The humble camellia sinensis plant has spread to nearly every continent. Spreading across such a wide area the way it’s prepared and processed has become diverse. Here is just 18 different ways tea is drunk around the world.
May varieties of tea are drunk in China, most of which are green or white. However they also produce pu’erh, which is known as dark tea (not to be confused with black tea) because of the colour of the brew. Tea is often brewed using the meditative Gong Fu method.
Like in China and Japan, the drinking of tea is conducted ceremoniously (see my other article on tea culture). Oolong is the most common tea but Puers, black teas and green teas are also popular.
There are two main types of tea, matcha and sencha. Match is finely milled green tea Sencha is also a green tea and comes in two varieties. One is reminiscent of sea weed and the other has floral notes. Often other ingredients and flavours are added.
Tea is typically served at the end of meals, along with dessert and is brewed in a device known as a samovar. Instead of heating water on the stove, wood or charcoal is burned within the samovar (modern samovars often use an electric heating element). A small teapot sits on top, in which the tea, called zavarka, is brewed. Hot water from the samovar is used to dilute the tea when served. Black Indian or Chinese teas are used. Often herbs or fruit are mixed with the tea leaves.
There isn’t culturally specific type of tea or method of preparing it, however black tea is the most common type. People often have it with lemon or milk and sugar or just black.
There are many recipes for brewing Chai but Masala Chai is one of the most popular. It’s made with a strong black tea that’s infused with spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger. It’s often drunk in the morning and afternoon and is customarily the first thing offered to houseguests. It can also be found served on many street corners by baristas, known as Chaiwallahs.
Like in its neighbouring India, tea is served as chai and readily available from stall owners. It’s frequently eaten with each meal as well as taking ‘tea breaks’ throughout the day. In the evening tea may be consumed with biscuits or cake.
Turkish tea, called çay, pronounced Chai, is black tea which is consumed without milk. Tea is served everywhere and with most meals. It’s typically served with two tiny sugar cubes in a tulip-shaped glass on a saucer, with a little spoon.
The tea is often served in ornately engraved silver tea pot, trays, and crystal glasses. Like in Russia, tea is prepared in a samovar but is usually made with gunpowder green tea, not black tea. After brewing, the tea is heavily sweetened with sugar and flavoured with a touch of mint. To serve, the teapot is held high in the air while being poured.
Egyptian tea is uniformly black and generally sweet and is generally served in a glass, sometimes with milk and it comes in two varieties, Koshary and Saiidi. The first is popular in Lower (Northern) Egypt and is prepared by steeping black tea in boiled water and letting it sit for a few minutes. It is almost always sweetened with cane sugar and often flavoured with fresh mint leaves. The second type is common in Upper (Southern) Egypt and it brewed for up to five minutes over a strong flame. Tea accommodates most meals or is consumed afterwards. If a visitor comes to someone’s house its compulsory they be given a cup of tea, regardless of socioeconomic level or purpose of the visit
Po cha or Tibean Butter tea consists of salt, yak butter and a smoky type of black tea. The tea comes as brick and a bit is crumbled into water and boiled for hours to create a bitter brew chaku. This is then stored. To make Po cha some of the chaku is poured into a wooden cylindrical churn called a chandong, along with yak butter and salt, then churned together for a couple of minutes before serving. Po Cha is consumed several times a day. It believed it have health benefits like providing energy, keeping warm and protecting the lips from cracking.
Mongolian tea is known as Suutei tsai and consists of one quart of water, one quart of milk, a tablespoon of tea (black or green) and one teaspoon of salt, and sometimes butter or fat. What makes it unique is almost a meal within itself as many solid foods like rice or noodles are included. It’s served in a shallow metal bowl alongside most meals.
13. Hong Kong
Silk stocking tea comprises of black tea and sweetened condensed milk. Tea leaves are put in a sackcloth bag before the water is added to the pot to filter them out. The water is brought to the boil then simmered for about 3–6 minutes. Sometimes people use the process of boiling the tea to the boil then taking it off the heat can be repeated several times, intensifying the flavour. It can also be served cold.
Teh tarik, meaning pulled tea, is a milk tea. The mixture is poured back and forth repeatedly between two vessels from a height, giving it a thick frothy top. This process cools the tea to optimal drinking temperatures, and helps to thoroughly mix the tea with the condensed milk. It is also done to give the tea a better flavour. Like in Hong Kong, it’s made from black tea and condensed milk but served in a shorter, wider glass.
Tea is universally drunk at breakfast and often with other meals as well as a pick-me-up at any time. It’s brewed in a kettle with milk, water, lots of sugar and tea leaves are and is served scalding hot.
The tea is prepared with black tea and lots of sugar and often with milk or flavouring, such a vanilla. Often you’ll have three glasses to tea, brewed freshly each time. The idea is to for the beverage to progressively get sweeter.
Cha-yen meaning cold tea is made from strong brewed black Ceylon tea, mixed with condensed milk and sugar and then topped with evaporated milk. It’s often sold in a tall plastic cup with ice.
It’s one of the few places where it’s more common to serve tea iced and sweet than hot. It’s usually prepared from bagged tea and with a lot of sugar but can also be made with instant iced tea mixes.
Next week I’m going back to the beginning of nearly 4000 years of history to where it all began and how it travelled the world to become one of the most consumed beverages.
NB: This peice was inspired the following article: http://pulptastic.com/cup-tea-looks-like-22-different-countries/