ISTANBUL: Tea has been part of almost every culture for thousands of years, with every country around the world molding the ceremony of drinking tea with its own culture to create unique and beloved experiences for all to enjoy and revel at
Tea has become a traditional beverage in most cultures throughout history. However, the way tea is brewed, presented and consumed varies from region to region and even city to city worldwide.
Considering the cultural differences, it is natural that tea, whose varieties and flavors vary according to the climate, soil quality and altitude where it is grown, shows this wide range of differences.
Today I would like to talk about the tea cultures of some nations.
Various techniques and different types of tea have been developed for tea making over the centuries. The most familiar of these include black tea, white tea and green tea all of which have been transformed into different flavors with different methods.
After a long and laborious process from collecting the leaves to drying, the tea that comes to our tables has taken its current form with various researches – and partly the advancement of technology – made to better understand the taste of small details such as the temperature of the water while brewing and the shape of the glass chosen while being served.
Tea is usually consumed at social events, and some tea cultures, such as British afternoon tea, Indian tea culture, and Japanese tea ceremony, are widely known. However, there are some rituals for this delicious drink, which are both very simple and require a lot of care, so let’s take a look at a few of them together.
Turkish tea is an important part of the country’s cuisine and is the most commonly consumed hot drink, despite the country’s long history of coffee consumption. Türkiye is one of the largest tea markets in the world. Throughout the years, Türkiye has had moments where it had the highest per capita consumption of tea in the world at 2.7 kilograms (6 pounds). Tea is grown mostly in Türkiye’s Rize on the Black Sea coast.
Tea is not served as ceremonial as in eastern societies in Türkiye, but rather a simple process of daily life. During the service, it is first brewed, then water is poured into small glass cups called tea glasses, and sugar is added last. The brew rate is adjusted according to the request of the person during the service. In Turkish tea service, sliced lemon is also added to the tea according to your taste.
There are regional differences regarding the service of tea. For example, a gap called “lip gap” is left on the tea glass in the Tokat region. Around Erzurum, the leaves are filled from a teapot without filtering, and it is usually served light-colored and without a spoon, and you put small pieces of sugar into your mouth rather than into the tea and the sugar melts as you drink the tea. This method is called “kıtlama.”
Family or friend gatherings are usually crowded in Türkiye. For this reason, a tray is used when tea is served to a large number of people. Depending on whether it is a special time or an ordinary meeting, these trays differ in their designs and materials. In very important meetings, for example, when families gather for a wedding, tea is served on special silver trays and in small thin-waisted tea glasses.
Wooden or plastic trays can be used in friend meetings. According to the formality of the meeting where the service is held, the behavior of the person serving becomes more polite. Tea service is as important as presenting coffee to the bride-to-be who serves tea at the family gathering before a wedding.
The people who serve tea are generally women in Turkish families. The person who prepares and serves the tea can be a different person. Tea usually comes with snacks.
Tea makers or service personnel working in teahouses or tea gardens have special trays. A lid is placed on this special tea tray if tea is served outside the venue or in cold weather.
Afternoon tea in the United Kingdom is traditional as a light meal consumed between 3 and 5 p.m. Light tea is served in a teapot with milk and sugar. This is accompanied by a variety of sandwiches and cakes.
It is customary for the host to offer tea to the guests. It is generally consumed in cafes or tea rooms both at home and outside the home. Around 63% of people in the U.K. drink tea every day.
Indian tea culture
The most popular hot beverage in India is tea. It is consumed daily in almost all homes and served to guests. It is served with milk in addition to spices such as cardamom and ginger and is often sweetened. It can be served with sweet biscuits or savory items.
Tea in Iran
Tea houses are ubiquitous in Iran, which is one of the countries with a high per capita tea consumption in the world, and it is mostly grown on the Caspian Sea coast of northern Iran due to the suitable climate.
As an alternative to coffee, in Italy, tea is usually served at breakfast or consumed at 5 p.m. with biscuits and cakes. In the country, this afternoon meal is called “Merenda.” Italians usually drink tea without milk but with lemon and sugar.
The tea culture in China has been a source of influence on the neighboring east Asian countries such as Japan and Korea’s tea habits since ancient and medieval times, and each country has historically developed a slightly different tea ceremony. Besides being a popular beverage, tea is used as an integral ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine and Chinese cuisine. The Chinese emphasize the harmony between man and nature while drinking tea.
There are rules for drinking tea, such as the availability of time and environment and not being busy. “The fewer guests when drinking tea, the better. A crowd of guests is noisy, and noise detracts from the elegance of the occasion. Drinking tea alone is serenity, with two guests is superior, with three or four is interesting, with five or six is extensive, and with seven or eight is an imposition.”
Across the globe, almost every country has its own unique spin on tea. In the United States, 80% of tea is consumed as iced tea. Salty and buttery Tibetan tea is consumed in the northern regions of Pakistan. Russia has a long and rich history of tea; traditionally, meetings would be incomplete without tea brewed in a samovar.