Last week, in the first part of this series, I pointed out that almost every culture drinks tea, so this week I am going to look the tea traditions of those cultures. I know when I think of tea, I think China, Japan, and Great Britain. Of course, I will talk about those, but I am going to look at the tea traditions of some places that might not immediately come to mind – one of those being the southern United States. And, I’m going to tell how we go about making our sweet iced tea, or just sweet tea as it is commonly called.
China – In China, tea was first used for medicinal purposes. While it is now used as a beverage, tea is still often used for medicinal purposes in China. In China, tea is an important part of every meal and even every aspect of life. The Chinese tea ceremony is called Gong Fu or Kung Fu.
Japan – Tea drinking in Japan is most often associated with its famous tea ceremony Cha-no-yu, but the Japanese also drink tea as a regular part of life.
Great Britain – Great Britain has long been associated with its afternoon tea. Originally meant to fill the space between a brunch or late breakfast type meal and a late evening dinner, afternoon tea consists not only of tea, but includes pastries, small cakes, breads, and sandwiches. Great Britain is also know for its high tea. High tea is often mistaken for being a higher form of afternoon tea. In reality, high tea was tea taken at high tables a little later in the day by working class people, and was really more akin to what Americans think of as supper than what we think of as tea. The British often add milk and/or sugar to their tea and sometimes lemon.
Russia – Russians drink strong, smoked tea sweetened with sugar or jam.
India – Do you drink chai or chai lattes? Chai or Cha-ya is a sweet, spiced, milky tea sold on the streets in India. India is also know for it Assam, Darjeeling, and Nilgiri teas.
United States – In the United States we drink tea both hot and cold and tea seems to have grown in popularity over that last few year. Americans have embraced pretty much all types and flavors of teas and may drink it straight or enhanced with sugar, honey, milk, and or lemon. Personally, I drink two cups of hot tea almost every morning and at least one more in the afternoon or evening with sugar and milk – milk is considered much better in tea than cream because cream can mask the flavor of the tea. Iced tea is common in the summer and is just tea that has been cooled to room temperature and poured over ice or refrigerated. Most people drink this unsweetened, but here in the south, sugar sweetened iced tea is common year round regardless of the weather.
Want to know how to make the perfect cup of tea? Marlys of This and That tells you here: A perfect cup of tea.
And, here is the recipe for southern sweet iced tea I promised:
- 2 quarts water
- 2 family sized tea bags
- ½ to 1 cup of sugar (or more to taste - I'm a half cup kind of girl, but I would say more southerners than not prefer it sweeter, with 1 cup being typical.)
- optional: lemon slices for serving
- Pour the sugar into a heat proof two quart container. I use a crock type pottery pitcher, and really if you are going to do this on a regular basis, I highly recommend purchasing one of these, but many people brew their tea in a large pot.
- Bring water to a boil. Let it sit until it quits bubbling.
- Pour it over the sugar.
- Put the tea bags in the hot water.
- Allow to steep 5 minutes.
- It is best if you allow it to cool a bit before serving because it will melt the ice and water down your glass of tea if it is too hot. Feel free to put it in the refrigerator to speed this up.
- Tea should also be refrigerated if it is not going to be consumed within a few hours.