Assam and Keemun

I decided, that as a brief point of conclusion for the next few months, I would take a look at one of the black teas, to get a better gauge of the difference between the oolongs, the greens, and the blacks. I was corrected very quickly this morning. None of these are fermented. The difference is in oxidation. The black teas are the most oxidized, the oolongs still, though noticeably less, and the greens almost not at all. It goes from raw and green to black and broken, and the blacks can feel so strong at times that it can almost appear like emotional shattered glass. It’s not quite like the green and oolong experience. That was my first thought on my second cup of black, but as I let it slowly edge into its own experience, I felt more focused and extremely calm, with the same evenness of experience present in all of the teas. It was direct, powerful, yet still smooth and inspiring stillness, energy, and contemplation. I don’t know if I could meditate after drinking a cup of black tea, but I can certainly write better from using it.

The teahouse suggested that, since I was new to black tea, that I do a small test of two of them for comparison. In my study and research this morning I was reading Josef Albers Interaction of Color, which in the outset of the book, states that color only exists in relationship to another color. The same could be said of tea. The teahouse chose Assam Tea and Keemun for me to experience, and hopefully come to realizations of during my brief visit. The two, from a flavor perspective, carried the same notes that the shop wrote down. Keemun had a Cacao, Malt, Muscat flavor, while Assam had Marigold, Caramel, Malt sensations. Also, in the notes, the word “Breakfast” was used for the first time. I learned from the teashop that their breakfast tea was their own blend that combined both of these teas. And they definitely did feel related. Yet the overall flavor of the malt really combined them and masked any differences, while they were definitely still there. Assam feels more direct. Keemun feels more even toned. Both can wake you up. The main thing I thought I was missing in my tea explorations was a morning tea that could jolt me awake. Assam might be that tea.

In fact, when I first tasted the Assam tea, I was immediately pulled into a series of memories from when I first had it. I remembered that I had purchased a tin of it from the teahouse five years previously, and there was no mistake that it was that particular tea which was the only tea I had ever had in the teahouse. I had completely forgotten about it. The memories were of nothing in particular, just having the tea, morning, late afternoon, likely studying and working on projects. I immediately grabbed a tin and went home. The second memory I had with both teas came from the sensation of the tonality of the water that was almost like hardwood. It immediately brought me back to being alone in the wood supply of hardwoods when I was developing some of my first designs in art school. I think it’s really amazing that it was this specific experiential reminder that was brought out from the tea as I was finishing pulling together 15 years of art and design for my final portfolio of my work from school.

Breakfast is a deep cultural need that I face in my working and student life. As I stated in the beginning of the blog, I really was at a loss when I decided to stop drinking coffee. I turned to Green Tea, but it was never enough. I need to gauge what’s important to me in the morning. Zen stillness, or shining, golden breaks of dawn, met with the resolve to make it the best I can. Black tea just might be that critical moment for me in the morning.

2 Replies to “Assam and Keemun”

  1. Mitch, exactly! Although I never drink coffee, the green wasn’t strong enough for me in the mornings, so I would mix the green and black and then eventually I just switched to all black and I am so bored of the same English breakfast tea. You just inspired me to buy assam- one regular and one enigma second flush… TBC…

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    1. Awesome! Assam is incredible. I will go back and write an entry on it at some point over the summer. I found exactly what you found. One of the teahouse experts mentioned to me that experienced tea drinkers naturally gravitate to blacks eventually. I had Assam this morning and it was exactly what I needed. I’m thinking about dividing it up as well. Black tea at the earliest in the mornings to wake me up and get me ready for the day, and then maybe a very small cup of green a couple of hours later to add a different dimension to the day…but I might try your mix soon!

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