Since centuries, if there has been one beverage that connects different countries around the world yet is fluid enough to be shaped by diversity, it is Tea.
Far before the convenience of packaged drinks hit us, Tea was the one drink served around the world and is still a part of prominent cultures.
This article is for those who love their Tea and are curious to know how it takes shape in different cultures around the world.
Welcome to Tea Cultures 101!
1. UK: The Classic British Afternoon Tea
Brits are known for their love of Tea, particularly a Bold Assam or a Light Darjeeling Tea from India. It has been ingrained in their culture for so long now that it makes Britain one of the biggest markets of Tea around the World. While Americans are known for their Coffee culture, British folks are strong in their preferences of Tea. That being said, Queen Elizabeth II is also an ardent fan and this is one ritual she never misses-The Afternoon Tea. Usually accompanied with a light meal, the Afternoon Tea is different from the High Tea. High Tea is an elaborate version of the Afternoon Tea with a wide assortment of Croissants, Macaroons, Tea cakes, Scones and Sandwiches. The British gift to the world is The Earl Grey Tea. If you visit UK, do not miss the Traditional Afternoon Tea service at The Savoy.
Culture's favourite: English Breakfast Tea, Assam Black Tea, Darjeeling First Flush, Earl Grey, Oolong Tea
Style and Preferences: Served in a Kettle and in fancy ceramic glasses with a 3 tier stand for Baked goods and Sandwiches.
2. India: The Land of Masala Chai
India runs on Chai. It is virtually impossible to not find a cup of Chai even in the most remote part of the country. In India, you will find 1000 variations of the 'Masala Chai Tea' as it is custom made in almost every household. Masala Chai is Black Tea brewed in milk and water and often loaded with sugar and spices ( Some like Ginger, some like Cardamom and some want 5-6 spices in their Tea)
India is also the world's second largest producer of Tea, only next to China. The notably famous Teas from India are produced in the Eastern Part of India-mainly Assam and Darjeeling. If you are coming to India, chances are you'll get tea served everywhere but we recommend that you definitely have a cup at a nearby Thadi.
Culture's Favourite: Masala Chai
Style and Preferences: Served in Kulhads on the Thadi, In Cups at home and in hotels. Paired with Fried Samosa, Vada Pav or a Light Sandwich. Biscuits are a must! Also famous is the Rusk (Made from Semolina)
3. Japan: The Matcha Tea Ceremony
Nobody on Earth takes their Tea culture as seriously and meticulously as Japanese do! For those who have read Ikigai know how Japanese pay importance to the smallest of things like a full moon, spring cleaning, types of vessels which are mundane for the rest of us.
The culture around Matcha is built on the art of slowing down and taking a pause to enjoy the Tea. It is a deliberate ritual of choosing the right vessel, the right blend and brew it for the exact time, everytime before serving it. There are grades of Matcha called Ceremonial which means that the leaves are hand grinded to perfection. If going to Japan, do visit one of the small Tea rooms to get an authentic Matcha experience.
Culture's Favourite: Ceremonial Grade Matcha
Style and Preferences: Served in a stone bowl whisked to perfection.
4. Russia: Zavarka or the Russian Caravan Tea
It is not uncommon to see the Russian President having a Sit down samovar with his guests. Russians consume a lot of Tea and their ritual is a proper, elaborate experience in itself. They are a fan of strong brewed tea (Just like their Vodka) and it is considered impolite to decline a tea offer when visiting someone.
Zavarka Tea concentrate is made in a Samovar and then diluted with hot water as per the individual's liking.
Culture's Favourite: Oxidised Tea
Style and Preferences: Served in a traditional podstakannik which is a metal container that holds the cup. Russians usually serve a side snack or a light meal with their tea. The most famous pairing is with Sushki Cookies.
5. Morocco: Maghreb Mint Tea
Moroccan tea hospitality has mint tea at its core. It is common to see the eldest male of the family prepare mint tea or Maghreb as they call it. It is served in 3 rounds signifying Life, Love and Death.
Culture's Favourite: Fresh mint tea
Style and Preferences: Hot Maghreb served thrice
6. Turkey: Turkish Tea
Istanbul is a love affair with Tea. The grand bazaars have a blend of floral, spicy and all sorts of aesthetically appealing teas for you to choose. In their culture, tea must be served as long as the guests desire. Sorry there is no tea left is not an option AT ALL. The Turks prefer a strong black tea and Apple Cinnamon is a variant they enjoy too.
Culture's Favourite: Black Tea
Style and Preferences: Turkish Tea is served in round bottom glasses with no holder. Typically, the tea is sweet and accompanied with Baklava or a Turkish delight.
7. Rome: Chamomile Tea
Little is known about the Italian's love for Chamomile Tea. Found in the sidewalks of native Italian's home, chamomile is their answer to any ailment.
Culture's Favourite: Locally sourced Chamomile
Style and Preferences: Used as a herbal drink and served fresh.
8. China: Green Tea, Pu'er Tea
Chinese Tea ceremonies are where the idea of a tea ceremony came into existence. China is the discoverer and propeller of Tea across the world. Since 5000 years, Tea has been an integral part of Chinese culture and it continues to be the No 1 producer of Tea in the world.
There are a lot of Tea ceremony like Zen Tea ceremony, Kung Fu Tea ceremony, Tocha and Sichuan Tea Ceremony.
In all these, the common point is the elaborate process and the attention to every part of the Tea making and drinking process.
Chinese Gunpowder Tea, Pe'ur Tea and Oolong tea are the famous drinks across the world.
Culture's Favourite: Oolong and Pe'ur Tea
Style and Preferences: Chinese keep a Tea bottle with them at all times and it is practically everywhere.
9. Sri-Lanka: Ceylon Tea
Sri Lanka is also a big producer of Black Tea also known as Ceylon Tea. Srilankans consume tea averaging 3 cups a day. Just like British, Afternoon Tea is a popular concept in Sri Lanka as well.
10. Thailand: Herbal Tea
Like the Thai cuisine, the cultural preference in Tea gravitates towards colourful, herbal teas. A Jasmine, Rose or Hibiscus blend is not uncommon. It is also flavourful and aromatic and lemongrass tea is a staple.
11. America: Still Catching up with Tea
American Culture is coffee oriented but every once in a while, there is a new fad: Bubble Tea, Kombucha or an Iced Tea Latte.America's biggest contribution to Tea is making Ice Teas. It's uncommon to find a Tea bar in America but there are connoisseurs who regularly stock their loose teas in caddies.
12. Hawaii: Hibiscus Tea
Tropical Hibiscus Tea is common in Hawaii and they sure rejoice a good Hibiscus Ice tea. It is an excellent aromatic beverage and has a sweet sour taste.
And with this, we have given you a brief introduction to the Tea cultures around the world. We recommend Jarved Teas of the World Pack for starting your Tea journey in tasting Real Loose Leaf Teas from all the above countries and more.