What makes the world go around? Our answer is, of course, tea! Steeped in culture, tea has been a favourite drink for centuries. As with everything else, different countries often have their own preferred ways of preparing and serving tea. From Chai in India to Afternoon tea in the UK, there are numerous fascinating tea cultures across continents. Let’s explore some.
Tea was introduced to England around the 17th century. However, it took around 200 years for afternoon tea to become a part of daily life. Afternoon tea is synonymous with British culture as much as the royal family. According to folklore, the afternoon tea was introduced by the Duchess of Bedford. During that time, the usual dinner times were around 8 p.m. But, the duchess used to get hungry before that. So, she instructed her staff to arrange a small meal around 4 in the evening, where tea and a selection of cakes or small sandwiches would be served.
Masala Chai which translates to “Spicy Tea”, is undoubtedly the most popular tea in India. As the world’s largest tea producer and consumer, you can find chai stalls dotted across streets all over India. Although different vendors choose to put their own twist, all chai have the same base: black tea blended with milk, sugar, and spices such as cardamom, fennel, cinnamon, and cloves.
Moroccan Mint Tea has become an emblem of Moroccan culture, all over the world. This tea is not only a significant part of Moroccan culture, it is also spread all across North Africa. It’s usually served throughout the day accompanied by both sweet and savoury snacks. This tea also represents one of the rare occasions when sugar is added to green tea. The heavily sweetened Moroccan Mint tea is traditionally made with green tea, sugar and fresh mint leaves.
Unlike its counterparts, bubble tea is a more modern and recent innovation in the world of tea. This tea, generally made with black iced tea mixed with powdered milk and sugar syrup, gets its characteristic flavour and texture from the “bubbles” which are actually small balls of tapioca that provide a chewy treat! Similar to the discovery of tea in China, the invention of bubble tea in Taiwan was accidental too. It was actually discovered in 1988 when Lin Hsiu Hui dropped some tapioca balls from her fen yuan dessert into her iced tea.
The tea traditions of Russia emerged from the lean times following its formation, when food and drinks needed to be stretched to serve as many as possible. From these shortages came zavarka, a strong black tea brewed in a small metal container called a samovar. The tea is served in large mugs, but you wouldn't dare fill it to the top. Instead, guests take an inch or less of this powerful concoction that they tame with boiling water as desired. Russians typically drink it black, but hosts will offer milk and sugar as well as an accompanying snack. Serving zavarka without cookies, crackers or some other edible accompaniment is to serve it "naked" and is considered wildly rude.
If you love tea, it is worth it to try out different kinds and see which ones you enjoy the most. Many tea connoisseurs do not know that there are different ways of preparing and serving tea. It is certainly a fun way to explore various cultures while quenching your thirst!