Tea is universal. As the world ’s second most consumed drink after water, this iconic beverage is enjoyed in the four corners of the globe. But tea drinking varies between different regions and countries when it comes to customs and rituals, so here is a whistle-stop tea-time world tour – non-exhaustive, of course! The idea is not to detail each method and tradition (describing the Japanese tea ceremony alone would take several pages), but rather to offer an adventurous little glimpse beyond our borders…
In India and Pakistan, tea leaves are boiled in milk before sugar and spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, black pepper, and cloves are added. This beverage is called masala chai (chai meaning “tea” in Hindi). The Indians are leading tea consumers, and this variant is sold in the street and enjoyed throughout the day.
In Hong Kong, iced black tea with condensed milk is traditionally served with meals. And in Thailand, street vendors sell tea made with spices such as star anis.
The tea ceremony is nothing short of an institution in Japan and China. It would be a shame to visit either country without experiencing this incredible, timeless event and its ancestral gestures performed in the most serene manner possible. Matcha is used in the Japanese tea ceremony (a distinctive, powdered green tea which is consumed whole), while an extremely intense tea is prepared in the Chinese Gong Fu Cha ceremony.
The national beverage of Malaysia is known as teh tarik. This black tea is mixed with sweet condensed milk to obtain a creamy, foamy drink. In fact, it’s almost like a dessert, and most restaurants feature it on their menus. Teh tarik is best enjoyed cold.
If you find yourself in Taiwan, then make sure you don’t miss out on bubble tea… This cold drink contains tapioca pearls cooked in sugar syrup, with the optional addition of fruit pieces to create a cocktail or a dessert! Served with a large straw for sucking up the bubbles before popping them!
Tuutei tsai (tsai also means “tea”) is the traditional drink of Mongolia, and is often served with meals. This particular variety is a salty milk tea…
In Tibet, a surprising ingredient is added to tea – butter made from the milk of a nak (a female yak). Simply add a dash of milk and salt, and you have the perfect beverage for facing the Himalayan cold!
Everyone knows tea is sacred in Great Britain. Many studies have been carried out on the subject, but according to a 2013 investigation by the Royal Voluntary Service, the British drink 166 million cups of tea per day (although not necessarily all at 5 p.m.). Their favorite variety is Earl Grey, of course.
Senegal also has its own tea (ataya) ceremony which is part of the country’s hospitality customs. Mint tea is enjoyed in three stages according to set codes, and varying quantities of sugar and mint are added to change its bitterness.
Strong black tea is served in Qatar, where tradition dictates that tea leaves are boiled twice in water before milk and sugar are added. This variety is known locally as karak chai.
Any self-respecting tea connoisseur has heard of the delicious mint tea enjoyed in Morocco. This beverage is made using gunpowder tea and fresh mint leaves, and poured charmingly and precisely from a pot held high in the air. The tea is enjoyed with lots of sugar, and consumed from a metal tea pot and beautifully decorated glasses.
Finally, the specialty in the United States is sweetened iced tea served over lots of ice cubes!