A customary code of tea


Anyone who has ever traveled knows that each country or region has its own culture and tradition. Tea drinking is also something very unique to each part of the world. It has its own culture as well, and is consumed in a various fashion over the world and for the most part, carries a symbolic meaning. If you decide to travel in the near future, keep these fun facts in mind when you engage in a tea drinking ritual, they will guarantee you a pleasant and enlightening experience.

If you decide to travel to Turkey, you will soon discover that tea drinking is taken very seriously here. Turkish tea (çay) is served in small, curved glasses on ornamented saucers. Be careful when picking the glass up, make sure to hold it at the top by the rim so that your fingertips do not get burned. A few things to keep in mind is that tea is not generally served with milk, you will save yourself some trouble if you just go without it. If you find yourself in a group setting, make sure you refill the glasses of those around you, they will do the same for you, but don’t refill your won, it is not considered neighborly. If offered tea, don’t refuse it, even if you take a few sips, it signifies hospitality and friendliness.

India is not only a large consumer of tea but also an enormous supplier, so it is of no wonder that it has an extensive tea culture. Indian tea culture has its own Dos and Donts, but mostly relies on respect and knowledgeability of visitors/guests. For example, avoid leaving the spoon in the cup, gently remove after stirring and place on the saucer. If invited to a tea party, it is courtesy to bring a gift for the host. And as funny as it may sound, while holding your cup, avoid sticking out your pinkie, as it is considered impolite, gently place all your fingers facing toward you and remember to look down at your cup when taking a sip. It is also generally accepted that you decline the first cup of tea offered to you, and agree on second or third offer, and if you do not wish to have any at all, remember to decline three times (although not advised, since tea offering is a very significant indication of hospitality).

One of the most intricate tea drinking ceremonies is of course is The Way of Tea in Japan. The ceremony is not only beautiful, it is very spiritual and complex. If you wish to participate in such a ceremony, I suggest reading up on the details of the procedure or you can always visit our Tea Emporium School of Tea sessions, where we provide an interactive seminar on the Japanese Tea Ceremony. When it comes to simply drinking green tea in Japan, there are a few tricks to impress your host. Upon receiving your drink/food, slightly bow and say the phrase “itadakimasu”, which means “I humbly receive” to articulate gratitude. Hold your cup with your right hand, and support it underneath with your left. If you wish to add something to your tea, it is expected that you try the tea as is at first and then add the desired contents after e.g. sugar.

A unique experience is something you are guaranteed to get once you visit Argentina. It is also a consumer as well as producer of tea, and is mostly known for its national beverage – Mate. It is served in a hollow gourd, and is drunk through a metal straw called “bombilla”. If you find yourself in a group setting it is customary to pass around the gourd (clockwise), do not say “thank you” when it is your turn, it will mean you do not wish to drink any more. Try not to touch the straw as you drink with your fingers, it is believed that it diminishes the flavour and avoid stirring the mate, it is considered bad manners. If the gourd is handed only to you, it is considered polite to finish the whole drink and slurp loudly to let your host know that you enjoyed it.

You simply can’t separate tea drinking in England from its culture. It is not only a vital part of everyday living but a vital part of any special occasion. A popular event is called an Afternoon Tea (not to be confused with High Tea). A few things to remember: it is a gesture of respect to avoid making noise with your spoon; you can avoid this by simply placing it on the saucer on the right side of your cup. Never wave your tea cup in the air, make sure to keep it close to you at all times, and placed on the saucer when not in use. It is also considered rude to stir your tea in a circular motion, instead, try holding the spoon at a six o’clock position and lightly fold the contents toward the twelve o’clock position. If you find that the tea is too hot, do not blow on it, but rather, just leave it on the table to cool. Similarly, never sip from the spoon. If you are attending a tea party, never arrive early or late – either one is equally frowned upon. With all the details and intricacies aside, when you are attending any tea event, remember to be polite, to smile and be graceful.

I hope that you enjoy your tea drinking experience no matter where it is you decide to venture off to. It is always an amazing and pleasant experience, and my best advice to all of you who are trying new things is to get familiar with the culture and open yourself up to enjoy new and exciting opportunities. Bon voyage and happy tea drinking!

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