After water tea is the most popular beverage consumed in the world. That may be a surprise for many living in the U.S. who only drink tea when they are sick or looking to chill out or relax. Of course, iced tea is consumed by the gallons here in the South and in refrigerated icy bottles drunk up like soda pop. But, good old fashioned hot tea reigns supreme in many parts of the world when it comes to what people drink on a daily basis.
Why is tea so popular? Tea is an ancient drink with a rich history. Many reasons exist that stem from the intrinsic benefits of the tea plant itself and others from cultural and historical develpoments. Here are some explanations not listed in any particular order of importance.
1. Taste and Variety: It’s plain and simple – tea tastes good and there is a lot of variety to taste. Whether hot or iced, tea refreshes and uplifts with its unique tastes and flavors. Like wine, the terroir or where its grown imparts a distinctive taste profile that can yield memorable and savory moments with a cup. Whether it’s a sencha green tea from Japan, yunan black tea from China or a Darjeeling from India, drinking tea becomes a vehicle for discovery and exploration.
2. Accessibility, Cost and Convenience of Making: Accessibility, cost and the convenience of making has made tea an important part of daily life around the globe. You can find tea in any store or market. Of course, the quality may vary but with tea’s growing popularity premium whole leaf tea is more readily available than in the past.
Although tea may appear to be expensive at first glance, when you factor in the actual cost per serving, it’s one of the world’s most affordable luxuries. The quantity of tea used to make a cup will vary depending upon the tea type, but the industry standard is that on average a pound of tea can yield around 200 cups. This is much higher than a pound of coffee which yields around 40-50 cups. Keep in mind that with some oolong and green teas you can also steep multiple times further impacting the overall cost per serving analysis.
3. The Importance of Ritual and Participatory Culture: The importance of the ritual of tea drinking plays a central role in many cultures around the world. Developed in China, the original tea ceremony focuses on the actual tea itself including the taste, smell and look versus the more predefined Japanese tea ceremony with strict, memorialized rules. In China, the host and those enjoying the tea will drink tea for a number of reasons including honoring guests, showing appreciation, celebrating a life event and much more.
The Japanese tea ceremony (The Way of Tea or Chado) is highly revered for its connection with Zen Buddism and a refined attention to detail. The preparation and serving of matcha tea is elevated to performance art with an emphasis on aesthetics and harmony. Drinking strong black tea from a Samovar is a key component of Russia’s tea culture tradition. In Morroco, drinking mint tea (a mixture of gunpowder green, fresh mint leaves and sugar) is a national pastime. You can find chai wallahs everywhere in India serving up fresh cups of chai tea. Afternoon and high tea in England highlight the importance to the British of tea in society and their culture.
4. Caffeine: Let’s be honest – lots of people like tea because it’s a good alternative to coffee and provides them with a caffeine boost. Waking up or making it through a long afternoon at work can be difficult. A hot cup of tea provides a nice pick-me-up and makes it easier to get through the day.
5. Health Benefits: Many studies have been published that have concluded that tea may have positive health benefits. You can learn more here about the health benefits of tea.