caffeine per 8 oz cup of tea.

Those looking for a hot beverage that does not have caffeine might consider exploring rooibos and honeybush teas.

Summary of Assam Tea Benefits

Let’s summarize the benefits that tea drinkers can obtain from regularly drinking Assam black teas.

  • Full-bodied, robust and with malty notes
  • Excellent coffee alternative
  • Awesome pairing with Holiday goodies
  • Blends well with chai spices
  • Great for kombucha ferments
  • Mid-range, affordable price; excellent deals in bulk

Tea Company Matters

Of course, no flavor profile is set in stone. As you will see below, some Assam black teas have more maltiness and others have more strength. And there are other flavor complexities to this storied tea that we will do our best to explore.

In addition, each tea producer or tea importer has special features that are worth considering along with a tea’s character. For instance, you may prefer organic over conventionally grown tea, or single-estate over blended teas.

I explain differences in practice between companies so that you can make the most informed decision possible.

Hand-picking tea leaves in India
Plucking tea leaves in India

Best Assam Teas: Our Recommendations

To put together these reviews, I conducted two analyses. The first is a survey of tea reviews available at each of several online sources. I read hundreds of opinions, sentiments, and rants regarding Assam tea and Assam tea makers.

And the second analysis results from my own personal impressions of each of five Assam tea brands. Over the course of many tea sessions, I sampled each of the teas presented here today.

What you’re reading is, therefore, a distilled review of the best of the best!

Out of these numerous independent reviews, you’re much more likely to find teas at a great value than if you’re just surfing through opinions posted hither and yon.

Let’s begin our review of the best Assam teas!

#1. Best Single-Estate Assam: Ghograjan Tea Estate “Farm2Cup” Assam Breakfast Black Tea

One feature of tea makers that is increasingly valued by tea drinkers is single-estate origin. Single-estate means that neither raw leaf or finished tea is blended with harvests from other tea-growing estates.

Why does single-estate matter? One clear advantage is accountability: the tea maker and tea drinker knows which farm to celebrate (or condemn) for the quality of its leaf, the nature of its farming practices, and the strength of its labor relations.

In principle, the single-estate business model establishes a transparent chain of accountability that—one would hope—fosters a better product and leaves behind a better world.

Ghograjan Tea Estate takes single-estate production up a notch. Established in the 1940s, this company is not just a tea maker but also a tea grower and tea packer. In short, the entire operation, from tea seed to packed tea, and all steps in between, is conducted on-site at Ghograjan Tea Estate in Assam.

Thus, there are no middlemen involved in the production of this tea. The tea is shipped directly from the farm, via a US distributor, and then to the tea drinker. Farm2Cup is what the company calls this model of single-estate tea production.

Ghograjan is single-estate to its core.

Some of the best Black Tea, a packet of the Ghograjan Tea Estate in Assam, India
Tea packet of the Ghograjan Tea Estate. The logo at the center is the Indian rhinoceros, which, like Assam tea, is bold and strong.

The Farm2Cup Difference

But does Farm2Cup translate into a quality tea? Many tea drinkers find Ghograjan’s Assam black tea to be malty, strong, brisk, and clean.

It is also described as pungent, which means that it has a bit of astringency with little or no bitterness.

This is great news because a bitterness of brew is not for everyone. At the same time, however, a dash of the astringent is nice because it plays on the tongue for just long enough to give the tea some zip.

This tea is made in the cut, tear, curl (CTC) method which rolls up bits of cut leaf into small granules. Like a sprinter reaching the finish line quickly, CTC tea usually reveals its flavor secrets after just one steeping. Nevertheless, I found Ghograjan’s tea to be crisp and well-balanced with a robust, full-bodied profile of Assam heartiness.

Within four tea sessions, I settled on a soft steeping of one teaspoon of tea per 8 oz water brewed at 205°F for three minutes. This soft steep brought out strength while constraining bitterness.

A prominent malty note finishes a sip and hangs at the front of the mouth for a few savory moments.

Though I did not succumb, I can understand the urge to add sweeteners or milk. Sipping this tea is similar to eating a lightly sweetened cookie that you want to chase with milk. Assam teas will just do that to a body; follow your own council here.

If Farm2Cup translates into fresh-packed tea, then the crispness of the brew may be explained by the short turn-around time between leaf harvest and the final packing of finished tea. I don’t think that staleness will be a problem for Ghograjan’s Assam Black Tea.

Updated Packet from Ghograjan Tea Estate

Tea Summary

  • What reviewers like: Rich, satisfying Assam sensibility + direct from the farm authenticity.
  • Mike’s view: Very crisp, hearty, and succinct + pleasing malty note.
  • Do consider: Perhaps too bold for some tastes; adjust the quantity of tea leaf as needed.

#2. Best Assam Tea for Special Occasions: Vahdam Premium Organic Assam CTC Black Tea

CTC Assam black tea from Vadham
Vahdam’s Assam tea granules are manufactured by cut, tear, curl (CTC) methods.

Not all single-estate tea suppliers are also tea farmers.

The India-based company Vahdam Teas does not grow or process tea leaf. Instead, Vahdam purchases teas from each of several estates located in Assam and then contracts with other parties to process the leaf.

Securing single-estate status is thus a matter of careful tracking of leaf from each Assam estate to the finished batch of tea.

After processing, tea is transferred to Vahdam Teas for packing at their state-of-the-art facility in New Delhi. The source of leaf within Assam may change from one batch to the next, but Vahdam Teas strives to make each particular batch single-estate in origin.

Vahdam’s delivery goal is to hold finished tea no longer than 72 hours before packing into resealable packets for shipment abroad. You might think that it’s no big deal to adhere to such a tight packing schedule. Be assured, however, that there is probably more than one poor soul losing sleep for the supply chain to New Delhi.

The Freshness Challenge

Does the freshness of tea translate into a fine brew?

Tea drinkers volunteer that Vahdam’s Premium CTC Assam Black Tea has strength and boldness and just enough maltiness to make this a true Assam tea.

The light maltiness may be a result of firing temperature or it could be related to native soils. In any case, the consensus among reviewers is that the tea is well balanced and has a crisp aroma, indicating freshness.

One of the best Assam black teas is from Vahdam Tea Co
One pound bag of Vahdam Premium Assam CTC tea.

A Tea with Friends: Pour to Impress

Those who do not drink tea regularly can be hard to impress.

This is why I suggest that for social gatherings such as holiday feasts or other special occasions that you brew up a leaf that is flavorful without being too strong.

When I first poured this Assam tea, I immediately detected an aroma that was mild compared to the other black teas that I review here. Mild yet Assam-confident, which is how I would describe the flavor of this fine tea as well.

I also like a soft steep with this CTC: One teaspoon in 205°F water for 3 minutes.

And does it ever pair well with baked goods! Well, to be more specific, I paired it incidentally with breakfast cereal and milk. So I suppose that I did “add” milk and sweetener, if indirectly, to this particular tea. It was a nice pairing, and I think that I now have a friend for that slice of Thanksgiving pecan pie that’s waiting patiently in the fridge.

If you’re having a party with baked goods, and you don’t mind paying a bit more for the silky smoothness of this tea, then Vahdam’s leaf is a great choice for those times when you want to pour to impress.

Assam black tea and Christmas cookies
It’s hard to beat shortbread cookies paired with Assam black tea.

Sourced from Organic Tea Estates

It is noteworthy that suppliers for Vahdam’s Premium Assam CTC Black are certified USDA Organic. Many farms make the case that they are effectively organic in practice, but few can afford to undertake the costly and time-consuming certification process.

If organic matters to you, then you should make comparisons between teas that are officially certified organic and those that are conventionally grown. Vahdam’s offering is a good place to begin your tests.

Tea Summary

  • What reviewers like: Mild but not meek + good for sharing with friends.
  • Mike’s view: Great with Holiday baked goods!
  • Do consider: A bit pricier than most but still reasonable.

#3. Best Organic Assam: Mana Organics Single-Estate Assam Black Tea

Assam black tea from Mana Organics is one of the best teas.
Assam black tea from Mana Organics.

You can add to your comparisons a fine Assam black tea from Mana Organics.

Since 2015 this company has managed the USDA certified organic sections of tea fields located at the Chota Tingrai Tea Estate in Upper Assam.

In the field, Mana Organics tea farmers gather natural sources of nitrogen and organic matter which they compost along with minerals and other nutrients. Finished compost is then spread by hand around the base of each tea plant.

The goal of Mana is to create a closed-loop nutrient cycle whereby organic matter that is produced on the farm—less harvested tea leaf—is eventually returned to the farm.

A lot of labor and dedication is required to close that loop.

Mana Organics makes a fine black tea from Assam
There are elephants in Assam too! A lovely tea packet from Mana Organics.

Tea Labor (of Love)

Does all this fieldwork translate into a special tea?

Early in the first sip of Mana Organics Single-Estate Assam, I enjoyed Assam maltiness immediately at the front of the mouth.

At the back of the mouth a wash of saliva emerged to suspend the flavors for a bit longer. This was a surprise and welcomed event not duplicated by the other Assams I sampled.

A hard steep of one level tablespoon of whole leaf tea at 212°F for four minutes brought out the boldness without lingering bitterness. And then mid-way through the sip a delicate sweetness balanced the strength.

There was also a slightly earthy note that slipped into the mix.

Tea reviewers agree that the natural sweetness of this leaf makes milk and sugar unnecessary to tame the boldness.

An Assam black tea with malty boldness and honey-sweetness is not typical of teas from this region.

The labors of organic farming may indeed pay off for the Mana Organics Single-Estate Assam Black.

Tea Summary

  • What reviewers like: A surprising sweetness + zero-waste farming practices.
  • Mike’s view: Excellent mouthfeel, especially at back end of the sip.
  • Do consider: Special qualities may be lost with spicy chai or fruity kombucha.

#4. Best Daily Assam: Positively Tea Company Organic Assam Black Tea

Assam black tea from Organic Positively Tea Co is whole leaf
Assam black tea from Organic Positively Tea Co.

You won’t need your fine-mesh strainer for this Assam black tea. Positively Tea’s Organic Assam Black has large, ample leaves which is why it is classified as Flowery Orange Pekoe (FOP).

A full leaf also indicates that so-called orthodox methods, rather than CTC, were used in the processing of tea leaf. The distinction is important for several reasons, but mainly because orthodox teas tend to be slower to the finish line than sprinting CTC teas. You have to be patient with the whole leaf as it unfolds in the water and slowly releases its flavor compounds.

A slow, loping reveal of flavors can explain why it took me several tea sessions to find the best steeping recipe. I settled on a level tablespoon of tea steeped in 8 oz. of water for 3.5 minutes at 212°F. This is the spot where I found this tea’s body and strength along with Assam maltiness. Less leaf steeped at a lower temperature just doesn’t pack any punch and then what’s the point of drinking Assam?

Strength and stoutness of this tea are also noted by many reviewers. They also found that this organic Assam is hearty and has just a hint of smokiness. It took a few sips to notice, but I also enjoyed a subtle smokey note.

Black tea from Assam is packed by Organic Positively Tea
One pound packet of Assam black tea from Organic Positively Tea Co.

Economize Assam Tea Purchases

If you’re looking for a good tea deal, then buy in bulk. Positively Tea offers a one-pound bag that works out to a very affordable price per cup. A tea that is both pleasant and inexpensive could be your best bet as a daily tea.

Tea Summary

  • What reviewers like: Stout brew with a pleasant hint of smokiness + pleasing price.
  • Mike’s view: Nice baked maltiness + great daily tea.
  • Do consider: Stoutness not for everyone.

#5. Best Assam for Chai or Kombucha: Davidson’s Banaspaty Estate Organic Assam Black Tea

Banasptay Tea Estate makes one of the best black teas in Assam
Assam black tea from the Banasptay Estate, distributed by Davidson’s Tea.

Many Assam black teas perform well in spicy or fruity concoctions such as chai or kombucha.

But you have to be careful. You don’t want an Assam that has so much fight that it knocks out the spices or scares the SCOBY into hiding.

An Assam with characteristic maltiness but not too much astringency is a good match for these lively mixes.

Many tea aficionados find that the full-bodied but mellow character of Davidson’s Banaspaty Estate Organic Assam Black Tea adds body to chai and kombucha without overwhelming the blend.

You may also try this tea iced and sweetened with your favorite sugary goodness.

Davidson's Tea packs Assam black tea in one pound packets
A packet of organic Assam black tea by Davidson’s.

Davidson’s Assam is USDA organic, Fair Trade, and sourced solely from Banaspaty Estate which has grown tea for decades in the hot, humid climate of Assam. It is a very popular leaf for resellers all over the world which indicates confidence in the tea producer’s consistent standards.

Tea summary

  • What reviewer’s like: Great for chai and kombucha + organic + Fair Trade.
  • Mike’s view: Very balanced flavor + a good alternative as a daily Assam.
  • Do consider: No downsides that I can discover.

Putting it together: the Best Assam teas of the year

The teas we review here have a lot to offer, but you may want something particular in your cup. To summarize our recommendations, keep these points in mind:

Pour your Assam black tea into porcelain cups
The best Assam teas are meant to be shared with friends.

Teaware You’ll Need: Tea Strainer/Tea Infuser

Each of the teas that we reviewed here is loose-leaf and therefore not constrained in teabags.

In order to get the best out of your brew, use a fine-mesh tea strainer or tea infuser for both CTC and whole leaf (i.e., orthodox) teas. The leaf needs to unfurl and expand in the hot water so try to get the largest strainer-infuser that you can fit in your teapot, pitcher, or cup.

We like the stainless steel FORLIFE Capsule Infuser that holds up to an entire cup of loose tea or spices. The lid is easy to remove and the capsule is a snap to clean. Use the attached hook and chain to make it easier to withdraw the capsule from the vessel.

Or if you want an infuser built-in to the teapot, then try the Bodum Assam Tea Press. There’s a lot of room in the stainless steel capsule for leaf expansion and the plunger mechanism effortlessly separates the liquor from the leaf. Just don’t press too hard or you may ruin your tea for the next steeping.

Now, go. And enjoy your tea!

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Mike grows and crafts tea in North Florida, USA. He has advanced degrees in biology, which occasionally help with making better teas.