UsefulNotes/TeaAndTeaCulture


(permanent link) added: 2011-10-27 12:06:45 sponsor: Elle (last reply: 2011-11-03 08:25:05)

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To get all this info seperate from Spot of Tea so that the Real Life section doesn't overwhelm the page

This is the biggest, most important thing to know: For a black tea, you pour boiling water on tea leaves. That's ninety percent of the art of making a decent cup of tea. (...) It's the final ten percent of the cup of tea that you'll get people calling each other heretics for adding the milk (not cream) first, or whether to use teabags or loose tea and whether burning in effigy or a nice box of chocolates was the correct reward for whoever decided adding bergamot oil to tea was a good thing, or all the other tea things that people like to argue about.

Camilla sinensis - the tea plant. According to legend, discovered in China by the first Emperor who was boiling water in his garden and had some of the leaves fall into it. Or, according to another legend, the first tea plant sprung from the eyelids of Bodhidharma, the monk who brought Buddhism from India to China, who cut them off to prevent himself from falling asleep during a long meditation.

Whatever the true origin, tea came from China and has risen to the status of the second most popular drink in the world. The first is water.

No wonder then, that tea has inspired centuries of myth, legend, folklore, colonization, war, and Internet debates. Whole subcultures around the world have been formed around the "proper" way of preparing and drinking tea. It's very Serious Business.

For all the variety in tea and the ways of serving it, curiously enough, a common theme in many tea cultures is serving tea as a show of hospitality, up to and including Sacred Hospitality. Whether it's iced sweet tea on a porch in Sweet Home Alabama, the complimentary tea served in better Chinese restaurants, the formal structure of a tea ceremony in Japan, or hot cups passed around to those weathering a disaster in London, the acts of pouring and serving tea take on special meaning in the interaction between host and guest.

But first some definitions...

For simplicity's sake, these Useful Notes will limit themselves to dealing with real tea - liquid brewed from the plant Camilla sinensis. Any other brewed drinks that go under the name of "tea", such as herbal tea, are more properly called "infusions" or "tisanes". (This includes the lately-popular "red tea" which is made from the African herb called rooibos and was used as a tea substitute by Dutch colonists there.)

Once you've made that distinction, all varieties of tea come from the same leaf and the difference is in how they are processed.

  • Green tea is minimally heat-treated with steam or hot air to prevent oxidation, then dried, retaining the green color of the leaf. White tea and yellow tea can be considered special subsets of green tea - white is even less processed and uses only the unopened buds and young leaves, yellow is dried more slowly.
  • Black tea is also called "red tea" in Chinese and Chinese-derived languages, not to be confused with the herbal "red tea". it's color comes from a process where the tea leaves are bruised and allowed to fully oxidize before drying, resulting in the dark color, stronger flavor and higher caffeine content. Before modern transport and preservation, this was the only way tea could be shipped long distance, which is why it's most popular outside of China and Japan. Former colonies India and Sri Lanka (Ceylon), the other most famous tea producers, mainly produce black tea.
  • Oolong tea, spelled "wūlóng" in Pinyin, is more oxidized than green but less than black, and can occupy any point along that spectrum. It's the most popular drinking tea in China and Taiwan.
  • Scented tea is tea that has been infused with the scent of aromatics such as jasmine, rose petals or other flowers, in a complex process that results in the leaves naturally infused with the scent, without actually having the flowers left in the cup. Flavored tea is tea blended with any form of flavoring, such as herbs, spices, oils and extracts. Scented tea might be called flavored but never vice versa. Blended tea is any combination of different (usually regional) tea varietals which may or may not be flavored/scented afterward.
  • Chai is simply the Hindi word for tea. Masala chai is the proper name for the popular tea drink flavored with spices (and, conversely, chai masala is the blend of spices used to make it).
  • Matcha is high quality, powdered green tea best known for its use in the Japanese tea ceremony, but lately popular mixed into a variety of other drinks and even deserts.
  • Tea bags are an affront to most serious tea drinkers, because they contain lower-quality tea, processed smaller so the air exposure leads to deterioration of the flavor, crammed into a space too small for the water to diffuse through properly. Larger "pyramid bags" and "tea sachets" with better tea in larger pieces aren't perfect but fare somewhat better.

Tea, like wine, also varies greatly in taste and quality depending on where and in what conditions it was grown. Serious and aspiring tea nerds are encouraged to look elsewhere for distinctions beyond those given here. We could fill untold pages if we tried to cover anything but the most common terms.

As for preparing tea, we leave that discussion to others. However it's worth saying this about what you put in tea: ignoring the bizarreness that is the green tea late, generally only black tea is suited for drinking with milk. Sweetener is a mater of regional and personal preference, but really good tea doesn't need sugar.

A popular trivia question concerns the relative caffeine content of tea and coffee. It's true that most varieties of dry tea contain more caffeine by weight than dry coffee, but a typical cup of tea still contains less caffeine than a typical cup of coffee. The polyphenols in tea also moderate and slow down the effect of the caffeine, so drinking lots of tea is much more relaxing than drinking lots of coffee.

Britain, the UK and Ireland (And miscellaneous former colonies)

There's a reason the poster children for the Spot of Tea trope are the British. The British demand for tea drove, among other things, the Opium War in China, the monopoly of the uber-powerful British East India Company and the subjugation of India as a colony. The media portrayal of the Brits as tea crazy pales next to many of the real life accounts. No shortage of British writers, including George Orwell [1], Douglas Adams [2] and Neil Gaiman, have written essays on the subject of proper tea prep.

How they drink it: Black, hot and in large quantities. Adding milk is common, and there is an ongoing holy war as to whether the milk or the tea goes into the cup first. Some people avoid the debate altogether by squeezing lemon into it instead[[hottip:*:But never both. Curdled milk tea is not a nice thing.]]. The late-afternoon light meal called "tea", with sandwiches and scones and its precise etiquette, is a product of the upper class. "Builder's tea", the staple of the working classes, is cheap tea (perhaps teabags) brewed extra strong with a generous amount of milk and sugar. Earl Grey, named after The Earl Grey, is tea flavored with oil of bergamot, a bitter citrus fruit, and in some varieties with added orange or lemon peel, or with various flowers such as lavender, verbena or rose petals. "English Breakfast" and "Irish Breakfast" are both popular named tea blends, but the actual teas included in them vary; what matters is that they're strong, hearty concoctions that can stand up to the English/Irish full breakfast of eggs and fatty cured meats.

  • During World War II, Britain shipped, by weight, more tea to her troops than anything save bullets. Small arms ammunition, that is: the British army got through more tea than artillery shells. By weight. Contemporary soldier Spike Milligan observed that they were damn lucky that Rommel never tried baiting minefields with tea.
    • Arthur C. Clarke recounted in his autobiography that during WWII, one of his jobs in the civil service was to coordinate the dispersal of tea stockpiles throughout the country, as the government feared civil disorder if the main warehouses were taken out by a chance bombing.
    • In 1942 the Luftwaffe decided that, deprived of tea, the British Empire would pretty much grind to a halt. They therefore decided to bomb Mincing Lane - center of all British and Imperial tea trading - flat. It worked too. The tea industry was sent into chaos and tea was rationed to two ounces a week - which is very very little. From a morale point of view it was one of the most successful bombing strategies of the war.
    • On D-Day, the British troops started to make tea on Sword Beach almost as soon as they landed, even though they were still under fire. Later, after the beaches were taken and troops started to move inland, the Americans got upset over reports that the British stopped advancing to make tea, as the plan called for soldiers to advance until nightfall in order to capture as much ground before the expected German counter attack.
    • Certain early machine guns were water-cooled, and the British discovered that, just like hot water from other sources (imagine!), the water could be used to make tea when you were done with it. In fact, it was so efficient at heating the water (it reached boiling after just a few seconds of sustained fire) that the British were apparently known to fire the guns just to make their tea.
    • Spike Milligan's mate Harry Edgington showed bravery under fire in North Africa. A German aircraft strafed their artillery position while Edgington was making a brew. Rather than duck for cover, Edgington took off his steel helmet and used it to protect the precious brewing tea, lest it get shot up...
  • The Other Wiki notes that British Tanks contain "a boiling vessel (BV) also known as a kettle or "bivvie" for water which can be used to brew tea, produce other hot beverages and heat "boil-in-the-bag" meals contained in ration packs." This is an absolute requirement, and a unique one, for British armoured vehicles. (The Americans working with the Brits in Afghanistan and Iraq are jealous; they appreciate being allowed to use them and the Brits were only too glad to let them.)
  • During half-time during the FA Cup Final, extra power generation capability is online to cope with all the kettles being boiled. The Brits love plug-in, fast-heating electric kettles (probably precisely because they facilitate making tea) over stovetops or microwaves, a trend that didn't much catch on in the States except for college dorms (and more for ramen than tea).
    • Electric kettles sold in the British Isles are generally rated at 3 kW - it's generally not possible (ignoring the voltage differences) to use an appliance that uses so much power in North American households without getting your kitchen re-wired. A NEMA 5-20R (T-slot) outlet typically found in modern kitchens in the US will only deliver a maximum of around 2.4 kW. There are lower power kettles (cheap junk sold in the UK can be anything from 1.5-2 kW) but they're slow as hell in comparison.
    • This is the reason why rapid-response power stations such as Dinorwig were built, which can from idling to full power within seconds to accommodate sudden surges in demand. That's right: in the UK they've built specialist power stations inside mountains just so the entire nation can use their high-powered kettles at the same time.
    • The same effect also apparently happens far more regularly at the end of soap operas: Britain from Above featured a segment showing a National Grid employee watching TV waiting for the end of EastEnders (IIRC) in order to bring online the extra generators needed to cope with the power surge.
    • Domestic power consumption can double in a few seconds with the load from kettles. This is why we have the fastest responding pumped storage power station in the world. Dinorwig in Wales can bring 1320MW of capacity on line in 12 seconds. All to make tea.
    • Immediately after the recent televised wedding of Prince William and now-Duchess Kate ended, British utilities reported a surge of electricity consumption approximating 2,400 megawatts, or about 1 million households boiling kettles. (This was not the all-time record; that'd be 2,800 MW consumed right after the 1990 World Cup England-Germany semifinal game ended.)
    • In fact, British commercial breaks are designed to accommodate the making of tea. It takes roughly three minutes to boil the kettle and make 1-3 cups of tea. Commercial breaks are roughly just over 3 minutes long and the volume is increased substantially over main programmes so that Brits in the kitchen can hear them.
  • In the 90's a team from the UK retraced Robert Scott's attempt to reach the South Pole on foot, to prove that it could be done. Now they had some advantages in that they had modern equipment and knowledge such as taking chocolate rather that tea because chocolate has a higher calorie content. When they got to the Pole one member of the team revealed that he had brought a small supply of tea along in order to have 'brew-up' at the Pole because as he said "This wouldn't have been a British expedition with out at least one cup of tea at the Pole!"
  • When the SAS patrol Bravo Two Zero were on the run though some of the coldest recorded weather ever in Iraq, they stopped and put a nice hot brew on to stop themselves freezing, despite the risk of fire giving away their position.
  • After the July 7th attacks on the London transport system, a meme swiftly flew around the net to the effect that the only appropriate response was a cup of tea. And passing out tea was indeed one of the tasks of rescue volunteers.
  • Operation Cup of Tea. The British response to riots in the center of London? Drink tea (and donate the proceeds).
  • In Australia, tea is also very popular, much in the British vein. There's a fairly strong surge of Taiwanese style bubble tea, but general iced tea is more of a pre-bottled thing that is nowhere near as popular as the hot variety.

China

All things tea can be traced back to China. The tea leaf, the tea pot, the teahouse and tea garden, even the tea ceremony - not one like in Japan, but its own tradition called gongfu, where oolong or black tea is brewed several times over the course of several minutes, with short brew times and small cups to experience every nuance of flavor the tea has to offer.

How They Drink It: The choice of white, green, oolong or black tea as a favorite varies regionally, however it is almost invariably drunk straight and hot. The variances from this are foreign customs: bottled cold tea has a respectable showing, the Mongol Dynasty, some of the few lactose-tollerant peoples in Asia, are probably responsible for the milk in tea custom traveling West, and Tibet has the (in)famous yak butter tea which is as much food as drink. A variety of tea called pu erh is pressed into bricks and aged in caves like cheese - this is a rather specialist taste.

  • As in many other places, it's honorable and a sign of hospitality to pour tea for another - brides and grooms pour it fro their parents, juniors for their elders, and so on. Legend has it that Quing dynasty emperor Qain Long would often travel through the land incognito and his servants were forbidden from letting the secret slip. One day as they were all seated for tea, the Emperor took his turn pouring tea for his servants. This was an immense honor that in any other situation would have called for the servants to kowtow; since they could not do that without giving the emperor away, they tapped the table with three fingers bent as if in a kowtow pose. To this day is continues as a gesture of thanks for being served tea.
  • Like Brittan, where tea drinking improved the health and productivity of the population, so it also was in Tang Dynasty China, where it allowed the population to greatly increase and greased the gears of poets, songwriters, and painters. In a place where your other option for safe drinking was rice-wine, tea was very popular (not that some poets didn't thrive on wine, though, Li Po/Li Bai being the most famous).
  • The name for the dim sum-like tradition of yum cha literally means 'drink tea' - the little buns and fried snacks were a later addition.
  • Though we might imagine the tea-drinking habits of ancient Buddhist monks to be mired in ritual and spirituality, it was actually incorporated for a much more mundane reason: to keep them from falling asleep while meditating for long periods at a time. This is why Bhodidharma's eyelids figure into the tea origin myth.
  • In Hong Kong, which was formerly British-ruled, "milk tea" is hot tea with evapourated milk, usually of the "Black & White" brand. Other variants include mixing milk tea and coffee, which sort-of ends the tea vs coffee debate.

Japan

Japanese green tea gets the honorific 'O' prefix to its name: Ocha. This is the clearest indicator of Japanese reverence; any other kind of tea is simply 'cha'. In fact, the hot water required to brew tea (and make baths) gets the 'O' -- "oyu" -- but any other temperature is just 'mizu'.

How they drink it: Green tea is, of course, king, though oolong is also popular and black tea, usually served as "milk tea", is sometimes drunk in cafes and in bottled form. Tea ceremony aside, the most common form of tea served in Japan is brewed loose-leaf sencha. Having been isolationist for the greater part of its history and having limited space for farmland, the Japanese came up with a variety of inventive ways to stretch the green tea supply, including genmaicha (tea mixed with toasted rice), kukicha (a nutty-tasting tea that includes the stems and twigs from the leftovers of matcha and sencha production) and hojicha (lower grade tea than sencha, called bancha, that has been roasted over charcoal for flavor). Nowadays, Japan supplements their local supply with Chinese imports as well.

India and Neighbors

For years, the Indians knew about tea and had access to tea plants, but thought of tea mostly as a medicinal herb. For better or worse, it was the British who were responsible for turning India into the tea-growing juggernaut it is today, smuggling techniques and plant cuttings out of China (under pain of death if they got caught) and learning to cultivate the Indian tea varietal as well. British colonial rule ended in the 1940s but chai remains a big deal, especially in the famous Assam and Darjeeling growing regions.

How They Drink It: British-style with milk and sugar, and in a variety of Indian preperations involving various combinations of spices and herbs. Of those, masala chai is the best known, including black tea and a variety of spices among which cardamom, ginger and sometimes black pepper feature prominantly, but there's also kahwah, green tea with almonds and spices originating in the Kashmir region, and noon chai, also from Kashmir, featuring cardamom, pistachio, a pinch of salt and a pink color produced by adding baking soda. However it's mixed, the indian customs defer from the British in that they make tea by boiling everything - milk, tea and sugar - in the same pot. (An exception: Darjeeling tea, though sold as black, actually tends to be less oxidized and technically an oolong. This "champagne of teas" needs no adulterations.)

  • Roadside tea vendors called chai wallahs line many Indian streets. Since roadside tea stalls are limited in the number of utensils they can use, the vendor usually uses just one pot to make lots of cups. He starts a pot, and starts vending the tea. When the supply becomes low, he simply adds more water, sugar, tea and milk into the pot. He keeps on adjusting the ingredients as he goes along while using the color of thhe tea as a guide to tell him when the tea is "done". This has an added advantage for the chaiwallah because the batches after the first one require less tea. This style of tea is called Kadak (literally "hard") because the end result is generally stronger. A lot of people who are used to drinking Kadak chai mimic this by slow boiling the tea after adding the milk.
  • Most of India's neighbor countries including Pakistan and Bangladesh, also enjoy the various chai styles.

USA and The Americas

It used to be the case that finding a good cup of tea in the USA was an uncertain proposition. Despite being ex-British subjects, their rough break-up and access to coffee in Central and South America cemented the American status as a coffee culture. That said, for a long time what tea culture remained, mostly among the upper class, was the British black tea sort. The accidental invention of the tea bag by a New Yorker in 1907 didn't help any, ensuring this was the only form of tea most Americans would ever see on grocery store shelves. The main exception was in the Deep South, where a tea culture all its own formed around iced sweet tea, which many non-Southerns decry as being too sweet. Fortunately for tea lovers, this is changing. In the last 20 years, tea has been experiencing a resurgence - green and oolong have made their way to the mainstream market, coffee shops have started serving full leaf, and specialty tea retail is a growing business.

How They Drink It: Being the melting pot of immigrants that it is, almost every tea fad from both sides of the globe has found an American niche. But American tea culture is still dominated by iced tea. The line of preference for sweetened or unsweetened is drawn north of Virginia and west of Texas. Lemon is the most common addition to either, but a variety of fruit flavors are enjoyed, and lately a drink called the Arnold Palmer (half iced tea and half lemonade, sometimes called Half and Half, named after the golfer) has exploded in popularity. Hot tea is usually sweetened to preference, unless you've grown sophisticated enough in tea taste to look down on it. Milk is also a mater of personal preference.

  • The American Revolution was set off in part by tea. The Boston Tea Party occurred due to Parliament assuming it could tax the colonies without their say so, although, ironically, the final straw was lowering the tax on tea with the Tea Act, making it cheaper than tea smuggled in or imported legally from elsewhere, upsetting the smugglers and merchants who weren't in on the deal, who were the ones who actually dressed up and threw the legal tea into the harbor, then convinced most Americans that they were protesting a tax increase. Since most Americans bought from a smuggler (either directly or not) they had no clue as to what real prices were, so they bought the whole thing and followed the smugglers' lead. Consequently, the Intolerable Acts were enacted after several hundred pounds of tea were destroyed. The Intolerable Acts led to much chaos, protest, and generally warlike tendencies within the colonies. Soon, the British decided it was a good idea to seize the arsenal in Concord, Massachusetts. The result was the Battles of Lexington and Concord, which ignited the American Revolution.
    • The reason coffee tends to be so much more popular than tea in America is mainly due to tea being associated with British imperialism - during the American Revolution, it was popular to give up tea in favor of coffee as a symbolic act of defiance, and coffee's popularity stuck. Of course, this really pissed off the tea smugglers that started the whole thing.
  • Several towns in New England used to use to choose their new ministers with tea. An example of a loaded question, a candidate was considered too passionate for the job if he took his tea with both milk and sugar.
  • Foreign countries (or for that matter, anywhere north of Virginia or west of Texas) are hell for a Southerner used to drinking iced sweet tea. On the other hand, Northerners are often put off by the amount of sugar in Southern sweet tea (one recipe that makes a sweet tea that is in the mid-range of sweetness calls for a 1:8 ratio of sugar to water), and usually prefer their iced tea to be unsweetened or fruit-sweetened.
    • In the South sweet tea is very Serious Business. The Georgia House of Representatives put forward a bill making it a misdemeanor to sell tea without the option of sweet tea in restaurants. Turns out it was an April Fools joke.
    • Sweet tea is a point of culture clash between the South and New Orleans, a southern-situated city with a more international culture. As a rule New Orleans brew it unsweetened and point out that it can be sweetened to taste, but sweet tea drinkers insist that sugar must be brewed with the tea. Since it's Serious Business as noted, dining venues along major tourist routes come under the pressure to provide tea brewed sweet. (When Southerner Alton Brown rode through New Orleans for his Feasting On Asphalt docu-series, this was a source of considerable astoundment.)
    • Serious business indeed: this space used to contain the accounts of Southern Tropers arguing over how to add the sugar to sweet tea - whether to add it while the tea was hot (claiming it added flavor from the sugar slightly caramelizing) or as sugar syrup when cold.

  • While coffee is king in Canada to the point of being Serious Business First Nations tend to serve and drink tea much more than the rest of Canada. This is probably due to the fact that in earlier generations the main supplier of goods to most Reserves was the British owned and operated Hudsons Bay Company.

Russia

Being China's largest next door neighbor and situated right on the famous Silk Road trade routes, it was probably inevitable that Russians would take to tea. By the 1600s it was an institution; by 1915s Russia accounted for 65% of China's tea exports. It may even outstrip vodka as the de facto national beverage.

How They Drink It: Hot and and often sweet, usually black but sometimes oolong. Russian tea often has a smoky taste, either because it picked it up on the camel routes from long exposure to smoky campfires or because it's blended with a smoked tea such as lapsang souchong. To serve weak tea to guests is considered a sign of poor hospitality. Russian tea culture centers around the Samovar, a communal urn over which a pot of concentrated tea was prepared, then hot water from the urn added to each cup to adjust the strength to taste. Sweetener could occur in several different forms: as regular sugar, as raspberry or blackcurrant jam (an outmoded practice), or eaten in the form of cakes, cookies or a piece of candy to bite down on.

  • In Russian prisons, incredibly strong tea is used as a substitute for alcohol or conventional drugs. It is known as Chephyr and is quite obviously a kidney-slaughtering liquid.
  • During the Russian Civil War the Reds initially happened to get the relatively unproductive North-Western parts of the country, instead of the grain-basket of Southern Russia that was the Whites' territory, and that caused a lot of problems with supplies. But the same territory also happened to contain all the tea supplies that were on Russian soil at the moment. Thus Reds freely distributed that tea, which contributed to the better sanitation and conditions in the Red Army. They also instituted the strict dry law, which they were able to enforce due to the insufficient grain and abundant tea supplies, while the Whites, with the huge surplus of grain on their territory and lack of a tea as a substitute, couldn't prevent its widespread brewing and distilling, leading to the overwhelming drunkenness within their troops.

The Middle East and Africa

Tea is grown in parts of Africa such as Keyna but mostly as a cash crop for export, usually used in cheaper blends and not particularly famous. Where tea really matters is in Muslim countries where it competes neck and neck with coffee for the status of social beverage of choice in a culture were consumption of alcohol is forbidden.

How They Drink It: Varies.

  • Egyptians: The electric kettles of which the British are so fond are also ubiquitous in Egypt (except for the countryside, where there are quite a lot of places that don't get electricity). This is particularly true in Lower (Northern) Egypt (where tea is made by putting the leaves in the cup and pouring on top, unlike the Upper Egyptian custom of boiling the leaves over a strong flame for five minutes). The Egyptian government even considers tea a strategic resource, and owns tea plantations in Sri Lanka and Kenya to ensure a steady supply. Serving tea to a visitor (at home and at work) is considered an almost-sacred duty (they even call it wagib, meaning..."duty"), although they don't make quite so big of a deal of it as...
  • Moroccans, who have an elaborate ritual (not half as elaborate as the Japanese, but nevertheless elaborate) for making and serving a particular kind of tea (educated Moroccans talking to other Arabic-speakers will sometimes use the Moroccan Arabic term atay to differentiate it from shay, the Standard Arabic word for tea), made with a mixture of "gunpowder" green tea and some herb, usually mint leaves (although using wormwood or lemon verbana leaves is fairly common). Moroccans will frequently travel miles to get water that is pure, unchlorinated and low in minerals, so that nothing will affect the taste of the tea. The tea is generally a bit strong and very sweet (to a degree that often horrifies foreigners)[[hottip:*:five or six sugars is not uncommon]]: there's an old Moroccan proverb that says, "Moroccans do not drink tea, they drink honey."
    • The ceremonial nature of tea in Morocco goes Up to Eleven in the southern parts of of the country (which are mostly desert): though (again) not as complex as the Japanese ceremony, the total time it takes to take tea among certain desert tribes is generally in the vicinity of an hour and a half.
  • Turkey: Tea there - çay, pronounced like "chai" - is almost always a black tea called rize tea, which is drunk whenever the mood strikes. Almost all restaurants, cafes and coffee places (except at Stabucks and Kahve Dünyası, Istanbul's answer to Starbucks) will serve it in small tulip shaped glasses, and you can drink it straight up or with a sugar or two. It's not uncommon to see men with trays running around the streets and bazaars in the busier parts of town delivering tea to the shopkeepers, and chances are if you sit long enough in any shop someone's going to offer you a glass.
  • The Russian "tea served with with sugar candy to bite on" is also very popular in Iran; Iranians tend to put a lump or cube of sugar in the mouth and drink unsweetened tea over it, leading to a distinct experience. Since Iran has had (cane) sugar for longer than anyone else but the Indians, the custom likely originated there and thence spread to Russia thanks to all manner of cultural contact from centuries of trade and wars in the Caucasus and Central Asia, to say nothing of the Russo-British competition for influence over the 19th-century Iranian court. The exchange was completed by the partial Iranian adoption of the aforementioned samovar for boiling water for tea.

The Rest of Asia

  • Indonesians love their tea...ice cold, sweet, in the middle of a hot day (perhaps they should talk to some American Southerners). Not any tea, mind you, it's jasmine tea (so perhaps not then). Though traditional hot tea is just as popular, especially in the countryside.
    • And then they also introduced Tebs, Teh BerSoda (Soda-added jasmine tea). Picture tea lovers everywhere else going nuts about the abomination if you like, but the rest of Indonesia loves it.
  • Heavily sweetened iced tea with canned milk has become popular in several Asian countries, probably picked up from colonizing Europeans. A particularly well known variation comes from Thailand, where Thai tea is flavored with star anise, vanilla and other spices, not a far cry from masala chai.
  • Vietnam has a rather unique (to the extent of my knowledge) type of green tea, using fresh tea leaves. This, however, is considered an everyday beverage, especially to the older generations, while dried tea, usually flavored with either jasmine or lotus is reserved for special occasion or friends.

The Rest of Europe

  • In Germany, drinking large quantities of tea is associated with East Frisia. The culture is somewhat different, though: tea is drunk somewhat weaker than in Britain and never drunk with milk; instead, one or more lumps of rock sugar are placed in the cup before pouring the tea and then adding cream (which you are not allowed to stir). Napoleon banned tea when he annexed East Frisia to France (just as he banned all goods that could only be obtained via Britain), which did not exactly endear him to the locals.
    • East Frisian tea to be stronger than what you normally get in Britain. There is also a specific East Frisian blend of tea, the secret of which is generally jealously guarded by tea dealers, but which cynics say consists mainly of "Assam tea for the colour, and Java tea for the price". During World War II, East Frisians got a unique tea ration instead of coffee. Here's a recipe, with links to more info about the East Frisian tea culture if you can read and understand German.
  • Curiously, Portugal, the country who was the middle man on getting tea to England for the first time (Catarina de Brangança loved tea, which Portugal imported from Japan and India, so she asked her husband to import from Portugal, the husband tried and...), connecting two of the world's most tea loving country to the future addition to that category, didn't retain any particular tea tradition or habit. Maybe it was the fact that as a hot drink it didn't had as much fans as in the colder England, or Portuguese people just didn't like it (their national drink was already wine), but it had the conditions to at least retain more habits of drinking tea. (Then again, the Portuguese Empire didn't went that well...)
    • Although the cold variant is fairly popular. Specially as an industrialized cold beverage, being the most popular canned drink with no gas (or alcohol) among the younger.

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