There will always be two sides of everything. In pet world, there’s cat person and dog person, in smartphone world, there’s brand A fan and brand B fan (you know which brand I’m referring to), and in caffeinated drink world, there’s coffee drinker and tea drinker. If you’re the latter, you should know where to enjoy authentic, cultural tea around the world. Yep, Japan isn’t the only country with tea culture!
Ceylon tea, Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka doesn’t only offer you great views when you visit it. As one of tea largest exporters, this country has a native tea called Ceylon black tea, which you can find as a blend in Earl Grey and other fruit-flavored varieties around the globe. What’s interesting about this tea is that the flavors are different according to the region. The higher the altitude, the lighter the flavor and color.
Now, if you want to get all the tea in your travel here, consider hiking through tea fields, treating yourself in tea-based spa at Ceylon Tea Trails, and following tea-making process from shrub to cup on tea tours.
But if you really want to appreciate and experience real tea making here, you should go to Uva Halpewatte Tea Factory in the town of Ella. Their factory tour allows guests to have a hands-on experience on tea making at every stage of the process. Once you’re done, you can try the varying strengths of the tea as well.
It takes about 7 hour train ride to get to this city, but it’ll be worth it because all that time you’ll see beautiful surroundings and you’ll ride through mountains that overlook colorful villages. Oh, and after you’re done in Ella, you should also visit a nearby tea town called Nuwara Eliya.
Yerba maté, Argentina
Yerba maté might not technically be a tea, but it’s definitely high in caffeine. Why isn’t it technically a tea? Maté is brewed using dried leaves of a medicinal plant and you steep them in hot water.
You can find maté in many parts of South America like Paraguay, Uruguay, and Brazil. However, this drink is very special in Argentinian social culture. The locals drink this like our usual water or recreational drink.
You’ll find them sharing this drink while passing around a football with friends, gathering at the park, or enjoying the day in their house. In fact, you’ll find a lot of the locals that carry thermoses of hot water so that they can refill it as many times as they like.
If you’ve never tasted maté before, your taste buds won’t tell you that this drink is good when you first drink it. Like black coffee and tea, this drink is an acquired taste. But you can tone down the bitterness with milk, sugar, or lemon juice like common tea.
In order to get maté, you shouldn’t go to restaurants or cafes. For authentic, cultural experience, you should find a group of locals who are happy to share this drink with you. But if you’re a shy traveler and you find it awkward to ask strangers for a share, you can go to Las Cholas or La Cholita in Buenos Aires and order tea-like beverages. It’s not the same, but the taste is close.
Masala chai, India
I think most of you already know that India is famous for its Darjeeling and Assamese. But, some of you might not know another tea that’s also a part of the country’s tea culture called chai. Now, some of you could say that you’ve tasted this before in well-known cafes, but of course when you drink it in where it comes from, it’s going to be so different.
Masala chai is prepared using black tea and a mix of spices. The spices can be different according to the region, but locals usually use cardamom, grated ginger, cinnamon, cloves, fennel seeds, and peppercorn. Then, it’s boiled with milk and sugar. Like I said, you can actually enjoy chai in many places now, but drinking an authentic and flavorful one isn’t easy.
When you want to drink real masala chai, you’ve gotta go to not-so-legit-looking shops in markets or areas that are also not appealing to the eyes of travelers. Basically, the deeper it is from the common street, the more authentic it is.
Ask Jaipur locals to get you to the Sahu Tea Stall and you’ll find a tiny shop that prepares chai over burning coal. There’s also another chai shop that serves creamy cardamom chai in Amritsar, Punjab, called Giani Tea Stall.
Xihu Longjing tea, Zhejiang Province
There might be no “conventional” internet in China, but you should still visit this country nonetheless. The tea, which comes from Longjing village, is often called as Dragon Well tea. So you know how highly the Chinese think of this drink and even connoisseurs vouch for this. This tea is also known as one of China’s best brews and the genuine, legit version is one of the most expensive teas on the market.
Wanna know how The Dragon Well taste? Simply put, this tea is known for its rich chestnut aroma, and this is what I can only tell you. If you really want to know, the best way is to visit Zhejiang yourself.
Although, I once went to China and visited a tea place and the tea tasted a bit like my local veggie soup. Maybe that’s how the tea taste, since the look is similar to what I drank (I can’t remember where I actually went, and didn’t care what I was drinking since the tour guide spoke only Chinese and I don’t speak one bit of it).
Make sure you go here to have a taste of the highest-quality Longjing tea and ask the locals in order to achieve this. Also, to get a better knowledge about how tea has been entrenched in this country since hundreds of years ago, go to China National Tea Museum in Hangzhou.
Some of you might already know the infamous Kenyan coffee, but this country also has another authentic caffeine called Kericho tea. In fact, in Kenya there are black, green, yellow, and white teas.
But yeah, the most famous one is Kericho, located in the wet highlands of the western Rift Valley. Here you can find Kipsigis pickers that have been hand-picking tea leaves for generations. When you are here, don’t forget to try herbal infusion tea as well.
The Brits love their tea that they’ve got their own time to drink tea and eat snacks. Now, if you want to get one of the best tea in the UK (because obviously there’s quite a lot), try going outside of Truro in Cornwall and go to the Tregothnan estate.
There, you can find tea that’s grown in its own garden. So while you’re there, you can enjoy the nice private garden, sip tea, and eat some munchies like a proper Brit. one downside for this, though, is that the price starts at £65. If you want the cheaper one, well, just go to your nearest tea lounge. It’s close enough!
Ready to sip (not spill) the tea? Which one that you’d love to go? Tell us in the comments. Be sure to click here for a related reading!