Tea may be consumed early in the day to heighten calm alertness; it contains L-theanine, theophylline, and bound caffeine (sometimes called theine). Decaffeinated brands are also sold. While herbal teas are also referred to as tea, most of them do not contain leaves from the tea plant. While tea is the second most consumed beverage on Earth after water, in many cultures it is also consumed at elevated social events, such as the tea party.
Tea culture is defined by the way tea is made and consumed, by the way the people interact with tea, and by the aesthetics surrounding tea drinking. It includes aspects of tea production, tea brewing, tea arts and ceremony, society, history, health, ethics, education, and communication and media issues.
Tea plays an important role in some countries. It is commonly consumed at social events, and many cultures have created intricate formal ceremonies for these events. Afternoon tea is a British custom with widespread appeal. Tea ceremonies, with their roots in the Chinese tea culture, differ among East Asian countries, such as the Japanese or Korean versions. Tea may differ widely in preparation, such as in Tibet, where the beverage is commonly brewed with salt and butter. Tea may be drunk in small private gatherings (tea parties) or in public (tea houses designed for social interaction).
The British Empire spread its own interpretation of tea to its dominions and colonies, including regions that today comprise the states of Hong Kong, India, and Pakistan, which had pre-existing tea customs, as well as regions such as East Africa (modern day Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda) and the Pacific (Australia and New Zealand) which did not have tea customs. The tea room or teahouse is found in the US, the UK, and Ireland.
Different regions favor different varieties of tea—black, green, or oolong—and use different flavourings, such as herbs, milk, or sugar. The temperature and strength of the tea likewise vary widely.
Tea ceremonies have arisen in different cultures, such as the Chinese and Japanese traditions, each of which employs certain techniques and ritualised protocol of brewing and serving tea for enjoyment in a refined setting. One form of Chinese tea ceremony is the Gongfu tea ceremony, which typically uses small Yixing clay teapots and oolong tea.
In the United Kingdom, tea is consumed daily and is perceived as one of Britain’s cultural beverages. It is customary for a host to offer tea to guests soon after their arrival. Tea is consumed both at home and outside the home, often in cafés or tea rooms. Afternoon tea with cakes on fine porcelain is a cultural stereotype. In southwest England, many cafés serve a cream tea, consisting of scones, clotted cream, and jam alongside a pot of tea. In some parts of Britain & India ‘tea’ may also refer to the evening meal.
Ireland has long been one of the biggest per-capita consumers of tea in the world. The national average is four cups per person per day, with many people drinking six cups or more. Tea in Ireland is usually taken with milk or sugar and is slightly spicier and stronger than the traditional English blend.
Tea is prevalent in most cultures in the Middle East. In Arab culture, tea is a focal point for social gatherings.
Turkish tea is an important part of that country’s cuisine, and is the most commonly consumed hot drink, despite the country’s long history of coffee consumption. In 2004 Turkey produced 205,500 tonnes of tea (6.4% of the world’s total tea production), which made it one of the largest tea markets in the world, with 120,000 tons being consumed in Turkey, and the rest being exported. In 2010 Turkey had the highest per capita consumption in the world at 2.7 kg. As of 2013, the per-capita consumption of Turkish tea exceeds 10 cups per day and 13.8 kg per year. Tea is grown mostly in Rize Province on the Black Sea coast.
In Iranian culture, tea is so widely consumed, it is generally the first thing offered to a household guest.
Russia has a long, rich tea history dating to 1638 when tea was introduced to Tsar Michael. Social gatherings were considered incomplete without tea, which was traditionally brewed in a samovar, and today 82% of Russians consume tea daily.
In Pakistan, both black and green teas are popular and are known locally as sabz chai and kahwah, respectively. The popular green tea called kahwah is often served after every meal in the Pashtun belt of Balochistan and in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which is where the Khyber Pass is found. In central and southern Punjab and the metropolitan Sindh region of Pakistan, tea with milk and sugar (sometimes with pistachios, cardamom, etc.), commonly referred to as chai, is widely consumed. It is the most common beverage of households in the region. In the northern Pakistani regions of Chitral and Gilgit-Baltistan, a salty, buttered Tibetan-style tea is consumed.
In the transnational Kashmir region, which straddles the border between India and Pakistan, Kashmiri chai or noon chai, a pink, creamy tea with pistachios, almonds, cardamom, and sometimes cinnamon, is consumed primarily at special occasions, weddings, and during the winter months when it is sold in many kiosks.
Indian tea culture is strong – the drink is the most popular hot beverage in the country. It is consumed daily in almost all houses, offered to guests, consumed in high amounts in domestic and official surroundings, and is made with the addition of milk with or without spices, and usually sweetened. At homes it is sometimes served with biscuits to be dipped in the tea and eaten before consuming the tea. More often than not, it is drunk in “doses” of small cups (referred to as “Cutting” chai if sold at street tea vendors) rather than one large cup. On 21 April 2012, the Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission (India), Montek Singh Ahluwalia, said tea would be declared as national drink by April 2013. The move is expected to boost the tea industry in the country. Speaking on the occasion, Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said a special package for the tea industry would be announced in the future to ensure its development. The history of tea in India is especially rich.
In Burma (Myanmar), tea is consumed not only as hot drinks, but also as sweet tea and green tea known locally as laphet-yay and laphet-yay-gyan, respectively. Pickled tea leaves, known locally as laphet, are also a national delicacy. Pickled tea is usually eaten with roasted sesame seeds, crispy fried beans, roasted peanuts and fried garlic chips.
In Mali, gunpowder tea is served in series of three, starting with the highest oxidisation or strongest, unsweetened tea, locally referred to as “strong like death”, followed by a second serving, where the same tea leaves are boiled again with some sugar added (“pleasant as life”), and a third one, where the same tea leaves are boiled for the third time with yet more sugar added (“sweet as love”). Green tea is the central ingredient of a distinctly Malian custom, the “Grin”, an informal social gathering that cuts across social and economic lines, starting in front of family compound gates in the afternoons and extending late into the night, and is widely popular in Bamako and other large urban areas.
In the United States, 80% of tea is consumed as iced tea. Sweet tea is native to the southeastern US, and is iconic in its cuisine.
Origin and history
Tea plants are native to East Asia, and probably originated in the borderlands of north Burma and southwestern China.
Chinese (small leaf) tea
Chinese Western Yunnan Assam (large leaf) tea
Indian Assam (large leaf) tea
Chinese Southern Yunnan Assam (large leaf) tea
Chinese (small leaf) type tea (C. sinensis var. sinensis) may have originated in southern China possibly with hybridization of unknown wild tea relatives. However, since there are no known wild populations of this tea, the precise location of its origin is speculative.
Given their genetic differences forming distinct clades, Chinese Assam type tea (C. sinensis var. assamica) may have two different parentages – one being found in southern Yunnan (Xishuangbanna, Pu’er City) and the other in western Yunnan (Lincang, Baoshan). Many types of Southern Yunnan assam tea have been hybridized with the closely related species Camellia taliensis. Unlike Southern Yunnan Assam tea, Western Yunnan Assam tea shares many genetic similarities with Indian Assam type tea (also C. sinensis var. assamica). Thus, Western Yunnan Assam tea and Indian Assam tea both may have originated from the same parent plant in the area where southwestern China, Indo-Burma, and Tibet meet. However, as the Indian Assam tea shares no haplotypes with Western Yunnan Assam tea, Indian Assam tea is likely to have originated from an independent domestication. Some Indian Assam tea appears to have hybridized with the species Camellia pubicosta.
Assuming a generation of 12 years, Chinese small leaf tea is estimated to have diverged from Assam tea around 22,000 years ago while Chinese Assam tea and Indian Assam tea diverged 2,800 years ago. The divergence of Chinese small leaf tea and Assam tea would correspond to the last glacial maximum.
Tea drinking may have begun in the region of Yunnan region, when it was used for medicinal purposes. It is also believed that in Sichuan, “people began to boil tea leaves for consumption into a concentrated liquid without the addition of other leaves or herbs, thereby using tea as a bitter yet stimulating drink, rather than as a medicinal concoction.”
Chinese legends attribute the invention of tea to the mythical Shennong (in central and northern China) in 2737 BC although evidence suggests that tea drinking may have been introduced from the southwest of China (Sichuan/Yunnan area). The earliest written records of tea come from China. The word tú 荼 appears in the Shijing and other ancient texts to signify a kind of “bitter vegetable” (苦菜), and it is possible that it referred to many different plants such as sowthistle, chicory, or smartweed, as well as tea. In the Chronicles of Huayang, it was recorded that the Ba people in Sichuan presented tu to the Zhou king. The Qin later conquered the state of Ba and its neighbour Shu, and according to the 17th century scholar Gu Yanwu who wrote in Ri Zhi Lu (日知錄): “It was after the Qin had taken Shu that they learned how to drink tea.” Another possible early reference to tea is found in a letter written by the Qin Dynasty general Liu Kun who requested that some “real tea” to be sent to him.
The earliest known physical evidence of tea was discovered in 2016 in the mausoleum of Emperor Jing of Han in Xi’an, indicating that tea from the genus Camellia was drunk by Han Dynasty emperors as early as the 2nd century BC. The Han dynasty work, “The Contract for a Youth”, written by Wang Bao in 59 BC, contains the first known reference to boiling tea. Among the tasks listed to be undertaken by the youth, the contract states that “he shall boil tea and fill the utensils” and “he shall buy tea at Wuyang”. The first record of tea cultivation is also dated to this period (the reign of Emperor Xuan of Han), during which tea was cultivated on Meng Mountain (蒙山) near Chengdu. Another early credible record of tea drinking dates to the third century AD, in a medical text by Hua Tuo, who stated, “to drink bitter t’u constantly makes one think better.” However, before the mid-8th century Tang dynasty, tea-drinking was primarily a southern Chinese practice. It became widely popular during the Tang Dynasty, when it was spread to Korea, Japan, and Vietnam.
Through the centuries, a variety of techniques for processing tea, and a number of different forms of tea, were developed. During the Tang dynasty, tea was steamed, then pounded and shaped into cake form, while in the Song dynasty, loose-leaf tea was developed and became popular. During the Yuan and Ming dynasties, unoxidized tea leaves were first pan-fried, then rolled and dried, a process that stops the oxidation process that turns the leaves dark, thereby allowing tea to remain green. In the 15th century, oolong tea, in which the leaves were allowed to partially oxidize before pan-frying, was developed. Western tastes, however, favoured the fully oxidized black tea, and the leaves were allowed to oxidize further. Yellow tea was an accidental discovery in the production of green tea during the Ming dynasty, when apparently sloppy practices allowed the leaves to turn yellow, but yielded a different flavour as a result.
Tea was first introduced to Portuguese priests and merchants in China during the 16th century, at which time it was termed chá. The earliest European reference to tea, written as Chiai, came from Delle navigationi e viaggi written by a Venetian, Giambattista Ramusio, in 1545. The first recorded shipment of tea by a European nation was in 1607 when the Dutch East India Company moved a cargo of tea from Macao to Java, then two years later, the Dutch bought the first assignment of tea which was from Hirado in Japan to be shipped to Europe. Tea became a fashionable drink in The Hague in the Netherlands, and the Dutch introduced the drink to Germany, France and across the Atlantic to New Amsterdam (New York).
The first record of tea in English came from a letter written by Richard Wickham, who ran an East India Company office in Japan, writing to a merchant in Macao requesting “the best sort of chaw” in 1615. Peter Mundy, a traveller and merchant who came across tea in Fujian in 1637, wrote, “chaa – only water with a kind of herb boyled in it “. Tea was sold in a coffee house in London in 1657, Samuel Pepys tasted tea in 1660, and Catherine of Braganza took the tea-drinking habit to the British court when she married Charles II in 1662. Tea, however, was not widely consumed in Britain until the 18th century, and remained expensive until the latter part of that period. British drinkers preferred to add sugar and milk to black tea, and black tea overtook green tea in popularity in the 1720s. Tea smuggling during the 18th century led to the general public being able to afford and consume tea. The British government removed the tax on tea, thereby eliminating the smuggling trade by 1785. In Britain and Ireland, tea was initially consumed as a luxury item on special occasions, such as religious festivals, wakes, and domestic work gatherings. The price of tea in Europe fell steadily during the 19th century, especially after Indian tea began to arrive in large quantities; by the late 19th century tea had become an everyday beverage for all levels of society. The popularity of tea also informed a number of historical events – the Tea Act of 1773 provoked the Boston Tea Party that escalated into the American Revolution. The need to address the issue of British trade deficit caused by the Manchu Emperor Kangxi who proclaimed that “China was the center of the world, possessing everything they could ever want or need and banned foreign products from being sold in China!” He also decreed in 1685 “That all goods bought from China must be paid for in Silver Coin or Bullion.” This caused all other Nation’s Traders to find some other product, opium, to sell to China to earn back the silver they were required to paid for tea, jade and silk. Later, Chinese Government attempts to curtail the trade in opium with out relaxing trade restrictions on foreign goods, resulted in the Opium Wars.
Chinese small leaf type tea was introduced into India in 1836 by the British in an attempt to break the Chinese monopoly on tea. In 1841, Archibald Campbell brought seeds of Chinese tea from the Kumaun region and experimented with planting tea in Darjeeling. The Alubari tea garden was opened in 1856 and Darjeeling tea began to be produced. In 1848, Robert Fortune was sent by the East India Company on a mission to China to bring the tea plant back to Great Britain. He began his journey in high secrecy as his mission occurred in the lull between the Anglo-Chinese First Opium War (1839–1842) and Second Opium War (1856–1860). The Chinese tea plants he brought back were introduced to the Himalayas, though most did not survive. The British had discovered that a different variety of tea was endemic to Assam and the northeast region of India and that it was used by the local Singpho people, and these were then grown instead of the Chinese tea plant and then were subsequently hybridized with Chinese small leaf type tea as well as likely closely related wild tea species. Using the Chinese planting and cultivation techniques, the British launched a tea industry by offering land in Assam to any European who agreed to cultivate it for export. Tea was originally consumed only by anglicized Indians; however, it became widely popular in India in the 1950s because of a successful advertising campaign by the India Tea Board.
Tea culture around the world
Bubble tea, pearl milk tea (Chinese: 珍珠奶茶; pinyin: zhēnzhū nǎichá), or boba milk tea (波霸奶茶; bōbà nǎichá) is a tea beverage mixture with milk which includes balls of tapioca. Originating in Taiwan, it is especially popular in East Asia, including Japan, South Korea, China, Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Singapore, as well as Europe, Canada, and the United States. It is also known as black pearl tea or tapioca tea.
Taiwanese tea culture also encompasses a more traditional tea culture inspired by China and Han immigrants to the island. Wild tea was first found in Taiwan by the Dutch East India Company. Successive waves of immigration to Taiwan have left a legacy of influences on tea culture.
Due to the importance of tea in Chinese society and culture, tea houses can be found in most Chinese neighbourhoods and business districts. Chinese-style tea houses offer dozens of varieties of hot and cold tea concoctions. They also serve a variety of tea-friendly or tea-related snacks. Beginning in the late afternoon, the typical Chinese tea house quickly becomes packed with students and business people, and later at night plays host to insomniacs and night owls simply looking for a place to relax.
There are formal tea houses. They provide a range of Chinese and Japanese tea leaves, as well as tea making accoutrements and a better class of snack food. Finally there are tea vendors, who specialize in the sale of tea leaves, pots, and other related paraphernalia. Tea is an important item in Chinese culture and is mentioned in the Seven necessities of (Chinese) daily life.
In Tang Dynasty, Lu Yu found that the plants which grew under shady hillside produced tea with bad quality, leading to abdominal distension. The common methods of making tea were boiling the water and tea leaves at the same time. The water was heated in a cauldron on a brazier to the first boil level, which was described as “fish eyes”, appropriate salts was added into the water with a view to enhancing the flavor of the tea.
In China, at least as early as the Tang Dynasty, tea was an object of connoisseurship; in the Song Dynasty formal tea-tasting parties were held, comparable to modern wine tastings. As much as in modern wine tastings, the proper vessel was important and much attention was paid to matching the tea to an aesthetically appealing serving vessel.
Historically there were two phases of tea drinking in China based on the form of tea that was produced and consumed, namely: tea bricks versus loose leaf tea.
Tea brick phase
Tea served before the Ming Dynasty was typically made from tea bricks. Upon harvesting, the tea leaves were either partially dried or were thoroughly dried and ground before being pressed into bricks. The pressing of Pu-erh is likely a vestige of this process. Tea bricks were also sometimes used as currency. Serving the tea from tea bricks required multiple steps:
Toasting: Tea bricks are usually first toasted over a fire to destroy any mould or insects that may have burrowed into the tea bricks. Such infestation sometimes occurred since the bricks were stored openly in warehouses and storerooms. Toasting likely imparted a pleasant flavour to the resulting tea.
Grinding: The tea brick was broken up and ground to a fine powder. This practice survives in Japanese powdered tea (Matcha).
Whisking: The powdered tea was mixed into hot water and frothed with a whisk before serving. The colour and patterns formed by the powdered tea were enjoyed while the mixture was imbibed.
The ground and whisked teas used at that time called for dark and patterned bowls in which the texture of the tea powder suspension could be enjoyed. The best of these bowls, glazed in patterns with names like oil spot, partridge-feather, hare’s fur, and tortoise shell, are highly valued today. The patterned holding bowl and tea mixture were often lauded in the period’s poetry with phrases such as “partridge in swirling clouds” or “snow on hare’s fur”. Tea in this period was enjoyed more for its patterns and less for its flavour. The practice of using powdered tea can still be seen in the Japanese Tea ceremony or Chadō.
Loose-leaf tea phase
After 1391, the Hongwu Emperor, the founder of the Ming Dynasty, decreed that tributes of tea to the court were to be changed from brick to loose-leaf form. The imperial decree quickly transformed the tea drinking habits of the people, changing from whisked teas to steeped teas. The arrival of the new method for preparing tea also required the creation or use of new vessels.
The tea pot was needed such that the tea leaves can be steeped separately from the drinking vessel for an infusion of proper concentration. The tea needs to be kept warm and the tea leaves must be separated from the resulting infusion when required.
Tea caddies and containers also became necessary to keep the tea and conserve its flavour. This was because tea leaves do not preserve as well as tea bricks. Furthermore, the natural aroma of tea became the focus of the tea drinking due to the new preparation method.
A change in Chinese tea drinking vessels was evident at this point. Smaller bowls with plain or simple designs on the interior surfaces were favoured over the larger patterned bowls used for enjoying the patterns created by powdered teas. Tea drinking in small bowls and cups was likely adopted since it gathers and directs the fragrant steam from the tea to the nose and allows for better appreciation of the tea’s flavour.
Teawares made with a special kind of purple clay (Zisha) from Yixing went on to develop during this period (Ming Dynasty). The structure of purple clay made it advantageous material with tiny and high density, preferred for heat preservation and perviousness. Simplicity and rusticity dominated the idea of purple clay teaware decoration art. It became soon the most popular method of performing Chinese tea ceremony, which often combines literature, calligraphy, painting and seal cutting in Chinese culture.
The loose-leaf tea and the purple clay teaware is still the preferred method of preparing tea in Chinese daily life.
The English-style tea has evolved into a new local style of drink, the Hong Kong-style milk tea, more often simply “milk tea”, in Hong Kong by using evaporated milk instead of ordinary milk. It is popular at cha chaan tengs and fast food shops such as Café de Coral and Maxims Express. Traditional Chinese tea, including green tea, flower tea, jasmine tea, and Pu-erh tea, are also common, and are served at dim sum restaurant during yum cha.
The Korean tea ceremony or darye (茶禮) is a traditional form of tea ceremony practiced in Korea. Darye literally refers to “etiquette for tea” or “tea rite.” The chief element of the Korean tea ceremony is the ease and naturalness of enjoying tea within an easy formal setting. Central to the Korean approach to tea is an easy and natural coherence, with fewer formal rituals, fewer absolutes, greater freedom for relaxation, and more creativity in enjoying a wider variety of teas, services, and conversation.
Green tea’s traditional role in Japanese society is as a drink for special guests and special occasions. Green tea is served in many companies during afternoon breaks. Japanese often buy sweets for their colleagues when on vacation or business trips. These snacks are usually enjoyed with green tea. Tea will also be prepared for visitors coming for meetings to companies and for guests visiting Japanese homes. A thermos full of green tea is a staple on family or school outings as an accompaniment to bento (box lunches). Families often bring along proper Japanese teacups to enhance the enjoyment of the traditional drink.
The strong cultural association the Japanese have with green tea has made it the most popular beverage to drink with traditional Japanese cuisine, such as sushi, sashimi, and tempura. At a restaurant, a cup of green tea is often served with meals at no extra charge, with as many refills as desired. The best traditional Japanese restaurants take as much care in choosing the tea they serve as in preparing the food itself.
Many Japanese are still taught the proper art of the centuries-old tea ceremony as well. Still, the Japanese now enjoy green tea processed using state of the art technology. Today, hand pressing—a method demonstrated to tourists—is taught only as a technique preserved as a part of the Japanese cultural tradition. Most of the ubiquitous vending machines also carry a wide selection of both hot and cold bottled teas. Oolong tea enjoys considerable popularity. Black tea, often with milk or lemon, is served ubiquitously in cafes, coffee shops, and restaurants.
Major tea-producing areas in Japan include Shizuoka Prefecture and the city of Uji in Kyoto Prefecture.
Other infusions bearing the name cha are barley tea (mugi-cha) which is popular as a cold drink in the summer, buckwheat tea (soba-cha), and hydrangea tea (ama-cha).
Butter, milk, and salt are added to brewed tea and churned to form a hot drink called Po cha (bod ja, where bod means Tibetan and ja tea) in Tibet, Bhutan, and Nepal. The concoction is sometimes called cha su mar, mainly in Kham, or Eastern Tibet. Traditionally, the drink is made with a domestic brick tea and yak’s milk, then mixed in a churn for several minutes. Using a generic black tea, milk and butter, and shaking or blending work well too, although the unique taste of yak milk is difficult to replicate. (see recipe)
Tibet tea drinking has many rules. One such concerns an invitation to a house for tea. The host will first pour some highland barley wine. The guest must dip his finger in the wine and flick some away. This will be done three times to represent respect for the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. The cup will then be refilled two more times and on the last time it must be emptied or the host will be insulted. After this the host will present a gift of butter tea to the guest, who will accept it without touching the rim of the bowl. The guest will then pour a glass for himself, and must finish the glass or be seen as rude.
There are two main teas that go with the tea culture. The teas are butter tea and sweet milk tea. These two teas are only found in Tibet. Other teas that the Tibetans enjoy are boiled black teas. There are many tea shops in Tibet selling these teas, which travelers often take for their main hydration source.
Myanmar (formerly Burma) is one of very few countries where tea is not only drunk but eaten as lahpet—pickled tea served with various accompaniments. It is called lahpet so (tea wet) in contrast to lahpet chauk (tea dry) or akyan jauk (crude dry) with which green tea—yeinway jan or lahpet yeijan meaning plain or crude tea—is made. In the Shan State of Myanmar where most of the tea is grown, and also Kachin State, tea is dry-roasted in a pan before adding boiling water to make green tea. It is the national drink in a predominantly Buddhist country with no national tipple other than the palm toddy. Tea sweetened with milk is known as lahpet yeijo made with acho jauk (sweet dry) or black tea and prepared the Indian way, brewed and sweetened with condensed milk. It is a very popular drink although the middle classes by and large appear to prefer coffee most of the time. It was introduced to Myanmar by Indian immigrants some of whom set up teashops known as kaka hsaing, later evolving to just lahpetyei hsaing (teashop).
Burma’s street culture is basically a tea culture as people, mostly men but also women and families, gather in tea shops drinking Indian tea served with a diverse range of snacks from cream cakes to Chinese fried breadsticks (youtiao) and steamed buns (baozi) to Indian naan bread and samosas. Green tea is customarily the first thing to be served free of charge as soon as a customer sits down at a table in all restaurants as well as teashops.
Pubs and clubs, unlike in the West, have remained a minority pursuit so far. Teashops are found from the smallest village to major cities in every neighbourhood up and down the country. They are open for breakfast till late in the evening, and some are open 24 hours catering for long distance drivers and travellers. One of the most popular teashops in Yangon in the late 1970s was called Shwe Hleiga (Golden Stairs) by popular acclaim as it was just a pavement stall, with low tables and stools for the customers, at the bottom of a stairwell in downtown Yangon. Busy bus stops and terminals as well as markets have several teashops. Train journeys in Myanmar also feature hawkers who board trains to sell tea to passengers from kettles.
Lahpet (pickled tea) is served in one of two ways:
A-hlu lahpet or Mandalay lahpet is served in a plate or traditionally in a shallow lacquerware dish called lahpet ohk with a lid and divided into small compartments—pickled tea laced with sesame oil in a central compartment, and other ingredients such as crisp fried garlic, peas and peanuts, toasted sesame, crushed dried shrimp, preserved shredded ginger and fried shredded coconut in other compartments encircling it. It may be served as a snack or after a meal with green tea either on special occasions or just for the family and visitors. A-hlu means alms and is synonymous with a novitiation ceremony called Shinbyu although lahpet is served in this form also at hsun jway (offering a meal to monks) and weddings. Invitation to a shinbyu is traditionally by calling from door to door with a lahpet ohk, and acceptance is indicated by its partaking.
Lahpet thouk or Yangon lahpet is pickled tea salad very popular all over Myanmar especially with women, and some teashops would have it on their menu as well as Burmese restaurants. It is prepared by mixing all the above ingredients without the coconut but in addition includes fresh tomatoes, garlic and green chilli, and is dressed with fish sauce, sesame or peanut oil, and a squeeze of lime. Some of the most popular brands sold in packets include Ayee Taung lahpet from Mandalay, Shwe Toak from Mogok, Yuzana and Pinpyo Ywetnu from Yangon. Hnapyan jaw (twice fried) ready-mixed garnish is also available today.
Thai tea (also known as Thai iced tea) or “cha-yen” (Thai: ชาเย็น) when ordered in Thailand is a drink made from strongly-brewed red tea that usually contains added anise, red and yellow food colouring, and sometimes other spices as well. This tea is sweetened with sugar and condensed milk and served chilled. Evaporated or whole milk is generally poured over the tea and ice before serving—it is never mixed before serving—to add taste and creamy appearance. Locally, it is served in a traditional tall glass and when ordered take-out, it is poured over the crushed ice in a clear (or translucent) plastic bag. It can be made into a frappé at more westernised vendors.
It is popular in Southeast Asia and in many American restaurants that serve Thai or Vietnamese food, especially on the West Coast. Although Thai tea is not the same as bubble tea, a Southeast and East Asian beverage that contains large black pearls of tapioca starch, Thai tea with pearls is a popular flavour of bubble tea.
Green tea is also very popular in Thailand, spawning many variations such as barley green tea, rose green tea, lemon green tea, etc. Thai green tea, however, is not to be confused with traditional Japanese green tea. Thai green tea tends to be very heavily commercialized and the taste is sweeter and easier to appreciate than bitter variations.
Tea is cultivated extensively in the north of the country, making Vietnam one of the world’s largest exporters. The word in the Vietnamese language is trà (pronounced cha/ja) or chè. It is served unsweetened and unaccompanied by milk, cream, or lemon.
Traditionally tea is frequently consumed as green tea (trà xanh). Variants of black tea (chè tàu) is also widely used although frequently scented with Jasminum sambac blossoms (chè nhài, trà lài). Huế is renowned for its tea scented with Nelumbo nucifera stamens (trà sen).
In Vietnamese restaurants, including eateries overseas, a complimentary pot of tea is usually served once the meal has been ordered, with refills free of charge.
One of the world’s largest producers of tea, India is a country where tea is popular all over as a breakfast and evening drink. It is often served as masala chai with milk, sugar, and spices such as ginger, cardamom, black pepper and cinnamon. Almost all the tea consumed is black Indian tea, CTC variety. Usually tea leaves are boiled in water while making tea, and milk is added.
Offering tea to visitors is the cultural norm in Indian homes, offices and places of business. Tea is often consumed at small roadside stands, where it is prepared by tea makers known as chai wallahs.
There are three most famous regions in India to produce black teas- Darjeeling, Assam and Nilgiri. “Strong, heavy and fragrant” are 3 criteria for judging black tea. Darjeeling tea is known for its delicate aroma and light colour and is aptly termed as “the champagne of teas”, which has high aroma and yellow or brown liquid after brewing. Assam tea is known for its robust taste and dark colour, and Nilgiri tea is dark, intensely aromatic and flavoured. Assam produces the largest quantity of Tea in India, mostly of the CTC variety, and is one of the biggest suppliers of major international brands such as Lipton and Tetley. The Tetley Brand, formerly British owned and one of the largest, is now owned by the Indian Tata Tea Limited company.
On April 21, 2012 the Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission (India), Montek Singh Ahluwalia, said that tea would be declared as national drink by April 2013. Speaking on the occasion, former Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said a special package for the tea industry would be announced in the future to ensure its development. The move was expected to boost the tea industry in the country, but in May 2013 the ministry of commerce decided not to declare a national drink for fear of disrupting the competing coffee industry.
Tea is popular all over Pakistan and is referred to as chai (written as چائے). During British Rule tea became very popular in Lahore. Tea is usually consumed at breakfast, during lunch breaks at the workplace, and in the evening at home. Evening tea may be consumed with biscuits or cake. Guests are typically offered a choice between tea and soft drinks. It is common practice for homeowners to offer tea breaks to hired labour, and sometimes even provide them with tea during the breaks. Tea offered to labour is typically strong and has more sugar in it.
In Pakistan, both black and green teas are popular and are known locally as sabz chai and kahwah, respectively. The popular green tea called kahwah is often served after every meal in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the Pashtun belt of Balochistan. In the Kashmir region of Pakistan, Kashmiri chai or “noon chai,” a pink, milky tea with pistachios and cardamom, is consumed primarily at special occasions, weddings, and during the winter months when it is sold in many kiosks. In Lahore and other cities of Punjab this Kashmiri chai or cha (as pronounced in Punjabi, Kosher as well as in many Chinese dialects) is common drink in the Punjab, brought by ethnic Kashmiris in the 19th century. Traditionally, it is prepared with Himalayan rock salt, giving it its characteristic pink color. It is taken with Bakar khani as well as Kashmiri kulcha (namkeen/salty version of Khand kulcha). Namkeen chai or noon/loon Cha or commonly called Kashmri chai and some times sheer (milk) cha or sabz chai (green tea as the same tea are used for making khahwa/green tea) is sold and seen in Gawalmandi kiosks with salt for Kashmiri as well as with sugar and pistachios for non-Kashmris or those who like it with sugar. In the northern Pakistan regions of Chitral and Gilgit-Baltistan, a salty buttered Tibetan style tea is consumed.
In Sri Lanka, usually black tea is served with milk and sugar, but the milk is always warmed. Tea is a hugely popular beverage among the Sri-Lankan people, and part of its land is surrounded by the many hills of tea plantations that spread for miles. Drinking tea has become part of the culture of Sri Lanka and it is customary to offer a cup of tea to guests. Many working Sri Lankans are used to having a mid-morning cup of tea and another in the afternoon. Black tea is sometimes consumed with ginger. In rural areas some people still have their tea with a piece of sweet jaggery
Tea found its way to Persia (Iran) through the Silk Road from India and soon became the national drink. The whole part of northern Iran along the shores of the Caspian Sea is suitable for the cultivation of tea. Especially in the Gilan province on the slopes of Alborz, large areas are under tea cultivation and millions of people work in the tea industry. That region covers a large part of Iran’s need for tea. Iranians have one of the highest per capita rates of tea consumption in the world and since old times every street has had a Châikhâne (Tea House). Châikhânes are still an important social place. Iranians traditionally drink tea by pouring it into a saucer and putting a lump of rock sugar (qand) in the mouth before drinking the tea.
As of 2016, Turkey tops the per capita tea consumption statistics at 6.96 pounds.
Turkish tea or Çay is produced on the eastern Black Sea coast, which has a mild climate with high precipitation and fertile soil. Turkish tea is typically prepared using çaydanlık, an instrument especially designed for tea preparation. Water is brought to a boil in the larger lower kettle and then some of the water is used to fill the smaller kettle on top and steep several spoons of loose tea leaves, producing a very strong tea. When served, the remaining water is used to dilute the tea on an individual basis, giving each consumer the choice between strong (“koyu”/dark) or weak (“açık”/light). Tea is drunk from small glasses to enjoy it hot in addition to show its colour, with lumps of beetroot sugar. To a lesser extent than in other Muslim countries, tea replaces both alcohol and coffee as the social beverage. Within Turkey the tea is usually known as Rize tea.
In 2004, Turkey produced 205,500 tonnes of tea (6.4% of the world’s total tea production), which made it one of the largest tea markets in the world, with 120,000 tons being consumed in Turkey, and the rest being exported. In 2010 Turkey had the highest per capita consumption in the world at 2.7 kg. As of 2013, the per-capita consumption of Turkish tea exceeds 10 cups per day and 13.8 kg per year. Tea is grown mostly in Rize Province on the Black Sea coast.
Tea is the national drink in Egypt, and holds a special position that even coffee cannot rival. In Egypt, tea is called “shai”. Tea packed and sold in Egypt is almost exclusively imported from Kenya and Sri Lanka. The Egyptian government considers tea a strategic crop and runs large tea plantations in Kenya. Green tea is a recent arrival to Egypt (only in the late 1990s did green tea become affordable) and is not as popular.
Egyptian tea comes in two varieties: Koshary and Saiidi. Koshary tea, popular in Lower (Northern) Egypt, is prepared using the traditional method of steeping black tea in boiled water and letting it set for a few minutes. It is almost always sweetened with cane sugar and is often flavored with fresh mint leaves. Adding milk is also common. Koshary tea is usually light, with less than a half teaspoonful per cup considered to be near the high end.
Saiidi tea is common in Upper (Southern) Egypt. It is prepared by boiling black tea with water for as long as 5 minutes over a strong flame. Saiidi tea is extremely heavy, with 2 teaspoonfuls per cup being the norm. It is sweetened with copious amounts of cane sugar (a necessity since the formula and method yield a very bitter tea). Saiidi tea is often black even in liquid form.
Besides true tea, herbal teas (or tisanes) are often served at the Egyptian teahouses, with ingredients ranging from mint to cinnamon and ginger to salep; many of these are ascribed medicinal qualities or health benefits in Egyptian folk medicine. Karkade, a tisane of hibiscus flowers, is a particularly popular beverage and is traditionally considered beneficial for the heart.
Libyan tea is a strong beverage, black or green, served in small glass cups with foam or froth topping the glass. it is usually sweetened with sugar and traditionally served in three rounds. mint or basil is used for flavoring and traditionally the last round is served with boiled peanuts or almonds.
Tea plays an important part in the island’s culture. Tea drinking allows for socialising with it commonly being served to guests and in the workplace.
The Mauritian peoples usually consume black tea, often with milk and sugar. Mauritius is a producer of tea, initially on a small scale when the French introduced the plant into the island around 1765. It was under later British rule that the scale of tea cultivation increased.
Three major tea producers dominate the local market these are Bois Cheri, Chartreuse and Corson. The signature product is the vanilla-flavoured tea which is commonly bought and consumed on the island.
Morocco is considered the largest importer of green tea worldwide.
Tea was introduced to Morocco in the 18th century through trade with Europe.
Morocco consumes green tea with mint rather than black tea. It has become part of the culture and is used widely at almost every meal. The Moroccan people even make tea performance a special culture in the flower country. Moroccan tea is commonly served with rich tea cookies, fresh green mint leaves, local “finger shape” brown sugar, and colorful tea glasses and pots. Drinking Moroccan tea is not only a luxury of tongue, but also the eyes.
In the Sahel region on the southern fringe of the Sahara, green gunpowder tea is prepared with little water and large amounts of sugar. By pouring the tea into the glasses and back, a foam builds on top of the tea. Sahelian tea is a social occasion and three infusions, the first one very bitter, the second in between and the last one rather sweet are taken in the course of several hours.
чайхана See also Dastarkhān, Kazakh cuisine, Silk Way, Kyrgyz cuisine, Tajik cuisine, Uzbek cuisine
Tea in Central Asia is known since foundation of Silk Way. In Kazakhstan traditional tea is black traditionally with milk, in Uzbekistan traditional tea is green.
Specific tea culture has developed in the Czech Republic in recent years, including many styles of tearooms. Despite having the same name, they differ from British tearooms.[clarification needed] Pure teas are usually prepared with respect to their country of origin, and good tea palaces may offer 80 teas from almost all tea-producing countries. Different tea rooms have also created blends and methods of preparation and serving.
The region of East Frisia is noted for its consumption of tea and its tea culture. Strong blends of Assam tea, Ceylon and Darjeeling (East-Frisian Blend) are served whenever there are visitors to an East Frisian home or other gathering, as well as with breakfast, mid-afternoon, and mid-evening.
The traditional preparation is as follows: A Kluntje, a white rock candy sugar that melts slowly, is added to the empty cup (allowing multiple cups to be sweetened) then tea is poured over the Kluntje. A heavy cream “cloud” (“Wölkje”—a diminutive of ‘cloud’ in Frisian) is added to the tea “water”, the sugar represents “land”. It is served without a spoon and traditionally drunk unstirred, i. e. in three tiers: In the beginning one predominantly tastes the cream, then the tea and finally the sweet taste of kluntje at the bottom of the cup. Stirring the tea would blend all three tiers into one and spoil the traditional tea savouring. The tea is generally served with small cookies during the week and cakes during special occasions or on weekends as a special treat.
The tea is said to cure headaches, stomach problems, and stress, among many other ailments. The tea set is commonly decorated with an East Friesian Rose design. As a guest, it is considered impolite to drink fewer than three cups of tea. Placing your cup upside down on the saucer or your spoon in the cup signals that you are finished and want no more tea.
Although less visible than in the Czech Republic, tea culture exists in Slovakia. Tea rooms are considered an underground environment by many, but they continue to pop up almost in every middle-sized town. These tea rooms are appreciated for offering quiet environments with pleasant music. More importantly, they are usually non-smoking, unlike most pubs and cafés.
The podstakannik (‘подстаканник’), or tea glass holder (literally “thing under the glass”), is a part of Russian tea tradition. A Russian tea glass-holder is a traditional way of serving and drinking tea in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, other CIS and ex-USSR countries. Expensive podstakanniks are made from silver, classic series are made mostly from nickel silver, cupronickel, and other alloys with nickel, silver or gold plating. In Russia, it is customary to drink tea brewed separately in a teapot and diluted with freshly boiled water (‘pair-of-teapots tea’, ‘чай парой чайников’). Traditionally, the tea is very strong, its strength often indicating the hosts’ degree of hospitality. The traditional implement for boiling water for tea used to be the samovar (and sometimes it still is, though usually electric). Tea is a family event, and is usually served after each meal with sugar (one to three teaspoonfuls per cup) and lemon (but without milk), and an assortment of jams, pastries and confections. Black tea is commonly used, with green tea gaining popularity as a more healthy, more “Oriental” alternative. Teabags are not used in the traditional Russian tea ceremony, only loose, large-leaf black tea.
In Russian prisons, where alcohol and drugs are prohibited, inmates often brew very strong tea known as ‘chifir’, in order to experience its mood-altering properties.
While France is well known for its coffee drinking, afternoon tea has long been a social habit of the upper middle class, famously illustrated, for example, by Marcel Proust’s novels. Mariage Frères is a famous high-end tea shop from Paris, active since 1854. The French tea market is still only a fraction of the British one (a consumption of 250 grams per person a year compared to about 2 kilos in the UK), but it has doubled from 1995 to 2005 and is still growing steadily. Tea in France is of the black variety, but Asian green teas and fruit-flavoured teas are becoming increasingly popular. French people generally drink tea in the afternoon. It is often taken in salons de thé. Most people will add sugar to their tea (65%), then milk (25%), lemon (30%) or nothing (32%) are about equally popular. Tea is generally served with some pastries, including a variety of not so sweet ones reserved for tea drinking, like the madeleine and the financier.
Ireland is the second-biggest per capita consumers of tea in the world with consumption of 4.83 pounds (2.19 kg) per person per year. Although broadly similar to tea culture in the United Kingdom, Irish tea culture has a number of distinguishing elements; for example, tea in Ireland is usually taken with milk or sugar and is slightly spicier and stronger than the traditional English Blend. Popular brands of tea sold in Ireland are Barry’s, Bewley’s and Lyons.
Tea growing in Portugal takes place in the Azores, a group of islands located 1500 km west of Mainland Portugal. Portugal was the first to introduce the practice of drinking tea to Europe as well as the first European country to produce tea.
In 1750, terrains ranging from the fields of Capelas to those of Porto Formoso on the island of São Miguel were used for the first trial crops of tea. They delivered 10 kg of black tea and 8 kg of green tea. A century later, with the introduction of skilled workers from the Macau Region of China in 1883, production became significant and the culture expanded. Following the instructions of these workers, the species Jasminum grandiflorum and Malva vacciones were introduced to give ‘nobility’ to the tea aroma, though only the Jasminum was used.
This tea is currently traded under the name of the processed compound, Gorreana, and is produced by independent families. No herbicides or pesticides are allowed in the growing process, and modern consumers associate the production with more recent organic teas. However, production standards concerning the plant itself and its cropping have not changed for the last 250 years.
The British are one of the largest tea consumers in the world, with each person consuming on average 1.9 kg per year. Tea is usually black tea served with milk and sometimes with sugar. Strong tea served with lots of milk and often two teaspoons of sugar, usually in a mug, is commonly referred to as builder’s tea for its association with builders and more broadly with the working class. Much of the time in the United Kingdom, tea drinking is not the delicate, refined cultural expression that the rest of the world imagines—a cup (or commonly a mug) of tea is something drunk frequently throughout the day. This is not to say that the British do not have a more formal tea ceremony, but tea breaks are an essential part of the working day. The term is often shortened to ‘tea’, essentially indicating a break. This term was exported to the game of cricket and consequently to most other countries of the former British Empire.
The popularity of tea dates back to the 19th century when India was part of the British Empire, and British interests controlled tea production in the subcontinent. It was, however, first introduced in the UK by the Portuguese Catherine of Braganza, queen consort of Charles II in the 1660s and 1670s. As tea spread throughout the United Kingdom and through the social classes, tea gardens and tea dances developed. These would include watching fireworks or a dinner party and dance, concluding with an evening tea. The tea gardens lost value after World War II but tea dances are still held today in the UK.
Some scholars suggest that tea played a role in the Industrial Revolution. Afternoon tea possibly became a way to increase the number of hours labourers could work in factories; the stimulants in the tea, accompanied by sugary snacks, would give workers energy to finish out the day’s work. Further, tea helped alleviate some of the consequences of the urbanisation that accompanied the industrial revolution: drinking tea required boiling one’s water, thereby killing water-borne diseases like dysentery, cholera, and typhoid.
Tea as a meal
In the United Kingdom tea is not only the name of the beverage, but also the name of a meal. The kind of meal that a person means depends very much on their social background and where they live. The differentiation in usage between dinner, supper, lunch and tea is one of the classic social markers of British English (see U and non-U English) and is discussed more fully at the article on tea as a meal. Briefly, afternoon tea (one example of which is the cream tea) is sweeter and earlier, while the high tea is the final meal of the day.
Afternoon tea and its variants are the best known “tea ceremony” in the Commonwealth countries, available in homes and commercial establishments. In some varieties of English, “tea” refers to a savoury meal, see Australian usages of the term. Taiwanese bubble tea, known locally as pearl milk tea, has become widely popular in urban Australia, with multiple chains in every major city.
In Canada, various types of tea are used by many different indigenous tribes as healing and ceremonial medicines. For example, Ojibwe and Cree tribes in Ontario use Cedar Tea during sweat lodge ceremonies to cleanse and nourish their bodies. When European settlers arrived on North American shores, it was the indigenous people that taught them to make pine needle tea to help cure their scurvy; pine needles are a great source of vitamin C.
In the United States, tea can typically be served at all meals as an alternative to coffee, when served hot, or soft drinks, when served iced. Tea is also consumed throughout the day as a beverage. Afternoon tea, the meal done in the English tradition, is rarely served in the United States, although it remains romanticized by small children; it is usually reserved for special occasions like tea parties.
Rather than drinking tea hot, many Americans prefer tea served with ice. In fact, in the United States, about 80% of the tea consumed is served cold, or “iced”. Iced tea has become an iconic symbol of the Southern United States and Southern hospitality, often appearing alongside summer barbecue cooking or grilled foods. Iced tea is often made as sweet tea, which is simply iced tea with copious amounts of sugar or sweetener.
Iced tea can be purchased like soda, in canned or bottled form at vending machines and convenience stores. This pre-made tea is usually sweetened. Sometimes some other flavorings, such as lemon or raspberry, are added. Many restaurants dispense iced tea brewed throughout the day from upright containers.
Decaffeinated tea is widely available in the United States, for those who wish to reduce the physiological effects of caffeine.
Before World War II, the US preference for tea was equally split between green tea and black tea, 40% and 40%, with the remaining 20% preferring oolong tea. The war cut off the United States from its primary sources of green tea, China and Japan, leaving it with tea almost exclusively from British-controlled India, which produced black tea. After the war, nearly 99% of tea consumed was black tea. Green, oolong, and white teas have recently become more popular again, and are often touted as health foods.
In the past 15 years fast food coffee chains have made a huge impact on how Americans are exposed to herbal and exotic teas. Once considered a rarity, chai, based on Indian masala chai, has actually become a popular option for people who might drink a caffè latte. Although not as commercialized, Taiwanese-style Bubble tea has also become popular in the United States in recent years, often served in small local cafes in the same style as many coffee drinks.
Brazilian tea culture has its origins with the infused beverages, or chás, made by the indigenous cultures of the Amazon region. It has evolved since the Portuguese colonial period to include imported varieties and tea-drinking customs. There is a folk knowledge in Brazil which says that Brazilians, mainly the urban ones, have a greater taste for using sugar in teas than in other cultures due to the lack of habit to unsweetened drinks.