The origins of the humble cuppa go back 5,000 years. According to Chinese mythology, emperor Shen Nung stumbled across tea after falling ill from poison. Fortunately for him, leaves drifted into his mouth, and upon chewing them he was cured. As a result tea ceremonies became an important part of Chinese culture, and still take place today.
Being an antidote for poison may be disputed (although anyone suffering from a hangover may contest this), but this hasn’t stopped it from becoming the most consumed beverage on the planet. How to brew it, which leaves to use, with milk, without milk: tea ceremonies (aka the way of tea) differ around the world. Here we bring you different tea traditions from across the globe.
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Turkey is one of the biggest tea producers in the world, producing around ten per cent of the world’s tea; most of which never leaves the country. With this in mind, it comes as no surprise that it is the most popular beverage in Turkey.
Not only is it considered a great stress relief, but it also plays an important role in society. In every home and workplace, a pot of tea will always be brewing. In fact, workplaces are required by law to provide two tea breaks per working day. Offering a glass of tea to a guest is customary, and refusal is a big faux pas.
Instead of one teapot, two are needed to prepare a Turkish tea. Using one small pot for a very strong cup, and a larger pot to add boiled water. Tea is typically served in small glasses and accompanied with two sugar cubes.
When travelling through this fascinating country, do as the locals do and head to a tea garden to see a tea ceremony in full swing. These are usually quaint, shared places teeming with plants. We suggest visiting the tea gardens that pepper the edges of the Bosphorus, while on a trip around the stunning mosques of Istanbul.
The birthplace of tea is to this day the world’s biggest tea producer. Similar to its Oriental neighbours of Korea and Japan, tea ceremonies originally took place in Buddhist temples. Many years later this practice extended to the aristocracy and finally the general public. Currently, green tea is the tea of choice in China.
Contrary to popular belief, preparing Chinese tea is fairly straightforward. Firstly, take the teapot and preheat with hot water. Continue by pouring out the water before adding the tea leaves to the pot. Then, add hot water to the pot and leave it for a few minutes. Once ready, pour this into your cup of choice and voila, you’ve successfully prepared a cup fit for a traditional Chinese tea ceremony.
In Northwest Africa tea is consumed all day every day. Again, as is the case in Turkey, refusing a cup of tea is considered an offence and an essential part of hospitality.
In the countries of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya, green tea with mint leaves is the go-to. Traditionally men prepare the tea in this region by placing the leaves in a metal teapot before adding, and quickly discarding, water to remove bitterness. After, more boiling water is added and left to brew along with a handful of fresh mint and sugar. This is all left for six minutes to infuse before serving. According to tradition, the teapot is lifted up and down while pouring to release oxygen, in turn creating a layer of froth.
Most people in these countries drink tea from small decorated glasses alongside toasted pine nuts and pastries.
Pakistan and India
The British Empire’s time in these two countries spurned on the UK’s passion for tea. Today, Pakistan and India produce an array of teas and export them worldwide. In spite of the wide choice, by far the most beloved type of tea is chai masala.
Many in the west call this delightful tea infused with spices chai tea. In fact, chai actually means tea in Hindi. Usually made with spices such as ginger, cardamom; this tea is served in the bustling cities of this region by ambling vendors.
To prepare an authentic cup of chai masala, simply brew black tea with spices for five minutes, before adding warm milk and sugar.