As recorded, there is a long and complicated history of tea in which from the early days, tea was used mostly in medical treatments. Over the years, people gradually found out other purposes of this herbal tree and among that, producing and drinking tea are the most popular. Today, we are going to travel to the Indochina area to find out how tea is being consumed or in another term, how tea culture varies between two countries: Burma and Vietnam. In each of the country, we will examine tea in the following main aspects: types of tea and which is the most famous, how and when the tea is used in society and lastly how important it is.
The first place we travel to Burma where you can spot people of all ages regardless of career and status drinking tea in almost corners. If you have been to any region in Burma, whether it is the northernmost city or furthest north, a unique cultural and social trait yet incredibly simple is tea houses clustering on the streets which will certainly amaze you by its popularity and density. Not as fancy as coffee shops around the world with hardly any sophisticated design or adornment, these tea houses are genuinely family-operated. Plastic stools, low tables, old propane kettles and thermoses, all are the necessities of a typical tea house in Burma.
It is believed that tea’s origin is China; after that, by many trade routes, tea was spread throughout Asia including Burma. In the time of British colonialism, the habit of drinking tea was formed by their ruling. At that time, tea shops were considered community centers where political and intellectual conservations were focal points. Time after time, tea had engraved deeply into Burmese society, existing as a daily routine unlike any lavish and elaborated way of drinking tea of the British. Thus, people in this country look on tea time as a socializing part. Tea houses are especially filled with people in the morning who is in need of energy boosts for the day ahead. Along with one cup of hot green tea or sweet black tea (which is made by adding extra condensed milk), some snacks are served for this typical breakfast such as noodle dishes, fried pastries or steamed buns. Green tea and milky black tea are two most popular types for the Burmese. Drinking tea is also not a bad way to kill time during the day. Slowly sipping some tea, having small talks, reading a newspaper or just simply smoking is favorite pastime activities for a number of people. Furthermore, tea can be seen in most of other social or religious ceremonies.
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Tea culture in Burma is distinct in the way that tea is recognized not just a beverage. Burmese people are able to create various dishes out of the tea leaves. Laphet take or tea leaf salad is the most familiar as well as the popular dish made from fermented tea leaves.
When one thinks of Vietnam, they think of endlessly immense hills growing coffee. This is true except for the fact that there are more areas than you could imagine covered in the color of green tea. Compared to Burma, Vietnamese people treasure tea just only after coffee. While the Burmese drink black tea as much as green tea, Vietnamese people drink green tea most of the time and for most occasions. Apart from plain green tea, various types of tea are made by embalming the green tea leaves into ingredients such as jasmine, white daisy or lotus.
In the old days, people so valued this type of beverage that they viewed brewing and drinking tea as an art. As for the royal classes, the process of brewing tea must require every dew-drop lingering on a lotus petal before the sun shined. Meanwhile, the seniors in the past used to brew tea with raindrops. Nowadays, brewing tea is a secret receipt for each person depending on both quality and types of tea and kettle. Regardless of a few differences in the preparation stage, some similarities can be recognized between 2 tea cultures. In Vietnam, you can catch a sight of people drinking tea and chatting in every corner of the streets. Nonetheless, you can hardly find such thing as a tea house as in Burma since street vendors are the dominant style in Vietnam. These street vendors are not even equipped with tables but chairs, very low chairs on the ground. Groups and groups of people who mostly men usually sit around one man or woman who is the owner of that small tea shop, sipping slowly a cup of green tea, playing some rounds of a chest, eating sunflower seeds and smoking.
In Vietnam, tea not only serves as a way of socializing but it also plays a substantial part in cultural behavior. When a family welcomes their guests, offering a cup of hot tea demonstrates hospitableness and warmness; people therefore often have a saying that: Tea is the beginning of all conversations.
In general, Burma and Vietnam both possess a peculiar tea culture that every tourist should not miss this once they travel to the region. Let yourself sitting in a tea house or tea vendor, slowly indulging in some cups of tea, this will be the most intriguing experience in your life.
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