Imagine that you are relaxing in a green courtyard by a tea table, away from the hustle and bustle of the city. In the air, you feel a faint taste of sea salt and a fleeting aroma of desert sand. You are drinking aromatic, perfectly seasoned karak chai, whose brew allows you to stop your racing thoughts.
This courtyard truly exists. It is located in Dubai’s historic district called Al Fahidi, and belongs to the famous Arabian Tea House. You can try there over one hundredth of types of aromatic brew, and that is only the beginning. In many part of the world, there are tea lovers, who will gladly treat us with their version of this extraordinary drink.
In the ancient times, Chinese people said that the first brew was for an enemy, the second for a friend, while the third for oneself. And indeed, no one drinks the first infusion there, as it is used to rinse dried tea leaves, wipe out possible toxins and release the true aroma of tea. The ritual of preparing and drinking tea is a real mystery in China. Guests sit at a wooden, usually richly decorated table accompanied by a master of ceremonies, who brews leaves in gaiwan, a special lidded porcelain, stoneware or glass bowl, while paying special attention to the temperature of water.
All the utensils are placed on a special grid, through which excess water used to scald the tableware drips down. Next, the master pours the prepared infusion to special cups that are covered with bowls. The former are the so-called scented dishes. You do not drink from them, but while holding them in your hands together with a bowl, you turn them so that the bowl stands on the table, and the cup can be pulled out of the bowl. In China, utensils are half-filled as according to the tradition the rest of the cup should be filled with positive emotions and true friendship.
The country of cherry blossom is another mainstay of ancient tradition of drinking tea. Chanoyu, which is a traditional Japanese tea ceremony, takes place in a special pavilion called chashitsu, which is located in a garden. The ceremony is preceded by a short walk, which is supposed to purify and soothe our senses. Utensils must be cleaned with a piece of silk. Powdered green tea, called matcha, is scooped with a special bamboo spoon (chashaku) and poured into a bowl, which is then poured with hot, but not boiling, water from a bamboo ladle. Such tea is then mixed by the master using a bamboo brush, creating a delicate foam on the surface of the infusion. Then, the tea is served to the first guest, who after drinking it, gives the bowl back, which is then cleaned, once again filled with tea and passed to another person.
In this way, during the first round of drinking tea – called koi-cha, all participants use the same bowl. The next, weaker infusion known as usu-cha is consumed individually. An essential condition is silence in both the garden and the tea pavilion. This makes it possible for guests to celebrate peace of mind and cleanse themselves of unnecessary emotions in accordance with Zen philosophy. However, to the astonishment of European citizens, it should be noted that in Japan slurping is allowed, as it is a sign of satisfaction, a compliment for the person preparing a meal, as well as a practical way to absorb the fleeting aroma.
This is the first country in Europe that comes to mind when you think about tea. It is even safe to say that tea is the national drink there. However, dried tea leaves differ from the ones used in various parts of the continent, as they do not come from India, but Rize – a region in Eastern Turkey by the Black Sea. Moreover, they are characterized by a strong, characteristic aroma. It takes as long as 20 minutes to prepare infusion! In order to prepare Turkish tea, you will need a special kettle made of two teapots which are placed on top of each other.
The smaller one should be filed with dried tea leaves previously rinsed in water. Next, the small teapot is put on the top of the bigger one in which water is boiled. When water starts to boil, the temperature dries and gently roasts tea leaves in the top teapot. It is a perfect time to pour the boiling water from the big teapot to the smaller one, and then fill the teapot at the bottom with cold water, which is then boiled. In this way, you get the essence in the small teapot, and hot water in the bigger one, which are used to prepare strong, aromatic tea. Contrary to Asian countries, Turkish people drink sweet tea which is served in characteristic glasses in the shape of an Ottoman tulip.