Tea Culture Around The World
WINE&DINE|September - October 2020
More than just a widely consumed beverage, tea has reshaped nations, changed the cause of history, and is deeply intertwined into our global cultural fabric.
Joyce Huang

From formal tea ceremonies and spiritual tea rituals in China and Japan, to the daily tea drinking and chai traditions of the UK and India; from the male-dominated tea houses in Turkey and the underground tea rooms of Slovakia, to the bubble teas shops of Taiwan and chai lattes of the cafes in the USA, tea—in all its varying renditions—runs through our global fabric. The world’s most widely consumed beverage after water, tea has reshaped nations, changed the cause of history, and forged deeply symbolic cultural markers since people started drinking it over 1,500 years ago.

The practice of serving and drinking tea has great social weight—the kind of tea, the way it’s served, who drinks it and where it is drunk all carry various meanings—and across many different cultures; tea is universally seen a symbol of status, hospitality, community, family tradition, and religious and spiritual practice.

Status

In China, where the beverage originated, tea was an object of connoisseurship from as early as the Tang Dynasty. In the Song Dynasty, formal tea-tasting parties were held, comparable to modern wine tastings. As with the latter, much attention was paid to how it was served and the aesthetically appealing vessel to match.

Tea drinkers were generally regarded as the academic and cultural elites of society as the practice was considered to be an expression of personal morality, education, social principles, and status. Tea houses were seen as sanctuaries for Chinese scholars to share ideas, where political allegiances and social rank were temporarily suspended in favour of honest and rational discourse. And tea was the social lubricant that promoted conviviality and civility amongst participants.

Today, a third of the people in UK drink tea on a daily basis. But when tea was first introduced to the British as a beverage in the 1660s, it was incredibly expensive, thus only afforded by royalty and the rich. Tea drinking became a central aspect of aristocratic society in England by the 1680s, particularly among women who drank it, while throwing tea parties to gossip and to show off their luxurious abode and commodities like delicate china pots and cups, silver tea kettles and elegantly carved tea jars and tea tables. As the British increased their import of tea throughout the 18th and 19th century, enjoying a hot cup of tea was soon adopted by the middle class and eventually the working class.

Yet, social class was still indicated by which tea one drank, whether one had it with milk or lemon. Upper class folk would sip on more delicate teas with thin slices of lemon and small quantities of milk to refrain from overwhelming the drink’s taste, while the working class consumed thick black tea with varying amounts of milk and no lemons (as they were expensive to get).

Hospitality

Tea drinking in Russia—and by extension Ukraine, Belarus, and other ex-USSR countries—is an indulgent affair. A customary two-brewing process first sees a tea concentrate prepared, where dry tea leaves are brewed in a small tea pot with some water. Each person pours a bit of this concentrate into their individual cup and mixes it with boiling water that is poured from a samovar. Russian samovars are typically made from metal to help retain heat, range from one to four litres in capacity, and are prized as an art piece due to the intricate craftsmanship that goes into creating one.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM WINE&DINEView All

New Blood

The next-generation is breathing new life into the forgotten art of spice-mixing, peppering the traditional trade with renewed ideas and fresh perspectives.

7 mins read
WINE&DINE
April - June 2021

Sharing Is Caring

Compared to its flagship at Serene Centre, Fat Belly Social at Boon Tat Street is a classier and bolder affair, in more than one sense.

1 min read
WINE&DINE
April - June 2021

Nutmeg's Role In Singapore's History

From tales of it being used to ward off the plague in mid-1300s Europe to one of the ingredients in dessert, we have all known, tasted, or at least heard of nutmeg. But not many know of the spice’s role in Singapore’s history.

6 mins read
WINE&DINE
April - June 2021

New And Improved

The ever-profound chef-owner Kenjiro ‘Hatch’ Hashida finds more room, three to be exact, to express a Ha Ri philosophy at Hashida Singapore’s new location at Amoy Street.

1 min read
WINE&DINE
April - June 2021

Pairing Spice-Driven Cuisines With Wine

Pairing spice-driven cuisines with wine has long been a challenge but with a little imagination, it doesn’t have to be.

7 mins read
WINE&DINE
April - June 2021

Let Land Grow Wild

Niew Tai-Ran has worn many hats: aeronautical engineering major, investment banker, avid surfer, and, for the last 14 years, winemaker. Discover how this Malaysia-born, Singapore-native is championing the “do-nothing farming” philosophy at his vineyard in Oregon.

7 mins read
WINE&DINE
April - June 2021

The South Asian Misnomer

Incredibly diverse and varied than most know, Indian food is far more intriguing than butter chicken or thosai. Here is a crash course on the extensive cuisine from region to region, recognisable for the seemingly infinite ways of using spices.

8 mins read
WINE&DINE
April - June 2021

Keepers Of The Spice Trade

From its glory days along trade routes to pantry staples all over the world, spices have become so commonplace that we’ve taken them for granted. For these three trailblazers, however, spice is their livelihood and motivation: Langit Collective working with indigenous rural farming communities in Malaysia; IDH’s Sustainable Spice Initiative; and chef Nak’s one-woman mission to share forgotten Khmer cuisine.

7 mins read
WINE&DINE
April - June 2021

Sugar, Spice And Everything Nice

Like food, spices bring vibrancy and variety to alcoholic beverages. Surfacing in unexpected ways on the palate, find everything from cumin to tamarind, cloves to cardamom enriching these drinks.

4 mins read
WINE&DINE
April - June 2021

Building Blocks From The Archipelago

For the smorgasbord of dishes found in Indonesian cuisine, it is a little known secret that the modest bumbu, in all its variants, is the bedrock of such flavourful fare.

7 mins read
WINE&DINE
April - June 2021
RELATED STORIES

Bullying Tactics

China is trying to force trading partners to toe its line on Taiwan. The U.S. and EU must fight back

5 mins read
Newsweek
January 28 - February 04, 2022

REPORT: MANDATORY OLYMPIC APP HAS SERIOUS SECURITY FLAWS

A smartphone app that athletes and others attending next month’s Winter Games in Beijing must install has glaring security problems that could expose sensitive data to interception, according to a report published this week.

2 mins read
AppleMagazine
AppleMagazine #534

Same City - Different Games

What’s changed since Beijing last held the Olympics? Almost everything

4 mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
January 24, 2022

Boxed In on China

Biden’s inability to extract concessions from Beijing is a liability going into November’s midterms

5 mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
January 24, 2022

The Hottest Kitchen Tip? Freezing

FOOD for Thought

2 mins read
Reader's Digest US
February 2022

Wall Street Digs In To China

U.S. politicians are taking a tougher line on the country, but bankers say they have to be there

5 mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
January 10, 2022

CHINA'S QUEST TO TAKE TAIWAN

CHINESE OFFICIALS HAVE started directing citizens to stock up on food amid rising vegetable, egg, and pork prices. Encouraging people to become preppers could just be how the Chinese government expresses concern about cold snaps and potential future COVID-19 lockdowns. But some fear it’s a more sinister sign, indicating that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) wants people to prepare for the growing threat of war.

3 mins read
Reason magazine
February 2022

The Jail Money Trap

The Museum of Chinese in America was desperate to buy its building. The city found a reason to pay for it— one that threw Chinatown into a years-long fight.

10+ mins read
New York magazine
December 20, 2021 - January 02, 2022

Tesla Takes Its Critics to Court

Chinese customers and bloggers who complain about its cars are increasingly the targets of lawsuits

5 mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
December 20, 2021

CHINA CLEARS BOEING 737 MAX TO FLY AGAIN

China’s aviation regulator cleared the Boeing 737 Max on Thursday to return to flying with technical upgrades more than two years after the plane was grounded worldwide following two fatal crashes.

2 mins read
Techlife News
Techlife News #527