Over the Teacups

Giving Voice to the Tea Industry

Top Five Cuppas Around the World

Posted on | February 17, 2012 | Comments

Did you know that tea is the second most consumed beverage in the world? Besides water, tea is a daily staple for most cultures. Some spice it, some chill it, some folks even butter it! Since the 10th century BC when the Chinese began honing this fragrant, restorative draught, it has taken many forms. Here are a few of my favorites.

Earl Grey from England

In the 1830s, the British Prime Minister (the 2nd Earl Grey, funnily enough) received a diplomatic gift of bergamot flavored tea. His dinner party guests were such fans of the new flavor that it became a new popular line of teas. Both Twinings and Jacksons of London lay claims to the original recipe. This tea is best with a splash of milk and a hint of sugar, to taste.

Oolong from China

Easily the most widespread tea in China, oolong comes in many shapes, sizes and flavors. Depending on the level of oxidation, the leaves can either produce sweet and fruity flavors or smoky, woody notes. Popular varieties include Iron Goddess and Red Robe. The temperature of water and steeping time is very specific for these fine, delicate tea leaves and it would be quite frowned upon to add sweetener.

 Maté from South America

Though not traditional, the dried leaves of the yerba maté plant still brew a fine tea. The finely chopped leaves are steeped in hot water in a calabash gourd and sipped through a silver bombilla that has a fine strainer at the bottom end. The intricate process of arranging the leaves during brewing is a subtle art and results in a “smooth” maté with little or particles making it through the strainer. Packed with antioxidants and minerals, maté is great for you, but does not offer a zap of caffeine like common tea.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Noon Chai from Pakistan

This pretty pink concoction originated in the Kashmir region of India. Tea leaves are steeped and then milk, salt, baking soda, pistachios and cardamom are added. This savory blend will warm you anytime from a street vendor, but it’s specifically meant for special occasions and weddings.

 Bubble Tea from Taiwan

In the 1980s, a tea fad from Taichung blew up to international proportions: Bubble Tea. Sweetened black tea is mixed with milk and usually fruit flavors, (like honeydew, mango or lychee) and then black tapioca pearls are added. Sipped through a wide straw (to accommodate the pearls), this tea is enjoyed warm or chilled. Taiwanese Bubble Tea shops are popping up everywhere now, and they are even incorporating smoothie. New flavors like passion fruit, coconut, chocolate and ginger are now all the rage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Po Cha from Tibet

Strong black tea prepared with yak’s milk, salt and butter, this tea offers some real heft. They make it hearty since at such high, cold elevation, they need the calories anywhere they can get them. There are many rules to tea drinking in Tibet, especially if you are a guest in someone’s home, so pay attention and always finish your cup!

Jasmine from China

Another noted Chinese tea is scented with the sweet notes of jasmine. Green or white teas are steeped quickly to unfurl the delicate aroma of the flower. Picked early in the morning when the petals are closed, the jasmine blooms are added to the tea leaves and then left overnight. When the night-blooming blossoms open, the fragrance is released into the leaves. This is one of the most popular every day teas in China and is often served to guests.

 Darjeeling from India

The “Champagne of Teas,” Darjeeling is a light, subtle black tea that is extremely popular in Indian households. Originating in the 1840s in western India, it has grown to great notoriety among discerning tea palates. Protected by stringent designation of origin guidelines, if you enjoy a cup of this fragrant tea, you’ll know it’s from only the finest tea growing estates in West Bengal.

 Sweet Tea from the United States

No tea list is complete without mentioning sweet tea. A cavity inducing abomination to many tea connoisseurs, this iced beverage is meant to have so much sugar in it “the spoon stands up straight.” Brewed black tea is mixed with a healthy measure of sweetener and left to cool. It’s served on ice, usually with a slice of lemon. Wildly popular in the southeast since the late 1800s, it has many variations across the country including mint, raspberry and peach flavors.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Teh Tarik from Malaysia

This “pulled tea” can be found in every restaurant and food stall in Malaysia. Condensed milk and black tea are poured back and forth between two cups until the drink is frothy and light. Competitions between vendors go on to see who can pour tallest stream of tea without splashing it everywhere. This process cools and improves the flavor of the tea.

Noella Schink is a travel writer from Portland, Maine. She loves to sample teas wherever she travels (her favorite is a nice spicy ginger chai). For hotel bookings all over the world, she recommends Excellent Hotels.

About the Author

Noella is a travel writer from Maine with a passion for wholesale foods and exotic teas from around the world.

Comments

2 comments
Niraj Lama
Niraj Lama

I must correct you about Darjeeling. It is not widely consumed in India. The Indian palate, that is used to a spicy diet, drinks CTC the kind the produces a more robust cup. CTC is also used for chai. Darjeeling is almost entirely exported, to mainly Japan and Germany.

Jennifer
Jennifer

Thank you! Black CTC makes a more robust cup and a quicker extraction - it provides an excellent base for chai and what many of us reach for first thing in the morning (enclosed in a teabag). Darjeeling is a comparatively limited production and many of us know it as the champagne of afternoon tea.