8 Unique Tea Traditions that you should know about

Tea Traditions

Primordial to the lush green mountains of the Yunnan province in Southwestern China, the Camellia sinensis plant, more commonly known as tea, is a shrub we all are familiar with. The Camellia sinensis bush has over a thousand varieties of itself, spread across the vast lands of the world. However, each of its variety has a distinct flavour. Plus, the tea traditions that have evolved around this beverage in different countries give each location’s tea an x-factor.

Though the origins of tea are shrouded in mystery and myths, the one confirmed factor is that tea originated in ancient China, somewhere around the time of the mythological emperor, Shennong. According to the world-renowned lore, during 2737 BC, a few stray leaves floated into Emperor Shennong’s warm cup of water, thereby changing its flavour and colour. Fascinating the emperor with its peculiar aroma, tea was made a part of his daily research and study into medicinal plants.

Due to the cultural significance of tea, especially in Chinese history, the origin stories are either royal or religious. Though every legend associated with tea is speculative, there is no doubt that tea traditions have been ingrained in every nation where this beverage is popular.

Teafloor Tea Traditions

8 Unique Tea Traditions from Around the World

1. Morocco

Traditional to the greater Maghreb region, Moroccan tea is a central ingredient to the social life of Morocco. Originally called the Maghrebi Mint tea or the Touareg and Sahrawi mint tea, this beverage is popular worldwide as the Moroccan Mint tea. In Morocco, the tea traditions around this tea are rather peculiar. Poured from a height into a slim, delicate glasses, this tea is served to the guest thrice. They say that the tea tastes different each time. A feature rightly composed into a local proverb- ‘The first glass is as gentle as life, the second is as strong as love, the third is as bitter as death.’

2. India

Tea is a beverage that probably runs in India’s vein. Being one of the largest producers and consumers of tea, there is no doubt that there are unique tea traditions all over India surrounding the practice of enjoying a hot cup. No matter the weather, masala chai is a staple in the busy streets of India. Prepared with a blend of spices like cinnamon, ginger, cloves, cardamom etc. the local vendors generally sell tea in earthen clay cups known as kulhads. These kulhads enhance the flavour of the tea, giving it a smokey and earthy feel. Although regional recipes vary, this spicy tea is such a quintessential element of daily life that is sipped on the go, offered to houseguests, and found for sale on nearly every street.

3. Russia

Interestingly, tea traditions in Russia were developed during its slow days when food and drinks were prepared at once to feed as many as possible. This gave rise to the zavarka. A concentrated loose leaf tea brew, the zavarka is prepared in a container called samovar. The black tea brew is generally extremely strong and poured into mugs to serve. However, this serving was never a full mug, but barely an inch or less. Later, it is diluted with warm water, according to the guest’s needs. According to Russian tradition, serving the zavarka without any cookies or crackers is considered to be serving the brew ‘naked’ which is criticised as rude in the local culture.

4. Japan

Much like China, this island nation hosts an elaborate tea ceremony with names like Chanoyu, Sado, or Ocha. The ceremony involves ritualized preparation, presentation, and consumption of tea. Though tea was introduced in Japan in the 12th century by Chinese monks, Japanese tea principles were codified in the 16th century by Sen Rikyū, making Japanese tea principles a ubiquitous part of their culture. Traditionally, tea ceremonies are held in tatami-floored teahouses, where everything from the flower arrangements to the proper use of tea-making equipment and gestures are carried out through prescribed practices. Matcha powder, made of ground green tea leaves, is used to brew a frothy, ethereal tea which is served with sweets like Mochi, Wagashi, etc.

5. Argentina

This South American country has a special tea of its own known as the ‘Yerba Mate’. Named after its titular herb, this tisane is also known as the ‘drink of gods’. Prepared in a small pot or a dried calabaza gourd, it is drunk with the help of a straining straw called the ‘bombilla’. The tisane device is revived with more hot water and passed around a gathering with the idea that the people will share a bond over the tea. However, to say ‘thank you’ while passing this around is considered a refusal to drink and therefore, considered an insult. Another insult is stirring the drink, as it seems to question the abilities of the tea brewer.

6. South Korea

In South Korea, the tea ceremony is known as ‘dado’, which literally translates to ‘the way of tea’. A tradition that is over a thousand years old, the Korean tea ceremony is extremely soothing and relaxing, in contrast to the fast-paced Korean lifestyle. The tea culture in South Korea is loved so much, that every year, in May, a tea festival is held in Boseong, one of the largest tea producers of South Korea. The Boseong Green Tea festival allows tea lovers to enjoy carefully choreographed tea ceremonies. It is an integral part of the Korean culture, and a way of preserving their historical art, music, culture and clothing.

7. Iran

The popularity of tea spread down the Silk Road in the late 15th Century which ignited the rise of tea houses in the Middle East known as ‘Chaikhanehs’. Soon, by the late 20th Century, the Iranians began growing their own variety of black tea, turning tea into a staple social requirement. To welcome guests, a silver tray is used to carry the drink, along with a bright yellow rock-like candy called ‘nabat’. Tea is such an integral part of the Iranian social life that there is always a kettle on the stove. Tea is served extremely strong here and instead of adding sugar into the beverage, people are encouraged to keep a cube of sugar between their teeth and drink the brew through it.

8. Malaysia

“Teh Tarik” or pulled tea is a Malaysian delight, prepared with black tea, sugar and condensed milk. However, it isn’t the peculiar presence of condensed milk in the tea that makes it special, but the way it is mixed. Malaysian brewers pour the beverage back and forth between mugs, adding cool air to the body of the tea, which makes it light and frothy. The showmanship that accompanies the preparation of this tea is also one of a kind. The customers get to witness an excellent and energetic dance during the process of the Teh Tarik being mixed, without a single drop being spilt.



Reviving Centuries Old Tea Traditions

Tea drinking rituals and histories are so diverse that they remind us that tea is so much more than a beverage that quenches our thirst or keeps us warm. The cultural differences that influence our tea traditions have come back in vogue.

The recent deep dive into lifestyle trends have led to newfound importance of tea. The immense importance that antioxidants play in the prevention of several diseases has made tea not just a part of our regular social lives, but also our recreational times.

Tea is now a stylish, healthy alternative to numerous beverages like coffee and soda, for it is fat and calorie free, natural and free of additives. In fact, several other industries like cosmetics, skincare and perfumes have developed new products that incorporate the benefits of tea into them.

By reigniting the interest in age-old tea traditions, we are not only paying tribute to this ancient beverage but also enlightening others about what this drink brings to the table with its varied benefits and flavours.

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