Tea culture

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A man performs a tea ceremony.

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 arts and ceremony, society, history, health, ethics, education, and communication and media issues.

Tea is commonly consumed at social events, and many cultures have created intricate formal ceremonies for these events. Western examples of these are afternoon tea and the tea party. Tea ceremonies, with its roots in the Chinese tea culture, differ among eastern countries, such as the Japanese tea ceremony or Korean tea ceremony. However, it may also differ in preparation, such as in Tibet, where tea is commonly brewed with salt and butter. Tea also plays an important role in some countries.

The British Empire spread its own interpretation of tea to its dominions and colonies including regions that today comprise the states of India, Hong Kong, and Pakistan which had existing tea customs, as well as, regions such as East Africa (modern day Kenya. Tanzania, and Uganda), which did not have existing tea customs.

Different regions also favor different varieties of tea, black, green, or oolong, and use different flavourings, such as milk, sugar or herbs. The temperature and strength of the tea likewise varies widely.

East Asia


Tourner les tasses lors d'une cérémonie chinoise du thé

Due to the importance of tea in Chinese society and culture, tea houses can be found in most Chinese neighbourhoods and business districts. Chinese-style tea houses offer dozens of varieties of hot and cold tea concoctions. They also serve a variety of tea-friendly and/or tea-related snacks. Beginning in the late afternoon, the typical Chinese tea house quickly becomes packed with students and business people, and later at night plays host to insomniacs and night owls simply looking for a place to relax. Formal tea houses also exist. They provide a range of Chinese and Japanese tea leaves, as well as tea making accoutrements and a better class of snack food. Finally there are the tea vendors, who specialize in the sale of tea leaves, pots, and other related paraphernalia. Tea is an important item in Chinese culture and is mentioned in the Seven necessities of (Chinese) daily life.

Two periods

In China, at least as early as the Tang Dynasty, tea was an object of connoisseurship; in the Song Dynasty formal tea-tasting parties were held, comparable to modern wine tastings. As much as in modern wine tastings, the proper vessel was important and much attention was paid to matching the tea to an aesthetically appealing serving vessel.

Historically there were two phases of tea drinking in China based on the form of tea that was produced and consumed, namely: tea bricks versus loose leaf tea.

Tea brick phase

Tea served prior to the Ming Dynasty was typically made from tea bricks. Upon harvesting, the tea leaves were either partially dried or were thoroughly dried and ground before being pressed into bricks. The pressing of Pu-erh is likely a vestige of this process. Tea bricks were also sometimes used as currency. To improve its resiliency as currency, some tea bricks were mixed with binding agents such as blood. Serving the tea from tea bricks required multiple steps:

  • Toasting: Tea bricks are usually first toasted over a fire to destroy any mould or insects that may have burrowed into the tea bricks. Such infestation sometimes occurred since the bricks were stored openly in warehouses and storerooms. Toasting also likely imparted a pleasant flavour to the resulting tea.
  • Grinding: The tea brick was broken up and ground to a fine powder. This practice survives in Japanese powdered tea (Matcha).
  • Whisking: The powdered tea was mixed into hot water and frothed with a whisk before serving. The colour and patterns formed by the powdered tea were enjoyed while the mixture was imbibed.

The ground and whisked teas used at that time called for dark and patterned bowls in which the texture of the tea powder suspension could be enjoyed. The best of these bowls, glazed in patterns with names like oil spot, partridge-feather, hare's fur, and tortoise shell, are highly valued today. The patterned holding bowl and tea mixture were often lauded in the period's poetry with phrases such as "partridge in swirling clouds" or "snow on hare's fur". Tea in this period was enjoyed more for its patterns and less for its flavour. The practice of using powdered tea can still be seen in the Japanese Tea ceremony or Chado.

Loose-leaf tea phase
Five Yixing Clay Teapots - showing a variety of styles from formal to whimsical.

After 1391, the Hongwu Emperor, the founder of the Ming Dynasty, decreed that tributes of tea to the court were to be changed from brick to loose-leaf form. The imperial decree quickly transformed the tea drinking habits of the people, changing from whisked teas to steeped teas. The arrival of the new method for preparing tea also required the creation or use of new vessels.

  • The tea pot was needed such that the tea leaves can be steeped separately from the drinking vessel for an infusion of proper concentration. The tea also needs to be kept warm and the tea leaves must be separated from the resulting infusion when required.
  • Tea caddies and containers also became necessary in order to keep the tea and conserve its flavour. This was due to the fact that tea leaves do not preserve as well as tea bricks. Furthermore, the natural aroma of tea became the focus of the tea drinking due to the new preparation method.
  • A change in Chinese tea drinking vessels was also evident at this point. Smaller bowls with plain or simple designs on the interior surfaces were favoured over the larger patterned bowls used for enjoying the patterns created by powdered teas. Tea drinking in small bowls and cups was likely adopted since it gathers and directs the fragrant steam from the tea to the nose and allows for better appreciation of the tea's flavour.

Teawares made with a special kind of purple clay (Zisha) from Yixing went on to develop during this period (Ming Dynasty). The structure of purple clay made it advantageous material with tiny and high density, preferred for heat preservation and perviousness. Simplicity and rusticity dominated the idea of purple clay teaware decoration art. It became soon the most popular method of performing Chinese tea ceremony, which often combines literature, calligraphy, painting and seal cutting in Chinese culture.

The loose-leaf tea and the purple clay teaware is still the preferred method of preparing tea in Chinese daily life.

Hong Kong

The English-style tea has evolved into a new local style of drink, the Hong Kong-style milk tea, more often simply "milk tea", in Hong Kong by using evaporated milk instead of ordinary milk. It is popular at cha chaan tengs and fast food shops such as Café de Coral and Maxims Express. Traditional Chinese tea, including green tea, flower tea, jasmine tea and Pu-erh tea, are also common, and are served at dim sum restaurant during yum cha.


A traditional Japanese cast-iron teapot from the Tōhoku region.

Green tea's traditional role in Japanese society is as a drink for special guests and special occasions. Green tea is served in many companies during afternoon breaks. Japanese often buy sweets for their colleagues when on vacation or business trips. These snacks are usually enjoyed with green tea. Tea will also be prepared for visitors coming for meetings to companies and for guests visiting Japanese homes. A thermos full of green tea is also a staple on family or school outings as an accompaniment to bento (box lunches). Families often bring along proper teacups, to enhance the enjoyment of the traditional drink.

The strong cultural association the Japanese have with green tea has made it the most popular beverage to drink with traditional Japanese cuisine, such as sushi, sashim] and tempura. At a restaurant, a cup of green tea is often served with meals at no extra charge, with as many refills as desired. The best traditional Japanese restaurants take as much care in choosing the tea they serve as in preparing the food itself.

Cup of Matcha tea and sweet cake

Many Japanese are still taught the proper art of the centuries-old Japanese tea ceremony as well. Still, the Japanese now enjoy green tea processed using state of the art technology. Today, hand pressing—a method demonstrated to tourists—is taught only as a technique preserved as a part of the Japanese cultural tradition. Most of the ubiquitous vending machines also carry a wide selection of both hot and cold bottled teas. Oolong enjoys considerable popularity. Black tea, often with milk or lemon, is served ubiquitously in cafes, coffee shops and restaurants.

Major tea-producing areas in Japan include Shizuoka prefecture and the city of Uji in Kyoto Prefecture.

Other infusions bearing the name cha are barley tea (mugi-cha) which is popular as a cold drink in the summer, buckwheat tea (soba-cha), and hydrangea tea (ama-cha).


Myanmar (formerly Burma) is one of very few countries where tea is not only drunk but eaten as lahpet - pickled tea served with various accompaniments. It is called lahpet so (tea wet) in contrast to lahpet chauk (tea dry) or akyan jauk (crude dry) with which green tea—yeinway jan or lahpet yeijan meaning plain or crude tea—is made. In the Shan State of Myanmar where most of the tea is grown, and also Kachin State, tea is dry-roasted in a pan before adding boiling water to make green tea. It is the national drink in a predominantly Buddhist country with no national tipple other than the palm wine. Tea sweetened with milk is known as lahpet yeijo made with acho jauk (sweet dry) or black tea and prepared the Indian way, brewed and sweetened with condensed milk. It is a very popular drink although the middle classes by and large appear to prefer coffee most of the time. It was introduced to Myanmar by Indian immigrants some of whom set up teashops known as kaka hsaing, later evolving to just lahpetyei hsaing (teashop).

Social nexus

Burma's street culture is basically a tea culture as people, mostly men but also women and families, hang out in tea shops reading the paper or chatting away with friends, exchanging news, gossip and jokes, nursing cups of Indian tea served with a diverse range of snacks from cream cakes to Chinese fried breadsticks (youtiao) and steamed buns (baozi) to Indian naan bread and samosas. Green tea is customarily the first thing to be served free of charge as soon as a customer sits down at a table in all restaurants as well as teashops.

Pubs and clubs, unlike in the West, have remained a minority pursuit so far. Teashops are found from the smallest village to major cities in every neighbourhood up and down the country. They are open from the crack of dawn for breakfast till late in the evening, and some are open 24 hours catering for long distance drivers and travellers. One of the most popular teashops in Yangon in the late 1970s was called Shwe Hleiga (Golden Stairs) by popular acclaim as it was just a pavement stall, with low tables and stools for the customers, at the bottom of a stairwell in downtown Yangon. Busy bus stops and terminals as well as markets have several teashops. Train journeys in Myanmar also feature hawkers who jump aboard with giant kettles of tea for thirsty passengers.


Lahpet served in a lacquer dish

Lahpet (pickled tea) is served in one of two ways:

  1. A-hlu lahpet or Mandalay lahpet is served in a plate or traditionally in a shallow lacquerware dish called lahpet ohk with a lid and divided into small compartments—pickled tea laced with sesame oil in a central compartment, and other ingredients such as crisp fried garlic, peas and peanuts, toasted sesame, crushed dried shrimp, preserved shredded ginger and fried shredded coconut in other compartments encircling it. It may be served as a snack or after a meal with green tea either on special occasions or just for the family and visitors. A-hlu means alms and is synonymous with a novitiation ceremony called Shinbyu although lahpet is served in this form also at hsun jway (offering a meal to monks) and weddings. Invitation to a shinbyu is traditionally by calling from door to door with a lahpet ohk, and acceptance is indicated by its partaking.
  2. Lahpet thouk or Yangon lahpet is pickled tea salad very popular all over Myanmar especially with women, and some teashops would have it on their menu as well as Burmese restaurants. It is prepared by mixing all the above ingredients without the coconut but in addition includes fresh tomatoes, garlic and green chilli, and is dressed with fish sauce, sesame or peanut oil, and a squeeze of lime. Some of the most popular brands sold in packets include Ayee Taung lahpet from Mandalay, Shwe Toak from Mogok, Yuzana and Pinpyo Ywetnu from Yangon. Hnapyan jaw (twice fried) ready-mixed garnish is also available today.


Taiwanese tea culture, include tea arts, tea ceremony, and a very social way of enjoying tea. While the most common teas are oolongs especially Taiwanese oolongs such as Iron Goddess and Alpine Oolong; Puers, black teas and green teas are also popular. Many of the classical arts can be seen in the tea culture, examples: calligraphy, flower arts, incense arts, and such. In Taiwan most people drink tea, and tea is not only a drink, but also a part of the culture. The tea culture of Taiwan can be traced back to the root from Chinese tea culture. Many people visit one of the numerous traditional tea houses or "tea-arts" shops, located all over Taiwan.

Taiwan is the producer of some of the world's high-end green and oolong teas. It is also famous as country of origin for Bubble tea.

Bubble tea from Quickly, with black tapioca pearls visible at the bottom of the cup

Bubble tea

Bubble tea, pearl milk tea (珍珠奶茶), or boba milk tea (波霸奶茶) is a tea beverage mixture with milk which may include balls of tapioca. Originating in Taiwan, it is especially popular in Asia (Taiwan, People's Republic of China, Hong Kong, South Korea, the Philippines, and Singapore) as well as Europe, Canada, and the United States. It is also known as black pearl tea or tapioca tea.


Butter, milk, and salt are added to brewed tea and churned to form a hot drink called Po cha (bod ja, where bod means Tibetan and ja tea) in Tibet. The concoction is also sometimes called cha su mar, mainly in Kham, or Eastern Tibet. Traditionally, the drink is made with a domestic brick tea and yak milk, then mixed in a churn for several minutes. Using a generic black tea, milk and butter, and shaking or blending work well too, although the unique taste of yak milk is difficult to replicate.

Tibet tea drinking has many rules. One such concerns an invitation to a house for tea. The host will first pour some highland barley wine. The guest must dip his finger in the wine and flick some away. This will be done three times to represent respect for the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. The cup will then be refilled two more times and on the last time it must be emptied or the host will be insulted. After this the host will present a gift of butter tea to the guest, who will accept it without touching the rim of the bowl. The guest will then pour a glass for himself, and must finish the glass or be seen as rude.

There are two main teas that go with the tea culture. The teas are butter tea and sweet milk tea. These two teas are only found in Tibet.Template:Citation needed Other teas that the Tibetans enjoy are boiled black teas. There are many tea shops in Tibet selling these teas, which travelers often take for their main hydration source.


Thai tea (also known as Thai iced tea or "cha-yen") when ordered in Thailand, is a drink made from strongly-brewed black tea that usually contains added anise, red and yellow food colouring, and sometimes other spices as well. This tea is sweetened with sugar and condensed milk and served chilled. Evaporated or whole milk is generally poured over the tea and ice before serving—it is never mixed prior to serving—to add taste and creamy appearance. Locally, it is served in a traditional tall glass and when ordered take-out, it is poured over the crushed ice in a clear (or translucent) plastic bag. It can also be made into a frappé at more westernised vendors.

It is popular in Southeast Asia and in many American restaurants that serve Thai or Vietnamese food, especially on the West Coast. Although Thai tea is not the same as bubble tea, a Southeast and East Asian beverage that contains large black pearls of tapioca starch, Thai tea with pearls is a popular flavor of bubble tea.

Green tea is also becoming very popular in Thailand, spawning many different variations such as barley green tea, rose green tea, lemon green tea, etc. Thai green tea, however, is not to be confused with traditional Japanese green tea. Thai green tea tends to be very heavily commercialized and the taste is sweeter and easier to appreciate than other bitter variations.

South Asia


One of the world's largest producer of tea, India is a country where tea is popular all over as a breakfast and evening drink. It is often served as masala chai with milk and sugar, and sometimes scented. Almost all the tea consumed is black Indian tea. Usually tea leaves are boiled in water while making tea, and milk is added.

Offering tea to visitors is the cultural norm in India.

There are three most famous regions in Indian to produce black teas- Darjeeling, Assam and Nilgiri. "Strong, heavy and fragrance" are 3 criteria for judging black tea. Darjeeling tea is known for its delicate aroma and light colour and is aptly termed as "the champagne of teas", which has high aroma and yellow or brown liquid after brewing. Assam tea is known for its robust taste and dark colour, and Nilgiri tea is dark, intensely aromatic and flavoured. Assam produces the largest quantity of Tea in India, mostly of the CTC variety, and is one of the biggest suppliers of major international brands such as Lipton and Tetley. The Tetley Brand, formerly British and one of the largest, is now owned by the Tata Tea Limited.


Tea is popular all over Pakistan. During British rule tea became very popular in Lahore. Tea is usually consumed at breakfast, during lunch breaks at the workplace, and in the evening at home. Evening tea may be consumed with biscuits or cake. Guests are typically offered a choice between tea and soft drinks. It is common practice for homeowners to offer tea breaks to hired labour, and sometimes even provide them with tea during the breaks. Tea offered to labour is typically strong and has more sugar in it.

In Pakistan, both black and[green teas are popular and are known locally as sabz chai and kahwah, respectively. The popular green tea called kahwah is often served after every meal in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the Pashtun belt of Balochistan. In the Kashmir region of Pakistan, Kashmiri chai or "noon chai," a pink, milky tea with pistachios and cardamom, is consumed primarily at special occasions, weddings, and during the winter months when it is sold in many kiosks. In Lahore and other cities of Punjab this Kashmiri Chai or Cha (as pronounced in Punjabi, Kosher as well as in many Chinese dialects ) is common drink by Kashmiri diaspora settled in Punjab since Nineteenth Century .They prefer in traditional Salty taste, rather than sea salt Himalyan Rock salt also called Lahori namak is preferred but no sugar is added . It is taken with Bakar Khani as well as Kashmiri Kulcha (namkeen / salty version of Khand Kulcha) . Namkeen Chai or Noon / Loon Cha or commonly called Kashmri Chai and some times Sheer (milk) Cha or sabz chai(Green Tea as the same tea are used for making Khahwa /Green Tea) is sold and seen Gowal Mandi kiosks with Salt for Kashmiri as well as with sugar and pistachios for Non- Kashmris or those who like it with sugar . In the northern Pakistan regions of Chitral and Gilgit-Baltistan, a salty buttered Tibetan style tea is consumed.

Sri Lanka

Tea plantation, Sri Lanka

In Sri Lanka, usually black tea is served with milk and sugar, but the milk is always warmed. Tea is a hugely popular beverage among the Sri-Lankan people, and part of its land is surrounded by the many hills of tea plantations that spread for miles. Drinking tea has become part of the culture of Sri Lanka.

Eastern Europe

Czech Republic

Specific tea culture has developed in the Czech republic in recent years, including many styles of tearooms. Despite having the same name, they are mostly different from the British style tea rooms. Pure teas are usually prepared with respect to their country of origin and good tea palaces may offer 80 teas from almost all tea-producing countries. Different tea rooms have also created various blends and methods of preparation and serving.


A Russian tea glass-holder is a traditional way of serving and drinking tea in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, other CIS and ex-USSR countries. Expensive podstakanniks are made from silver, classic series are made mostly from nickel silver, cupronickel, and other alloys with nickel, silver or gold plating. In Russia, it is customary to drink tea brewed separately in a teapot and diluted with freshly boiled water ('pair-of-teapots tea', 'чай парой чайников'). Traditionally, the tea is very strong, its strength often indicating the hosts' degree of hospitality. The traditional implement for boiling water for tea used to be the samovar (and sometimes it still is, though usually electric). The podstakannik ('подстаканник'), or tea glass holder (literally "thing under the glass"), is also a part of Russian tea tradition. Tea is a family event, and is usually served after each meal with sugar (one to three teaspoonfuls per cup) and lemon (but without milk), and an assortment of jams, pastries and confections. Black tea is commonly used, with green tea gaining popularity as a more healthy, more "Oriental" alternative. Teabags are not used in the traditional Russian tea ceremony, only loose, large-leaf black tea.


Less visible than in the Czech Republic, tea culture also exists in Slovakia. Although considered an underground environment by many, tea rooms continue to pop up almost in every middle-sized town. These tea rooms are appreciated for offering quiet environments with pleasant music. More importantly, they are usually non-smoking, unlike most pubs and cafés.

Middle East and Africa


Turkish tea, served in a typical glass

Turkish tea or Çay is produced on the eastern Black Sea coast, which has a mild climate with high precipitation and fertile soil. Turkish tea is typically prepared using two stacked kettles especially designed for tea preparation. Water is brought to a boil in the larger lower kettle and then some of the water is used to fill the smaller kettle 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 ("koyu"/dark) or weak ("açık"/light). Tea is drunk from small glasses to enjoy it hot in addition to show its colour, with lumps of beetroot sugar.To a lesser extent than in other Muslim countries, tea replaces both alcohol and coffee as the social beverage. Within Turkey the tea is usually known as Rize tea.


Tea is the national drink in Egypt, and holds a special position that even coffee cannot rival. In Egypt, tea is called "shai". Tea packed and sold in Egypt is almost exclusively imported from Kenya and Sri Lanka. The Egyptian government considers tea a strategic crop and runs large tea plantations in Kenya. Green tea is a recent arrival to Egypt (only in the late 1990s did green tea become affordable) and is not as popular.

Egyptian tea comes in two varieties: Koshary and Saiidi. Koshary tea, popular in Lower (Northern) Egypt, is prepared using the traditional method of steeping black tea in boiled water and letting it set for a few minutes. It is almost always sweetened with cane sugar and is often flavored with fresh mint leaves. Adding milk is also common. Koshary tea is usually light, with less than a half teaspoon per cup considered to be near the high end.

Saiidi tea is common in Upper (Southern) Egypt. It is prepared by boiling black tea with water for as long as 5 minutes over a strong flame. Saiidi tea is extremely heavy, with 2 teaspoonfuls per cup being the norm. It is sweetened with copious amounts of cane sugar (a necessity since the formula and method yield a very bitter tea). Saiidi tea is often black even in liquid form.

Tea is a vital part of daily life and folk etiquette in Egypt. Most people cannot function without a morning shot of tea, and drinking tea after lunch is compulsory. A visit to anyone of any socioeconomic level entails a compulsory cup of tea. A nickname for tea in Egypt is "duty", as serving tea to a visitor is considered a duty, while anything beyond is a nicety.

Besides true tea, tisanes are also often served at the Egyptian teahouses. Especially karkade is a highly popular beverage.


Tea found its way to Persia (Iran] through the Silk Road from India and soon became the national drink. The whole part of northern Iran along the shores of the Caspian sea is suitable for the cultivation of tea. Especially in the Gilan province on the slopes of Alborz, large areas are under tea cultivation and millions of people work in the tea industry for their livelihood. That region covers a large part of Iran's need for tea. Iranians have one of the highest per capita rates of tea consumption in the world and from old times every street has had a Châikhâne (Tea house). Châikhânes are still an important social place. Iranians traditionally drink tea by pouring it into a saucer and putting a lump of rock sugar (qand) in the mouth before drinking the tea.


Moroccan mint tea

Morocco is considered the first importer of green tea worldwide.

Tea was introduced to Morocco in the 18th century through trade with Europe.

Morocco consumes green tea with mint rather than black tea. It has become part of the culture and is used widely at almost every meal. The Moroccan people even make tea performance a special culture in the flower country. Moroccan tea is commonly served with rich tea cookies, fresh green mint leaves, local "finger shape" brown sugar, and colorful tea glasses and pots. Drinking Moroccan tea is not only a luxury of tongue, but also the eyes.


Tea plays an important part in the island's culture. It is very common for people to serve a cup of tea to invitees or to people who have just dropped by casually. Furthermore, tea is served at most work places and tea breaks in the morning and afternoon are considered as important moments for employees to socialize.

The Mauritian people consume black tea, in the vast majority of cases with milk and sugar. Drinking plain tea is unusual, as plain tea in Mauritius is mostly used as a cure for some mild health problems. Mauritius is also a producer of tea, at first on a very small scale when the French introduced the plant into the island around 1765. It was under later British rule that tea cultivation began to occupy more important surfaces.

The Bois Cheri vanilla-flavoured tea is considered as typical of Mauritius, and is produced in the estate of Bois Cheri, in the southern part of the island. Along with Chartreuse and Corson, Bois Cheri is one of the three tea producers of Mauritius.


Sahelian tea set

In the Sahel region on the southern fringe of the Sahara, green gunpowder tea is prepared with little water and large amounts of sugar. By pouring the tea into the glasses and back, a foam builds on top of the tea. Sahelian tea is a social occasion and three infusions, the first one very bitter, the second in between and the last one rather sweet are taken in the course of several hours.


Tea is an important social beverage to Somali people. It is called shaah in Somali language. Tea was first introduced to Somalis through ancient trade with the Arabs and Indians. In major Somali towns you can find many tea shops and tea stalls around busy market areas. Somalis consume tea at anytime of the day but primarily at breakfast, in the late afternoon, called Asariyo, and after or during supper. Any guest to a Somali household would be offered spiced Somali tea, known as Shaah Hawash, as soon as he or she arrives. The tea is spiced with cardamom, cloves and sometimes dry ginger and is usually served milky and sweet. Unlike in other cultures Somalis do not ask their guest how they would like their tea in terms of sugar content, strength and whether milk should be added or not. Tea is usually preferred over coffee in Somalia, however because of Italian colonial influence some Somalis prefer coffee over tea.

Somalis usually drink milky tea, but its customary to serve black tea if it is to be consumed after a heavy meal. It is called Shaah Bigaysi.

Western Europe


While France is well known for its coffee drinking, afternoon tea has long been a social habit of the upper middle class, famously illustrated, for example, by Marcel Proust's novels. Mariage Frères is a famous high-end tea shop from Paris, active since 1854. Nowadays, if the French tea market is still only a fraction of the British one (a consumption of 250 grams per person a year compared to about 2 kilos in the UK), it has doubled from 1995 to 2005 and is still growing steadily. On the other side of The Channel, the consumption is declining. Tea in France is of the black variety, but Asian green teas and fruit-flavoured teas are becoming increasingly popular. French people still favour tea mostly in the afternoon. It is often taken in salons de thé. Most people will add sugar to their tea (65%), then milk (25%), lemon (30%) or nothing (32%) are about equally popular. Tea is generally served with some pastries, including a family of not so sweet ones reserved for tea drinking, like the madeleine and the financier.


The region of East Friesland is noted for its consumption of tea and its tea culture. Strong Assam tea, Ceylon or Darjeeling is served whenever there are visitors to an East Frisian home or other gathering, as well as with breakfast, mid-afternoon, and mid-evening.

The traditional preparation is as follows: A kluntjes, a white rock candy sugar that melts slowly, is added to the empty cup (allowing multiple cups to be sweetened) then tea is poured over the kluntje. A heavy cream "sky" is added to the tea "water", the sugar represents "land". It is served without a spoon and drunk unstirred, i. e. in three tiers: In the beginning one predominantly tastes the cream, then the tea and finally the kluntje at the bottom of the cup. Stirring the tea would blend all three tiers into one and spoil the traditional tea savouring. The tea is generally served with small cookies during the week and cakes during special occasions or on weekends as a special treat. The tea is said to cure headaches, stomach problems, and stress, among many other ailments. The tea set is commonly decorated with an East Friesian Rose design. The teaspoon is provided not for stirring, but for signaling that one has had enough tea.


Ireland has, for a long time, been one of the biggest per-capita consumers of tea in the world. The national average is four cups per person per day, with many people drinking six cups or more.

Tea in Ireland is usually taken with milk and/or sugar and is slightly spicier and stronger than the traditional English Blend. The two main brands of tea sold in Ireland are Lyons and Barry's. The Irish love of tea is perhaps best illustrated by the stereotypical housekeeper, Mrs Doyle in the popular sitcom Father Ted.


Tea growing in Portugal takes place in the Azores, a group of islands located 1500 km west of Mainland Portugal. Portugal was the first to introduce the practice of drinking tea to Europe as well as the first European country to produce tea.

In 1750, terrains ranging from the fields of Capelas to those of Porto Formoso on the island of São Miguel were used for the first trial crops of tea. They delivered 10 kg of black tea and 8 kg of green tea. A century later, with the introduction of skilled workers from the Macau Region of China in 1883, production became significant and the culture expanded. Following the instructions of these workers, the species Jasminum grandiflorum and Malva vacciones were introduced to give 'nobility' to the tea aroma, though only the Jasminum was used.

This tea is currently traded under the name of the processed compound, Gorreana, and is produced by independent families. No herbicides or pesticides are allowed in the growing process, and modern consumers associate the production with more recent organic teas. However, production standards concerning the plant itself and its cropping have not changed for the last 250 years.

Great Britain

Black tea with just added —and not yet stirred in— milk.

The [British are the second largest per capita tea consumers in the world after Ireland, with each person consuming on average 2.1 kg per year. The popularity of tea dates back to the 19th century when India was part of the British Empire, and British interests controlled tea production in the subcontinent. It was, however, first introduced in Britain by the Portuguese Catherine of Braganza, queen consort of Charles II in the 1660s and 1670s. As tea spread throughout the Great Britain people started to have tea gardens and tea dances. These would include watching fireworks or a dinner party and dance, concluding with an evening tea. The tea gardens lost value after World War II but tea dances are still held today in Great Britain. Tea is usually black tea served with milk and sometimes with sugar. Strong tea served with lots of milk and often two teaspoons of sugar, usually in a mug, is commonly referred to as builder's tea. Much of the time in Britain, tea drinking is not the delicate, refined cultural expression that the rest of the world imagines—a cup (or commonly a mug) of tea is something drunk often, with some people drinking as many as 15-20 cups of tea a day, although the average is around 5. This is not to say that the British do not have a more formal tea ceremony, but for the working class, tea breaks are an essential part of any day. Employers generally allow breaks for tea and sometimes biscuits to be served.

The British concept of a 'tea break' during working hours is a term used almost uniformly across the working environment, regardless of whether any tea is actually consumed. The term is often simply shortened to 'tea', essentially indicating a break. This term was also exported to the game of cricket and consequently to most other countries of the former British Empire.

British style tea

Even very slightly formal events can be a cause for cups and saucers to be used instead of mugs. A typical semi-formal old-fashioned British tea ritual might run as follows (note that the steps of this 'ritual' may and often do vary with regional and personal preference):

  1. The kettle is boiled and water poured into a tea pot.
  2. Water is swirled around the pot to warm it and then poured out.
  3. Teaspoons full of loose tea or tea-bags are then added to the pot. The traditional quantity is one per person and one for the pot.
  4. Freshly boiling water is added to the pot and allowed to brew for a few minutes while a tea cosy is placed on the pot to keep the tea warm.
  5. Milk may be added to the cup either before or after the tea is poured.
  6. A tea strainer is placed over the top of the cup to catch tea leaves and the tea poured through it.
  7. The tea is then given to guests and they can sugar to their taste.
  8. The pot will normally hold enough tea so as not to be empty after filling the cups of all the guests. If this is the case, the tea cosy is replaced after everyone has been served.

Whether to put milk into the cup before or after the tea is a matter of debate. In the early days of tea-drinking, milk would be poured into the cup first to avoid the thermal shock of hot tea cracking the delicate porcelain. Adding milk second may scald part of the milk while it is poured into the hot tea. Pouring tea after milk reduces the maximum temperature reached by the milk, as the poured tea is gradually cooled by the milk. In other words, pouring milk after tea produces abrupt milk heating, while pouring tea after milk produces more gradual milk heating. Also, adding milk second produces an initially less homogeneous mixture (see figure above; even when the mixture is not stirred, however, it quickly becomes homogeneous due to random molecule drifting).

Drinking tea from the saucer (poured from the cup in order to cool it) was not uncommon over fifty years ago but is now almost universally considered a breach of etiquette.

Tea as a meal

In the British Isles tea is not only the name of the beverage, but also the name of a meal. Even more confusing is that the kind of meal that a person means when talking about tea depends very much on their social background and where they live.

For some, especially in the upper social classes, tea is of an afternoon light meal, often just cake, buns, scones or sandwiches served, irrespective of the beverage consumed with it. Anna Russell, Duchess of Bedford is credited with the creation of the meal circa 1800. She thought of the idea to ward off hunger between lunch (served between 12 and 2 pm) and dinner (usually served after 7pm). The tradition continues to this day. There used to be a tradition of tea rooms in Britain which provided the traditional fare of cream and jam on scones, a combination commonly known as cream tea. However, these establishments have declined in popularity since World War II. In Devon and Cornwall particularly, cream teas are a speciality. Lyons Corner Houses were a successful chain of such establishments. It is a common misconception that cream tea refers to tea served with cream (as opposed to milk). This is certainly not the case.

For others, especially working classes in South Wales and much of the North of England, the term 'tea' means the main evening meal. This is usually served soon after the family members have arrived home from work, school etc. typically between 5 and 6 pm. The question "What time are we having tea?" is about a meal and not a drink.

For people who consume tea as a late afternoon light meal the main evening meal is called "dinner" and served later in the evening, usually after 7pm.

In areas where "tea" refers to the main evening meal, the meal eaten in the early afternoon is called "dinner" generally replaces "lunch" as the term used to refer to a midday meal. Thus school lunches are often referred to as school dinners and the time at which the evening meal is eaten is called "tea time". Even more confusingly for foreigners, working-class and middle-class children and some adults in the South of England refer to the meal eaten at tea time as "dinner" and yet refer to lunch time as "dinner time".

At work, the time for taking tea the drink is known as a "tea break" and not "tea time". At home, tea the beverage is drunk at any time so "tea time" will not refer to a time for drinking the beverage. When a person can no longer wait for someone else to make the tea they usually declare "Okay, I'll put the kettle on" and they then leave the room. The others then wait in eager anticipation for the arrival of their beverage, often accompanied with a biscuit or two.

Box for the storage of loose tea leaves known as a tea caddy.

Industrial Revolution

Some scholars suggest that tea played a role in the Industrial Revolution. Afternoon tea possibly became a way to increase the number of hours labourers could work in factories; the stimulants in the tea, accompanied by sugary snacks, would give workers energy to finish out the day's work. Further, tea helped alleviate some of the consequences of the urbanisation that accompanied the industrial revolution: drinking tea required boiling one's water, thereby killing water-borne diseases like dysentery, cholera, and typhoid.

Tea cards

In the United Kingdom a number of varieties of loose tea sold in packets from the 1940s to the 1980s contained tea cards. These were illustrated cards roughly the same size as cigarette cards and intended to be collected by children. Perhaps the best known were Typhoo tea and Brooke Bond (manufacturer of PG Tips), who also provided albums for collectors to keep their cards in, the brand named Brooke Bond Dividend D, that is, the card was a dividend against the cost of the tea. Some brands also provided stamps that could be traded at the Co-op. Some renowned artists were commissioned to illustrate the cards including Charles Tunnicliffe. Many of these card collections are now valuable collectors' items.

Commonwealth countries

Afternoon tea and the variant cream tea (called Devonshire Tea in Australia and New Zealand) is the best known "tea ceremony" in the English speaking Commonwealth countries, available in homes and tea rooms throughout Great Britain, India, Africa, New Zealand, and Australia; is it often associated with Great Britain. "Tea" may also refer to a meal, or dinner, in some Commonwealth countries, notably those forming the United Kingdom, regardless of the beverage served with the meal; in many English dialects it means the main meal of the day, and "dinner" means a mid-day meal. Alan Bennett, for example, lamented that he was the only one to have dinner at noon. This usage has however fallen out of favour in Canada and Australia.

This could lead to confusion over the meaning of an invitation to "tea". The slang term "cuppa" (as in a "cup of tea"), is used in the United Kingdom possibly to counteract this confusion, but is more likely just an abbreviation. Due to the diverse mix of races and cultures in Australia since the 1950s, these days most cultural variations of tea are available. Taiwanese bubble tea, known locally as pearl milk tea, has become widely popular in urban Australia, with multiple chains in every major city.

A stereotypical expression "You'll Have Had Your Tea" is used to parody people from Edinburgh as being rather shortcoming with hospitality. A BBC Radio 4 series of this name was made byraeme Garden and Barry Cryer.


United States

In the United States, tea can typically be served at all meals as an alternative to coffee, when served hot, or soda, when served iced. Tea is also consumed throughout the day as a beverage. Afternoon tea, the meal done in the English tradition, is rarely served in the United States, although it remains romanticized by small children; it is usually reserved for special occasions like tea parties. Rather than drinking tea hot, many Americans prefer tea served with ice. Iced tea has become an iconic symbol of the southern United States and southern hospitality, often appearing alongside summer barbecue cooking or grilled foods. Iced tea is often made as sweet tea, which is simply iced tea with copious amounts of sugar or sweetener.

Iced tea can be purchased like soda, in canned or bottled form at vending machines and convenience stores. This pre-made tea is usually sweetened. Sometimes some other flavorings, such as lemon or raspberry, are added. Many restaurants dispense iced tea brewed throughout the day from upright containers. In the United States, about 80% of the tea consumed is served cold, or "iced". Decaffeinated tea is widely available in the United States, for those who wish to reduce the physiological effects of caffeine.

Prior to World War II, the US preference for tea was equally split between green tea and black tea, 40% and 40%, with the remaining 20% preferring oolong tea. The war cut off the United States from its primary sources of green tea, China and Japan, leaving it with tea almost exclusively from British-controlled India, which produces black tea. After the war, nearly 99% of tea consumed was black tea. Green, oolong, and white teas have recently become more popular again, and are often touted as health foods.

In the past 15 years fast food coffee chains have made a huge impact on how Americans are exposed to tisanes and exotic teas. Once considered a rarity, chai, based on Indian masala chai has actually become a popular choice for latte drinkers. Although not as commercialized, Bubble tea from Taiwan has also become popular in the United States in recent years, often served in small local cafes in the same style as many coffee drinks.

See also