Tea Cultures And Traditions Around The World

7 Tea Cultures And Traditions Around The World

Paint With Teas

It’s intriguing to learn how other countries enjoy tea. For some, tea serves as a vessel for self-reflection and reaching deep within one’s self to be at peace. For other cultures, tea is the link that forms societal connections. What can we take away from learning more about the deep connections tea forms?

What Cultures Drink Tea?

Who doesn’t drink tea? Most of us assume tea drinking is present in every corner of the world. But there are some cultures that drink MORE tea while others drink NO tea. Before we take off and look at tea-drinking cultures, we start right here in the U.S.

Those Who May Not Drink Tea

Believe it or not, there are people who don’t drink tea because of religious reasons, medical reasons, or they just don’t like tea. Mormons (Latter-Day Saints) don’t drink tea because of the Mormon health code outlined in the “Word of Wisdom: D&C 89:9” that serves as a guide for Mormon living.

Some people may not drink tea because it hasn’t been processed a certain way, such as the Jewish. They only drink kosher teas. Some do not drink tea during religious events such Muslims who do not drink tea during Ramadan.

So, we know there are people out there who don’t drink tea for specific reasons, but what about those who do? Who drinks the most?

Let’s tip the teacup and dive in to see where tea ranks in various countries.

A Glimpse Into Global Tea Consumption

To give you an idea of just how much tea is consumed globally, we have a few numbers to tickle your curiosity. According to Statista, in 2012, tea consumption was about 5 million kilograms of tea (equivalent to nearly 5,500 tons or 16.5 Boeing 747 airplanes.) Fast forward to 2020; tea consumption was about 6 million kilograms of tea (equivalent to about 7 tons or 7 huge cargo ships.)

So, over the past eight years, tea consumption increased by about 24%. That’s a LOT of tea. Tea growers bear the weight of the world on their shoulders in trying to produce enough tea to meet demand.

What Culture Drinks The Most Tea?

We were unable to find any evidence-based data on what countries are the top tea-consumers after 2016. A Statista infographic lists 54 countries in order of consumption per capita for 2016. What we discover may surprise you!

Turkey came in first as the leading tea-totaling country, with Ireland being second and the U.K. being third. China ranked in 19th place, whereas the U.S. was 34th.

What Is The Cultural Significance Of Tea?

In some cultures, tea is more than a beverage but a way of life. Tea holds unique importance that may differ between countries. What tea may hold in significance with one culture may be completely different in other cultures.

What Are Some Rituals Or Traditions Associated With Tea?

For some countries, tea time has age-old traditions and rituals that are still practiced today. Some cultures have an unspoken expectation in etiquette. Teaware sets the centerpiece for tea and tea rituals. Confections or foods accompany tea time or are served with tea at specific times.

What Is A Tea Ritual?

Tea rituals are symbiotic with ancient tea ceremonies. Some are formal and may be rote, while others are a bit more casual. Tea ceremonies have long been practiced in East Asia. The act of preparing and serving tea is steeped in tradition that encourages mindfulness and being present in the moment. Most other countries don’t practice tea rituals.

Teatime Tradition By Country

Now we break down how specific cultures prepare, serve, and enjoy tea. Some simply drink their tea without giving it a second thought, while others celebrate in the art of making tea.

China

The tea culture in China is built around thousands of years of ceremonial practice. Generations pass down the teachings on how tea is to be served. The Chinese tea ceremony is based on experiencing a sense of peacefulness with every intentional movement during the tea preparation, how it’s served and consumed.

In China, ceremonial tea reveals the true person; this is known as “The Way of Tea.” Tea ceremonies are taken very seriously, and those present are expected to be open to the moment with purity of heart and mind while being at peace.

There are several different Chinese tea ceremonies, each being very structured. One notable ceremony is “Gongfu.” Everything from the arrangement of teaware to strict steps in how everything is done is truly an art. It begins with tea leaves being passed around for guests to inhale the aroma and appreciate its appearance. This is more of an act of gratitude for what nature provides us.

A few common Chinese teas worth trying: pu-erh tea, dragonwell

Pu-erh Tea
Dragonwell Green Tea

Japan

Japan has several tea ceremonies, just as China does. The art of tea being prepared and served in a Japanese tea ceremony is very graceful and zen-like. Self-discipline is the center of these rituals, and those visually taking in the ceremony are met with utter peace and self-reflection.

Those who serve a ceremonial tea have either attended a special school or learned the skill from their ancestors. When attending this tea ritual, you can expect it to last several hours. It is a very dignified event, and as such, guests are expected to dress and act appropriately (modest clothing, no jewelry, no strong fragrances, no loudness or boisterous behavior.)

Tea is served in a tea room which is minimal in decor and has tatami flooring (straw matted floor.) Any type of footwear is not allowed in this room. Most tea rooms either have a view or an opening where a tranquil garden adds to the ambiance.

Guests sit on bent knees with the palms of their hands down. The host begins preparing the tea. A tea bowl is placed in front of the guests, which they pick up with their right hand. The tea bowl is placed into the left palm and turned 90 degrees. A few sips of the tea are taken, and the tea bowl gets placed back down and is turned to face the host.

A few common Japanese teas worth trying: genmaicha, bancha

Genmaicha Green Tea

Taiwan

Japanese and Chinese ceremonial tea rituals greatly influence Taiwan’s tea culture. While Taiwanese practice these similar rituals, tea is somewhat more casual. One of the world’s trending tea drinks was invented in Taiwan.

Bubble (boba) tea is the brainchild of a tea maker who devised a sugar-ladened tea with tapioca pearls. This tea’s base is a milk product. True teas (black, green, oolong, yellow, white) may be added or herbal concoctions such as taro, hibiscus, etc. Fruits, brown sugar, jellies, and toppings finish it off. A large hollow straw is inserted so drinkers can enjoy a sip that includes both liquid and tapioca pearls.

Bubble tea is found all over Taiwan, where street vendors sell it  all the way to specialized bubble tea shops, where hundreds of variations are made.

Russia

Russia is known for its high consumption of hot black tea with lemon. Although tea ceremonies are not as prevalent in Russia as in Asia, the Russians hold their tea near and dear to their hearts.

Samovars are often used by Russians to serve large amounts of tea in a ceremonial style. A samovar is a large vessel that holds hot water. At the top of the samovar is where a pot of condensed tea (black tea) rests. The hot water keeps this pot warm. Samovars are also used throughout the Middle East.  Drinkers pour a bit of condensed tea into a teacup and then pour hot water from the samovar into the teacup by way of a nozzle spout on the front of the samovar. Donut-like cookies (sushki) may be strung up on a string and hung on the samovar as a sweet treat to go with tea.

India

India is synonymous with Masala Chai (a spiced tea served on every corner, in homes, and in cafes.) This tea is a favorite across the world, especially as temperatures begin to get a bit chilly. This tea is typically made with Assam (black tea), which is infused with numerous spices (cinnamon, star anise, cardamom, ginger, and cloves.) Milk and sugar are also added.

When visiting India, you can expect to be offered tea just about everywhere you go. Extending tea to guests and visitors is a symbol of hospitality. The tea industry within India is robust. The two main teas cultivated in India include Assam and Darjeeling (black teas.) Assam tea is one of the most common teas consumed throughout the world.

The tea culture in India was introduced by the British while traveling to India. The tea trade also elevated the significance and value of tea both monetarily and health-wise.

India may not have the formality of tea rituals, but the country is steeped in tradition, which is based on hospitality. Being offered tea in India is an ancient tradition of inviting guests to be a part of the rich culture India is known for.

A few common Indian teas worth trying: assam, darjeeling

Queen Assam Black Tea

United Kingdom

The U.K. is perhaps the leading country that is the most passionate about westernized teatime.

A casual cup of tea is often accompanied by a biscuit or two (cookies.) However, should you attend a more formal teatime, you’ll not only find a lovely cup of tea served in aristocratic fashion but you’ll also be met with an unspoken expectation to follow tea etiquette.

Tea is held in high regard here all the way from the Queen to even the most humble household.  Many tea rooms here in the U.S. try to instill the “English” way of tea. A table set for tea is a beautiful thing in the U.K. Everything from fine bone china to the silver teacup strainer and perfectly square sugar cubes is on show for tea drinkers to take in and enjoy.

When tea is served, one must enjoy tea in a particular manner. When having tea, attire should be tasteful and not overly casual. We have some do’s and don’ts when it comes to having tea in the U.K.

Do Not:

  • Slurp the tea
  • Stir the tea in circles
  • Put your pinky up when holding the teacup
  • Call a teacup a mug; it’s a “teacup.”
  • Split the scone open with a knife
  • Enjoy a scone sandwich-style, but rather in halves
  • Add milk first; it should be tea first, then milk.
  • Call it “afternoon/high tea,” in the U.K.; it’s simply referred to as “tea.”

Try our London Tube to experience a true U.K. teatime.

The London Tube Gift Set

Turkey

Now we come to the leading country that consumes the most tea! Turkish culture centers around tea. Tea is the catalyst for expressing hospitality, socializing, doing business, and various activities that bring people together. The Turks are known for drinking tea from sunup to sundown.

As with the U.K.’s “unspoken” tea etiquette, Turkey has its own as well. If you visit Turkey, you should never refuse tea because it is incredibly insulting to the tea culture there and to the person that offered it. Should you partake in tea when you’ve had enough, the polite thing to do is place your spoon on top of your teacup.

Turkish tea is typically a black tea that comes with a cube of beet sugar that is placed on a saucer. Tea drinkers place the sugar cube in between their teeth, and as they sip tea, the tea is sweetened.

Teacups in Turkey are very different compared to the traditional teacup most of us know. Turkish tea is served in Turkish tea glasses, which are tall, slender, and clear. These clear glasses sit inside of a beautiful ornate metal glass holder with a handle.

Just as scones are paired with tea in the U.K., Turks often pair a hookah to smoke while enjoying tea.

The Connection Goes Beyond The Beverage

Tea drinkers here in the U.S. lack tradition-rich tea rituals. Just imagine how much richer that next cup of tea could be if we prepare and enjoy our tea with focused intention. What rituals and traditions would you like to incorporate into your own teatime? We would love to hear what those are.

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