The idea of having tea with someone -no matter what country you’re visiting — is almost always about the notion of hospitality more-so than the drink itself.
Every country has a unique protocol for brewing tea and serving guests that makes the experience both social, ceremonial and an art form. Tea in most countries tells as much about culture as art and architecture.
Around the World in Seven Teas:
England is perhaps the most iconic place for “afternoon tea” and certainly the number one place to find the best English tea. Here, there two tea-types: low-tea or afternoon tea (between 2pm-5pm) which often accompanies a light snack; high-tea (between 5pm-7pm) is followed by an evening meal.
Can’t keep it all straight? Just remember Low-tea =afternoon and a low table. High-tea=evening and a high table. You might also hear the English refer to “taking tea.” It refers to the ceremonious event of sitting down, maybe having a snack and enjoying the brew, pour and drinking of tea.
Simply put – tea is a big deal in India. Why? India produces and consumes more tea than any other country in the world except China. India is the largest exporter of tea and the second largest producer. In fact, plans are in the works to designate tea as India’s National Drink. It is not uncommon when visiting India for a new friend to invite you into their home for some Assam or Darjeeling tea. It is polite to accept.
In China, tea is more than a hospitable gesture or quiet moment in the day. The Chinese revel in tea’s healing powers. To partake in good tea also symbolizes ones status. The Chinese take great pride in the preparation of their teas as evidenced by their use of the phrase “Tea Ceremony.” It is their way of bestowing tea as an important element of Chinese culture rather than a casual drink.
Tea is also very much integrated into Moroccan culture. In fact, mint tea has become a Moroccan art form. Sharing tea signifies hospitality, friendship and tradition. It is served throughout the day and after every meal. The brew consists of placing mint green tea leaves into a pot where boiling water is poured over them. More leaves and sugar are added while it steeps. The art form for tea in Morocco comes in the pour which is done from high in the air to create a foam on the top of the tea. It is considered impolite to refuse a cup, or two or three of Moroccan tea.
South American’s take tea-time to a new level! Instead of what you might consider “traditional” tea, the Argentinians partake in infused drinks called Chimarrao or Mate. Folklore says that the Goddess of the moon and cloud offered the drink to the people as a gesture of friendship after they saved her from a jaguar. Like tea, the drink is shared in a ceremonious fashion but served in a hollowed-out gourd and with a metal straw.
Tea is an important part of Japanese culture. Tea ceremonies, called Way of Tea, involve careful preparation and presentation of the drink to those who gather for them. At these ceremonies, a powdered form of green tea called Matcha is served. Historically, tea was the drink of the religious class introduced by Buddhist monks. Today, tea is the most commonly consumed beverage in Japan.
The Green tea in Laos is grown in rich soil on high plateaus and literally processed by hand. In many cases on tea plantations in Laos, tea leaves are heated over a hot fire and stirred with bamboo sticks. It is perhaps this primitive process that not only makes the tea so delicious, but enjoying it so memorable. The green tea plantations are sprawling and the scent of green tea wafts through the air.
While there are many ways to share tea around the world, there’s universal common-ground: that the experience has a little to do with the flavor, a lot to do with the camaraderie and everything to do with culture. Find a cup of your favorite and enjoy!