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Around the world in 6 tea rituals

Around the world in 6 tea rituals

In honor of International Tea Day, which falls on 15 December, Musement shares some insight into the art of serving and consuming tea in six countries around the world.

Tea is the second-most-consumed beverage in the world. For many of us, it’s just another drink. However, in many countries, tea and the rituals surrounding this hot steeped brew are deeply infused in local tradition and culture. Here’s a look at tea habits in six different countries.

1. Five o’clock tea, England

The famous afternoon tea has been an integral part of English life for centuries. This deeply rooted tradition is a symbol of the English lifestyle. They also know how to make this moment especially pleasant and endearing: flowery china and cake stands filled with an assortment of sweet and savory treats. Tea is an art that is near and dear to the heart of every self-respecting Englishman and Englishwoman. If you’re visiting London, treat yourself one of the best afternoon teas in town…with a dash of milk, please!

2. Chanoyu, Japan

Chanoyu, which literally translates to ‘hot water for tea’, refers to what we in the West call the ‘tea ceremony’. Japan’s tea ceremony is one of the most codified in the world. It is not a religious event but one that is based on the philosophy of Zen Buddhism and the principle of finding beauty in everything–the idea that all things are precious and should be fully appreciated.  Chanoyu is rooted in contemplation, and guests are invited to enjoy everything that surrounds them. Matcha (ceremonial tea) is served in a special tea bowl called a chawan. Before imbibing, the guest should take the time to contemplate the bowl and the imperfections that make it unique and valuable, reminding us that the world is not perfect and yet we should still appreciate the imperfections. If you are in Kyoto and want to bring a chawan with you, don’t choose the most perfect or expensive one. Rather, listen to your heart and soul to choose the one that most speaks to you.

3. Gong Fu Cha, China

Still in Asia, specifically in China, discover the Gong Fu Cha tea ceremony, which literally means “take time for tea.” Strictly speaking, Gong Fu Cha is not a ceremony but a method. The principle of Gong Fu Cha is in the preparation: a high initial dosage and multiple infusions, revealing all the flavors and aromas of a small cup of tea. The Chinese follow the ritual of Gong Fu Cha, which provides a perfectly brewed tea, but when practiced daily by the masters of tea, Gong Fu Cha becomes no longer what we might consider simple and practical, but a true mastery of an art.

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4. Mint tea, Morocco

Mint tea is an integral part of the Moroccan identity and reflects local hospitality. It’s served as a welcome, so it’s very rude to refuse it. If you visit Marrakech, you will surely be served mint tea time and again in restaurants or even in the medina, the older, a traditional part of the city. The art of Moroccan tea is to aerate it during steeping, thus facilitating digestion, which is why it is served from high above the glass, creating a foamy head. Tea and mint then continue to brew in the pot allowing it to change flavor with each pouring. According to an old Moroccan proverb, “the first drink is sweet like life, the second strong like love and the third bitter like death.” And when in Morocco, don’t miss the country’s incredibly flavorful cuisine.

5. Samovar, Russia

Russians are known for drinking vodka, but they also drink tea! Tea plays an important role in local culture, and the heart of this tradition is the samovar, the container used to boil water and maintain the heat. When Russians enjoy tea with family or friends, the samovar is always positioned at the center of the table along with a teapot of highly concentrated tea. Often, the teapot is placed on top of the samovar to keep it warm. Guests pour the desired amount of tea into their own cups before diluting it with boiling water from the samovar. Unlike the Asian practices, Russian tea is always sweet and does not follow a particular ritual, and it’s not consumed at a specific time as in Britain. Tea usually accompanied by something to eat. In the past, businessmen used to gather around a huge, 10-liter samovar to negotiate and discuss transactions.

6. Çay, Turkey

Turkish tea, or çay, occupies a particularly important place in Turkish culture, a veritable institution, and local tea consumption is particularly impressive! In Istanbul, tea is sold and consumed everywhere, even in stores. You’ll stumble across street vendors and find çay bahçesi, tea gardens all around Turkey. I always remember my old Turkish roommate who would leave the kettle on for hours to always have hot tea available. Sometimes–much to my dismay–, she would fall asleep or leave the house with the gas fire burning under a kettle that would eventually be empty. Traditionally, Turks use a samovar for tea just like the Russians. Or, they might use a çaydanlık, a two-level vessel that serves both tea and coffee. The tea is drunk in clear glasses in the shape of tulips, allowing the release of all the aromas while keeping it warm.

 

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