For many in the States, tea is something that is either black or green and sipped casually when you’re sick, cold or relaxing. But to cultures across the globe, drinking tea is an intricate and important ritual.
From pink tea to butter tea to tea ceremonies, certain regions have unique and highly respected beverages and accompanying traditions. Here are nine teas you simply must experience when visiting their countries of origin, to both enjoy and better understand the cultures.
1. Argentina: Mate
We bet you didn’t think there was a wrong way to drink tea but there is when it comes to the beverage Argentines swear by, mate (pictured above). For instance, you have to drink the entire cup and you cannot stir the straw. Get any of the rules wrong and you will offend the server, who will likely be a friend since drinking mate is a social activity in Argentina.
2. Morocco: Mint Tea
Moroccans make mint tea by steeping green tea in mint leaves and it is usually sweetened. If you go into any Moroccan home you will be offered a cup and if you attend a special occasion in Morocco, you might catch a traditional tea ceremony. If you refuse the drink, you will insult the host, so drink up fellow travelers.
3. England: Afternoon Tea
While you can catch a Brit drinking tea any minute of the day, Afternoon Tea has been their thing since the early 19th century. To fully immerse yourself in British culture, head to a hotel for a cup of Earl Grey or English breakfast, pastries and some good old fashioned gossip around 4 p.m.
4. Japan: Matcha Green Tea
In Japan, tea is much more than a drink. It is cause for commotion. Tea ceremonies are historic rituals influenced by Zen Buddhism during which the Japanese serve matcha green tea to a group of people. Stop by a popular teahouse to witness this ritual or participate in it.
5. India: Chai Tea
India produces and consumes more tea than any country in the world. Their tea of choice is chai (yes, the one that Starbucks has butchered) with milk and sugar. Chai tea is often served for guests but can be purchased on pretty much any street corner.
6. Taiwan: Pearl Milk Tea
You know those drinks you see everyone carrying, the ones that look like they have gumballs in the bottom of them? Don’t you ever wonder where this trend originated? Taiwan. And while pearl milk tea, or bubble tea, only made it’s way to the U.S. recently, its actually been around since the 1980s. The drink is served cold with tapioca balls at the bottom.
7. Tibet: Po Cha Tea
To Tibetans tea is not complete without a little yak butter and salt. Why? Po Cha tea, or butter tea, is a high-fat energy-boosting drink ideal for life in the high, cold altitudes of the Himalayas.
8. Pakistan: Noon Chai
Green tea is so last year. Noon Cha, which comes from the Kashmir region, is a pink-colored tea made with milk, nuts and spices. The key to this drink, though, is a pinch of baking soda to give it the pretty-in-pink look. Don’t let the sweet color or the word “chai” fool you though, “noon” means salt, so be prepared for a salty beverage.
9. Thailand: Thai Tea
Thai tea is extremely popular amongst visitors, probably because vendors make a spectacle of pouring it from high above the cup. Black tea is the traditional base of the drink, which is served cold with sugar, condensed or evaporated milk and spices.
Maggie is Paste Magazine’s assistant travel editor and an NYC-based journalist specializing in travel and entertainment.