The Tea Ceremony Around the Globe

2737BC. The passage of time from 2737BC to 2014 is almost incomprehensible to me. The change, the modernisation, the trend. What is the significance of this date?

This is the year tea was discovered.

Yes, in 2737BC, in China, the Far eastern emperor stumbled across a mysterious potion after leaves from the camellia sinensis plant accidentally fell into the water their servant was boiling for him to drink. As a herbalist, he embraced the opportunity to try a new concoction, sipped the delicate liqueur and immediately fell in love; a love that has been shared by billions of people considering.

But it is mind blowing to think that tea has been consumed by people for over 4000 years. And perhaps quite possibly stranger to think that in Britain, we have only been drinking tea (our saviour, our comfort, our ‘pack-your-kettle-last-so-it’s-the-first-thing-out-the-lorry’) for a short 400 years.

Even so, this is an incredible amount of time to develop the traditions and conventions associated with drinking the idea, and the tea drinking ritual is one steeped in cultural customs.

It is perhaps a generalisation, but once we think of tea drinking rituals, it is the Chinese and Japanese tea ceremonies that immediately spring to mind: formality, silence, connectors to nature, tea as a gift, a way of offering thanks or apologies to a relative.

Rule-governed and purposeful tea drinking? The officialism appears alien to us.

On reflection though, perhaps there is ritualism in our own personal tea consumption. Doesn’t tea follow meal times, help calm our nerves, welcome us home after succeed, or welcome friends over (imagine not offering a friend a brew after knocking on your door. Ultimate societal faux pas), lift our spirits and console us? Although we do not wear robes or kneel off, tea does have significance: comfort, safety, friendship. If this isn’t our tradition, then I don’t know what is.

Tea is not just really enjoyed in the countries mentioned above. Tea has successfully bewitched people in every continent across the globe, which has led to it being top quality as the second most widely consumed beverage on the planet after water. pure leaf iced teas ability to permeate cultures has arguably endowed it to survive these 4000 years, each bringing their own traditions and quirks in which to celebrate the following distinctive liquid.

And this is what we will here explore; how tea drinking traditions differ in some of the prime tea drinking regions of the world.


As mentioned above, in China the consumption of tea is ceremonial. Not only do your Chinese people celebrate tea, but they use tea to formally celebrate or consolidate occasions, such as serving dinner at family gatherings, as a symbol of formal apology and as a way of politely addressing and thanking moms and dads for the giving and receiving of partners at weddings.

It is the tastes and aromas of the tea which are in the centre of the ritual. Each utensil is carefully washed or cleansed using the first infusion of the green tea leaves so that the second infusion’s taste is not coloured by any foreign bodies, like dust particles, so the tea is 100 % pure.

Importantly as well is the way the tea is poured; slowly, in one motion, across all cups (which are generally small clay pots) and only half full. The other half of the cup is said to be filled with friendship and love; therefore binding host and guest in their tea drinking experience.


In Japan, the tea ceremony organisations around the making of Japanese Matcha tea; a green tea ground to a fine powder which is world renowned for its terrific healing powers, high concentration of antioxidants and rather bitter taste.

The ceremony is named Chanoyu and discusses the aesthetics of tea making rather than the taste or smells, making the experience more of a choreographed performance compared to a quenching of thirst.

The ceremony’s composition dates back to the twelfth century and involves the host’s serving with the tea, as well as the presentation of the utensils and ceramics used to prepare it, the arrangement of flowers in the breathing space and calligraphy. These items can all be modified by the host to best fit the occasion for which a tea is served. It is also the host’s task to have considered their guests’ view of the tea at just about every angle in the space, to ensure that their experience will be one of purity, serenity and tranquility: a weighty responsibility.

Your thoughtful consideration that is required for a successful ceremony often ensures that the bonds of friendship between the hosts and their own guests are strengthened after the experience is concluded.


In India, tea is served on the streets as a result of Chai Wallahs, or ‘tea makers’, who blend their spicy chai tea on their stalls at train stops, bus stations and on every street corner.

Authentic chai is milky, sweet and spicy, made from deep buffalo milk, Assam tea, cardamom pods, ginger, cinnamon and often what seems like a ton of sugar. The ingredients will vary, but the ritual of serving generally stays the same: the Chai Wallah brews up all of the ingredients in a good sized metal pot over open coals which are placed on the stone ground. Once simmering, he pours the dissolved through a sieve into a teakettle, then pours the chai into small terracotta pots from a great height. A drinking cups are only used once; consumers throwing them to the ground once they have finished, smashing them to pieces, providing the clay to get trampled back into the ground.

Chai’s popularity in the UK has steadily grown in the past year (it’s an individual if our best sellers! ) and it’s easy to see why. Chai tea is delicious; warming, spicy, soothing, it can be like Christmas in a cup and yet I drink it all year round! OK, we like to have it our way- people tend to brew Chai with hot water rather than in hot milk and individual consumers choose whether to sweeten delicately with honey- but the resulting comfort is the same.

Equally, much of India’s tea is renowned for its medical properties, mainly because of the strong ties to Hinduism and Ayurvedic tradition: a system that inspires us to live simply by alternative medicine, ultimately governed through a healthy and balanced lifestyle. Tea blends are therefore steeped in a philosophy that provokes the ‘art of living wisely’.


Rather like the UK, Russia was introduced to tea in the mid-1600s, but whereas we strove to steal the idea from China, the Russian Tsar was given tea as a product from the Chinese ambassador to Moscow. Of course, he loved it (who doesn’t), and quickly a line of deal was organised between the two countries.

Tea in Russia is not just about the liquid itself but about the heat that will brewing the tea gives rise to, and the warmth felt through consumption (Russia can get a little chilly for times). Russia’s tea ceremony is therefore centred around the use of a samovar; a large metal tea urn using decorative handles and a spout.

Typically, the samovar has more than one layer to it. Simple samovars have a bottom film housing the hot water, which is actually heated by filling the small soldered pipe that runs through the centre for the urn with hot coals. Above this sits a small metal teapot, often of the same metal material, and then a concentrated form of brewed tea, zavarka, is made here before being diluted by the hot water from the urn.

Russian Caravan tea (so named as a result of the camel trains that first brought tea to Russia) must be mentioned these. It is the perfect blend to brew in a samovar as the teas used have strong, dark flavours: Chinese Keemun and Formosa Oolong tea, sometimes with hints of Indian black teas like Assam to add a maltiness to the blend.


Inshas Allah, ‘with god willing, all good things come with time. ‘ This is the proverb with which Moroccan people brew their tea and signifies the respect they show to the timely process of making an excellent cup.

Morocco is famous for its Moroccan Mint tea; a blend of Chinese green tea, fresh mint leaves and many sugar (often five times the amount of sugar to the amount of tea! )

The tea making ritual is considered one of leisure in Morocco and if invited to assist in making the tea, you are honoured. Incense is lit and those who ? re taking part in the serving wash their hands in orange blossom water before they begin.

Firstly, loose green leaf tea leaves are placed in a round bellied teapot with a conical top and long curved spout, and hot water increased. Much like in China, the first infusion (left to brew for just one minute, before being poured into a tall glass) is used as a cleanser, this time for the leaves rather than the flasks, to rid any impurities the leaves may have grabbed through travel. After this, the loose tea is brewed before adding the sugar and mint.

The spout is one of importance to the teapot. Curvature to the spout allows for the server to pour the tea with a height of around half a metre into the small glasses below, to create a frothy foam on the tea’s work surface.

Tea is served often in Morocco: after each mealtime, when entering some shops, to welcome people in the home and even to mark business deals.


Tea is also the national beverage in Iran, with green teas drinkers enjoying mainly green tea and black tea to quench their thirst or as a comfort, respectively. Virtually no occasion can take place without tea being served and, in many regions of Iran, light coloured tea is a sign of disrespect from the host to the receiver. Principally, Iranians like it strong.

Perhaps it is the liking for a keen potency to tea that has led the people of Iran to discount the water as a part of the tea. Through the use of a samovar, Iranians heat the water and simply use and see it as a way of extracting the aromas and flavours thickly in the leaves.

Typically, tea is drunk from glassware and this is held by the rim of the glass between the flash and forefinger with the pinkie used to balance. Often , held in the other hand, is a large pipe connected to some sort of hookah, or qalyoon as it’s locally known; a tall, ornate smoking device that uses hot flavoured tobacco and water. In the absence of alcohol, tea houses, where tea and the qalyoon are served hand-in-hand, stand for a social hub where young Iranian people can relax and socialise, much like us westerners would complete in our local pub.


Kazakhstan is another of the world’s biggest tea-drinking countries, with its tradition once again increasingly being rooted in the giving and receiving of tea as an act of welcoming and politeness. Guests are offered green tea on arrival into a host’s home and it is considered impolite to refuse the beverage.

Kazakhs are known, similar to the Russians and Turks, to use samovars to brew and serve the tea; however , differently to the Russians, all the server only fills the kasirs (which are small, wide-mouthed saucers), to around half full. This makes certain that the tea is always served hot: no one likes a cold cuppa (unless it’s iced, of course).

All the guests to the ceremony are then required to pass their empty kasirs back to the female host as a way if to thank her and showing her respect for that which they have received. She then ‘re-half-fills’ the cups and passes these phones her guests once more; a process which continues, creating a graceful, rhythmic and visual ceremony, beauteous to behold.

The british isles

In Britain, (one might have known! ) our tea traditions involve food. These customs were developed inside early 19th century, first by the upper classes who championed Afternoon Tea as a way of bridging the space between lunch, at 12 o clock, and dinner at 8 o clock. Tea was served in around 4 o clock in the afternoon along with small sandwiches, scones and cakes. Heaven.

High Tea differs, although sometimes (incorrectly) the terms are used interchangeably.

In industrial Britain, workers home from the factories and mines would require immediate sustenance after a day of physical hard labour, and so a substantial meal would be served for many years accompanied by a cup of strong, sweet tea at around 5 o clock. This became known as ‘tea’ (which us northerners still to this day sometimes use), and the ‘high’ aspect is a reference to high backed chairs and better table the lower classes would sit at to enjoy their tea (whereas the upper classes would be seated in small lounge chairs and have their tea served on smaller, occasional tables. )

Burmese Tea And Tea Shops

As soon as writing and/or speaking about tea in Burma, or any other country for that matter, it is inevitable to depart on the process into the realm of tea in China – in south-west China to be precise – for that is as I most certainly will explain in the following definitely from where tea is originally coming from.

The discussion on whether or not the history about Burmese tea and the drinking of tea in Burma have originated in China has probably more to do with at a minimum some Bamars’/Burmans’ reluctance to admit that the origin of tea is China and that the drinking of their tea was adopted by them later from the Shan, than with tea, tea drinking and tea culture again. The facts are that tea both as plant and beverage was discovered and had become important an important part of Chinese and later Shan culture already at a time when no Bamar/Burman had ever set foot into precisely what is nowadays Burma (since 1989 also called Myanmar).

In other words the first kingdom of the Bamar the ‘kingdom of Pagan’ (that was actually founded by the Pyu, and while we are at it, Anawrahta, the 42nd king of Pagan that’s by the Bamar/Burman considered the founder of the 1st Burman kingdom was a Pyu, not a Bamar/Burman) did previously not exist what is already the definite answer to the question of the origin of tea, tea drinking not to mention tea culture in Burma; Burma or any predecessor of it simply didn’t exist in or during the period of time in question, period. But why are there still people (not so many of them, though) who in the face of all facts and also logic say that Burmese tea, tea drinking and tea culture are not originated in China? Short answer: Since area that was in pre-Bamar time inhabited by the Shan is now laying partly within the far north east connected with Burma. However , that these areas are nowadays located within Burma’s boundaries does not necessarily mean that the exact area when Camellia sinensis was initially found and from where it then spread to India, through all of south-east Asia plus, finally, throughout the world lies within north-east Burma. It is possible but it is also possible that Camellia sinensis – translated with Latin into English the name means ‘Tea flower’ (camellia) ‘from China’ (sinensis) – has at a afterwards point in time extended into the area now covered by the north-eastern part of Burma.

The book of tea is a booklet with many pages and chapters starting shrouded in the mist of myth and legend some time back in 3000 BC. There is even the concrete date 2725 BC mentioned what is linking the (accidental) discovery and the after drinking of tea to the Chinese emperor Shen Nung about who I will tell you more a bit later. Nobody really knows when it was that the drinking of tea (what back then was always green tea because it was unfermented also called unoxidised) began to become part of Chinese culture. That is why it cannot be within the scope of this article to (as interesting as this may be) deal with related myths, legends and folklore in order to reveal tea history’s secret for when and where this was and how it happened. The answer to this question will never be found anyway everything that means that it will for always remain hidden behind the curtain of legend. Therefore we have to find facts like written records and archaeological finds that will give us tea related information we are looking for. And as far when that is concerned we do not have to search for long.

We are given the first reliable information in a Chinese encyclopaedia that was began to be compiled and written during the Han Dynasty sometime around 325 BC and further expanded from then on: its name is normally Erya also spelled Erh-ya. The author of the Erya is unknown but it is among scholars accepted that this are generally disciples of Confucius. Here we find records letting us know that tea was already known and drunken at the very least at the beginning of the Zhou Dynasty in 1046 BC, probably earlier. However , it is not specified whether it was tea brewed from camellia sinensis leaves and drunken for pleasure or some herbal probably not very delicious tea drunken for medical purposes only.

From later records we know that brewing and drinking tea was already part of the Offshore people’s everyday life at the beginning of the Han Dynasty in 206 B. C. or even earlier. That the drinking of teas has so relatively quick permeated the Chinese culture would certainly not have been possible without Buddhist monks. It was eventually the Buddhist monk orders that have not only spread the drinking of tea among the population but that possessed also taken over the planting and processing of tea. Soon after tea as beverage had been introduced during the Han Dynasty, Buddhism was associated with tea. The Buddhist monks have very early recognised that tea was an affordable and refreshing beverage with good taste and fragrance that kept them awake.

From the by Lu Yu during the Tang Dynasty written and at about 760 AD published book ‘The Classic of Tea’ (Cha Jing in Chinese) we can take that green tea was known and drunken throughout all of China for entertainment from 618 AD, or earlier on. For Lu Yu tea was the symbol of harmony and mystical unity of the Universe from which we can see how highly he thought of tea.

A sensational discovery would (at plenty of time of this writing in 2016) 1255 years later prove Lu Yun wrong in so far as green tea was already a well known beverage in south and west China earlier than 141 BC. The a. m. sensational discovery was that this was proven that leaves found in the tomb of the 6th Emperor of the western Han Dynasty, Emperor Jin of Han (Liu Qi), where actual (Camellia sinensis) tea leaves that were given him along with thousands of clay-based soldiers and many other things as grave good for the journey into his afterlife. To avoid confusion, the emperor’s grave was already discovered in the 1990s during road construction work, which in itself (not the road construction but the discovery in the Emperor’s tomb) was a world sensation. However , with respect to the contents of this article the finding of the tea leaves had been even more sensational because these tea leaves are the most ancient and finest tea leaves ever discovered just what has earned them an entry in the Guinness Book of World Records as ‘The world’s oldest coffee leaves’.

As with so many other things the beginning of drinking tea is steeped in legend. There are different stories about how the main chapter of the book of tea begins and having read them I have come to the conclusion that 99. 99 percent of them belong into the realm of legends. One of the most popular Chinese legends is the with great pleasure as often as needed told legend about an emperor’s pot of hot water that happened to be placed exactly under a tea cedar where tea leaves were sure to drop into the pot. Naturally, oh wonder (how could it be any different) tea leaves fell into the pot with boiling water whereupon the emperor took out of curiosity a glass of the previously unknown now slightly yellowish-brown coloured water. He was, as the legend goes, so excited about a fragrance and taste that from then on he made tea his favourite beverage and the drinking of tea grew to be part of Chinese culture. The emperor in this legend is the mythological emperor Shen Nung also spelled Shannong, Shen Nong who is by the Chinese worshipped as the ‘Divine Farmer’ and the ‘Father of Chinese Herbal Medicine’. He ended up being what is nowadays called ‘pharmacologist’, and it is believed that he has ‘lived’ 140 years, from 2838 BC to 2698 BC. This is no doubt all pure legend but its origin might be seen against the backdrop of the fact that Shen Nung was herbalist and that tea was at the beginning used as herbal medicine in both solid (as vegetable and also salad) and/or liquid form (as tea).

What is tea and where is it originated? Briefly put, tea can be a beverage commonly comprising of water and natural (uncured) and cured tea leaves of the species camellia sinensis. This is, as previously said, an evergreen shrub native to Asia that can when it remains untouched increase in the wilderness into a tree with a height of some 55 ft/ 17 m. By the way, why do people call tea, tea? Let me briefly explain where the name ‘tea’ originated and from where it spread world wide. The name ‘tea’ has its origin in China where 2 names are used for the same beverage. It can be called ‘Cha’ in Mandarin dialect and ‘Tay’ in Xiamenese dialect. In 1644 the British established some sort of trading post in Xiamen and anglicised the Xiamenese ‘tay’ what, subsequently, became ‘tea’ a name that will in the following time quickly spread through and was accepted by the English speaking world.

Where exactly can be Camellia sinensis originated? As unbelievable as it sounds and whatever we might think about it, extensive and detailed research comes with led to the result that this tea plant – the Camellia sinensis – was not a plant that had or even could have evolved and grown independently in several parts of the world but astonishingly enough only within a relatively small vicinity located in and confined to a region that does include parts of what is nowadays the Shan state (as to the north and north-eastern part of the back then not existing Burma) and the Chinese provinces Yunnan and Sichuan.

But whether ‘Burmese’ tea has its origin in China (what it has) or not, or whether or not the drinking of tea became part of the Burman’s culture only after it was introduced to them by the Shan (what it was) or set up famous ‘Burmese milk tea is actually Indian tea introduced by the Indian – and NOT British – people at the time of British colonial times (what it was and is) does really not matter much – if anything at all : because the fact remains that ‘tea’ has over time (trough all the Bamar/Burman kingdoms, the British colonial times plus the past-independence time) developed into an integral part of the so-called ‘Burmese drink and food culture’ what it remains to be to this day and will often be wherewith I have now ‘beamed’ us from the ancient past into the present.

Prior to our arrival at one of the many Burmese tea shops in Yangon – no joke, they are literally at every corner, what is true for every position with more than two houses in all of Burma – to enjoy a cup or two of the famous ‘Burmese Milk Tea’ and one of the delicious Burmese tea leave salads called ‘Lahpet Thoke’ at the end of this article let’s start at the beginning, by briefly answering questions such as, where tea is growing within the boundaries of present-day Burma, types of tea it is, how it is processed after being plugged, of what quality Burmese tea is compared to the factors of e. g. China, India and other Asian countries, and so on.

Where is tea grown in Burma?

In Burma more than 80 percent of the cultivated tea is grown in the Shan state located in north-eastern and eastern section of Burma. Namhsan, Kyaukme, Namkham, Kutkai, Kalaw, Yatsouth, Mong Hsu and Mong Tone townships in Shan Condition are the major tea growing areas.

What kind of tea is grown in Burma?

In Burma are almost just grown Camellia sinensis, Camellia sinensis var. sinensis and Camellia var. assamica. Camellia assamica is extending inside Burma from Assam/India in the west and Camellia sinensis from south-west and east China.

Quite recently I get read somewhere in a magazine an article that was as far as I can remember promoting Burmese tea in the context of which ‘Camellia irrawadiensis’ was mentioned as a tea species native to and grown in Burma. In case you should also read similar to that I want you to know that ‘Camellia irrawadiensis’ with its blossoms comprising of white petals, a yellow centre (pretty much like ‘giant’ buttercup flowers) and dark green leaves may be nice to look at in the garden but it is practically nothing for the tea cup because ‘Camellia irrawadiensis’ Is a so-called ‘Non-tea’ tea. This means that the total absence of caffeine in ‘Camellia irrawadiensis’ and a very unfavourable biochemical composition does not allow the plant to produce any liquid that comes even in close proximity to a quality that would pass as tea.

What is plugged from the tea plants and when is it done?

Tea harvesting time period is roughly from April to November. However , the leaves plucked in the first 2 weeks of April are generally of best quality. This because in April the harvesting time is beginning and the first leaves known as ‘spring tea’ (in Burmese ‘shwe phi oo’) are those fetching the highest prices.

As far as plucking also called picking can be involved there are two methods, which are ‘fine plucking’ and ‘rough plucking’. Fine plucking means that only two leaves as well as the bud, what is called a ‘flush, ‘ are plucked and in rough plucking an entire sprig with involving 2 and 5 leaves. The average amount a tea plucker is plucking and placing in his/her container is about 25 kg. After being plucked the tea leaves are collected and partly dried and departed unoxidised as green tea and partly send to the tea factory for being processed into black tea. Most of the released tea in Burma is sold as green tea and consumed domestically.

How is the Burmese tea processed after increasingly being plugged?

Once the tea has arrived in the tea factory the tea leaves are processed into oolong (withered as well as partly oxidised) and black tea (withered and fully oxidised) in the following order: withering, rolling, roll-breaking and therefore the final step is oxidisation.

Of what quality is Burmese tea compared to the qualities of other Asian countries?

Than the quality of the tea grown in other countries such as China, Vietnam, Sri Lanka and India Burmese tea is in lesser quality although other countries are using more fertiliser and pesticides.

What role does Burma play inside global tea production and trade?

The Burmese tea industry is by and large a cottage industry. This means good sized areas of tea plantations are distributed among a large number of tea growers often in areas of about 50 hectare/125-acre which were owned by families since many generations. The local tea industry is poorly organised and the tea growers’ and workers’ professional expertises are rather low. Additionally , the infrastructure is very poor and machinery and technical equipment regarding tea factories are hopelessly outdated and storage facilities are extremely unsuitable for tea. As if this would not end up bad enough many areas are strewn with land mines and cannot be crossed because of heavy fighting around ethnic armed groups and the tatmadaw (Burma’s army) so that tea farmers and workers are exposed to great danger. With consequence of the deplorable overall situation the country’s tea production is low and steadily declining and the tea leaf export is of negligible quantity. In the global tea production and trade Burma does therefore presently not necessarily play any role at all. See for yourself. Burma had in 2015 a total tea production of some sixty. 000 tons. Of these were exported 2 . 800 tons. Here are the tea export figures from neighbouring herbal tea producing and exporting countries: India (900, 094 tons), China (1, 000, 130 tons), Sri Lanka (295, 830 tons), Vietnam (116, 780 tons). I think these figures speak for themselves.

However , there is huge probability Burma’s tea in the international tea producing and trade market once quantities, qualities and global tea advancement are improved and the civil war has ended what will conservatively estimated take at the very least 4 to 5 more a long time. Personally, I fear it will be at least about 10 years till there will be real, constant peace in all tea growing boundary regions, which by the by would also contribute greatly to the solving of the drug problem in which more than a few tea grower are involved because they are growing poppy at least on the side as source of additional income; but that is a different account.

Where did present day Burma’s milk tea recipe originate?

Burma’s milk tea recipes are of Indian beginning.

Where did present day Burma’s tea salad ‘Lahpet Thoke’ recipe originate?

Burma’s famous pickled tea leave greens (Lahpet Thoke) may have its origin in what is now Burma but this cannot be said without any doubt because within China tea leaves were already eaten as salad or vegetable in 2000 B. C.

So , for the reason that promised we will from the historical as well as growing and processing part of the story of tea enter tomorrow day into Yangon’s tea shop scene and enjoy a cup or two of the famous ‘Burmese Milk Tea’ then one of the delicious Burmese tea leaf salads called ‘Lahpet Thoke’ within the unique atmosphere of Burmese tea stores. See you tomorrow morning.

OK, it’s 08: 00 am, the employees who make paratha, samosa, nambia, etc . are about to stop frying and the shop is still bustling with guests. But do not worry they have geared up enough on stock to be sold later; we will not need to starve.

After a good night’s sleep we are these now, seated on the for authentic Burmese tea shops so typical low plastic chairs at the equally small plastic tables with a hole for the post of a sunshade (umbrella for outside use) in its centre and placed next to it a plastic container with a role of tissue paper, a plastic bowl with a amount of water and three or four small tea cups in it and a small plastic container with single cigarettes. Additionally , there are actually small electrical fans fastened to the wall as well as slowly whirling colonial style ceiling fans. All of this is tea buy standard in all of Burma and that what makes up the ‘Burmese tea shop style’.

As you can see, there is nothing in the way of cool about a tea shop; it never is. Always the same more or less old and/or clean furniture, often old placards with landscape and pagoda motives accompanied by beer advertisements taped to the in turquoise painted walls, a Buddha statue accompanied by fresh water and food offerings, flowers and joss sticks in a glass showcase attached to all the wall at a height of about 8 ft/2. 6 m and sometimes a small wastepaper basket at each bench.

Like practically all tea shops this one too is family owned and it is now operated in the second age bracket with the third one already in waiting. Let’s order our tea, and whatever you may desire to eat. You may choose between e. g. e char kway (fried Chinese bread sticks), thayar paratha (thin and flat multiple layer bread with sugar, origin India), pe-byohk paratha (thin and flat multi layer bread with steamed or boiled peas, origin India), samosa (a paper-thin deep fried dough sheet filled with mashed or carefully chopped potato, green peas, onions, cumin and coriander powder, cumin seed, masala and – if not with regard to vegetarian – with different kinds of minced meat (chicken, pork, beef, etc . that is folded into a for samosa really typical triangular shape to cover the filling, origin India), spring rolls (rolled deep-fried paper-thin wrapper made from whole wheat flour filled with a mixture of finely chopped bean curt, onions, shrimps, beans, carrots and spices, origin China) and a few sweet pastry such as buns with sweet red or yellow bean paste filling. You can also have fried almond (thamin kyaw) or fried noodles (kaukswe kyaw); up to you, make your pick.

As for tea you can now take most of the thin Chinese green tea (Yay nui yea) from that thermo on the table (it’s free; the tea, not the actual thermo) and then order a cup of the famous Burmese tea lahpet yea cho (strong black tea using condensed milk (no si) and sugar (thayar). By the by, the ‘professional’ way of drinking the thin Japanese tea is to pour a bit of tea from the thermo into the cup, swirl it two, three times around inside the glass and then to pour it on the ground. Does this help to clean the cup? I suggest you take additionally a piece of any tissue paper and clean the brim and inside of the cup properly, that will do the job. With our fermented tea leaf salad (Lahpet) we will have to wait because that is not served so early in the morning. I will later go and ask. Which means that having ordered and been served it’s time to start our breakfast.

While we are sitting, drinking tea together with eating let me tell you a bit more about this tea shop, in particular, and other tea shops in general. After all this is not a fast food cafe but a tea shop (more properly phrased tea and food shop) and here you need time to like the typical taste of strong black tea, water, evaporated and/or condensed milk and sugar combined, the flavorful food and the wonderful atmosphere to the full; back home you do not have something like this.

This shop is like most other authentic and standard Burmese tea and food shops open from 06: 00 am to 10: 00 pm but prep work in the kitchen starts already at 04: 00 am. Business is buzzing from about 07: 00 am to 09: 00 am at breakfast time and from about 06: 00 pm to a few a matter of minutes after 10: 00 pm when the shop is closing. During breakfast time and in the evening the shop is usually crowded, especially when there are interesting football games. Burmese are football crazy. During office hours the shop is definitely – with exception of lunchtime (from about 11: 00 am to 12: 00 noon) when people from companies in the neighbourhood are coming – almost empty.

I know tea shops from all over the country. There are, not surprisingly, differences in e. g. size, numbers of tables and range of food items offered. Some are just bamboo huts (in suburbs and country side) and some are in the ground floor apartments of better stone/brick buildings (larger villages, villages and cities) but they are all tea shops with the same atmosphere; it’s like you know one you know them all. Properly, and I like to sit in them from the time of my arrival in this beautiful country 26 years ago. I love several different sounds from the shop and the exterior environment that mingle into the cacophony I call typical ‘tea shop’ sound. It always reminds me on one of the Neil Diamond songs I grew up with: ‘What a beautiful noise’.

During the 26 years I am regularly visiting my favourite and (depending on where I am) other dinner shops nothing that is of significance has change on the part of the tea shops; they do now than ever glimpse basically the same, offer basically the same food and beverages as well as cigarettes and have the same important social function around and for the life of communities. There is a lot of chatter, gossip, exchanging of information, breaking news, dealing, haggling, laughing and fun. And it is the typical tea shop ambience that draws the people into the tea shops; the taking in of tea is of subordinated significance. And, by the way, tea is mostly drunk for breakfast and in reduced quantities during daytime; in the evening it’s mostly beer and liquor that the tea shop guests are drinking. That is why As i say that in my opinion Burma has more a ‘tea shop’ culture than a ‘tea culture’. At home or succeed the people do not drink much tea. There they drink mostly plain drinking water, soft drinks, and instant coffee.

We now have also finished our tasty lahpet thoke and leave the tea shop. Hope you have enjoyed the article and therefore I have succeeded in bringing the world of Burmese tea and tea shops a bit closer to you.