Gastronomy Culture: More Tea Rituals from Around the World

EHL Editorial Team | 15 Jul, 2016

Because one cup is never enough, Christophe Laurent, Senior Lecturer Practical Arts & EHL Values Ambassador builds upon his last post, which explored how different cultures drink and celebrate tea.

Now, he takes you to five of the hospitality and tourism industry's most vibrant cultures, where tea is as much a lifestyle as it is a beverage. Like a good tea leaf in water, the symbolic hospitality of a pot of tea infuses itself into these cultures' homes, hotel management practices, and businesses.



The smell of cardamom, ginger, clove, and cinnamon can warm the soul and awaken the senses; which is why Indians invented chai (or cha-ya) tea. To brew chai, they steep warm milk in Darjeeling tea (known as the "champagne of teas"), then layer in regional spices, and a hint of sugar for a truly unique flavor. This drink is consumed before or after most meals, celebrating good camaraderie and good food. In many ways, chai tea also symbolizes the cultural push and pull of British colonization that occurred in the 19th century: one part traditional black tea that the colonists couldn't get enough of, combined with the deep, sensuous flavors of India, for an experience as unique as the country's history. With this much flavor, it's no wonder that India exports close to a million tons of tea each year.



Russian tea rituals are a staple of this culture. Whether you are welcomed to one of the most elite hotels, lavish homes, humblest tables, or authentic eateries, you will find a samovar - an urn-like Russian tea kettle influenced by the region's Mongolian neighbors and historic roots - bubbling on a hotpot. Russian tea found its way to the country's snowy borders from China. Traveling more than 11,000 miles on the Silk Road, Russian traders were able to charge a premium price for this soul-warming beverage. Today, tea has become a symbol of good health and the home. It is consumed throughout the day with a hint of jam or sugar. Just don't forget a biscuit, slice of cake, or afternoon snack with your tea, as it is most commonly celebrated with food.

tea-ritual-russia.jpg

"On a visit". Engraving by Bod from picture by painter Gelban. Published in magazine "Niva", publishing house A.F. Marx, St. Petersburg, Russia, 1893



France was a little late to the (tea) party, but not lacking in enthusiasm. Unlike their British neighbors, the French didn't immediately embrace the tea craze for social or culinary reasons. King Louis XIV first introduced tea into society for its supposed health benefits aiding his digestion. Today, tea is still somewhat of a luxurious affair. Although it can be found in almost any cafe or brasserie, the French often enjoy full tea services, complete with sterling silver tea sets, artisan tea leaves, and white linen tablecloths. The salons de thé - or French tea houses - still carry a regal air, paying homage to tea's early aristocratic roots.



Yerba mate, or Argentinian tea brewed from the Ilex paraguariensis bush, is said to have restorative properties, can reenergize tired workers, encourage fertility, make a person stronger, and aid healing. Sometimes called "the drink of the gods," this cultural staple can be found at almost every table in Argentina and much of South America. Mate bars replace coffee shops in much of the country's urban and rural towns, so you won't miss this unique tea ritual. When visiting Argentina, get your bombilla (or filtered straw) ready to sip some mate...it may just change your life.



Last, but not least, China is often heralded as the place where tea was invented more than 4000 years ago. As the story is told, Emperor Shennong was the first person to drink tea recreationally rather than medicinally, launching the worldwide trend that unites us all. Practice must make perfect because Chinese tea boasts some of the most sought after varietals (with Chinese Dai-Hong-Po tea selling for upwards of $10,000 per pot, or approximately $1,400 per gram). References to tea can be found in Chinese art, writing, and cultural norms. The culture is - quite literally - steeped in tea.

The diversity of how different cultures celebrate tea is as varied and vibrant as the cultures themselves. One thing is certain, that no matter where you go, you'll be able to drink tea like a local.

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