Tea Culture is fascinating. Delicious teas, hot or cold and made from various leaves and herbs are literally steeped in tradition. But which is the best tea from around the world?
Tea-lovers, look beyond your bag of Tetley. Below you’ll find a whole world of tea and culture for you to explore when you travel–or even from the comfort of home.
CONTENTS – In this article you will learn all about delicious tea and tea culture around the world, including:
- What is Tea Culture?
- Essential Tea Equipment
- Afternoon Tea in Edinburgh
- Agua de Jamaica in Mexico
- Bedouin Tea in Israel
- Boba Tea in Taiwan
- Butter Tea in Ladakh India
- Chiya from Nepal
- Coca Tea in Peru
- Cream Tea in England
- Darjeeling Tea in India
- Dragonwell Green Tea in Hangzhou China
- Fruchttee from Germany
- Ivan-Chai in Russia
- Japanese Tea Ceremony
- Longjing Tea in China
- Malotira Tea in Crete in Greece
- Masala Chai in India
- Matcha Tea in Japan
- Mate in Argentina
- Milk Tea in Hong Kong
- Mint Tea in Morocco
- Planinski caj in Slovenia
- Rooibos Tea in South Africa
- Thai Iced Tea from Thailand
- Yorkshire Tea in the United Kingdom
- Final Thoughts on Tea Culture Around the World
What is Tea Culture?
For some, tea is more than just a drink made by steeping dried leaves in water.
It’s part of a rich cultural tradition filled with rituals, techniques, and sometimes ceremony.
Tea Culture takes into consideration whether a certain tea is prepared in a special way, served with a tasty side, or served at a time of day, or social or religious occasion.
China, Japan, Britain, India, and Russia are among those countries that especially embrace tea-drinking and it’s cultural significance. Even in the “new world” (America), tea played a cultural role – consider the Boston Tea Party.
Historically, some cultures are known for “reading” tea leaves. “Tasseography” is a form of divination or fortune-telling that became popular in the 1800s.
Reading tea leaves was practiced by the Romani people throughout Europe, as well as by Scottish peasants and superstitious Victorians.
A tea leaf reading involves interpreting meaning in the patterns of loose tea leaves that remain at the bottom of your tea cup.
Does tea leaf reading work? Who knows.
But it’s safe to say tea is enjoyed in every corner of the earth in some form.
Proper Gear for Making Tea
If you’re going to make yourself or serve a decent cup of tea, you should have on hand some essential supplies. Most of these items are commonplace if you drink tea, but if you’re new to this or just setting up house, you might want to pick up:
- Tea – loose or bagged in your flavor of choice
- Tea Ball or infuser – if you’re working with loose tea
- Tea Kettle – for heating up water on the stove
- Tea Pot – for brewing a batch of tea beyond a single cup
- Tea Cozy – to keep your teapot (and tea!) warm (This one is really cute!)
- Tea Cups – because everything tastes better in fine cups
Now that you’re set up, let’s dive deeper in to these delicious teas of the world and their tea culture.
I’ll warn you, it’s going to be hard to pick a favorite tea and tradition. But it will be fun trying them all!
Let’s get started.
Afternoon Tea in Edinburgh
By Gemma of Everything Edinburgh | Facebook
There are numerous cute cafes and restaurants selling coffee and cake in Scotland’s capital, especially around the Old Town streets such as Cockburn (Coburn) Street, the Royal Mile and the Grassmarket.
However, a unique dining experience for tea fans is booking an afternoon tea in Edinburgh.
In the UK, the afternoon tea experience tends to consist of:
- Small sandwiches with various fillings such as egg and cress
- Tray bakes like caramel shortbread
- Sweet scones with cream and jam
These delights are served over a series of trays stacked above each other.
Afternoon teas are unsurprisingly presented with a teapot of tea which you pour into beautifully decorated China cups. There are no set rules on what tea is on offer. Some offer loose leaf teas or fruit infusions.
Most afternoon tea fans will drink English (Scottish!) Breakfast Tea. Some will add milk and sugar to the tea.
Historically, you would eat an afternoon tea around 4pm like Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford, who invented the dining experience.
Today, tea fans replace lunch with afternoon tea and sometimes add a bottle of fizz! It’s a social tea activity enjoyed with a loved one or friends.
There are plenty of places to book this foodie afternoon. You can check out The Witchery By The Castle, Palm Court at The Balmoral Hotel and The Colonnades at the Signet Library for a splurge-worthy occasion.
If you are looking for a budget-friendly afternoon tea, check out cafes or look out for deals on discount websites and social media.
Decreasing in popularity in Scotland, high teas used to be a dinner option.
They differ from afternoon teas as they also include a main meal such as a steak pie. Quite a feat if you managed to devour a high tea!
Agua de Jamaica in Mexico
By Shelley of Travel Mexico Solo | Instagram
While Mexico doesn’t have as established a tea culture as some countries, it does have one that’s incredibly popular — agua de jamaica.
You will usually just see it called jamaica, and it’s pronounced ha-mike-uh, not Jamaica like the country.
This beloved Mexican tea is made with dried flor de jamaica (hibiscus flowers), and you’ll find it everywhere in Mexico, from Mexico City to Cancun. If you want to try it at home,
After being brewed, the dried flowers produce a pretty magenta colored tea, which is then served over ice. It has a tart and tangy flavor, similar to that of pomegranate and cranberry.
To make jamaica, you’d simply seep about one cup of hibiscus flowers in one liter of water, though that can be adjusted to taste.
After about an hour, drain the flowers, and serve the jamaica over ice. It is a very refreshing drink in a hot country like Mexico.
Jamaica flowers brewed into a tea have many health benefits, and have been proven to help lower cholesterol and blood pressure. As a natural diuretic, jamaica pulls salt out of your body which helps lower blood pressure.
However, jamaica brewed in many restaurants and jugerias (juice shops) contains a lot of sugar, so for the most health benefits, many brew their own at home.
Click here if you want to try making this Mexican tea yourself.
Bedouin Tea in Israel
By Alanna Koritzke from Periodic Adventures | Facebook
Bedouins are a nomadic people in the Middle East that are known for their hospitality.
In Israel, if you have the pleasure of staying at a Bedouin tent, you’ll be greeted with a cup of Bedouin Tea.
Typically, Bedouin tea is made from dried desert plants, reminiscent of herbs.
The tea is served hot and sweetened. It’s very enjoyable to sip a cup of warm tea at night under the expansive desert night sky where the stars shine brightly.
To make it with typical household herbs, combine:
- 2 teaspoons each of dried thyme and sage
- 2 cardamon pods
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 4 teaspoons of loose leaf black tea
- 5 cups of hot water
Steep for 5 minutes. Add sugar as desired.
Alternatively, in Israel you can often find Bedouin loose leaf tea blends at the many outdoor markets (shuks), like Mahane Yehuda in Jerusalem and HaCarmel in Tel Aviv.
While you can sample Bedouin tea all over the Middle East and North Africa, it is a must-do in Israel and is typically part of many tour experiences, including every Birthright Israel trip.
Boba Tea from Taiwan
By Marco Sison at Nomadic FIRE | Instagram
Visitors and expats may know about Taiwan’s low cost of living and the country’s drool-worthy and super cheap street food.
But not many know about Taiwan’s contribution to the worldwide tea phenomenon known as Bubble tea.
Bubble tea (better known as boba tea in most Asian countries) is a Taiwanese specialty. Boba tea is also known as:
- Pearl milk tea
- Tapioca tea
- QQ (which means chewy in Taiwanese)
- or simply Boba.
It is a tea-based drink that contains chewy tapioca balls, usually made from cassava root extract.
The vendor adds a giant straw with an 8.5mm (.33 inch) diameter large enough for you to extract the tapioca balls through.
For Boba newbies, the sensation of sucking up a large object in your drink can be a little jarring- be careful you don’t choke. You will almost always enjoy Boba served cold.
Invented sometime in the 1980s, the origin story of the tea drink is hotly debated. Different Taiwan teahouses lay claim to being the inventor of the drink.
Even the creation of the name is mired in controversy. Some say that “bubble tea” was coined because the tapioca pearls look like bubbles in tea.
A more lewd creation story is that the Taiwanese school kids who were the early adopters of the drink.
They called the tea ‘boba’ because the spherical shape of the tapioca balls looked like breasts, or ‘boba‘ in both Cantonese and Mandarin Chinese.
You’ll find boba vendors all over Taiwan – it is an unofficial national drink. Mall vendors will have the largest selection of flavors, while street vendors the cheapest drinks.
Whatever the origin of the drink or its name, what you can’t debate is the popularity. The boba tea market is worth over $2 Billion US Dollars. That’s a lot of bubbles.
Butter Tea of Ladakh, India
By Agni & Amrita of Tale of 2 Backpackers | Instagram
Butter Tea, the local beverage of Ladakh in India is an essential element in the everyday life of Ladakhis.
Located in the trans-Himalayan region at an altitude of 11,500+ feet (3,500 m), Ladakh faces extreme temperature. Winters are particularly harsh with temperature going down to as low as -31°F (-35°C).
This is where butter tea or gur-gur chai, as the locals call it, becomes important.
Not only does the tea provide the people of the region energy through the entire day, butter tea also keeps them hydrated and their skin moisturized. It is said the butter tea is also good for digestion.
Butter tea is not usually made of traditional tea leaves.
This magic beverage of Ladakh is prepared using yak milk, yak butter, salt, and an infusion prepared by a few Himalayan plants. Sometimes baking soda is also used.
The plants used may vary from region to region, but the technique is the same:
- The leaves are usually boiled and then allowed to simmer for several hours.
- Next, milk and salt are added and churned in a cylindrical churn known as gur-gur.
- Finally, a dollop of yak butter is added to it.
There, you have butter tea ready.
Editor’s Note: If you don’t have yak butter, you can substitute cow butter, goat butter, or ghee (clarified butter). It won’t be 100% authentic, but it can be hard to find yak butter, even in larger cities. Of course, Amazon carries it here.
Butter tea is an acquired taste, because it is savory instead of the regular sweetened tea.
In Ladakh, you will get the best Butter tea at Hemis Monastery, one of the finest monasteries of Ladakh. You can have butter tea along with local Ladakhi bread and tsampa, a local dish.
Butter tea is served to guests as a gesture of hospitality.
As per tradition, the cup or bowl serving tea should never be empty. As soon as you drink the tea, the cup is again refilled! You must drain the cup only if you wish to leave, In this way, the hosts do not feel offended.
Chiya in Nepal
By Lieze of Glitter Rebel | Facebook
Wherever you go in Nepal, you will be greeted by a radiant smile and a glass of hot steaming Chiya.
What kind of Chiya you will be offered changes depending on where you find yourself.
In the valley, tea bought from the small tea stalls or in little tea houses will hardly ever be sweet. It has a harsh, almost bitter taste, only slightly masked by the full cream milk.
In the hills of the Kathmandu valley however, the tea is very sweet, a great pick-me-up when walking through the petite villages on a hike.
Milk in Nepal does not come fresh or in large brick packs (unless you want to pay a fortune). Rather you’ll find it in little plastic bags.
It is true that the milk is not always pasteurized well but as most families and shops keep a large kettle of milk tea on the boil, you will hardly ever (never) have a funny tummy when buying tea on the street.
Although you can buy a cup of chiya on the street for as little as 20 NPR ($0.17), you can also easily make it yourself. Most young people would now just buy the special Nepali Chiya tea bags and boil these with (or without) sugar in a pan of milk.
If you would like to keep it authentic however, you will need ingredients such as:
- Black pepper
You’ll add these spices to a blend of loose-leaf tea which is easily accessible in local stores.
Some people would even add in some extra nutmeg to give the tea a wholesome flavor.
Coca Tea in Peru
By Bailey from Destinationless Travel | Instagram
Coca tea is a staple in the mountainous regions of Peru.
This tea is simply made by soaking Coca leaves in hot water.
Or nowadays, you can purchase Coca leaf tea bags from many stores around the country. It is a common drink and is a stimulant, much like having a cup of coffee.
It isn’t exactly known when the tradition of drinking Coca leaf tea started. However, evidence suggests that it goes back as far as the Incan empire.
Coca leaf tea has medicinal benefits such as curing altitude sickness.
In regions of Peru, this is essential due to the extremely high altitude. For Peruvians living in the Andes, especially in cities like Huaraz, drinking Coca tea all day long is a normal ritual.
In fact, if you were to ever go hiking in Peru on an overnight trip, chances are your tour guide will offer you Coca tea in the morning instead of coffee. It is just that common!
Souvenir shops around the country will also sell bags of Coca leaves for you to purchase and make your own tea too.
Coca tea isn’t just popular in Peru. In fact, it is equally, if not more so, popular in Bolivia.
Editor’s Note: Coca tea is legal in Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. It is illegal to bring coca leaves into the US for any reason.
Cream Tea in England
By Alice from Adventures of Alice | Facebook
The English have a reputation for being painfully polite. However, their tea is anything but.
England has a rich culture of tea drinking, but, English Cream Tea is not your average cup.
Traditional cream teas are served with scones that have been baked in ovens to give them a crunchy exterior and soft interior.
The top is then smothered with clotted cream and jam. (If you’ve never had it, clotted cream is something like a rich butter, made from heavy cream, but better.)
The scones come in many different flavors, like strawberry, blueberry, raspberry, orange blossom among others. This is served with a steaming cup of English Breakfast Tea.
In England, this meal is often eaten between 3pm – 4pm as a snack before the evening meal.
It’s also the perfect way to enjoy some downtime in a quaint country village or even a big city like London or Cambridge.
While the English cream tea is a staple of British culture, it has been largely overlooked by travelers. This would be an unforgivable mistake to make during your next trip to the UK.
Related Article: Consider these Self-Guided Walking Tours in the UK when you visit.
Darjeeling Tea in India
Darjeeling tea is famous amongst connoisseurs and avid tea-drinkers across the world for its aroma and taste.
It is made from Camellia sinensis, a fast-growing tea shrub grown and processed in the Darjeeling districts in West Bengal, India.
Darjeeling Tea can be grown or manufactured in Darjeeling areas only; nowhere else in the world.
The tea leaves are harvested between March to November by plucking the top two leaves and the bud.
It is light to medium-bodied in taste with fruity and floral notes, and a little touch of briskness.
Darjeeling tea is unique because its leaves can be processed to make black, green, white, or oolong tea.
Darjeeling Tea possesses a flavor and quality which distinguishes it from other teas. You’ll discover a rare charm in the taste of Darjeeling Tea that makes it irresistible.
The delicate flavor of the tea can best be enjoyed sans milk and sugar.
Darjeeling Tea Attributes: The Darjeeling tea when brewed, gives a rich amber color and has a remarkable degree of visual brightness. The nuances are what mark the Darjeeling tea – mellow, smooth, round, delicate, mature, sweet, lively, fruity, and citrus flavors to its prized muscatel which has sweet-tasting notes.
Here’s how to make a good cup of Darjeeling tea:
- Warm the cup by rinsing it with hot water.
- Put the infuser with a tablespoon of loose tea into the cup.
- Pour freshly heated water into the cup.
- Steep for 3 minutes. Re-steep for another 5 minutes if you want it stronger.
- Remove the infuser.
Your world-famous darjeeling tea is ready!
TIP: You can get some loose Darjeeling tea for your pantry here.
Dragon Well Green Tea from Hangzhou, China
By De Wet & Jin of Museum of Wander | Facebook
People have been drinking tea in China for thousands of years. Tea in China can be classified into six categories:
Of these, green tea is the most popular.
The most famous and sought-after Green Tea in China comes from the cool hills surrounding West Lake in Hangzhou.
The Dragon Well tea plantation is home to the finest green tea in China, and is officially amongst the top ten teas of China.
Dragon Well green tea, characterized by its pale green color, mellow taste, and subtle aroma is enjoyed throughout the day, as it’s believed to refresh the mind, and also aids in weight loss.
To brew the perfect cup of Dragon Well green tea:
- Prewarm a glass cup by washing it out with boiling water.
- Add a teaspoon of loose green tea leaves to the pre-warmed glass and smell that wonderful aroma.
- Then fill the cup about a quarter full, give it a few swirls and then throw out the water. Don’t drink this, as this first step is to wash the tea leaves.
- Now fill the cup to the top, wait about three minutes for the leaves to float around and release their magic.
- Then enjoy the best cup of green in tea any mortal could wish for!
This brewing process can be repeated three or four times, and each brew will have a slightly different taste.
Fruchttee from Germany
By LeAnna Brown of Wander In Germany | Instagram
When most people think of beverages in Germany, they automatically think of one particular thirst quencher.
But the truth is, there are so many different drinks in Germany other than beer! In fact, tea is a highly consumed beverage.
While tea is drunk regularly throughout Germany, in the Ostfriesland (East Frisia) region of the country, more tea than liquid bread is drunk!
One of the most popular teas in Germany is the Fruchttee, or “Fruit Tea.”
Despite these warm or chilled drinks being called a “tea” they are actually an “infusion” since the traditional steps of tea making are not used.
There are no cut up leaves, fermenting, etc that you might find in a traditional style of tea. Instead, cut up, dried or fresh fruit is infused into the hot water to create a refreshing drink.
There is also no caffeine or stimulating effects from the tea, making it a very popular drink in Germany in the evenings or after Sauna sessions, which are also extremely popular!
The point of a fruit tea is more for a refreshing, relaxing drink rather than for a stimulating effect.
Some of the most popular fruit teas in Germany are apple, hibiscus, and general fruit blends.
And while you can obviously make a fruit infused tea yourself with fresh fruit, just buying a tea bag ready to dip into the hot water is the most common (and easiest!) way the Germans prepare it.
In fact, you can sample the apple flavored fruchtee shown by clicking here.
Ivan-Chai in Russian
By Tatiana at Family Road Trip Guru | Instagram
Russia has had a long standing tea drinking tradition centuries before black tea was introduced in Europe.
Russian teas have always been herbal teas known for their medicinal properties.
The most famous of them all is Ivan-Chai, a tea made from the leaves of a beautiful tall pink wildflower called “Fireweed” that is widespread in Russia.
The flower got such a name because it often grows on the land scorched by wildfires.
Ivan-Chai has a hint of an acidic flavor because it has tons of vitamin C – in fact, three times more than vitamin content in citrus fruits!
This tea is well-known for its strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Typically no sugar, milk, or any other ingredients are added into this drink besides the tea leaves.
But Russian tea tradition is not only about what you drink but how you drink it.
Russia is the only country in the world that has a device designed specifically for tea making – Samovar.
The old fashioned models don’t need a stove or any external heat source: the fire is burning in an inside compartment of the samovar that heats the water on top of it.
The samovar has a faucet that you turn to get hot water out into a cup.
Modern samovars are smaller in size and are plugged into an electrical outlet and serve as fancy electrical tea pots.
But some of the traditional samovars like this one are truly works of art.
Japanese Tea Ceremony
Shobha George at Just Go Paces | Twitter
The Japanese tea ceremony is a formal occasion done in stillness and quiet in accordance with its Zen Buddhist origins.
The ceremony usually takes place in a small room with visitors kneeling on cushions on tatami mats.
The whole ceremony is done slowly and deliberately and can take up to 4 hours. It’s almost a religious ceremony that is supposed to promote harmony and well-being.
The person serving the tea has spent years mastering the art of the tea ceremony, which is very particular and complicated.
Each ceremony is geared towards the individuals involved, therefore no ceremony is ever exactly the same.
For example, the server picks the beautiful ceramic cups to match the personality of the individuals attending a particular ceremony.
The green tea served has been ground to a fine powder and tastes bitter. The host also serves small Japanese sweet cakes made from bean paste to temper the bitterness of the tea.
From the Author: Although I have been lucky enough to be part of a traditional tea ceremony in Japan while living there, we did not enjoy a tea ceremony when we visited Japan as a family. There was no way my fidgety kids would sit through a traditional Japanese tea ceremony which is why the Japanese tea garden in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge was perfect for us. It was a beautiful Japanese garden that served Japanese tea and the sweet cakes but without the attendant cultural ceremony.
Longjing Tea, China
By Steve Rohan of chinatravelsite.com | Facebook
Longjing Tea, also known as Dragon Well Tea, is a type of green tea grown in Longjing Village near Hangzhou in China.
The tea from this area has been grown for over 1,200 years and is known as China’s most famous drink.
Due to the climate in the mountains around Hangzhou, the soil is perfect for this particular variety of green tea bush. The abundant rain and low levels of solar radiation give the tea its unique, delicate flavor.
You’ll hear many legends surrounding Longjing Tea; one of which is that Emperor Kangxi of the Qing Dynasty (1644 to 1912) was so impressed with the tea when visiting Longjing that he granted the 18 bushes in front of him imperial status.
These 18 bushes are still producing tea today and it sells for a higher price per gram than gold!
As Longjing is a green tea, it is brewed with just the pan-roasted tea leaves and hot water.
As with most green teas, boiling water should not be used as this will ruin the delicate taste. Instead, allow the water to cool for five minutes so it is at around 176°F (80°C) before adding to the leaves.
The best time to drink Longjing Tea is in April and May after the leaves have just been picked. If visiting Hangzhou, the tea is readily available everywhere from upmarket tea shops, to street sellers.
This popular tea is also available in supermarkets around the world. Click here to buy some loose leaf Longjing Tea online.
Malotira Mountain Tea in Crete, Greece
By Gabi Ancarola from The Tiny Book Crete Travel Blog | Facebook
Greece is known for its wonderful beaches, its pristine islands… and locals for their love for coffee!
However, not everything is about coffee when it comes to Crete!
Greece’s biggest island, Crete, enjoys a unique climate and its geography is made not only of unique beaches but also of very high mountain ranges.
There, all kinds of herbs and bushes grow and fill the atmosphere with stunning fragrances almost all year round. One of these herbs makes one of Crete’s most favorite teas.
Malotira, which goes with the scientific name of Sideritis Syriaca, grows in different European countries. However, there’s a white variety of Malotira that grows exclusively on Crete.
This whitish variety is specially abundant on the high slopes of the White Mountains, in the region of Chania. It is a very popular medicinal tea locally known as Mountain Tea (or tchai tou vouno, in Greek).
Not only Malotira is known for its unique properties, but also because it makes a delicious drink, both for winter and summer.
In winter, it’s accompanied by local thyme honey and cinnamon. In summer, it’s commonly drunk cold, sometimes combined with other local herbs too!
If you want to try making it for yourself at home, you can pick up a pack of authentic Malotira Tea here.
Locals believe that Malotira can help you heal your from everything… from the most common seasonal flu to even protect you from UV sunburn and general skin diseases caused by over-exposure to the sun – which on the island can be really strong during the high season!
Some Cretans love to cut a mature fig from a tree, infuse it in the hot tea, then let everything cool down.
After a while, they enjoy the glass of cold tea while eating the fragrant, succulent fruit. This way, they can enjoy all the delicious properties and the explosion of tastes.
Indeed, Mountain Tea is one of the drinks you should definitely try on the island if you want to sample some of the most authentic tastes of Crete.
Related Post: Click here to learn more about planning your trip to Greece.
Masala Chai from India
While chai is a Chinese word derived from the word Cha, the practice of drinking tea has been invented in the ancient India as part of Ayurvedic practices.
And Masala Chai’s history is no different.
It began thousands of years ago and was named as Kashaayam in Ayurveda, a watery decoction with mix of herbs and spices that used to treat cough, cold and indigestion.
King Harshavardhana (a powerful ruler in 7th century) used to enjoy this drink, and there are records of this drink being served to guests.
However, the tea had gone through a lot of version over centuries.
Tea leaves were added circa 1830s by the British and in the early 1900s milk got added to it, thus rounding it to what we drink today.
Still, Masala Chai as it stands today may vary from region to region and house to house.
It is made with freshly ground spices that include any of the following:
- Star anise
- Fennel seeds
- Black pepper
The most common ingredients are cardamon, cinnamon, cloves and ginger; the first three to induce flavor, and ginger for spiciness.
The ingredients are brewed in water along with:
- 1 teaspoon of tea leaves
- 2 teaspoon sugar
- Half cup of whole milk
They are boiled together for few minutes, then strained and served piping hot.
A visit to India is almost incomplete without having the kadak (hot) Masala Chai from the roadside Chaiwala.
Or, if you want to try it at home as quickly and easily as possible, you can order these Masala Chai tea bags to get started.
Matcha Tea in Japan
While the origins of matcha can be traced back to China well over 1,000 years ago, this incredibly popular green tea has become synonymous with Japan in recent times.
Unlike most other green teas, you enjoy matcha tea by directly dissolving matcha powder (like this) into hot water and then mixing it fairly violently with a bamboo whisk (known as a chasen in Japanese) until any lumps of powder are gone and a nice, smooth foam forms on the surface.
All of this is done in an open, handle-less teacup known as a chawan.
When you go to drink matcha, you pick up the teacup and place it in the palm of one hand. Then, you rotate the cup twice and drink directly from it.
It is common to enjoy matcha tea with some traditional sweets, such as manju (red beans encased in a flour or rice based layer), or warabi mochi (starch cubes coated in toasted soybean flour).
Matcha tea can be enjoyed at any time, although to get the best experience, you will want to drink it in a traditional teahouse, commonly found on the grounds of a castle, temple or shrine in Japan.
If you have ever been to Japan you will know that matcha is now often mixed into a variety of foods to add a vivid green color and a bitterness that pleasantly offsets the sweetness of many desserts.
If the tea itself is too bitter for you, try some matcha ice-cream to get a sense of the flavor without the bitterness!
You can get started with this Traditional Matcha Starter Kit, which contains everything you need to make your own delicious matcha tea.
Mate in Argentina
By Daniel James of Layer Culture | Instagram
One of the tea traditions in the world that you may have not heard about is the Mate tradition in Argentina which is prevalent in the country from north to south.
Mate, also know as Yerba Mate, is a caffeine-infused tea drink that consists of finely chopped leaves that are infused with hot water.
The drink was founded by the native Guarani tribe in South America and was eventually adopted by cowboys also known as gauchos who then brought the Mate drinking tradition to the masses.
Today, no matter where you go in Argentina, you are likely to see a Mate either been drunk by someone, or, a thermos flask being carried by someone on their way to drink Mate.
It is common to share the drink amongst friends. Similar to green tea, it has a very earthy and sometimes bitter flavor.
Many Mate drinkers sprinkle sugar on the top of the leaves to achieve the desired sweetness from the drink.
Mate has many health benefits and with its antioxidant properties, you can quickly see why the Argentines would want to drink it on a daily basis.
The correct way to drink it is through a straw, known as a bombilla and its stimulating effects make it a morning drink of choice for many.
Milk Tea in Hong Kong
By Constance of The Adventures of Panda Bear | Instagram
Though it sounds like a simple drink made of black tea and milk, Hong Kong style milk tea is one of the most famous aspects of Hong Kong local cuisine especially that of cha chaan teng or dai pai dong eateries.
Hong Kong milk tea can be made differently depending upon the cafe. The recipes are usually proprietary and are a family secret.
However, it is well known that it is a blend of Ceylon Tea Leaves with a mixture of other types of black tea, sugar, and evaporated or condensed milk.
The tea is typically thickened by pulling it using the “silk stocking method.”
Note that silk stockings are not actually used to make the tea, but it is named such due to the fine mesh filter that gets dyed shades of brown similar to a silk stocking by the tannins in the tea leaves.
The drink can be served hot or cold, either over ice or in a bed of ice.
The ice bath method is typically used to cool down the tea without diluting its rich flavor or compromising its thick, yet silky texture.
Milk tea is usually served at all times of the day, you can have it at breakfast for a “wake me up” dose of caffeine, or during lunch or in the afternoon as a pick me up.
Like Americans and their coffee, Hong Kongers love their milk tea throughout the day.
Mint Tea in Morocco
By Lavina Dsouza at Continent Hop | Instagram
When one thinks of Morocco, the first thing they think of when it comes to drinks is tea.
The mint tea here is very sweet and popular!
It isn’t illegal to have alcohol and it is served in most restaurants and bars. Once your meal is complete, it is usually followed by freshly brewed mint tea served in tiny tea glasses.
Mint tea is synonymous with hospitality in Morocco and is served at almost all social gatherings and festivities, where it is almost a ritual to brew it. It is made and served fresh throughout the day and sometimes many people have multiple glasses!
No matter where you stay in Morocco, be it Marrakech or Chefchaouen, you will possibly be served freshly brewed mint tea by your host.
The tea is usually brewed by the men in the family as the cooking is handled traditionally by the women.
Here’s how it’s made:
- Tea leaves are added to hot water and boiled for a while.
- Sugar and mint leaves are added to the brew and left t boil a little more.
- The brew is then strained and served in glasses, and mint leaves could be added on the side while being served as well.
What makes the process unique is that the tea has to be poured into the glass from at least a height of 12 inches so that it creates some foam at the top of the glass. If it doesn’t, it means the tea isn’t ready and needs to be boiled for longer.
The process is then repeated and tea is served from a height again till foam forms at the top.
Doesn’t that sound fun to make? To try this for yourself at home, you can get some loose leaf mint tea here.
Planinski čaj from Slovenia
by Helene of Wandering Helene | Twitter
Planinski čaj, known in English as Mountain Tea, is a Slovenian herbal tea that is often consumed when at mountain huts after a day of hiking or skiing, or in the home when you are feeling under the weather.
The original recipe had nine ingredients, but some have since been removed due to medicinal laws. The typical composition of planinski čaj are:
- Blackberry leaves
- Blackthorn fruits
- Linden flowers
- Rowan berries
Sometimes you can find sunflower petals, strawberry leaves, or ranjak flowers in loose-leaf varieties.
What is interesting about planinski čaj is that it is called mountain tea, but the ingredients are typically found in valleys.
When the tea was created over 50 years ago they had a marketing problem for introducing this new variety. The company decided to associate the tea with skiing and alpine activities. Today, it is always served at mountain huts and is the perfect companion on a cold day.
To prepare a proper cup of planinski čaj:
- Pour hot water over the bag or leaves of tea and allow it to sit for 8 minutes.
- Then add some honey and a squeeze of lemon.
You will be transported to the Alps sipping the sweet and aromatic tea from the land of Slovenia.
Rooibos Tea, South Africa
By Lee from The Travel Scribes | Facebook
Best-known for its lip-smacking white wines and sparkling diamonds, the ‘rainbow nation’ of South Africa also boasts another huge global export: Rooibos Tea.
This palate-pleasing tea means ‘red bush’ in one of the local languages, Afrikaans, a nod towards the red-tinted plant that is endemic only to a small part of South Africa, the Cederberg near Cape Town.
It’s origins are relatively unknown.
Some say it descended from the local San and Khoi people, who might have brewed it for medicinal use.
Others believe that it was only made in colonial times.
But, regardless of the heritage, rooibos tea has been popular in South Africa for decades, although it only found its international appeal in the 2000s.
The tea, which is made by cutting the leaves and stems of the plant, fermenting those pieces and drying them in the sun, has an imitable red-brown colour, which you’ll find in the tea when brewed.
Like Ceylon or black tea, rooibos is easy to brew – just pop in a bag or, if you prefer, infuse rooibos leaves with hot water.
Definitely don’t add milk, sugar or anything to ‘taste’ – the essence of rooibos is in its simplicity.
It’s then time to kick back with your cuppa, which is filled with antioxidants and protective compounds that promote wellbeing; which is why the tea has become a stalwart with the health-conscious over the years.
Not keen on a hot drink? Rooibos makes for a delicious iced tea.
- Just bring some sugar, water, lemon juice and ginger to the boil.
- Add in your tea bags.
- Simmer until reduced.
- Add your ice cubes.
- Garnish and you’ve got a refreshing, relatively healthy cool drink on your hands.
Thai Iced Tea from Thailand
There are so many delicious tea drinks around the world and Thai Iced Tea in Thailand is one of them.
Known in Thailand as Cha Yen, this tasty tea is a combination of strong black tea, condensed milk or sugar, and ice.
Sometimes, additional spices are included such as tamarind, star anise, cinnamon, and cardamom. But, you’ll mostly see it served without additional flavorings.
It tastes refreshing and silky.
It’s rumored that former Thai prime minister and leader, Marshal Plaek Phibunsongkhram, invented Thai iced tea. Then, it became popularized throughout the country through street food.
Today, you can find Thai iced tea all over the world. It doesn’t hold any cultural or traditional significance – but it tastes great!
Thai iced tea isn’t traditionally made at home in Thailand. It’s mostly sold at street food carts or cafes.
It can be served in glasses or plastic bags (a homemade juice pouch where you poke a straw in the middle of the bag).
In the mornings, the tea is served hot and it’s served iced in the warm afternoon.
The tea is made this way:
- Steep the tea in boiling hot water for at least five minutes.
- Then, strain the tea.
- Add the sugar or sweetened condensed milk.
- Pour the tea over ice.
- Add a dollop of evaporated milk to the top.
You’re probably wondering where the tea gets its orange color. It’s just food coloring.
Yorkshire Tea – UK
Everyone knows that England is a nation of tea-lovers. But did you know that there are many different types of tea in England?
Yorkshire tea is one of the many varieties of tea favored by the English.
For those of you not familiar with England, Yorkshire is a country in the north of the country.
Not only is Yorkshire tea blended in the region (Harrogate to be exact), but the marketing is also very ‘Yorkshire’.
The local dialect is depicted in all the adverts and you can’t help but look forward to a ‘proper good brew’ of Yorkshire tips.
If you are familiar with the actor Sean Bean or the Game of Thrones, then you will know what I mean.
Yorkshire tea is a black tea that is most traditionally bought in a tea bag. (You can get some Yorkshire tea bags here.). The leaves themselves come from Assam and East Africa and are rigorously blended and tested before they find end up in the final bag.
Yorkshire tea has a reputation as being a ‘builder’s’ tea, enjoyed with milk (a lot of milk in some cases) and a few sugars.
As such, it is often a tea that is enjoyed from morning to evening, especially if there’s biscuits involved!
Final Thoughts on Tea From Around the World
With this extensive list of tea from around the world, you’ll have a lot of tea tasting to do. Will you be any closer to deciding which is the best tea in the world? That’s hard to say. But in the end, no doubt you’ll be a tea aficionado!
Is coffee more your cup of tea? Continue reading about the best coffee drinks of the world.
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