Time for another new vendor! Golden Tips Tea was kind enough to send a generous package of samples for future Tea Times. This family business in India sells single-origin, unflavored teas from some of the country’s finest tea regions. Darjeeling, Assam, Nilgiri, and even the neighboring country of Nepal are represented. I’m excited to finally dive into their offerings, and I hope you are, too!
And with the fall days growing shorter and chillier, it’s the ideal time to break out a new black tea. Assam Enigma catches my eye first from the Golden Tips stash. This blend of summer-picked black tea leaves is said to carry the strong, malty flavors that Assam teas are famous for, with a few surprises. (Plus, doesn’t the word “enigma” in the name entice you into trying it?) So, let’s get brewing.
Golden Tips’ Description: “An exquisite black tea hand-blended by our expert in-house blenders with premium second flush teas sourced from some of the most sought-after plantations in Assam. The visually delightful tea laden with tips will win over your tastebuds with its smooth caramelised taste and sensations of honey. The robust tea is deliciously malty with slight woodiness and scents of ripe fruit. An excellent tea with a rich, complex character, and our best-selling Assam tea last season. You just can’t miss this.”
Ingredients: Second-flush Assam black tea leaves
Steeping Instructions: Use 1 teaspoon per 8 oz of water. Heat water to boiling (212 degrees Fahrenheit / 100 degrees Celsius) and steep for 3 to 5 minutes.
Multiple Brews?: No
Bagged or Loose Leaf?: Loose leaf
Caffeine Level: High
When I first open the Assam Enigma packet, the first thing I notice is… TIPS! Not as many golden tips as in Yezi Tea’s Yi Fu Chun Black Tea, but enough to make me squeal in joy. (Yes, tea reviewers do squeal over tips. *wink*) It’s maybe a 1:3 ratio of golden tips to typical black leaves, all of which are wiry, delicate wisps that collectively smell like…
Well, Assam Enigma smells like a typical Assam black tea – and then again, it doesn’t. It’s malty yet starchy, maybe a bit like molasses or sweet potatoes. There’s also a pervasion of autumn, an inhalation of fallen leaves, damp earth, and burnt wood. Familiar yet different, in an interesting way.
For my first cup of Assam Enigma, I decide to test the short end of its brewing range. At 3 minutes, the auburn-colored liquid gives off a dark, complex aroma that hints of sweet potatoes, plums, autumn woods, and molasses. If you’re getting the impression that Assam Enigma is a strong black tea – you’re correct. It’s brisk and robust, with a malty undertone swimming through the dominant sweet potato and dark brown sugar flavors. An unexpected granulated texture leaves a dry, gritty feeling on my tongue.
Hmmmm. As much as I like the flavor profile, Cup #1 of Assam Enigma is a little pungent for me. But let’s keep going.
Cup #2, which brews for 4 minutes, comes out darker brown in color and smelling malty and starchy, like the dry leaves. The full-bodied infusion still tastes of sweet potatoes and molasses, with an added coffee presence. The texture isn’t as coarse now, but a bitter aftertaste creeps in that sort of spoils the savoring. This bitterness only builds with Cup #3 (about 5 minutes), adding an unfriendly dose of tannins to the already-bold brew.
Despite my feelings about the later brews, I’m curious how Assam Enigma takes to milk and sugar. So, I make a fresh 3-minute brew and add a splash of milk and a pinch of light brown sugar. This smooths the rough mouthfeel while mellowing the flavor profile. The end result loses part of what makes Assam Enigma unique from other Assam black teas, but it’s also less harsh going down.
I’m not sure what to think of Assam Enigma from Golden Tips Tea. Its full-bodied, mature blend of dark, subtly sweet, and earthy flavors is warm and inviting, and unique compared to other Assam black teas. Yet its rough texture and bitter aftertaste make it less pleasant to enjoy. Fans of more stalwart black teas probably won’t mind these traits, though; and the competitive price along is a good reason to try it. As for me, I’d be willing to sample Assam Enigma again if future batches are a little less acrid.
Grade: 7.5 / 10
- Tea Drinkers Who: Like black teas
- Time of Day and Year: Fall and winter mornings, with or after breakfast
- Possible Book Pairings: Assam Enigma would make a fitting companion with George R.R. Martin’s Song of Fire and Ice Saga (A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, etc.). The strong flavor profile and coarse texture pairs well with the fantasy series’ gritty, violent atmosphere and characters who are morally ambiguous instead of purely good or evil.
You can purchase Assam Enigma Black Tea directly from Golden Tips here.
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In addition to being a tea enthusiast, Sara Letourneau is an avid reader and a writer who… well, enjoys writing! Currently she’s working on a novel, and she writes book reviews and articles on the craft of writing. She’s also a published poet with works available in various print and online publications. Visit Sara at her personal blog, Facebook, or Twitter.
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