Travelling has taught me to take nothing for granted! An important part of one culture may be unacceptable in another. Exactly like an everyday habit for the people of one country may be completely foreign to another.
But, how do people enjoy their tea in each country?
First of all, some countries consume more tea than others. Unlike China, which comes first to one’s mind when talking about tea, the highest tea consumption is recorded in Turkey, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Russia and Morocco, while Greece ranks among the bottom five countries, together with Venezuela, Peru, Colombia, Brazil and Mexico, and this is not accidental at all, as in those countries people mostly drink coffee.
Let’s see how tea consumption differs among countries. What should a person expect when ordering for a seemingly ‘plain’ cup of tea?
Maghrebi (Touareg tea)
As soon as you arrive in Morocco, you will realize that the mint tea is the national… beverage of Moroccans, who serve it at any event, as a sign of hospitality, to welcome their guests. The Maghrebi mint tea is a refreshing mix of green tea and mint leaves, which is poured from a height, usually before you, into a clear drinking glass, to form foam .. (it gets stronger by the minute).
Tip: It is very sugary; so, if you don’t want it to be sweet, you should say so from the beginning.
In neighboring Turkey, tea has replaced coffee in breakfast since 1940. When you ask for tea, you should expect to be served the traditional black tea (cay) in a tulip-shaped small drinking glass, usually with two cubes of sugar next to it, as it leaves a lightly bitter taste in your mouth in the end. Do not be surprised if you are served tea with your meal.
Tip: As far as the apple ‘tea’ offered at street fairs is concerned, it is not an actual tea, rather an aromatic beverage.
Earl Grey or Εnglish Breakfast
The so-called ‘tea time’ is an old tradition in the United Kingdom, dating back to the 19th century. The aromatic Earl grey black tea and the rich English breakfast black tea varieties are among the most favorite of the British people, who usually enjoy it both in the morning and in the afternoon, for an energy boost. Those who have experienced the ritual of an afternoon tea know very well that it always includes savories and delights, such as small sandwiches, scones and various desserts.
Tea in Russia has a long history. Due to the climate in the country, tea is considered a part of the everyday life and is always served hot, even if the weather is warm. The black zavarka tea is prepared in a special container called samovar, which serves as both a kettle and a teapot. The water boils in the lower compartment and the tea leaves are gathered in another compartment, right above the water. When served, tea is poured and, then, boiled water is added. You can enjoy it at the end of a meal. It is usually mixed with lemon, honey or marmalade and it is almost always served together with cookies, chocolates or waffles!
According to the legend, tea was discovered by the Chinese emperor Shen Nung in 2,737 B.C., when a tea leaf fell into his cup which was filled with hot water… In the antiquity, people used it as a healing agent. Nowadays, green tea is considered as a necessity throughout the day. Depending on which part of the country you visit, you will enjoy a different tea. For example, in North China, the tea is usually flavored with jasmine. Tea is usually served in plain ceramic cups. The teapot must be well heated and the tea must be prepared right before being served!
Tea in Japan is very tasty, especially when mixed with cherry blossoms. The consumption of matcha tea, which has also become known in Greece, is widespread. It consists of green tea leaves pulverized by use of a bamboo stirrer. It is served in a bowl.
Even though India is the second largest producer of tea worldwide, due to the English people, and tea is a part of everyday life in the country, there isn’t any special ritual related to the tea. Just remember that the common tea consists of tea leaves boiled with milk, sugar and spices, such as pepper, cardamon, clove or ginger. This creamy brew is called masala.
It is in the famous tea regions of Sri Lanka that the rich colored, flavored and scented Mlesna tea, available in many varieties and combinations, comes from! The most popular one is the black tea with the sweet and strong taste, which is usually served with hot milk and sugar and, sometimes, mixed with ginger.
The most popular black tea varieties in Egypt are Koshary and Saiidi. The first one is lighter and you can enjoy it with mint leaves, while the second one is heavy and bitter, so you need to add sugar. Of course, in addition to normal tea, Egyptians also consume many brews.
Their national… tea, Karkadeh, is a sweet and sour brew with strong red colour, made of dried rose petals. It is served hot or cold.
The basis of the cold tea served in Thailand is the Ceylon black tea, which is consumed cold, with sugar and condensed milk. In many cases, it contains spices, such as anise and orange tree blossoms. It is sweet and spicy, an ideal complement to their cuisine. It is served in tall drinking glasses.
This is the country with the highest consumption of tea per capita. In fact, for Irish people, tea is much more than just a brew. They drink 4 to 6 cups a day. Wherever you are, don’t be snooty and accept the cup of steaming tea that you will be offered as a sign of hospitality. Remember, tea in Ireland is quite heavy and has a reddish color. Locals tend to add the milk in the cup before pouring tea in it!
Thee Or Orange Pekoe (Royal tea)
Dutch people mostly prefer aromatic teas in various flavors. And as milk spoils the taste, they rarely add so. A typical afternoon tea is always served with a stroopwafel (a crispy waffle with syrup), and local chocolates.
Tea is also a significant part of the everyday life of Polish. They prefer it flavored with blossoms or fruits. They’re also used to drinking cocktails made of tea and alcohol! They always add sugar and lemon in it.
In the US, they like it… cold. Basically, it is tea served with ice, sugar and lemon! In Greece, we call it ice tea!
If you order tea in Malaysia, you will be served black tea with sugar and condensed milk. It is its mixing method that makes it special. Traditionally, it is poured from one cup to another many times, until it gets its distinctive foamy texture.
Either black or green, tea in this country is also served in small drinking glasses or stainless metal cups, poured in a specific manner to create foam. Sometimes, it is flavored with mint or basil leaves, so it is pretty much like the Moroccan tea.
Adapted to the Himalayan climate, tea in Tibet is sour, as it is made of tea bars soaked in water all night long. It gets its thick texture by the addition of goat’s milk, salt and buffalo butter. It is served in the distinctive clay bowls.
Mountain tea or Siderite
Our mountain tea, even though humble, has unique beneficial and anti-oxidant properties. However, it is made of the sideritis plant, not of the Camellia Sinensis plant (i.e. the tea). People usually enjoy it with honey. The truth is that, in the past, the consumption of tea had been linked to sore throat and cold. Recently, this has changed and tea is now a pleasant brew that has become part of our everyday life, for a balanced and healthy diet.