How tea drinking has evolved around the world history of tea in India.
Without a cup of hot tea, the morning does not go right for many people, and without it, discussions lose their heat. Tea has been treated as a welcome drink, a refreshing beverage, or the warmth needed in winters. One may like it with water, or just with milk, and sometimes iced; tea is still the second most consumed beverage in the world after water, and the way of drinking it has gone cultural evolution throughout the globe.
As a beverage, especially in India, tea is treated as a social thread that connects everyone, and the same happens all over the world despite the ways we prefer to drink it. It is a beverage that unites everyone beyond language, background, and even nationalities.
The drinking of tea, according to many historians, originated in China and the northern part of Myanmar. It was considered a medicinal beverage that could improve eyesight, reduce fatigue, and even was considered to be an elixir of immortality by Buddhist monks.
Soon in the mid 19th century, tea cultivation began commercially through the discovery of British botanists and it became one of the most lucrative trade items. Tea was such a prized item that it became a part of monumental historical events of the world such as the American Revolution and the First Opium War. Drinking tea was considered to be a symbol of class and only the elites could afford it.
Today, however, soon after the 19th century, drinking of tea became a common and a portable thing as tea bags came into the scene by the Americans. It became ready to use and ready to drink. Even today, tea bags are popularly used at beverage cafes and even served while commuting on trains and airplanes.
In every country, the way of drinking tea has a cultural and evolving tradition. In India, it is considered to be a welcome drink when guests arrive home, or anyone has returned home. But now, Indians drink tea more than water to energize themselves or to steam up any discussion. The beverage is generally served with some snacks.
Every Indian has their own tradition of drinking tea, some drink just plain black, the others want full milk, cream, and sugar in theirs, and some like to drink it with a spicy twist of cardamom and ginger. In many parts of India, the Iranian or the Parsi way of drinking tea is also practised. This is more in Mumbai, where people visit the Irani cafes to drink “Khari Chai” or tea with a pinch of salt. Rather than a porcelain cup, Indians, prefer drinking it in a glass small glass or earthen clay cups called “bhaar”
In Britain, the high tea tradition is still practised along with the afternoon tea drinking practice. The afternoon tea drinking started during Queen Victoria’s reign by a duchess who found tea drinking useful to prevent lightheadedness between lunch and dinner. This practice came into India through colonial rule. Tea was an elitist beverage in Britain, and the high tea culture was indeed a luxurious one. High Tea was served on a high table as a supper. The English enjoy the tea served with scones, jam, pastries, and bacon sandwiches. This practice is still sought after today and England thrives with its identity being associated with the drinking of tea.
In other parts of Europe, especially in Russia, a loose-leaf tea is brewed in a metal container called samovar. The beverage is called zavarka and the Russians drink it plain black. It is a tradition to serve the zavarka with snacks, otherwise it is frowned upon and considered uncivil.
Tea drinking is also popular in Morocco and mostly Touareg tea is consumed. It is a perfect concoction of green tea leaves, mint, a spoonfuls of sugar. It has a refreshing element to the senses. The beverage is generally served thrice in slim glasses with varying flavours and refusing to drink it is rebuked upon.
In America, tea drinking and tea making has been designed to suit the fast moving American life, unlike in Europe and Asia, where brewing and consuming tea is considered to be an art which takes time. Americans prefer to drink tea in to-go cups, just carry a tea bag with sachets of milk powder and sugar with some hot water. With the evolving culture of fitness, Americans these days prefer drinking green tea and lemon. Iced Tea is one of the most popular snack times and summer beverages for Americans.
In Japan, tea drinking is considered to be a ceremonious affair where even movements of the tea brewer are designed taking into consideration the way it will be served to guests. Every utensil is cleansed and dried. There is precision in every detail which depends on the time of the day and even seasons. In Japan, the Matcha Tea is popular not only as a drinking beverage but is used in desserts to counter its bitter taste.
Either served hot or cold, tea drinking is a royal affair that binds people and stirs up conversations. It has immense health benefits to improve agility and the health of the heart. Drinking of tea has evolved through centuries. This beverage has caused wars and revolution, and from an elitist item, tea has become a drink that anyone can enjoy. As the Chinese monks say, ‘Tea is indeed a drink for the soul’.