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To a tea!
Drinking tea is a global ritual—and each part of the world has created its own customs to enjoy it fully. If you’re looking to make tea drinking a habit or are just curious about trying different ways to enjoy it, look no further than this round-up of international tea rituals from mentalfloss.com.
Morocco—A mix of mint, green tea leaves and a generous serving of sugar, Touareg tea (also known as Maghrebi mint tea) is the customary blend in North Africa. Poured from up high into slim, delicate glasses, it’s served three times to guests. Each time the flavor varies slightly per the proverb: “The first glass is as gentle as life, the second is as strong as love, the third is as bitter as death.”
Tibet—Po cha, the traditional tea of Tibet, is made by boiling a brick of Pemagul black tea for hours. Milk, salt and yak butter are added and the mixture is then churned together. It’s said this blend has a soup-like consistency and is uniquely comforting and fortifying at high altitudes and cold climates.
India—This country is best known for its chai blends that mix black tea leaves with spices like cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom and pepper. Vendors, called chai wallahs, traditionally sell their brew in small sustainable clay cups made from local earth.
Argentina—Yerba mate is an herb tea also referred to as “the drink of the gods.” It is prepared in a small pot or dried calabaza gourd and consumed through a special straining straw called a bombilla. Traditionally, yerba mate is served without a sweetener, but younger generations have taken to adding sugar or honey.
Russia—Zavarka is a loose-leaf tea concentrate brewed in a small metal container called a samovar. In this vessel, a very strong (usually black) tea is brewed and then served in large mugs. However, you wouldn’t dare fill the mug. Instead, guests take an inch or less of this powerful concoction and then tame it with boiling water. Russians typically drink it black, but hosts will offer milk and sugar, as well as an accompanying snack.
China—The traditional Chinese tea ceremony, Gongfu Tea, is elaborate. The ritual involves a tureen, strainers, tongs, tea towels, a brewing tray and “scent cups,” that are used solely to sniff—not drink—the very strong and bitter brew. Guests are invited to smell the leaves before brewing. The tea is ideally poured by arranging cups in a circle, pouring from on-high in a continuous motion until each cup is full. Guests cradle the cup in both hands and sip slowly to savor the flavor.
Japan—Like China, Japan also follows detailed tea ceremonies with names like Chanoyu, Sado or Ocha. These ceremonies include everything from the preparation of the home, the order in which utensils are brought into the room, the cleaning and warming of these tools, the brewing of the tea,and cleanup.
Pakistan—Tea is a common drink and a courtesy extended to guests across Pakistan. An element of Kashmiri culture, Noon Chai is a special blend of tea that includes a mix of pistachios, almonds, salt, milk, and spices like cardamom, cinnamon and star anise. Served on special occasions, Noon Chai is typically enjoyed with pastries like sheermaal, kandir tchot, bakarkhani and kulcha.
The United Kingdom—Many people find England synonymous with the ritual of tea drinking. The drink was introduced to England in the 17th century, but the iconic British tradition of afternoon tea took nearly another 200 years to catch on. It was Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford who requested that her staff prepare a mini-meal around 4:00 p.m.—including tea and a selection of cakes or small sandwiches. The tradition lives on to this day.
No matter what kind of tea you prefer, you are sure to find great comfort and even a sense of relaxation if you adopt one of the rituals described above.