Tea Cultures around the World

By Alina Anto

In many countries, tea is much more than just a beverage. It’s often deeply connected with the culture and the people.  Discover the different traditions around this hot beverage.

Chinese Tea Culture

kung fu teapot

Tea has its origins in China and it therefore comes as no surprise that the Chinese tea culture is one of the most famous in the world. While tea was originally only cultivated and drunk as a herbal medicine, the monks soon started to drink it for its calming effects and peace.

The Chinese tea ceremony is a blend of different philosophies: Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism. It is the result of respect of nature and search for peace.


The British and Their Afternoon Tea

It is no secret that the British love a nice cup of tea and the British afternoon tea is one of the country’s most quintessential traditions. The typical tea time is a light meal in the afternoon.  It consists of delicate finger sandwiches, followed by scones with jam and cream, then finally small cakes. The tea is drunk with the above, usually an unflavored black tea with milk.

India — It’s All about Chai

Tea is very popular in India and almost 70% of the tea produced in the country is consumed by its own people. India cultivates huge amounts of black tea such as Darjeeling and Assam but the most popular among the Indians is undoubtedly chai. Chai derives from “cha” — the Chinese word for tea — and stands for a mix of different spices steeped into what is usually black tea. The spices include cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, cloves, and black pepper.  The tea leaves are brewed first with spices and then again with milk and sugar.

The Way of Tea in Japan

The Japanese tea ceremony chanoyu (“hot water for tea”) is a very important cultural ritual and activity around the preparation and presentation of matcha — a powdered green tea. It is much more than just a tea party — it’s about aesthetics and connecting with the guests on a spiritual level. The Japanese tea ceremony, also often referred to as “way of tea”, is very complex with the many utensils involved and its specific vocabulary.

Tea for Every Occasion in Russia

Tea was brought to Russia by a Mongolian ruler in the 17th century. Black tea is the most common and Russian Caravan with its distinctive smoky flavor is particularly popular. The brewing process is an important part of Russia’s tea culture: first, a quantity of tea is brewed in a small ceramic pot — a samovar — and then, each person pours some of this concentrate into their cup and mixes it with hot water.   Tea is drunk at every family celebration or get-togethers of old friends.

Morocco — Of Hospitality and Friendship

In Morocco, it is a fundamental part of hospitality to offer guests tea. Moroccan tea is usually a mixture of green tea (“gunpowder”) and mint leaves sweetened with quite a generous amount of sugar. The preparation of the tea, called atai and often done in front of the guests, is a ritual itself: prepared with patience, the tea is then ceremoniously poured from high above into colorful patterned glasses, causing foam to form on the surface. The tea then is drunk without any hurry.

Sharing is Caring in Argentina

If you see people in a park in Argentina passing around a weird-looking bottle and drinking from a metal straw, don’t be alarmed. They are not consuming something illegal drugs but are just enjoying the Argentinian national drink mate, which is traditionally shared in a group of friends. Mate tea has a very bitter taste and is made from yerba mate — a plant growing in the subtropical jungles of Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, and Bolivia. It is drunk from a gourd, also called mate, using a bombilla — a straw made from metal or bamboo.