Taste Map of Tea Love 1: Who Likes What Across the World?
Tea's influence goes a long way. The ways that different people drink it illuminate so much about the locality each time.
A great way to think about traveling is to learn ahead of time about how people eat and drink every day in a given place. How do they make their own days sweeter, and how do they wind down after work? Do you still want to go there and try? Let's have a look around Asia and see how people have taken to tea as a daily drink.
A long history of herbal teas came together with British influence to make black tea the favorite drink of India. It is grown in the Himalayan mountainsides of the North, and usually drunk with milk – appropriate in a land where many see cows as holy animals. Indians may add sugar as well as milk to their black tea – in public places, the tea is made in large pots and then strained into small glasses and drunk hot at the counter. Of the different recipes found throughout the country we love the most popular: Masala Chai, a warming and complex mix of spices along with black tea and milk, including cardamon, cinnamon, cloves, black pepper and ginger. If traveling in India, find a shady spot and drink a few glasses of Masala Chai (you're sure to want a second one soon) and watch the crowds go by.
Vietnam is a country with a humid tropical climate where plants grow fast: while many Vietnamese green teas have a lower caffeine content than Chinese green teas, they have a strong fresh flavor and will make a bitter drink if infused for more than a few minutes. Some Vietnamese appreciate this bitterness while others like to reduce it: some teas are even glazed with sugar before sale and some tea drinkers add sweeteners later. Vietnamese also grow and love to drink coffee – some coffee drinkers will switch to chilled Jasmine tea after many cups of coffee to take the edge off the flavor. Chrysanthemum tea, artichoke tea and tea-bud tea (made with tea buds instead of leaves) are also popular in different areas of the country.
Thailand's tea culture reflects the different foreign cultures that have influenced it over the years: maybe the most distinctively Thai tea is a red-brown Indian-style chai recipe made from black tea leaves or powder, poured over ice with foaming white milk at the top. On a hot afternoon in Thailand the sweetness of the spice and sugar along with the refreshing milk make this close to addictive. Thais also have numerous other beloved drinks: the violet colored infusion made from the Butterfly Pea Flower carries a striking flavor and an unforgettable color, an ideal way to cool down after a massage. The green tea most favored by Thais is a semi-fermented Oolong style, of a type typical in Taiwan, which suits the Thai climate and palate well.
One theme we can spot here: the popularity of blending teas with other spices and herbs is widespread. Often (as we can see in India) there are ancient medicinal traditions that have helped these tasty spice combinations to come together. This deep connection to medicine is also strong in the Chinese tradition and is one reason Tea Plays bonbons all contain a unique combination of tea leaves and herbs or flowers, balancing tradition, tastiness, originality and healthiness.