For those whose introduction to tea drinking began and ended with a Lipton tea bag, perhaps it’s time to expand your horizon and acquaint yourself with the different brews that can do well as an alternative to coffee. Unknown to some, tea can come in different flavors and mixed with milk, sugar, honey, mint (and even butter!) depending on your taste or mood; it can also be served hot or cold to suit the weather.

In recent years, modern tea houses serving tea in an assortment of flavors have sprouted in different cities, giving the age old beverage a twist and making it palatable to a younger audience. Aside from that, the benefits of drinking tea such as helping prevent the risk of cancer and having flawless skin have been hailed by medical experts resulting in a more popular demand for this previously overlooked beverage.

Different cultures all over the world have their own ways of preparing and drinking tea. If you want to know more about these flavors, we suggest visiting the five places below that are known for their tea culture.

MARRAKECH, MOROCCO


Far from the dark brown liquid you’re used to sipping from a paper cup, the mint tea found at the souk tables of Marrakech in Morocco are hot, sweet, and as the name denotes—minty. The difference doesn’t end there, either. In Marrakech, tea is found everywhere and drank by anybody and everybody. That’s because the majority of the people in Morocco are Muslim and traditionally, alcohol is either prohibited or taboo. Mint tea became the beverage of choice among the locals because it doesn’t fall under the taboo list and is also available throughout the day.

For first time travelers to Marrakech, even the process of drinking tea can be a bit of a spectacle. Servers pour the steaming hot liquid from big copper kettles into tiny glasses that can fit in your palm. All around you, the smell of local Moroccan cuisine fills the air, and lamb heads simmering in cauldrons can be found nearby. You can get a glass of tea for the ridiculously low price of US 10 cents if you venture to Djemaa El Fena and sit yourself down at one of the food stalls found in the city.

COTSWOLDS – ENGLAND


Drinking tea in England is almost like a national pastime that everyone in the country—including the Queen—takes part in. The English are known the world over for their tea time breaks that also involved sweet cakes and pastries. We think the most ideal location to appreciate England’s tea legacy is the English Cotswolds where you will find quaint old villages with stone structures and green pastures all around.

Armed with a steaming cup of Earl Grey tea, you can visit William Shakespeare’s birthplace over at Stratford-upon-Avon, sit under a drooping willow, or watch as the water makes its way down a stream. It’s like traveling back in time and experiencing England raw and pure through the simple act of sipping a hot beverage.

GANZI – TIBETAN PLATEAU


Travelers coming from the modern cities in China and making their way to Tibet will no doubt be drinking lots of tea. But travelers should get ready to encounter a type of tea that is worlds apart from what they had in Shanghai after the cross the mountain leading them to the Tibetan Plateau. The traditional green tea served by the Chinese is altered to fit the local climate which is to say, very cold indeed.

Tibetans add globs of butter and also salt to their tea. This not only gives the drink a rather unpleasant taste that takes time to get used to, but also helps protect one’s lips from getting sunburned associated with the high altitude. The oil from the butter helps moisturize and protect the lips which are always exposed to the sun. There is a direct correlation between the altitude and the amount of butter put in the tea; which means the higher up you go, more butter will be put into your tea.

Interestingly enough, Ganzi is located outside of the Tibetan Autonomous Region, over at the western side of Sichuan province. It has been the center of protests related to the Tibetan uprisings since the year 2008, but a visit to this town will give you a better picture of Tibetan life than most other towns in Tibet itself. Because of the implied danger of these protests, not many tourists have been visiting Ganzi in recent years, but the local guesthouses are always welcome to foreigners who are looking for a place to stay especially since they’ll most likely be the few new faces that they’ll encounter for weeks.

As long as you’re here, take the opportunity to wander around town and make your way to the monastery at the top of the hill which is home to more than 500 Buddhist monks.

CUZCO – PERU


Here’s an interesting fun fact: Andean tea has for centuries been spiced up with a special component, the coca leaf, which in turn is the main ingredient used to make cocaine. Even today, this antique brew is very much still consumed by some of the locals such as the Quechua in Peru who trace their lineage from the Incas. The reason behind the addition of the coca leaf is to ease the effects of living at a very high altitude.

To experience it for yourself, journey up the mountains and make your way to Cuzco. Local accommodations here sometimes offer their guests a complimentary cup of tea upon their arrival. It’s a bit hard to explain if you’re not feeling it first hand, but for a person who was previously standing at the coastal city of Lima and is now 11,000 feet above the sea level in Cuzco, your body will definitely thank you.

CHENGDU – CHINA


Of course, we couldn’t have made this list without mentioning China. In the eastern part of the globe, China is the one place you should be when you want to learn more about tea. If you’re lost in the vastness of this gigantic country, we think the best place for an immersion in the local Chinese teahouse tradition would be Chengdu.

In Chengdu, teahouses are establishments not only for eating and drinking but also a place where one can hang out as well, as possibly even get their ears cleaned or their shoulder muscles untied by a relaxing massage. Over the years, the teahouses here have evolved into a sanctuary for the stressed soul, or a trendy hotspot for others who want to dine out. We’ve had the opportunity of ordering a pot of bottomless tea at Dujiang Weir for only 20 Yuan or US 3 dollars and we must say, it was one of the most relaxing afternoons we’ve spent outdoors.

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