International Tea Day: 8 Fascinating Tea Drinking Cultures Around The World

On World Tea Day 2024, travel around the globe in different tea traditions that have shaped the way we enjoy this famous beverage. From the elaborate ceremonies of Japan to India's sweet, kadak masala chai there are so many different ways this simple tea has been reimagined. Here are 8 you should know.
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Tea Traditions Around The World

When you think of a go-to morning beverage, many would be tempted to name coffee, but for most of the world, tea is just as much of a staple. In fact, as of 2022, the world drinks 6.5 million tonnes of tea a year (as per the FAO). But even though this drink can be found in almost every corner of the planet, the ways people consume it vary wildly between cultures and traditions.
On World Tea Day, let’s explore how the world drinks its tea. From spicy masala chai in India to the elaborate tea ceremonies of Japan, each place has its own specialities. Here are 8 ways the world drinks its tea.

8 Tea Drinking Traditions From Around The World

China

Considered the birthplace of tea and still the largest producer in the world, they were among the first to utilise the tea leaf, but it wasn’t originally meant as a social beverage but a medicinal one. Even today, Chinese green tea is prescribed my herbal medicine practitioners for a number of reasons and is often consumed during meditation to soothe the body and mind. Hundreds of blends exist for different purposes and connoisseurs pay thousands – sometimes even millions – for rarified teas and tea sets. The Chinese Gongfu tea ceremony, using small Yixing clay teapots and cups, emphasises the aesthetics of tea-making through precise steps to enhance the appreciation of the tea's taste, aroma, and appearance. The ritual aims to cultivate a sense of peace and tranquillity.

India

The second in line when it comes to tea production and exports, India is known for its wide variety of high quality tea leaves. From the Champagne of Teas – Darjeeling, which only grows in the foothills of the Himalays, more malty and full-bodied Assam teas or the Niligiri teas of South India, there are many to try and each with their own flavours and history. But what really evokes the heart of India tea is the simple masala chai. Sweet and milk, brewed with spices like cardamom, sugar, cloves or cinnamon, each chaiwalla has his own recipe and eahc person has the perfect blend that brings a sip of comfort.
TNL Articles 37
Japanese Tea Ceremony

Japan

When it first made the journey from China to Japan, it was first a drink for Buddhist monks, priests and the ruling class to enjoy in special services. The temple tea services soon adapted to Japanese culture as they were passed down through generations and in the mid 1500s a priest named Sen Rikyu codified them into the Japanese Tea Ceremony practices still used today. It’s an elaborate ritual that’s as much about aesthetics as the consumption of the tea and skilled tea servers brew green tea is specialised kettles to the perfect temperature and pour it to guests in a sedate and formal ceremony.

UK

The UK may not grow its own tea but it doesn’t stop them from being among the largest consumers of it. The classic morning tea is a simple black tea blend with milk but two aspects of the culture are quintessentially British. First is Earl Grey a blend of black tea with bergamot oil which was invented for Earl Grey II in the 1830s. Second is the tradition of high tea which is generally attributed to Anna Russell, Duchess of Bedford, circa 1841 who wanted a little bite to eat with her afternoon tea.

South America

For those who want the tea experience with the kick of coffee, there’s always Yerba Mate. Yerba mate is a traditional South American tea, widely enjoyed in Argentina, Uruguay, and parts of Brazil. It is prepared from the leaves of the Ilex paraguariensis plant and typically consumed from a hollowed-out gourd called a mate, using a metal straw known as a bombilla. The tea has a bitter taste and a stimulating effect, comparable to coffee. Yerba mate is often consumed in social gatherings and holds significant cultural importance in Argentina, symbolising national identity.
TNL Articles 43
Turkish Tea

Turkey

This Middle Eastern country treats tea as an integral part of daily life and is consumed multiple times a day. It is typically brewed in a small pot called a caydanl?k and served in small glasses known as fincan. The tea is usually black and often accompanied by a glass of water and the sticky dessert, Turkish Delight. Serving tea is regarded as a symbol of hospitality and is commonly offered to guests as a gesture of goodwill. Traditionally, pouring tea from a great height symbolises generosity. While this practice is now less common, it can still be observed in some areas.

Morocco

This African country does tea a little differently from the rest of the world. All visitors are usually greeted with a steaming hot cup of sweet mint tea as a gesture of welcome and friendship. The tea is usually a combination of green tea with either fresh or dried mint, brewed with lots of sugar to sweeten the meeting. The tea is typically served in small glasses and is usually accompanied by pastries or sweets.

Russia

Though Russia may be more associated with vodka, tea is also a large part of their cultural traditions. The samovar, a traditional Russian tea-making device, remains popular today, symbolising Russian hospitality. Originating from the "Great Tea Road" between China and Russia, tea's initial high cost meant it was a luxury for the wealthy until Peter the Great's era made it more accessible. The samovar, adopted in the 17th century and inspired by Mongol kettles, combines a hot water heater and teapot, typically heated by charcoal or electricity. Russians primarily drink black tea, sweetened with sugar, fruits, or jam, served hot regardless of the weather. Samovar tea, often enjoyed in the afternoon and evening with sweets or pastries, is an integral part of Russian culture.
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