Aside from the Chinese tradition to serve oolong and pu-erh teas gung fu style, or the Japanese traditional use of Matcha during the tea ceremony, there are many other practices of serving tea. Each culture that has come in touch with tea, not only embraced its wonderful taste, but also created special ways to prepare and serve it. The most well known of these practices is probably the English way of serving afternoon tea which can be enjoyed not only in England but in tea rooms around the world. There are, however, many other practices surrounding tea, some of them very elaborate and others more practical and simplistic:
Tibet – In Tibet, tea is considered a sacred offering and is known as “Bodja”. To make this green, salty tea, a piece of brick is ground up and boiled in hot water for a few minutes. It is then strained into a churn and mixed with yak butter or goat milk before served. (I have to admit, this would not be my “cup of tea”…)
Russia – Russians drink primarily green and black teas and prefer it without adding any milk. Instead of cups, Russians serve tea in a tea glass and take a sugar cube or a spoonful of jam in the mouth before sipping the tea.
Tea is traditionally prepared in a Samovar which is an elegant tea brewer often made of silver or stainless steel and beautifully shaped. In the middle, it consists of a compartment for heating water which can be drawn from a spout. Very strong tea is brewed in a small tea pot which sits on top of the samovar. A small amount of this strong tea is poured into a glass and then diluted with the hot water to taste. The samovar keeps tea hot for hours and is a convenient way to offer tea any time of day.
India – Tea is by far the most popular drink in India and can be bought anywhere from restaurants to street vendors. Indians drink their tea strong with lots of milk and sugar. One traditional way of making tea or “chai” is to boil black tea in milk, adding spices such as cardamom, pepper, ginger and cinnamon.
Iran/Afghanistan – In both countries, tea is considered the national drink. Green and Black are the favored varietals and consumed with lots of sugar. Tea is traditionally served in brightly colored porcelain cups.
Egypt/Morocco – Egyptians and Moroccans alike are avid tea drinkers and like their tea strong and sweet, but without milk.In Morocco, it is the patriarch of the household who pours the tea. He does this by holding a long-spouted pot high above lined up tea glasses as he pours, so that the tea in each glass is slightly frothy. Tea is served with a cookie or small candies.
In Egypt, tea is served on a tray with a glass of water on the side as well as mint leaves which can be chewed or put into the tea for flavoring
While the traditions surrounding the preparation of tea might vary from culture to culture, there is one common idea to all of these practices This idea is to take time out, not only to enjoy a perfect cup of tea, but to take a break from the day’s activities and to simply be!