The Chinese Gong fu
In China, Tea is one of the most important parts of every meal, whether it is breakfast, lunch or dinner. Besides mealtime, tea is served to welcome guests as a form of respect, and is a long-held tradition in all classes. The Chinese practice a form of tea ceremony called Gong Fu, which has some similarities and many more differences to the possibly more well-known Japanese tea ceremony. In China, green tea is consumed the most, with oolong tea being a close second, followed by Pu-erh. White tea and black tea are drunk less frequently, but still deserve some recognition.
Tibetan Yak Butter Tea
Another tradition is the curious yak butter tea from the mountains of Tibet. Strong black tea leaves, or often Pu-erh, are simmered overnight to create a very strong concentrate of tea. This concentrate is churned in a special vessel with yak or goat’s milk butter and salt for a thick and frothy concoction. This tea is drunk every day by most people and, because of its high caloric count, is an important nutrition source for the Tibetan people.
The Japanese tea ceremony is a cultural activity involving the ceremonial preparation and presentation of matcha-powdered green tea. While tea ceremony is an important aspect of Japanese life, there are many other ways that the Japanese people enjoy tea every day. Recently, Western-style black tea has become popular, especially for breakfasts that include bread or pastries. Chinese teas, especially oolongs are enjoyed at home and in restaurants. And for on-the-go lifestyles, bottled and canned teas are widely enjoyed.
Russian tastes in tea are quite unique compared to other countries. The concentrated tea found in the samovar’s teapot can be green, but is more often black tea from India or Sri Lanka. Russians will often use a blend of teas which has been smoked to varying degrees.
The preference for smokey tea would seem an odd combination with sweets, but the traditional way of drinking tea in Russia is to sip the tea through a sugar cube in the mouth, or by stirring a spoon of homemade jam into the cup before drinking. This tea can be found in any household and is enjoyed throughout the day.
Morocco, Egypt and Turkey
These three countries have quite a few similarities with regards to their tea drinking habits, though also many unique differences. Egypt is one of the world’s largest importers of tea, and most people drink several cups of black tea every day. In Morocco mint tea is drunk especially during and following meals, because of the mint’s naturally ability to aid in digestion. Preparing tea is a masculine role in Moroccan culture, and because of the high honor of this role is usually performed by the head of the household.
British afternoon tea
Afternoon tea, a tradition that is thought of being almost synonymous with the word “British,” did not become established until almost 200 years later after it was first introduced to the country. Anna, Duchess of Bedford, can be credited for creating the tradition of afternoon tea.
The working class caught on quickly, especially as the afternoon meal was a good opportunity to take a much needed break and spend time with friends. Afternoon tea also gave way to another favorite tradition: the creation of tea gardens. These were quiet places, created specially for taking in afternoon tea, with beautiful flowers, herbs and quaint outdoor furniture.
In England today, the tradition of afternoon tea continues on in the home, in upscale hotels, in department stores and even in the small neighborhood cafes and tea rooms found in every town.
India’s cup of Tea
Tea in India only gained popularity as a national beverage in the 19th century after the British began to create large scale tea plantations in order to ensure adequate supplies for their country’s growing thirst.
Although not ritualized, tea is more a part of everyday life at home, work, on the streets and while traveling. From the humble roadside tea stalls and the railway platforms to the boardrooms of corporate India, tea is omnipresent. From the cup of sweet and refreshing chai available in teashops to the masala teas of North India, the variety of brews available is numerous. Needless to say, India loves its daily cuppa.