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teatIme tea ceremonies around the world


There are two types of people in the world: cof fee drinkers and tea drinkers. While cof fee might be more popular, there’s no doubt that tea is gaining a loyal following. Even in the US, the country with the highest cof fee consumption, tea is steadily gaining popularity. And there are good reasons for it too! Tea has less caf feine and releases it over a longer period of time, it's healthier, and has more variety. It will warm us if we are cool, it will cool us if we are too heated and it will cheer us if we are depressed. A cup of tea is more than a drink‌

According to Chinese legend, tea was born in 2727 BC, when the Emperor Shen Nong was purifying water in the shelter of a tea tree, and several leaves blew into the pot. The resulting brew, of superb fragrance, color and taste, made the emperor rejoice. Tea soon became a daily drink in Chinese culture. In India, another legend tells the story of Prince Dharma, who lef t his homeland for China, to preach Buddhism. He vowed not to sleep during his 9–year mission. Toward the end of his third year, when he was over taken by fatigue, he grabbed a few leaves of a tea shrub and chewed them up. They gave him the strength necessary to stay awake for the remaining 6 years of his mission.

The Japanese version of this story has the exhausted Bodi Dharma falling asleep, however. Upon awakening, he was so disgusted with himself, he tore of f his eyelids, to ensure that they would never inadver tently close again. The place where he threw them on the ground produced enchanted (tea) shrubs with leaves having the power to keep his eyelids open.

Around the world, it's estimated that there are over 3000 dif ferent types of teas! These 3000 types can be broken down into 6 categories: green, black, oolong, white, pu-erh, and herbal.

Tea culture is defined by the way tea is made and consumed, by the way the people interact with tea, and by the aesthetics surrounding tea drinking, it includes aspects of tea production, tea brewing, tea ar ts and ceremony, society, history, health, ethics, education, and communication issues. Tea plays an impor tant role in some countries. It is commonly consumed at social events, and many cultures have created intricate formal ceremonies for these events. Dif ferent regions favor dif ferent varieties of tea — black, green, or oolong — and use dif ferent flavourings, such as herbs, milk, or sugar. The temperature and strength of the tea likewise vary widely.



Although tea took some time to spread from China to Japan, many believe that Japan was where tea met per fection in the ar t of Cha-no-yu, or the Japanese tea ceremony. Today the tea ceremony is still practiced by many in Japan and abroad. The essence of the tea ceremony has made it a poignant reflection on life, even in today’s world. Cha-no-yu’s fundamentals lie in the humility of the guests, appreciating the moment’s uniqueness in terms of time and place, season and those present, and the ar t of simplicity and balance in form, movement and objects. These three fundamentals have found their way outside of the tea room and into many aspects of Japanese life. Consider, for example, the simple architecture of houses and buildings in Japan, or the balance and harmony found in the shapes and tex tures of a garden or in ikebana style flower arrangements.

The unique nature of each tea ceremony is something to be cherished. The ceremony is special because although a person may take par t in many ceremonies over his or her lifetime, there will never be a chance to recreate the same experience, with the same group of people, the same set ting and utensils, during the same time of day and the same season, or even at the very unique time of their own life and experience. Every detail is to be savored, because it cannot ever be the same. There is special emphasis placed on the seasons, which decides the type of food prepared for the ceremony, the type of utensils especially the chawan, or tea bowl, the flowers and ar twork present, as well as the clothing of the tea master and guests.

For example, on a hot day in July the tea master might choose a wide shallow chawan, which cools the tea quicker, and light sweets made in the shape of peaches. In November, the choice of chawan would be something with more weight, more substantial kaiseki style food would be prepared, and the colors of the objects in the room would be more somber, with the exception of a few frail boughs of bright red winter berries as the floral arrangement. Seasonality is impor tant in Japan, and nowhere more so than in a traditional ceremony. Everything in the room — the utensils, the scroll on the wall, the flowers in the vase, and even the kimono show the season of the year and respect for the guest.

The form of the chawan itself is a simple elegant shape. Every movement in the tea ceremony, whether per formed by the host or the guests, is per fected to the most simple and minimal act possible. The tea used for the ceremony is matcha, made from ground green tea leaves, and whisked with hot water to create the purest form of tea: nothing is added, nothing is changed. The ceremony itself can take hours to complete, and a lifetime to learn.

The equipage needed for preparing matcha are the chawan (tea bowl), chasen (bamboo whisk), chashaku (bamboo tea scoop), furui (matcha powder sif ter), hishaku (bamboo ladle), kama (large ket tle), and an hear th or heat source. First the matcha powder is sif ted in the furui, so that it is the per fect fine consistency; this is usually prepared beforehand in the tea ceremony. The kama is placed over the heat source and allowed to come to a simmering boil. Using the hishaku, one will dip into the kama to draw out water to use to warm the tea bowl. This water is discarded. Then, the matcha is measured into the chawan using 2 or 3 scoops of the chasaku. Another ladle of hot water (about 4 oz.) is drawn from the kama and poured into the bowl. Using the chasen, the tea is whipped into a thick and frothy substance. The tea can then be drunk directly from the bowl.

While tea ceremony is an impor tant aspect of Japanese life, there are many other ways that the Japanese people enjoy tea every day. Recently, Western-style black tea has become popular, especially for breakfasts that include bread or pastries. Chinese teas, especially oolongs are enjoyed at home and in restaurants. And for on-the-go lifestyles, bot tled and canned teas are widely enjoyed.


In China, long before tea became the beverage of choice and a way of life, it was considered a medicinal staple. Tea was not only a treatment for individual illnesses, but was also a general health tonic, said to promote long life and vitality. Even today, in traditional Chinese medicine, green teas and pu-erhs are prescribed for a variety of complaints, especially as modern research has come to suppor t many of these claims. Since the beginning of the Ming dynasty, teahouses sprung up all over the country, and people of all ages would come at all hours of the day to drink tea and enjoy each others’ company. In this way, tea was never confined to a strict time of the day, but could be taken at any time. The teahouses would usually serve nothing except tea, and became a par t of most people’s daily ritual.

Today in China, while the teahouses still retain popularity as gathering places, the impor tance of tea in daily life is usually evident at the table. Tea is one of the most impor tant par ts of every meal, whether it is breakfast, lunch or dinner. At home or in a restaurant, one will always find a cup of tea set in front of them. Besides mealtime, tea is served to welcome guests as a form of respect, and is a long-held tradition in all classes. In China, green tea is consumed the most, with oolong tea being a close second, followed by Pu-erh. White tea and black tea are drunk less frequently, but still deserve some recognition.

The Chinese practice a form of tea ceremony called Gong Fu, which has some similarities and many more dif ferences to the possibly more well-known Japanese tea ceremony. In a Gong Fu style tea ceremony, the tea master preparing the tea for the group is considered an ar tist in his or her own right. Styles for pouring the water and tea vary individually, and many devote a lot of time practicing dif ficult and ar tistic maneuvers. Usually the equipage for this tea ceremony would be a clay Yi-Xing pot and several small teacups, a tea sink or shallow bowl for draining water into, and a few bamboo tools for handling the hot objects. The tea master will arrange the teapot and cups in a circular fashion over the tea sink or in the bowl, and pour hot water into each to rinse the objects and to warm them so that the temperature of the tea is more consistent.

This rinse water is discarded, and then a generous helping of tea leaves, usually oolong, is measured into the pot. More hot water is then poured into the pot and the tea leaves will begin steeping.

Every infusion in Gong Fu ceremony is very quick, about 30 seconds, though the method for timing is never exactly precise. In one tradition hot water is poured over the outside of the teapot, and when the water is seen to be fully evaporated, the tea is ready to be poured. In another, the tea master must count a full 4 deep breaths before beginning to pour. Either of these methods is roughly a 30 second steep, and remainsconsistent throughout the multiple following infusions. Then the tea master will begin pouring in a continuous flow around to each of the teacups, a lit tle at a time, resulting in each person having the equal amount and strength of tea in his or her cup. Af ter enjoying this first round of tea, the leaves may be resteeped for many more infusions. Express thanks to your server by tapping your index and middle fingers lightly on the table twice.

Traditional chinese tea pots are made of unglazed clay, and have been seasoned from years of use. The clay absorbs the oils from the tea leaves and eventually, over time, can develop a glazed appearance, especially on the inside of the pot. The clay used to make these tea pots is a special Yixing clay that is only found in one small town in China, near Shanghai. The Chinese believe this clay can dissolve toxic minerals in both tea and water. Yixing teaware are highly collected.

If you haven’t used the teapot for a while, rinse it out first with hot water. Put tea into tea pot. Never use your hands or metal to handle the tea leaves. Use only scoops made of bamboo or wood. The amount of tea you add depends on the number of people you plan to serve. Typically fill the small pot 1/4 to 1/3 full with dry tea leaves. Depending on what type of tea you are making, you will heat the water to dif ferent temperatures. Water for green tea should never be brought to boiling. It should only be heated enough so that tiny bubbles are rising from the bot tom of the ket tle (about 85°C). Water for jasmine tea can be a lit tle hot ter, and water for Oolong or black can be boiling (100°C).

Pour water out from this large teapot into the small teapot from some distance, until the leaves are covered with water. Almost immediately af ter hot water has been poured into the small teapot, pour out the water among the small tea cups. You will not drink this tea. The purpose of this pour is to season and warm the cups. Refill the teapot with water. Then empty the teacups from the first pouring over the tea pot. This keeps the teapot warm. Pour out the tea into the tea cups. This first serving of tea should only actually “brew� for 10-30 seconds. By the time you have finished emptying the cups over the tea pot, it is time to pour out the tea from the tea pot into the cups. With each subsequent infusion, add 30 seconds to the brewing time. A good tea will produce a minimum of 3 infusions. Place the tea cup in a lacquer, wood, or bamboo holder. Of fer to your guest.


If hot pink is India’s signature color, then the scent of chai might be its signature fragrance. Masala chai’s history began thousands of years ago in an ancient royal cour t. Even early on, masala chai was made with a wide range of spices and prepared with many dif ferent methods. It was served hot or cold as a remedy for mild ailments. At this time, the spicy-sweet drink known as “masala chai” did not contain any tealeaves and was caf feine free.

In 1835, the British set up tea plantations in Assam, India. The black teas produced there made their way into local masala chai recipes.

Cha-ya is the preferred style of tea sold on the streets, in train stations and in restaurants. Cha-ya is strong black tea, spiced with cinnamon, ginger, star anise, fennel, peppercorn, nutmeg, and cloves, sweetened with sugar and mixed with milk for a sweet and creamy beverage. This tea can be drunk alone, but is of ten enjoyed with a savory snack like samosas.

Every block in every town has its own chai wallah - 'tea person,' kind of like a barista of chai - who makes his proprietary version of chai. In some areas, people drink an average of about four small cups of chai per day. A popular time for chai is an af ternoon snack at around 4 PM.

To make the best chai ever, star t with whole spices and grind them yourself.

For the chai masala you’ll need: 1/4 cup ground black pepper (about 1/3 cup peppercorns) 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons ground ginger 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon 2 tablespoons ground cardamom 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves (about 18 cloves) 1 1/2 teaspoons grated nutmeg (about 1 whole nutmeg) 1/2 teaspoon ground dried orange peel, optional

Grind each spice individually in a spice or cof fee grinder. Be sure to grind them as finely as possible to avoid chunks of whole spices in your tea.

And for the chai: 1/2 teaspoon chai masala 1/2 cup water 1/2 cup milk of choice - coconut milk is especially nice 2 teaspoons black tea, such as Ceylon or Assam sweetener to taste

Bring the water, milk, masala, and tea to a slow simmer. Cover and remove from the heat. Allow to steep for 5 minutes. Strain carefully into a cup and sweeten to taste.


Tea was brought from China to Russia in the 17th century by the "Great Tea Road". This was a par t of the famous Silk Road. This journey took almost an entire year to complete, resulting in tea being quite expensive and only available to the aristocratic class for many years. Everything changed in 1880 when the Siberian Railroad was opened, and the trip could now be done in just two shor t months. Tea became widely available, and was embraced by all social classes. Around this same time, the samovar was introduced in Russia, and became the centerpiece of any Russian household, rich or poor.

The samovar was a large decorative urn made from copper or silver, that could hold a large quantity of water. An inside chamber was heated with coals and kept the water hot and bubbling all day long, so that tea could be prepared on a moment’s notice. On top of the samovar, a small teapot rested and was kept warm, containing a very strongly brewed concentrate of tea called zavarka. When one desired a cup of tea, they could immediately prepare it to their liking by pouring out a small amount of the zavarka, and diluting it with hot water from a spigot on the samovar. This invention, of Chinese origin, soon came to be recognized as the symbol of Russian hospitality.

Russian tastes in tea are quite unique compared to other countries. The concentrated tea found in the samovar’s teapot can be green, but is more of ten black tea from India or Sri Lanka. Russians will of ten use a blend of teas which has been smoked to varying degrees. Some believe this to be a taste that developed due to the Russian climate or local gastronomy, while others have the more romantic notion that this smoked tea is a reminder of the old caravan tea, which would become slightly smoked simply by the repeated exposure to campfires along the route. In fact, many tea companies have created smokey blends which are of ten called “Russian Caravan Tea.”

The preference for smokey tea would seem an odd combination with sweets, but the traditional way of drinking tea in Russia is to sip the tea through a sugar cube in the mouth, or by stirring a spoon of homemade jam into the cup before drinking. However it is prepared, tea can be found in any household and is enjoyed throughout the day.

To brew your russian tea you’ll need: 3 tbs. organic black tea 2 tbs. organic strawberry jam milk to taste, optional sugar os sweetner to taste - optional

First prepare the Kipyatok - this is just a fancy way of saying, bring water to a boil. To prepare the Zavarka, rinse the inside of your teapot with boiling water, then while the teapot is still hot add 3 tbs. of black tea. Immediately cover and allow the steam to condition the leaves. Af ter 5-10 seconds, add kipyatok. Stir in 2 tbs. of the best strawberry jam you can find. You are making a black tea concentrate so steep for at least 15 minutes.

When serving add equal par ts zavarka and kipyatok to your teacup. Add milk and sweetener to taste.

You can create an endless pot of tea by keeping at least half the tea concentrate in your teapot, and simply adding more boiling water and jam, to keep the tea going for up to three hours.


Anyone who’s been to Morocco knows that here a greeting is never a greeting without a glass of steaming-hot mint tea, served in one of two ways: sweet or very sweet. This mix ture of green tea and mint leaves is poured from a height into dainty glasses. Refusing to accept the drink when of fered by a host is a mark of ex treme rudeness.

In Morocco mint tea is drunk throughout the day, though especially during and following meals, because of the mint’s naturally ability to aid in digestion. The preparation of the beverage, a process referred to as atai, is par t of the tradition and is of ten done in front of the guests.

Preparing tea is a masculine role in Moroccan culture, and because of the high honor of this role is usually per formed by the head of the household. Regional variations exist, however the basic recipe for mint tea is as follows: Chinese green tea is mixed with fresh or dried mint leaves and a large lump of sugar in a tall silver or stainless steel teapot. Hot water is poured into the vessel and allowed to steep for a few minutes. The tea is then poured from an almost standing height in a thin stream into the small glasses arranged below. This ex travagant pouring gesture aerates the mint tea into the room and fills the space with its refreshing aroma.

To make your own Maroccan mint tea you will need: 1 tablespoon gunpowder green tea 2 tablespoons sugar large handful of mint 5 cups boiling water

Star t by adding the loose tea into your Moroccan tea pot. If you don’t have a Moroccan tea pot, a dif ferent type of teapot will do. Just make sure it can be used on the stovetop. Meanwhile, separately boil about 5 cups of water. Once the water comes to a boil, pour one cup of water into your Moroccan teapot. Let the tea steep for about 30 seconds and then empty the tea into a teacup. Set this aside for later. The first cup is very impor tant, as it contains the essence of the tea flavor.

Nex t, add another cup of boiling water into your Moroccan teapot. This time, swish the water around inside of the teapot in a circular motion, then pour into another tea cup. This process cleanses the tea, and helps remove any strong bit ter flavor. This tea will not be used and can be discarded. Dump it down the drain. Now it’s time to star t building your tea. Add the sugar and the mint to your Moroccan teapot. Also add the first cup of tea that you set aside. This will strengthen the tea and add flavor. Lastly, you’ll want to fill your Moroccan teapot with water. Now it’s time to place your Moroccan teapot on the stove over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Let it simmer for about five minutes. This process helps the sugar to caramelize and gives the tea its distinct flavor.

Once your tea has done its thing, remove from the heat and pour a glass of tea. But you’re not quite ready to drink! Pour the cup back into the pot. This is done to help mix everything together. It also helps to cool the tea a bit before drinking. Repeat this step two or three times.

Finally, you’re ready to serve the tea! However, the way you pour the tea is very impor tant. Star t by pouring the tea normally into the glass, but as you continue to pour, raise the teapot higher and higher above the glass, until you have a very high pour. This helps the tea become nice and frothy – another distinctive trait of Moroccan mint tea. If you’d like, garnish with a couple mint leaves.


Tea is an impor tant par t of Turkish culture, and is the most commonly consumed hot drink, despite the country's long history of cof fee consumption. Of fering tea to guests is par t of Turkish hospitality. Tea is most of ten consumed in households, shops and mostly kÄąraathane, which is social congregation of Turkish men. Tea was initially encouraged as an alternative to cof fee, which had become expensive and at times unavailable in the af termath of World War I. Upon the loss of southeastern territories af ter the fall of the Ot toman Empire, cof fee became an expensive impor t.

Turkish tea, called çay, is normally Rize tea, a variant of black tea which is consumed without milk. Turkish tea is typically prepared using two stacked ket tles called "çaydanlık" specially designed for tea preparation. Water is brought to a boil in the larger lower ket tle and then some of the water is used to fill the smaller ket tle on top and steep several spoons of loose tea leaves, producing a very strong tea. When served, the remaining water is used to dilute the tea on an individual basis, giving each consumer the choice between strong, a deep brownish red or weak. Tea is drunk from small glasses to enjoy it hot in addition to showing its colour, with cubes of beet sugar.

To make Turkish tea you’ll need: 1/3 cup black tea leaves 1 liter water for tea brew 1 liter water for serving sugar to taste

Fill the bot tom ket tle with 2 liter hot/boiling water and bring to boil at the high heat on your stove top. Put tea leaves into the upper ket tle and stack the upper ket tle on top of the bot tom one. Once the water in the bot tom ket tle is boiled, pour half into the upper ket tle to brew the tea. Reduce the heat to medium and let the tea in the upper ket tle get brewed for 15-20 min over the steam coming from the bot tle ket tle.

Pour out some tea brew (with a Turkish tea glass the rule of thumb will be to pour out the brew to the waist, the narrowest point of the glass) and then dilute it with water Reduce the heat to low to keep your tea warm as you’ll be serving a few rounds. Once the tea drinking is over turn of f the heat.


When tea was first introduced in England in the mid 1600’s, the consumption was limited by the high cost and also because of the segregation of tea being served in cof fee houses that catered solely to men. Once tea became popular enough in the cof fee houses, more specific tea houses began to be opened in London and elsewhere in the country. Here, men and women could both enjoy a cup of tea or buy some for home.

Af ternoon tea did not become established until almost 200 years later. In those days, most people only ate two meals: a large breakfast late in the morning and a late dinner around 8 or 9 o’clock in the evening. Anna, Duchess of Bedford, can be credited for creating the tradition of af ternoon tea. She would become hungry during the af ternoon. She began asking her servants to bring her some sweets and a cup of tea to ward away her hunger. Eventually she began sharing this custom with her friends, and af ternoon tea soon became popular among the aristocratic class. The working class caught on quickly, especially as the af ternoon meal was a good oppor tunity take a much needed break and spend time with friends.

Later on in the 19th century, Queen Victoria’s love for af ternoon tea was well known, as were her par ticular tastes for having a slice of lemon with her tea and her preference for cer tain cakes and strawberry jam. Af ternoon tea also gave way to another favorite tradition: the creation of tea gardens. Tea gardens were quiet places, created specially for taking in af ternoon tea, with beautiful flowers, herbs and quaint outdoor furniture.

Most people refer to af ternoon tea as high tea because they think it sounds regal, when in all actuality, high tea is dinner. Af ternoon tea (because it was usually taken in the late af ternoon) is also called "low tea" because it was usually taken in a sit ting room or withdrawing room where low tables - like a cof fee table - were placed near sofas or chairs generally in a large withdrawing room. There are 3 basic types of Af ternoon, or Low Tea: Cream Tea - tea, scones, jam and cream Light Tea - tea, scones and sweets Full Tea - tea, savories, scones, sweets and desser t

In England, the traditional time for tea was four or five o'clock and no one stayed af ter seven o'clock. Most tea rooms today serve tea from three to five o'clock. The menu has also changed from tea, bread, but ter and cakes, to include 3 par ticular courses served in this order: Savories - tiny sandwiches or appetizers Scones - served with jam and Devonshire cream Pastries - cakes, cookies, shor tbread and sweets

For your per fect English tea you’ll need: black tea leaves milk sugar cubes lemon slices honey

Fill a ket tle with water and set it to boil. As the water nears a boil, pour a lit tle of it into a teapot to warm it, swirling the water around and then discarding it. For each cup of tea desired, place a spoonful of loose tea leaves into the empty, warmed teapot. Pour the boiling water into the teapot and let the tea steep 3 to 6 minutes, depending on the type of tea leaves. Stir the tea before pouring it into teacups. Serve with milk and sugar cubes, or lemon slices and honey.


If man has no tea in him, he is incapable of understanding truth and beauty. Japanese Proverb

Tea ... is a religion of the ar t of life. Okakura KakuzĹ?

There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as af ternoon tea. Henry James

A cup of tea would restore my normality. Douglas Adams

There is something in the nature of tea that leads us into a world of quiet contemplation of life. L i n Yu t a n g

There are few nicer things than sit ting up in bed, drinking strong tea, and reading. Alan Clark

If this is cof fee, please bring me some tea; but if this is tea, please bring me some cof fee. Abraham Lincoln

When you have nobody you can make a cup of tea for, when nobody needs you, that's when I think life is over. Audrey Hepburn

teatIme tea ceremonies around the world

illustrations & design: Rebekka Ivรกcson



A book about 7 tea ceremonies around the world - Japan, China, India, Russia, Marocco, Turkey and England - presenting the traditions, utens...


A book about 7 tea ceremonies around the world - Japan, China, India, Russia, Marocco, Turkey and England - presenting the traditions, utens...