Tea is more than a drink. For some cultures, it’s a way of life: a way to connect to others, relax after long days, celebrate spirituality and peace—it’s a universal tie to the human experience. Almost every culture on the planet has tea of some sort, with each variety integral to their traditions in some way. This is just a brief snapshot of 5 different tea cultures around the world:
Known as the birthplace of tea—albeit disputed by other nations—China’s tea culture is full of rich history and traditions. The Chinese Tea Ceremony, or “Cha Dao,” is a method of tea preparation and enjoyment that is linked to Taoist philosophy. China is famous for oolong, jasmine, and gunpowder tea, among many other varieties.
Japan is known for matcha—finely ground green tea leaves popularized through lattes, Starbucks, and its elegant, earthly flavor. But Japan’s tea culture is far deeper than one variety, centering on both the taste, quality, and aesthetics of presentation. Its “Chado,” or way of tea, is an elaborate process of preparing and serving tea to guests that emphasizes purity, peace, humility, and spirituality.
Afternoon tea is a quintessential British tradition. Also called high tea, the Brits enjoy this meal in the late afternoon at high tables—hence the name. A true afternoon tea consists of freshly steeped teas with milk and sugar, elegant sandwiches, scones, and small cakes. Beyond afternoon tea, the English drink tea with everything, on every occasion, with several tea-breaks in a single day to sit back and enjoy a cuppa.
When you think of tea in India, you’re most likely thinking of chai, or black tea spiced with cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, and more. Chai is the most recognizable tea in India for good reason: it’s India’s national drink, a cornerstone of socializing, discussion, and vibrant communities at chaiwallahs, or chai vendors.
In Morocco, tea represents hospitality and friendship to family and guests alike. Hosts prepare mixtures of green and mint tea and serve it in a theatrical, precise ceremony called atai. The tea is then drunk quickly; refusal is a sign of rudeness (in other words, tea is a sign of civilized society, which this author couldn’t agree more with).
Photo Credit: Cassidy Cheng