Granted, most tea we find in other countries all over the world once did come from China through the Silk Road, and then slowly developed to have their own tradition and drinking practices in other countries.
These tea drinking traditions that we list are only referring to drinks made from the camellia sinensis plant. Everything else that is not made from camellia sinensis is more accurately referred to as a tisane. These may include herbal blends, fruit teas, rooibos, and yerba mate, amongst others.
Here are some of the tea drinking traditions that exist around the world:
When we think of Indian tea, we think of Chai. Chai is the most widespread tea beverage of India. In fact, India is the second biggest tea exporter in the world (after China). Locally grown black tea is cooked together with milk, sugar, and spices like cardamom, cloves, anise, ginger, and black pepper. It is a very invigorating drink and is served throughout the day from street vendors who serve it in small clay cups made of local material.
Originally tea became popular in England after being brought from China. One theory is that people heard rumors that in China tea is drunk with milk and sugar (highly untrue, especially for that time period), thus they started drinking tea in the same fashion.
The tradition of “afternoon tea”, which is tea served with some sandwiches and sweets came around to fill in the big hungry gap between breakfast and dinner.
British tea blends come from India and are often times flavored black teas. One popular variety of British tea is Earl Grey, which is flavored with bergamot, a citrus.
Russia: Chay + Samovar
Russia’s tradition of tea drinking is tightly tied together with the samovar, although rarely used nowadays. Tea leaves came to Russia in scarce quantity through the Silk Road. It was an expensive delight available only to the elite and lucky few. The samovar was used to ration the tea quantity available (which was also important to do during the Soviet Union).
The samovar is made up of a tiny teapot which holds a very concentrated brew of black tea. A very small amount of this concentrate is poured into a teacup, then the rest is filled with hot water from the main part of the samovar. Milk, sugar or lemon is usually offered but most people prefer to drink it black.
Another interesting Russian tea drinking custom from the past is sipping tea from a small saucer (the ones normally used to hold teacups). This tradition came from the tea being served at boiling temperatures (unlike the more moderate temperatures of Chinese tea ceremony). The saucer tradition was associated with the lower class, believed that they did not have the time or patience to wait for their tea to cool before having to go back to work. Although nowadays you will rarely see tea being drunk out of a saucer.
United States: Sweet Iced Tea
United States tea tradition equals to the Sweet Iced Tea traditions of the Southern states. Prior to WWII when trade with China was booming, tea was the most widely consumed beverage in the US. Iced tea, in particular, originated during the hot summer of the 1904 World’s Fair. Nowadays we can find American style iced tea in many countries throughout the world.
Morocco: Mint Tea (atay)
Morocco has always been top of the list in regards to tea consumption per capita. And as a surprise to many, the number one importer of Chinese green tea (specifically Gunpowder green tea, one of the stronger types of green tea).
In Morocco green tea is usually boiled in a kettle with big amounts of fresh mint and sugar. Then, it is poured into small cups from a big distance. This tradition is believed to aerate the tea and evenly mix in the sugar.
There are still many more countries and their tea traditions which we have yet to cover. Check in with the Path of Cha blog this upcoming Friday, June 1st, for part 2 of Tea Traditions Around the World!
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