I had the pleasure of sampling 10 Assam teas from Vahdam (a very well chosen birthday gift from my fiancée).
First a little bit about the company. The company is Indian and according to their website deals directly with the plantations and tea growers for a fairer trade and better quality (plantation to shop 24-72h).
Once the teas were ordered, they arrived in a timely manner in and were very carefully packed (even the cardboard box was hand-stitched into a cloth) and included two complementary Darjeeling samples. I did have some issues with their (new) web shop, but found their support very helpful and quick.
All teas were from 2016 (I received them in late 2016 as well), AFAICR all were from the summer pickings / second flush.
The single-estates had the exact date of picking on them as well as the number of invoice they were bought under; while the blends had the month of blending/packaging.
Now back to the important part – the teas. All ten I found to be of superior quality and was delighted to sample the surprisingly wide array of taste the Assam region produces.
I was able to get two steeps (pearly boil, 4 minutes) out of all of them and found most of them perfectly enjoyable without either milk or sugar. Still, for most I prefer adding both as I like the rounded mellowness that (full) milk and (light brown or rock) sugar bring to Assam teas.
Here are my thoughts on them. If I had to pick out my favourites, it would be the Engima and Royal Breakfast, but all of the single-estates brought something else to the table, so I it is very likely they will be constantly rotating in my tea cupboard.
Assam Enigma Second Flush Black Tea¶
A brilliantly complex Assam
Among all the Assams I have ever tasted, this is one of the most interesting ones.
Initially you are greeted by the sweet smell of cinnamon of the dry leaves, which surprisingly disappears as soon as the leaves submerge in hot water.
With milk and just a small teaspoon of sugar, the tea produces a surprisingly complex aroma for an Assam – the predominant taste is of quality flower/berry honey with a hint of caramel, followed by an almost fruity and woody finish.
As most of the ten Vahdam’s Assams I have had the pleasure of sampling, it is perfectly fine without milk and sugar, but I do enjoy it more with just a dash of both :)
…truly an enigma, yet a sweet one!
Bokel Assam Second Flush Black Tea¶
Very pleasant aroma, reminiscent of cocoa
I made the “mistake” of reading the description before sipping it and cannot but agree that vanilla and cocoa notes permeate the taste.
As I am used to strong tea, I would be willing to take this even in the evenings. With a good book, some chocolate confectionery, this should be a great match!
Gingia Premium Assam Second Flush Black Tea¶
Light-footed and reminiscent of pu-ehr
It is a rare occasion that I enjoy an Assam more without milk than with it, but Gingia Premium is one of them.
What this tea reminds me the most is that basic taste of a pu-erh (but without its typical complex misty aroma). The first sip also brought cold-brew coffee to mind, but the association faded with the idea of the pu-erh.
Nahorhabi Classic Assam Second Flush Black Tea¶
Great, somewhat fruity daily driver
I find it very enjoyable and surprisingly fruity for an Assam. I usually drink Assam with a bit of milk and one teaspoon of brown sugar, but as some other reviewer noted, this tea is not too bitter to go fine without either as well.
I could get used to using this as my daily cuppa. Most likely I will come back to this Nahorhabi again.
Halmari Clonal Premium Assam Second Flush Black Tea¶
Very malty, but not my favourite
The Halmari Clonal Premium has a very round and malty body.
Whether with or without milk, you can also feel the chocolatey notes. But without milk (and sugar) its sweetness becomes a lot more apparent.
In the second steep, the malty-ness comes to the foreground even more. Without milk it might even come across a bit like a (Korean) barley tea.
In a way I really like it, but personally, I associate such malty-ness too much with non-caffeinated drinks such as barley coffee, barley tea, Ovomaltine and Horlicks, to truly enjoy it. As such, I will probably not be buying it often, but if malty is what you are after – this is a really good choice.
Assam Exotic Second Flush Black Tea¶
A good representative of its kind
I found this Assam to be predominantly malty, but paired up with foresty notes. Quite an enjoyable brew and what I would expect of a quality Assam.
Daily Assam Black Tea¶
Good daily driver
It is not super-strong either in taste or caffeine, but it does have a malty full body. At the very end it turns almost a bit watery, but not in a (too) displeasing way – depending on what you are after it might be either a positive or negative characteristic of this tea.
Great all-rounder and a daily driver, but if you are looking for something special, for the same money you can get nicer picks of Assam in this shop.
Personally I would pick almost any other Vahdam’s Assam over this one (apart from the Organic Breakfast), but solely because most of the time I am looking for something special in an Assam.
But if you are looking looking for a daily driver, this is a very fine choice.
Royal Breakfast Black Tea¶
One of my favourite breakfast teas
This is so far one of my favourite breakfast teas.
It is just robust enough, while displaying a nice earthy, woody flavour with a hint of chocolate. Quite enjoyable!
I usually enjoy mine with milk and sugar, but this one goes very well also without it (I will still usually drink it with both though).
Classic English Breakfast Black Tea¶
A slightly classier spin on a classic breakfast tea
This spin of the classic breakfast tea is a bit less robust than usual, as this pure Assam version simply is not tart in taste. As such it is enjoyable even without milk or sugar.
Personally I prefer my breakfast teas to be even stronger, to pick me up in the morning, but this one just about meets that condition. I can very much see it as a daily driver.
Organic Breakfast Black Tea¶
For me personally, too weak
It is not a bad tea at all, but personally I found it to watery for a breakfast tea..
That being said, I do like my breakfast tea to pack a punch, so do take my review with that in mind.
Also whoever reads this review, do take into account that I rated only for taste and feel. I did not assign any extra points for it being organic, as I do not think bio/eco/organic things should be of lesser quality than the stuff not carrying such certification.
hook out → sipping my last batch of Vahdam’s second flush Enigma and wondering how much of it to order
P.S. A copy of this review is on /r/tea subreddit and the discussion is there.