It’s Time for Tea Somewhere

This past week I went with two of my girlfriends to the Lady Bug Tea Room in East Berlin, PA.  We went there to celebrate the recent retirement of one of the ladies.  We all love to visit tea rooms and each one we’ve had the pleasure to visit has been different and delightful.  This one was no exception.  The owner said that her tea room is run in the manner of a Japanese tea room.  Now I’d always thought that this meant geisha girls serving tea in delicate cups according to strict rituals.  But no, according to the Lady Bug owner, her type of Japanese tea room refers to one run by a hostess who lives on the premises and it features fresh, hearty food in addition to tea.  I did a little research on this when I got home and I think she was referring to a “kaiseki” dinner, which can have typically 6-15 different types of food in addition to tea.

The first thing we were asked to do when we arrived was to look around the rooms and pick out a teapot and cup for each of us.  I’m the granddaughter of a dairy farmer and of course, I had to have the cow teapot.  Now when I go to visit Indonesia hopefully within the year, I’m likely to find that the tea served in Central and Eastern Java is served with plenty of sugar, since sugar plantations make this commodity available and cheap.  Yay!  I love sugar in my tea.  But if I head to Western Java, the tea I might be served would still be a green tea but served plain.  In fact, it’s often served free at restaurants much as our restaurants set down free glasses of water before guests.

Jamie, our friend who recently retired, couldn’t resist this teapot with the butterfly cover.  If she was in China, she’d fit right in with the many students and businessmen who flit like butterflies in and out of the tea houses found in most communities.  These are quite the hub of activity for those who want to socialize or just sit and relax.

Linda grabbed this teapot with the apple cozy.  She might enjoy the tea culture of Myanmar.  There they not only drink their tea, they also eat it.  “Lahpet” is pickled tea and enjoyed widely in that country.  A typical Lahpet might have the pickled tea leaves in the middle of a platter with garnishes arranged around the outer edges such as peanuts, coconut, and garlic.  Throw a little fish sauce in there and yummy!  Well, maybe not for my Midwestern taste buds but perhaps the good folks of Myanmar wouldn’t think much of my peanut butter cups either.

If you go to Taiwan, you can have some Bubble tea.  Goodness, if you go to Philadelphia you can even find places that sell it.  I had the misfortune fun of trying some one year when we went out to visit our son in Philly.  Bubble tea, as best I can figure out, is a milky tea concoction with large pearl tapioca balls floating around in it.  I did my best to chew the tapioca as I sucked up the tea from a straw.  After what seemed like hours of chewing with no discernible progress, I gave up on the tapioca and kind of stored it in my cheek while sipping the tea.  I looked like a baseball pitcher chewing a wad.  Let’s just say that I haven’t ordered any Bubble tea since.

If you happen to travel to Tibet, you might find yourself offered a drink of tea, butter, salt, and milk called “po cha.”  You also have to follow some set rules revolving around tea drinking there.  If you get invited to someone’s house for tea, there is a ritual you should follow first which involves barley wine and it seems to involve several glasses of it before you even get to the tea, as best I can figure out.  Seems like you’d be in a rather relaxed state of mind by that time (at least I would be) so perhaps I’d best pray I don’t get invited to tea in Tibet.

When we lived in Morocco, tea was a combination of green tea and mint leaves, sweetened with honey.  It was delicious.  You rarely ventured into a little shop without being offered a glass of tea and I usually took them up on their offer.   It was certainly an improvement over Greece, where business was conducted over tiny glasses of coffee grounds moistened with just a tad of hot water.  Try knocking a few of those down!

The culture of tea is fascinating.  If I’ve whet your whistle to learn more, head over to your local library and check out some books on the history of tea or do some sleuthing on the internet.  And while you’re at it, you might want to check out what tea rooms are in your area.  It’s a delightful way to spend an afternoon.

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