While sitting staring endlessly at my desktop, drinking tea and indulging in chocolate, thinking of what the next topic should be, should I write about my latest travels to Russia, or about my recent trip to the surreal land of Iceland, or considering its Ramadan, should I write about this beautiful Islamic tradition. As I continue drinking and enjoying my cup of tea and trying to decide what to write about, it came to me, the thing that am drinking, let’s talk about tea. Tea is something that actually showcases how different cultures have adapted a single beverage in various ways, in a way; it showcases how different cultures use the same beverage for remedies, health, socializing etc. but in complete different ways and methods.
So here it is, 7 tea rituals from across the world.
Note: to enjoy this article to the max, don’t forget your cup of tea.
Let’s begin with China, and why not? Considering it’s the biggest producer of tea worldwide. Producing approximately 2.5 million ton of tea per year, that accounts to about 30% of the whole world tea production. It is also said that the Chinese were the first to discover the tea leaf.
One the of most popular traditional Chinese tea ceremonies is known as Gong fu tea, which literally means, “making tea with skill”. The tea ceremony is ideally served to a guest of two to four, and usually the first step of the process is for the guests to smell the tea leaves before the brewing starts. The tea cups are then arranged in circles, and the pouring process is done from a high level in a continuous motion, around the circle until each cup is full. The guests then hold the cup with two hands, and sip slowly through to savor the taste, and once the tea is finished, they continue to hold the cup to relish in the aroma. The type of tea that is normally used in such ceremonies is oolong or pu erh this is because they taste best in such brewing techniques.
Similarly, to China, India is also both a huge producer and consumer of tea. India is especially famous for its Chai Masala blend of teas which traditionally includes black tea leaves mixed with certain spices such as cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom, and pepper. Tea Vendors can be found in every street corner, they are called “Chai Wallahs”, they sell their unique tea blends in small sustainable clay cups.
You most probably heard of sweet tea, but have you heard of salt teas? Mongolian tea also known locally as Suutei Tsai, is a type of tea that is served with every meal. The tea is made with green tea, milk, water and salt. Yes, you heard that correctly, salt! This unique type of tea is typically served in small bowls as opposed to cups or glasses. So next time you want to try something exotic, why not add salt to your tea? At your own risk, of course!
From Asia, all the way to North Africa, and specifically to Morocco, where tea is more than just a beverage. Moroccan tea, also known as Touareg tea, is a blend of green tea and mint leaves mixed with a generous serving of sugar. Moroccan tea acts as the core of Moroccan hospitality, as it is always the beverage of choice that is served to house guests. It is usually served three times in one sitting, with each serving the taste varies slightly. The reason for the three servings is explained by this famous Moroccan proverb “The first cup is as gentle as life, the second is as strong as love, the third is as bitter as death”. It’s not advisable to refuse any of the three servings, as it may seem disrespectful towards the hosts.
Next stop: South America, to the land of silver, Argentina. In Argentina, Uruguay and South of Brazil, tea is a completely different story, it is usually made from a special kind of herb known as Yerba Mate. Argentineans consider yerba mate more than just a beverage, it is usually sipped in social events, to connect people together; yerba mate to Argentineans is “a way of life”. It is usually prepared in a small pot from which it’s consumed through a special metal straw called a bombilla. The same pot and the same bombilla is usually passed around the group, and everyone takes a few sips from the same container, to symbolize a social bond between the guests, friends or family members. The drink is known to be very bitter and is usually served without a sweetener. Oh and if you’re wondering if it tastes anything like tea, it doesn’t.
What better than to drink a lovely hot tea beverage in the cold winters of Russia? Russians have a traditional process of preparing tea, which starts with heating water in a metal container called a samovar. The water is mixed with a large quantity of tea and brewed for a prolonged period in a specific container. This creates what is referred to as the zavarka tea concentrate. Wealthier families in Russia tend to have decorated samovars made of fine metals and is traditionally served in glass cups held in metal encasings called podstakannik. These metal holders are decorated with a similar amount of complexity as the samovar. The type of tea that is used for the tea concentrate varies, from fruit-based tisanes to herbal teas, typically made with local plants.
And of course, we can’t have an article about tea without mentioning England. In England, “afternoon tea” has been a way of life since the early 19th century. During this time, two meals a day was the norm, and due to the long gap between the two meals, an afternoon tea was introduced by Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford, which then inspired the upper class of society, and soon became the norm across all of England. A typical afternoon tea includes a chosen type of tea served with light sandwiches and savories, which is then followed by scones filled with cream and jam and ending with sweet pastries. Which tea though? Good question! Today, there is over 1,500 different teas that are consumed in England. They all vary in style, taste, and color. And that’s why England is the land of tea.