It is the cup that cheers and it is also the cup that is laden with ceremony and charm. Tea, the much loved beverage across the world, is so special that each country has its own tea traditions that have been handed down through generations and followed to the letter. From using special types of tea leaves to using unique ways of brewing or following simple ceremonies while serving or sipping the beverage – there are so many ways that a simple cup of tea showcases the history of a certain part of the world.
What are some of these tea traditions? Check out this compilation of the finest ceremonies in the world to understand the beverage and appreciate the richness of its culture ….
From Russia, with love
In Russia, the samovar, a highly decorated tea urn, is the centrepiece of any household. The inside chamber of this urn is heated with coals to keep the water in the outer chamber hot all day long. A small teapot is placed on top of this samovar, containing a strongly brewed concentrate of tea called zavarka. Tea can be prepared at any time of the day by diluting the strong concentrate with hot water from a spigot on the samovar. The preparation of this tea soon became a symbol of Russian hospitality and company, and is even mentioned in the great classics by Tolstoy and Dostoyevesky as an important tea tradition of Russian homes.
The British cuppa
Tea time is an important feature of the British and there are many variations, like low tea or afternoon tea or high tea which is later in the evening. Britain’s relationship with tea goes back to the days of the British Empire. The English aristocracy used to go for afternoon tea in special attire and drink tea that was served on coffee tables. The tea that was used was either Earl Grey or English breakfast tea.
Dainty sandwiches and tiny cakes were also served. Middle class folk, however, usually enjoyed a high tea which was a very substantial meal. To experience the beauty of the tradition of British afternoon tea, people often visit the Orangery at Kensington Palace. This special tea ceremony comes with an assortment of mini sandwiches, cakes, pastries and scones served with jam and cream. The tea is served on a lovely China tea set and one pot of tea serves three guests. There are a wide variety of teas to choose from at the Orangery.
Chinese tea, anyone?
The Chinese tea ceremony, also called the Gongfu ceremony, is a beautiful ritualized presentation and preparation of tea. Oolong teas are the primary teas used but other loose leaf teas are also acceptable. It is usually characterised by multiple infusions of the same tea in a small teapot. The Gong fu tea ceremony is an art, and requires both dedication and skill to create and present the tea in the right way. The process usually involves a ceremonial preparation and presentation of the tea leaves in half a dozen clay tea pots and then pouring out the tea in cups that are served in a bamboo
The process involves using clean, fresh water and a lovely clay teapot. Yixing teapots are the most preferred traditionally. Bamboo tools are used so that the fingers will not touch the tea leaves and destroy the magnificent scent of the brew. The other tools that are used include tongs, a tea needle to scrape tea leaves from the teapot spout and a perforated wooden tray.
All the utensils for the ceremony are set out before the brewing of the tea begins. Spring water is heated in the teapot. The guests are allowed to inhale the scent of the tea leaves that are offered to them in an open bowl. The brewing process is also very special and guests are allowed to enjoy each stage reverently. When the tea is ready the guest must hold the saucer with both hands, and then choose a cup of tea after admiring the colour and fragrance of the brew. When they have finished drinking the tea, it will be poured out again for them as three or four infusions are possible with the same tea leaves in the teapot. No snacks are usually served during this ceremony but in some places, the guests are offered dim sum or other light snacks that they can enjoy with their tea.
Whatever tea tradition, you would like to enjoy, it would be best to enjoy various tea rituals in the country where they originated. Only then, can you begin to understand the complexity and beauty of these wonderful tea traditions that have found a place in world even till today.