Teas in the East

picking tea leaves is back breaking work

Now that we’ve got beyond the taboos of British tea pretension, we can humor some of the rest of the world. Crossing Europe, you find a very elegant tea culture. High ceiling cafes with marble tables and perhaps a man in a tux playing the piano. I have to say, it most certainly brings you back to the old days. You might feel bad not wearing a black tie and suit, but that’s all I can warn you of.

In Europe, however, you can find quite the eclectic tea selection. Such as herbal teas, some that people make themselves, or mixes of all sorts. I had the lucky chance to go work briefly with a mountain herbal tea farmer in the alps who planted, grew, picked and dried his own supply and would sell them at local markets. He would even dry fruits and add them to his tea combinations. All offering different tastes and properties, he definitely makes sure you know the properties and what you’re getting into. I’ve never again had such a pleasant backdrop while scavenging the mountainside for specific flowers and plants.

Moving beyond Europe, you reach Turkey and then the area of the fertile crescent which reaches into eastern Turkey, Iran and other countries in the Middle East. This region produces some stronger, black teas, but all with distinct and attractive tastes. FYI, it’s usually called Cay (chai) in whatever country or language you’re dealing with. It’s also served in small tulip glasses and served with sugar and a smaller saucer under the glass cup. It’s usually very simple and waiters from all directions seem to throw them at you, landing in perfect place, as they move on to the next willing candidate. Mind you, some folks sit and drink this tea all day long, whether in the spirit of conversation or playing games such as backgammon. I suggest you try it sometime!

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