From the most tea-producing region in the most tea-producing country in the world comes Assam tea, a sultry, malty black tea among India's most famous. Discovered in the early 1800s growing wild in the tropically warm and wet Assam region at the edge of the eastern Himalayan mountains, this indigenous tea (the varietal name is Camellia sinensis var. assamica) is versatile enough to have been planted throughout Asia, proving extremely prolific, easy to grow, and able to be harvested frequently.
Assam tea was brought to the world beyond India by Scottish explorer-turned-tea-planter Robert Bruce (not to be confused with Robert The Bruce), who in the 1820s engendered friendship with Assam tea gardeners and exported seeds to the East India Company in Calcutta for their identification as a newly discovered varietal. Bruce's efforts would slowly launch a botanical shift of permanent significance to the tea trade, as India would eventually eclipse China in worldwide tea production in direct result of this discovery.
Though modern-day Assam tea largely ends up as mass-market, crush-tear-curl leaf style, "probably tastes better with milk in it" kind of teas, there are high grade Assams that are worth seeking out—the leaves from the second flush of harvest are most esteemed—and a cup from the hugely productive region is a necessary point in any tea exploration.
Plagued not only by political but environmental instability, Assam's tea production currently strains against recent rising temperatures and lowering rainfalls, which are slowly shifting the flavor profile of the teas iconic to the region. For now, the tea is still identified as a brisk and strong, bready and smooth tea that may err towards astringency in a lower quality, or poorly steeped, cup. Like some other black teas, many enjoy Assam as an alternative to coffee, citing its "bold", direct, malty flavors as just the kick of intensity they prefer. One will often find teas like English Breakfast or other morning-suggested teas to be comprised of Assam.