Chai. Sigh. The word itself brings in this warm feeling of comfort. The sweet milk-tea (often with an infused aroma of cardamom or a hit of ginger) is popular along the entire Indian subcontinent. While we Indians have our specific way(s) of preparing and serving chai, people around the world too have their own tea quirks.
Po cha, the traditional Tibetan tea, is dense black tea that has been boiled for hours. To that milk, salt, and yak butter are added, and the mixture is then churned together. This blend, with a soup-like consistency, though heavy, warms the souls of the drinkers, in the high-altitude and cold climates.
When someone mentions tea in Japan, without specifying the type, it always indicates to the Matcha, a type of powdered green tea. The Japanese follow a highly detailed tea ceremony which includes everything from the preparation of the home to how guests are invited to it, the order in which utensils are brought into the room, the cleaning and warming of these tools, the actual brewing, and the cleanup.
Touareg tea, or Moroccan mint (green) tea is literally the heart of the Moroccan culture. It is linked to the act of hospitality, with the mint tea being served to guests three times a day, where each glass means three different things, as indicated by the proverb, “The first glass is as gentle as life, the second is as strong as love, the third is as bitter as death.” Refusing any one of these servings is considered extremely rude.
Thai iced tea or Cha Yen is a blend of Ceylon or Assam tea with sugar, condensed milk, and spices like star anise, tamarind, and orange blossom, served over ice, usually in a tall glass. It’s variations can include topping it off with evaporated milk, to create that perfect sweet and spicy treat. Sometimes, even tapioca balls are added. It’s comparatively high in calories but incredibly refreshing on hot days and complements the culture’s spicy cuisine well.
Though a major producer of tea, the more popular drink is Mate, which, though technically isn’t tea, is brewed in a similar fashion as tea, only leaves of another local plant, Yerba mate, is used. It’s the national drink of Argentina and you can find it’s residents drinking it throughout the day.
Like Japan, in China too, intricate tea ceremonies are embedded in their tradition. Due to the varying geography of the country, one can find various types of tea. The Chinese drink tea throughout the day, even as an substitute for plain water.
Noon Chai, popularly served during special occasions in Pakistani homes, is also an element of Kashmiri culture. It is a special blend of pistachios, almonds, salt, milk, and spices like cardamom, cinnamon, and star anise in tea. The signature pink colour is due to the addition of a bit of baking soda. It is enjoyed with speciality pastries of the region.
Iran embraced tea in full totality only in the 20th century when it began growing it’s own black tea. Iranians use tea as a welcome drink to be serve to their guests on a silver plate, accompanied by a yellow rock candy called nabat or sugar cubes. They serve their tea very strong and instead of adding sugar to counter the bitterness, it is encouraged that you place a sugar cube between your front teeth, and suck the brew through it.
Even though the method of preparation varies widely, tea can be broadly divided into six basic categories: black, dark, oolong, green, and white.