Tea and Life, Tea Stories

Assam I Am

It’s an interesting phenomenon amongst Doctor Who fans that everyone has one actor they consider ‘their’ Doctor.

If you live outside the civilised world and have no idea what I’m talking about, it’s a TV show that has been on the TV since the 60s (with a 13 year break) and the actor playing the main character changes every so often. This works within the series for reasons I won’t elaborate on here.

But every one of us (yes, I am indeed one) has “theirs” and for me it’s Tom Baker.

Now, David Tennant is clearly the best actor in the western world and so therefore automatically the best Doctor, but Tom Baker is the one I am most at home with. I started watching it at the end of Jon Pertwee’s incarnation, and, as a kid, avidly watched after he became Tom Baker, then kind of dropped away when Peter Davison took the reins (though he is a fine actor) and didn’t watch it again for about 20 years until in restarted as a more adult show put together by the brilliant director/producer Russell T Davies.

In the same way, I think many of us have ‘our’ tea. It tends to be a category, a headline, a style: at least at first

It’s the one we first learned to love, in whatever format, often by chance. Maybe we were at the supermarket, and next to endless English Breakfasts were those little bags of Twinning’s Tea with exciting names like “Prince of Wales” and  “Russian Caravan”. Maybe a brave friend shared some Lapsang Souchong. Perhaps on trip to Morocco you were mistaken for Princess Margaret’s valet’s third cousin and offered a mint and green blend by a man who’s uncle’s first wife had been pulled from a burning building by Princess Margaret’s valet’s third cousin’s maternal grandfather and you couldn’t refuse without hurting his feeling; and then developed a taste for it, roaming the bazaars for the tea sellers and shouting in broken Arabic until you were placated with that minty goodness.   Or maybe a restaurant menu said “Buddha’s Tears” and you just went for it.

For me, I was quite promiscuous in my early tea years. I dallied with Ceylon Orange Pekoe. I flirted with Russian Caravan. I touched Darjeeling in improper ways, felt up China Black and had a wholly inappropriate relationship with Blackcurrent Tea.

And yes, they were all Twinning’s tea bags; then loose leaf, but it was a long, long time ago in a teapot far, far away.

And there was always Assam. Assam, Assam.

Even in teabag form, it’s malty. It’s masculine, but sensual. It’s strong, but smooth. It’s… aahh, you know, it’s Assam Tea.

These days, I drink greens and blacks and reds and purple and oolongs and whites and puer and chai and tisanes and all sorts.

My favourite tea is Temi, from Sikkim.

But I run to Assam whenver I get a chance.

These days, it’s not just “Assam” It’s Harmutty. It’s Mokalbari. It’s Duflating. It’s variety; it’s spice; it’s comfort.

If I had a teddy bear, it’s name would be Assam.

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6 thoughts on “Assam I Am

  1. Your experience “coming to the leaf” reminds me of my own. The teabag played a part though the brand names were different. I too had a long relationship with Blackcurrent though I would not describe it as innapropiate. It is so interesting how tea tastes change. The best part is we have many choices and can experience and embrace the differences at any time of day. The beauty of the leaf always exchangable never forgotten.

  2. “For me, I was quite promiscuous in my early tea years. I dallied with
    Ceylon Orange Pekoe. I flirted with Russian Caravan. I touched
    Darjeeling in improper ways, felt up China Black and had a
    wholly inappropriate relationship with Blackcurrent Tea.”That paragraph is made of WIN.

  3. I love your post (very well written) but I don’t like Assam much. It’s always been too heavy, too bold, too demanding. Well you’re a man, and I’m not, so maybe there’s a subtle gender difference, who knows…
    My journey started with loose leaf tea, so I know I was lucky. I’ve had plenty of tea bags over the years, but only because they are so often part of a social ritual which I have come to accept.
    I don’t think I’d call my tea drinking promiscuous, that has such negative connotations. I’d say adventurous, because I’m curious and I love trying new teas.

  4. I drink a lot of Assam.

    Found one several years ago at Claus Kröger in Hamburg that I still start nearly every morning with. It’s an Assam Mangalam that’s a little malty, but not too much. A bit strong, but not too much. And I’m not sure how this works, but this Assam Mangalam is even a little bit floral.

    Enjoyed your account of moving from one tea to another. I’ve had an incredibly similar journey. There’ll always be another pot of Assam at the end of the road. Or at least I certainly hope there will be.

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