International Tea Day 2024: 7 Rituals Around The Beverage
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A hot cup of tea is always a pleasure, a way to unwind, or just a place to halt during a hectic day for any tea enthusiast. It is the ideal moment to explore some of the customs and rituals associated with this elixir throughout the world as the world celebrates International Tea Day on May 21st this year.

Tea traditions provide a distinctive window into many global histories. The story of tea begins in China, where it is said that the Chinese emperor Shen Nung sat under a tree in 2737 BCE, watching while his servant heated water for drinking. As luck would have it, a couple of the tree's leaves drifted into the steaming liquid. The renowned herbalist, Shen Nung, was curious and tried the accidental mixture. The tree, which was identified as Camellia sinensis, gave rise to the beverage that is today known as tea.

Though this story may or may not be true, one thing is certain: tea drinking was well established in China long before it was brought to the rest of the world. Archaeological finds have shown that tea vessels from the Han era were present in graves. But tea's status as China's national beverage was really cemented during the Tang period. Over the course of the Silk Road, tea became woven into the cultural fabric of many nations. Throughout the ages, many different tea customs have developed throughout the world, each with its own taste characteristics and rituals.

Chinese Rituals

Given that China is the country where tea originated, it seems appropriate to start with Chinese tea customs. Whether it's a wedding, a family get-together, or a New Year's celebration, tea is a staple of Chinese social gatherings. Among all of these, the wedding tea ceremony is the most well-known, having originated in the Tang Dynasty. In keeping with this custom, the bride and groom will have the privilege of serving tea to their families. This is done as a means to commemorate the union of the pair and to officially welcome the spouse into the family.

Typically, tea during these rituals is offered with chocolates, nuts, and dates. crimson decorations are frequently used to complement the bride's qipao, or crimson attire. The colour of the teapot and set will frequently match as well. Furniture has to be moved out of the way if the ceremony is being performed in a house, since this is the traditional setting. This is because the bride and groom kneel on a cushion to serve tea to their loved ones throughout the ceremony. The tea will be poured with assistance from the wedding party as well. In Chinese tea ceremonies unrelated to marriage, it's customary for the younger generations to serve the elder ones out of respect.

Japanese Rituals

"Striving for perfection" is the translation of the Japanese term "kodawari." In Japan, the concept of kodawari permeates every area of life, and tea is no exception. Tea drinking is considered an exquisite activity in Japan and should be handled as such. Using the concept of kodawari, they make teas (typically green teas) with the ideal balance of sweetness and bitterness and arrange the ideal table settings for their tea ceremonies. When it comes to customs, the Japanese also cherish the notion of unhurried living. For example, formal tea ceremonies typically take four hours to finish. Kaiseki ryori, a traditional multi-course dinner, is also served during these ceremonial occasions. Even though tea is consumed in informal settings, the Japanese nonetheless adhere to the concept of kodawari and see each cup as a work of art.

Indian Rituals

India is another nation with a strong cultural emphasis on tea. The beverage that is most commonly consumed in India is milk tea. India's passion for tea is a result of its extensive use of Ayurveda, a traditional, holistic medicinal system. Its health advantages helped make chai popular. In India, roadside vendors frequently sell black tea infused with spices such as cinnamon, ginger, anise, peppercorn, nutmeg, milk, and cloves. In India, tea is a popular beverage for both formal and informal occasions. In many regions across India, a new bride follows the custom of making tea for her in-laws the morning after the wedding, which is comparable to the Chinese wedding tea ritual. 

British Rituals

An early 19th-century British custom, afternoon tea, originated in Britain. Usually, it's a small lunch of pastries, scones, and sandwiches, served with tea or coffee. The seventh Duchess of Bedford, Anna, is credited with starting the custom when she would get hungry in the late afternoon and ask to have a little meal sent to her. The upper classes adopted the practice, and it quickly gained popularity as a social gathering place. These days, afternoon tea is frequently offered with live music or other forms of entertainment at opulent hotels and tea cafes.

Turkish Rituals

Multiple times a day, Turkish tea is drunk, and it is an essential component of Turkish culture. Fincan glasses are used to serve the beverage after it has been brewed in a çaydanlık, a tiny pot. Typically served in a glass with Turkish Delight and water, the tea is typically black. As a gesture of goodwill, tea is frequently provided to guests and is seen as a symbol of hospitality.

One of the traditional ways to show charity is to pour tea from a high height. Although less common these days, certain places still engage in this practice.

Korean Rituals

A profoundly ingrained cultural event, the Korean Tea Ceremony, or "darye," is based on Korean history and customs. The "ddukbaegi," a little earthenware pot heated over a small charcoal burner, is the traditional method of brewing tea. Usually poured green, the tea is paired with traditional Korean delicacies like "yakgwa" or "songpyeon." It is a significant component of social events, corporate meetings, and religious rites. People frequently spend hours together over tea and chat as a sign of friendship and harmony.

Moroccan Rituals

The nation of Morocco is widely recognised for its distinctive Moroccan mint tea, a blend of spearmint and gunpowder green tea. This tea is available in cafés or as part of the Moroccan tea ritual; it is frequently served with sugar. As in China and other nations that use tea ceremonies, hosting a Moroccan ceremony is a great honour. In a silver teapot known as a berrad, the host will heat water, steep the tea, and then add the sugar and mint leaves to steep for a few more minutes. In a sign of respect, the host will pour the last pour from at least six inches above the cup.