I want to start with the fact that I adore drinking tea – all kinds and flavors. I love nice cups, teapots, sets, and rituals. I feel special when I do something special for myself and participate in memorable ceremonies. The new and the unknown attract me. If somebody invites you to a tea party – go, no matter how snobbish it may seem to you – the experience is impressive. It is even more amazing to have seen different people worldwide drinking tea, and you can share your experiences and make comparisons.
Tea is a type of indulgence and plays an essential role in the society of life in many countries worldwide—I made an association with “smoking the pipe of peace” as a unifying and forgiving ritual.
Usually, we consumed tea at home and social events, and many cultures have created sophisticated formal ceremonies for these events. Afternoon tea is a widespread British custom, copied around the world. Tea ceremonies with roots in Chinese tea culture vary among East Asian countries, such as Japan or Korea. There are different ways to prepare the tea, such as in Tibet, where they’re prepared the drink with salt and butter. Tea can be drunk at small private gatherings (tea parties) or in public places (tea houses intended for social contacts).
There are hundreds of tea and drinking habits in everyday life, and I will tell you about my observations from travels and some traditional aspects of different cultures.
Drinking tea in the United Kingdom became common during the seventeen century and was popularized much later. In the 1940s, the Duchess of Bedford, Anna, decided to organize an afternoon party to save herself of boredom. She began hosting people around four in the afternoon for tea and a snack. By the 1880s, these tea and afternoon talks became a fashionable public event for the bourgeoisie. Like the way the Duchess of Bedford would serve it, traditional afternoon tea consists of selecting gourmet sandwiches, muffins, cakes, and a variety of pastries. Silver tea trays and delicate bone china are commonplace today for fans of royal tea drinking habits.
The Russian tea ceremony is about only the tea. Many other things on the menu, such as pastries, chocolates, honey, jams, baked goods, pies, and pastries, are included. Mandatory if a friend invited you to tea in someone’s Russian house, bring something sweet; no matter if it is chocolate or a piece of cake, the host will appreciate it.
Samovar or Russian teapot is one of Russia’s unofficial symbols – originally came to the country from Western Europe, especially with Peter the Great on his return from the Netherlands. Russian artisans used the Dutch teapot as a model, improved its design, and produced their own. Currently, the Samovar is number one and has no comparison with others in quality, types, and functionality.
The Japanese tea ceremony (茶道, “tea path” or 茶 の 湯) is a tradition connected to the history – proper way of making and drinking green tea, except in traditional tatami. Apart from the simple serving of tea, one of the tea ceremony goals is to enjoy the hosts’ hospitality in an atmosphere different from the fast pace of everyday life and to relax to the maximum.
Today, the tea ceremony is a hobby, and there are places where tourists can do it. Many places in Japan offer tea ceremonies with varying degrees of formality and authenticity, including traditional gardens, cultural centers, and hotels. For me, Kyoto and Uji are among the best destinations in the country where you can enjoy Japanese tea culture.
In the Traditional Arab environment, the Arabs make tea in a certain way, using the following components: a scorching charcoal grill, a stand for a teapot located on top of the fire, the teapot itself, intense black or green tea with a lot of sugar; served in small decorative cups. Sometimes they add a fragrant mint flavor.
The very time of making the tea helps to create a feeling of comfort among the participants in the whole ceremony. It also helps to smooth out social disparities between old and young, educated and uneducated, locals and tourists. I have found in traditional Arab families that tea is part of the ritual of socializing young children to adults. Often a father or uncle making tea invites his son or nephew to pour boiling water from one pot on the tea leaves in the second pot. Everyone is sitting on the carpet, circling the teapot.
When drinking tea, a few general rules ït must be followed – for example, how to hold your cup, stir, and even where to look when drinking tea!
Here is my humble guide to tea drinking etiquette:
The host must make an invitation, indicating the time, location, and clothing requirements. Guests must arrive on time, find their place sign (if any), and socializing with others.
A gift for the host is not required but will always be well appreciated if you bring some tea leaves.
Take your plate only if you are standing. If this is the case, take your cup and tea plate, holding your cup in one hand and the plate in the other.
Do not leave your spoon on the plate or the table. Tea drops can quickly stain the tablecloth.
Do not put a spoonful of sugar on your plate as a sign of courtesy to other guests. Placing the spoon on the table is according to the general rules, so do not hesitate to do it and add your style.
If you invite guests for tea, the first and most important thing is to always serve the tea through a filter, not from an envelope. It would be best if you also did it in a teapot, with cups, saucers, and spoons for your guests.
Tea is traditionally served by one person, usually the host. The host pours tea to his guests from a teapot. Then places the teapot on the table with a spout next to him. The teacups are poured one by one and served to the guests – they are not filled all at once and then distributed! If the host asks you to give your cup, you must give him both the cup and the saucer.
After pouring the tea, you should add milk – the tea’s taste and strength stand out.
When holding your cup, your thumb and forefinger should join in the handle, with your middle finger holding the cup – and you definitely shouldn’t keep your little finger out!
Place the glass back on the palate between sips. For right-handers, you should always hold the cup with the handle at 3 o’clock, and for those who are left-handed, the handle should be at 9 o’clock.
It is impolite to look around the room while sipping – you should look at your cup instead. Hmm!
When stirring your tea, you should not make sudden swirling movements with your teaspoon – instead, the correct way to mix is to move back and forth, as if from 12 to 6 o’clock. You can move your spoon over the teacup to drop off the excess drops (but don’t tap too much on the side of the cup, as this doesn’t look elegant in connoisseurs’ eyes!). And then, place the spoon on the right side of the saucer.
So, you may not have known that there are so many rules and manners on the table when drinking tea! Some sound crazy, but it is a fact that they are still applicable today. Of course, these rules only apply to formal afternoon tea ceremonies or tea parties.
When you drink tea is your relaxing ritual, and you should enjoy it as you wish and as you like.
With or without a tradition – the important thing is to have fun!