What this is all about: I ordered eight different Assams and Assam blends from Upton, with two intentions: 1) Find an Assam that I enjoy enough all by itself to crown it my new favorite morning tea. 2) Identify a suitable replacement for the discontinued Hattiali Estate Assam, a full-bodied BOP that I often blend with the milder, fruitier Banaspaty Estate Assam to make a near-perfect a.m. cup.
Procedure: For each face-off, I brewed two cups of tea, using 6 ounces of boiling water and 2.3 grams of tea, steeping each for the time recommended by Upton (or, in some cases, by the user reviews on their site). I added a splash of unsweetened Almond Breeze almond milk, as is my custom with strong black teas.
Part I: CTC Fine Assam (TA11) vs. Assam CTC BOP Estate Blend Organic (TA15)
The CTC Fine Assam is a powerhouse! I boldly steeped it for four minutes, on the advice of an Upton reviewer who said this would bring out the full flavor. I’m thinking next time I’ll go with the recommended one to two minutes, because at four minutes I found it slightly bitter and throat-numbingly tannic.
The Assam CTC BOP Estate Blend Organic, steeped for the standard three minutes, was much milder, rather a relief after the CTC Fine’s frontal assault on my taste buds. By itself, I would find it enjoyable if not memorable. To be fair, I might have perceived more flavor in it if I had tasted this one first. This was like sipping a delicate pinot noir after drinking a cabernet with lots of backbone — the nuances are sure to get lost.
Result: A draw. The Assam CTC BOP Estate Blend Organic seems too mild-mannered to be my “reveille tea” but would be pleasant as a second cup or at a later hour of the day. The CTC Fine Assam, on the other hand, is one of those archetypal Assams that strides right up, slaps you in the face and yells, “WAKE UP!!!” That’s more aggression than I want on most mornings, but it looks like a good candidate to replace the Hattiali, as it is certainly strong enough to punch up any tea I blend it with (including its opponent in this match). Neither has the maltiness and personality to take the Assam crown by itself.