Like most Americans, I'm a coffee drinker.
But also like most Americans, I have a short attention span. I get tired of drinking the same thing all the time.
Throughout the years, I've always found that a good dark tea provides respite from the tedious rounds of joe, and with the relatively higher caffeine content of black teas, one can still get a little boost without the precipitous crash that sometimes follows coffee drinking.
After visiting recently with Bill Todd of Todd & Holland, I took home a few teas, including an Assam from Gelaki Estate, which is a relatively new item on the shelves of this world-class tea shop.
All tea comes from one plant: camellia. The camellia assamica is native to Assam, a province of India, and it was popularized throughout the world by the British, who of course ruled the subcontinent for several centuries. The Brits experimented with growing Assam in other locations, like Taiwan, but for some reason Assam always seems best when it comes from India.
Assam is probably my favorite tea, and sometimes you find it blended into Irish Breakfast tea, which suggests that you can have it first thing in the morning for the lift that coffee traditionally provides.
What I like most about Assam is its distinctive malty flavor (I also like Horlick's tablets and beer, both of which contain malt). Some teas feel light on the tongue, but Assam is not one of them: the density of the brew satisfies with a substantial quality one might associate with coffee, the more popular beverage that Todd refers to as "the evil elixir."
Gelaki Estate Assam tea is branded "Golden Tippy," which means that all (or most) of the tea leaves are tipped with golden filaments, which usually indicates that the tea is going to be better tasting than most (it certainly makes the tea leaves look pretty).
Tea of this quality doesn't come cheap – it's $32 for four ounces – but four ounces of dried leaf makes a lot of tea.