A panorama of tea

Wherever you are, pausing for a time with a cup of tea has the power of bringing you a sweet calming moment – even if you are squashed between backpackers in a crowded medina. A daily tea ritual can become an exercise in combating stress. No matter where you are, you can enjoy the sensual pleasure it brings to your palette and the resulting calm it brings to your senses.

No matter the nature of my travels, I make sure to bring along my small plastic French Press. It’s plastic, so it is convenient and safe for travel, and at 12 ounces it’s small enough to provide no burden to my travels. Bring along a few of your favorite tea bags and, in a pinch, you can enjoy an instant cup of tea. I’ve found this particularly useful when traveling with people who aren’t habitual tea or coffee drinkers

Taking tea is a profound tradition the world over. Here are only a few amazing sensations you should be sure to experience if you find yourself in the region:

Mint Tea: Morocco

Mint Tea in Morocco
Morocco is famous for its mint tea, sometimes referred to as Moroccan whiskey as the country adheres to Islamic law and alcohol is forbidden.

Green tea is boiled with a generous amount of sugar and served blistering hot in tall Moroccan glasses choked with fresh mint. The sugar aids in cooling the body by activating digestion, while the mint tickles your senses to breezy coolness.

Moroccans are a beautifully kind people. When invited into their home, a leisurely introduction and conversation over mint tea is the first order of duty. As you browse through the tiny shops that line the medina streets, vendors will insist you linger for conversation and a steaming cup of the tea. As Westerners we may feel obliged to return the gesture by making a purchase. However, honest conversation and a heartfelt handshake always won me greater appreciation than any amount of money I could spend.

Guayaki: Yerba MatéYerba Mate in South America
Yerba Mate is a tea harvested from the leaves of trees found in the rainforests of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay. Mate has been enjoyed in South America for centuries. It is a healthy alternative to coffee and tea, which can leave you wired and rattling before promptly crashing with exhaustion. Indeed, Mate boasts both energy and nutrition with a full artillery of vitamins, amino acids, and antioxidants, making it “the good energy”.

Traditionally dried Mate leaves and stems are steeped in a hollow gourd and sipped slowly through a stainless steel “straw” called a bombilla. Like mint tea in Morocco, sharing a gourd of Yerba Mate in conversation among friends in Argentina can be a profoundly intimate experience.

Luckily, Yerba Mate is increasingly available around the world. The tradition has caught on around the Middle East, and the infusion is easily found throughout the US and Canada. Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s supplies tea bags or loose leaves in a variety of flavors. In North America and across Europe, mate can be found easily in specialty stores that cater to organic and fair trade products.

To truly immerse yourself in this tradition, try Woofing in Argentina through the summer, and learn how the tea is harvested and prepared.

Chai SpicesChai Tea in India/Southern Asia
Chai, as we know it, refers to the spiced tea of Indian herbs and flavors. The popularity of this tea has caught on so rampantly that a watered down version of the spices are available in practically every café, restaurant, and grocery store the world over. A visit to India, however, will show you the true intensity of this tea and have you laughing at the bags lining your grocer’s shelves back home.

“Masala” refers to the host of spices used to make this infusion. The warm flavor palette of Masala spices produces a tranquil calming effect on the body, while restoring a healthy vigour to the senses. This same mixture is used in certain Ayurvedic medicines.

It will not be difficult to sample a cup of this robust tea while traveling South Asia, as Chai Wallahs will scream to you from vending stalls everywhere you go. Chai will find you, before you ever have the inkling to go searching for it.

The two most popular ways of preparing masala chai is by simmering tea leaves with a bit of whole milk, sweetener, and a host of Indian spices before straining the liquid off and serving. Alternatively, one can simmer the tea leaves, strain them off, then add milk and spices to personal taste. Typically, masala chai is made with a strong black tea as its base. A potent mix of cinnamon, pepper, ginger, cardamom. brown sugar, cloves, and honey give the tea its powerful flavor.

(Photo credit Guayaki.com and Wikipedia)

Posted by | Comments (5)  | February 15, 2010
Category: Food and Drink, On The Road

5 Responses to “A panorama of tea”

  1. Gadlinks for Monday, 2.15.10 - www.vacau.com - Deep Web News Radio Says:

    […] at Vagablogging, Colleen Wilde explores the drink of philosophers, […]

  2. yoda Says:

    Don’t South Americans traditionally sweeten their yerba mate with stevia?…I think Wisdom of the Ancients brand of yerba mate is the only one, however to market it with stevia in th US…

  3. Rebecca Travel-Writers-Exchange Says:

    Tea time is a main staple in the UK. There are many varieties of tea from Earl Gray to Black tea. You haven’t experienced England until you’ve had a nice cup of tea!

  4. Colleen Wilde Says:

    I’ve never seen anyone sweeten their mate with stevia. Stevia is so bitter, I can’t imagine it. All you need is the gourd, the leaves, and some hot water.

    Yes! I’ve brought tea back from England before I found a few tea shops in France. If you’re outside of Paris, you mostly have to rely on specialty shops to find good leaves.

  5. Carousel — 02.19.10 : evolution you Says:

    […] A panorama of tea: At Vagablogging, Colleen Wilde explores the drink of philosophers—tea! Her lovely descriptions […]