Tea is one of the most widely consumed beverages in the world. It is native to China and comes from the Camellia Sinensis plant whose cultivation gives the varieties of tea classified by their color: green, white, yellow, black, and blue-green. On the other hand, herbal infusions are mixtures of flowers, spices or herbs such as chamomile, lavender or other flavors that we mistakenly call “teas”. Learn about the most traditional and appreciated types of tea from around the world.
Its origin dates from the s. III BC and it was taken to other parts of Asia, along with its cultivation techniques and preparation art, by Buddhist monks. In Russia, it became very popular and soon the British also fell into this euphoria.
As time progressed, each country developed its own iconic methods and flavors. Here we show you some of the most representative.
It is also known as Wu-Long tea and means “black dragon”. Depending on the level of oxidation given to them, they can result in different shades. If low levels of oxidation are applied it will be similar to green tea with floral touches, on the contrary, when the levels are high, it will resemble red tea.
It was first produced about 400 years ago in Fujian province and was originally intended for medicinal use. As the tea boom grew, it became more important in social events, as a gesture of hospitality and little by little, as part of a pre-nuptial ceremony.
The best accessories to make it are a porcelain Gaiwan teacup and a Yi Xing terracotta teapot. You just have to consider that porcelain is a good conductor of heat, so when using it you have to be careful with the way the lid is removed due to its temperature. In China and Taiwan, the most widely used preparation technique is called “Gong Fu Cha” and it is a ritual that expresses the maximum potential of each infusion if it is prepared correctly.
England: Black Tea
Tea arrived in the UK around 1600 to become a British emblem within its culture and cuisine. It is not for less, because being a warm and comforting drink, it is very appropriate in rainy weather.
In England, it is taken almost anytime, but its famous 5 pm tea time should be accompanied by scones, heavy cream, strawberry jam, tea-time sandwiches, cakes, and cookies.
Black tea in Britain should be served in small porcelain cups with handles to protect it from burns. It is usually taken alone or with a couple of sugar cubes and milk.
It is said that the tea plant has been introduced to India by the English to end the Chinese monopoly. Since they inherited various customs from the English, in India it is also customary to have tea time that is taken around 4:00 pm and usually includes small samosas which are small crunchy patties with salty filling or cookies.
For the Indians, tea was discovered by Bodhidharma, a prince who had converted to Buddhism and had traveled to China to spread the doctrine. He had sworn not to sleep in seven years and after the first five, he began to feel fatigued. To avoid breaking his promise, he began to bite the leaves of a bush that filled him with energy. It was the tea leaves.
As in England, Indian people drink tea with milk. Some Indian spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, or black pepper can be added to create a “spiced chai masala”.
Morocco: Mint tea
Again, we will take the British as influencers of a current because, in the middle of the 19th century, they introduced the custom of drinking tea in North Africa because the Crimean War threatened their trade routes with the Slavic countries, and they were forced to seek new markets in this area of Africa.
It soon became popular in Morocco when they mixed their traditional flavors: mint, wormwood, and sage. Its preparation is usually done with Chinese green “pearl tea”, and it is a ritual to celebrate meetings, businesses, special events, family or to receive a guest. Despite the heat, it is consumed hot because in this way the body goes to “room temperature”.
It is served in small glass cups, usually colored. The preparation and the beautiful tools that are used, make this tea a real show. It is served in a metal teapot with precious finishes and is accompanied by typical Arab desserts based on honey, coconut, walnuts, almonds, and sesame seeds.
It is a kind of black tea that is served in a small glass similar to Moroccan but curved like a tulip. It is served with a ceramic mug and a demitasse spoon. In its form, it is also very similar to Moroccan, except that the sugar is served on the side in cubes so that whoever takes it decides how sweet they want it.
In Turkey, it is sold, as in many places in Asia, in tea houses shop, but you can also buy it in street stands.
It is customary to eat with a simit, crusty and soft bread at the same time, with a circular shape and decorated with sesame seeds common in Turkey and Greece.
America: Iced Tea
Tea culture in America prefers cold and with sugar. This variety has taken different forms in history due to changes in its international trade. At first, it was taken with alcohol and over time this element was replaced by iced black tea (they used to be soggy tea bags) and mixed with a lot of sugar.
In the United States, it is very common to hear that a person asks for iced tea to accompany their meals, enjoy a hot day, or as a treat every day.
Russia: tea in Samovar
China imported tea to Russia via caravan routes since 1567, a century before it would reach all of Europe. There, an original method was developed to prepare it in his famous samovar.
Russian tea is prepared very strong, concentrated, and dark. The ratio is half water and half tea leaves. A samovar is a typical appliance that adorns homes and is presented as a symbol of hospitality. The tea concentrate is placed on top of it. So each time it is served, 1 to 2 cm of concentrate is placed in the cup and the rest is hot water.
To sweeten it, it is accompanied by jam, blinis, milk, orange peel, sugar cubes, or candied fruit. The sweet ingredients are held between the teeth to remove the bitterness as the liquid passes into the mouth.
South Africa: Rooibos
Rooibos is not a tea as such as it does not come from the Camellia Sinensis plant, but is an infusion without the stimulating effects of tea but with antioxidant benefits. It is also an energy that does not cause drowsiness, is digestive, isotonic, relieves colic, strengthens teeth and bones, among a few of its advantages.
After World War II the supply of tea fell and to replace it, the English began to consume the rooibos that comes from a bush used by the Khoisan tribe, cultivated by “the oldest men in the world” originating from the mountainous area of Cederberg.
Its use has spread in cooking and mixology with gin or rum. Its use has been unleashed in the best restaurants because with this plant you can marinate, soften meats (red and white) or prepare various savory or sweet dishes.
Whether you prefer green, black, or oolong, all types of tea come from the same plant, Camellia sinensis, which is an excellent source of antioxidants that are very good for your health. If you travel to these countries, don’t miss out on trying the traditional teas from around the world.