Unveiling the essence of Asia

Sipping through Time: An Insight into the Art and Culture of Tea Drinking in Asia

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The Evolution of Tea Drinking in Asia

Tea has been an integral part of Asian culture for centuries, with each country having its own unique way of preparing and consuming it. From the rich, earthy flavors of China’s traditional Pu’er teas to the milky sweetness of India’s Chai, tea is not only a delicious beverage but also a reflection of the history and traditions of each country. In this edition, we will explore how tradition and modern society in each country in Asia drinks tea.


Tea has the longest history in China, here it is deeply ingrained in the country’s culture and traditions. Traditional Chinese tea ceremonies, in which tea is carefully prepared and served in a ceremonial manner, are still practiced in some parts of China. In these ceremonies, the focus is on the art of tea-making and the appreciation of the tea’s flavor, aroma, and appearance. Tea is also a common beverage in Chinese restaurants, where it is often served in small cups alongside meals.

In modern China, tea continues to be an important part of daily life, but it is consumed in new and innovative ways. Bubble tea, a popular drink that originated in Taiwan, has become incredibly popular in China, particularly among younger people. In addition, tea tumbler cups have become increasingly popular in China, as they are a convenient and eco-friendly way to carry tea on the go. These cups are insulated and can keep tea hot or cold for hours, making them ideal for people who are always on the move.

Chinese tourists are often seen carrying tea tumbler cups with them, even when they are traveling to hot countries. This is because tea is seen as an important part of Chinese culture, and many Chinese people believe that drinking tea can help to maintain good health and balance the body’s energies. In addition, tea tumbler cups are a practical way to stay hydrated while traveling, and they can be filled with hot or cold tea depending on the weather. Overall, tea continues to be an important part of Chinese culture and is enjoyed in both traditional and modern ways.


Tea has been an essential part of Japanese culture for over 1,000 years, with the Japanese developing their own unique tea ceremony called chanoyu. Japanese tea is typically served in small tea bowls, and the tea itself is prepared using a traditional tea whisk and a bowl.

In modern Japan, tea is still an important part of daily life, with green tea being the most commonly consumed type. Japanese green tea is often served with meals or as a refreshing drink on a hot day, and there are many tea houses and shops throughout the country.

In traditional Japanese tea ceremonies, the consumption of tea is a deeply meditative and ritualistic practice. The ceremony typically involves a host and guests, who are seated in a designated tearoom and served with a carefully prepared bowl of matcha tea. The process of making the tea involves a series of precise steps, including the proper whisking of the tea powder and the selection of appropriate tea utensils. During the ceremony, the host and guests exchange pleasantries and engage in silent contemplation, appreciating the simplicity and beauty of the tea and the surroundings.

These days, in modern Japan, the consumption of tea has become much more casual and convenient. Many Japanese people now opt for store-bought bottled or canned tea, which can be purchased at vending machines or convenience stores. These teas come in a variety of flavors and styles, including green tea, oolong tea, and black tea, and are often sweetened to appeal to a wider audience. While these types of tea lack the ceremony and ritual of traditional tea ceremonies, they offer a quick and easy way to enjoy tea on the go and are a popular option for busy individuals who do not have the time or resources to attend a tea ceremony.

Despite the rise of convenient store-bought tea in modern Japan, traditional tea ceremonies continue to be an important part of Japanese culture, particularly for special occasions and formal events. While the preparation and serving of tea in a traditional ceremony can be time-consuming and labor-intensive, the focus on mindfulness, simplicity, and respect for the tea and the guests remains an integral part of the practice. Even in the fast-paced modern world, many Japanese people still value the opportunity to slow down and appreciate the beauty and simplicity of a traditional tea ceremony.


In India, tea holds a special place in the country’s culinary culture and social traditions. Beside Darjeeling where Glenburn Tea Estate is located, producing the “champagne” of tea,  Chai, a spiced tea made with black tea, milk, and a blend of aromatic spices, is perhaps the most popular type of tea in India. Indian tea is generally made by boiling the leaves in milk, not water. Buffalo milk being preferable. Traditionally, chai was made at home using a special pot and a mix of spices including cardamom, cinnamon, and ginger, and was served as a way to welcome guests and connect with family and friends. Our expert said, “The best Indian chai is served at railway stations boiling hot in traditional clay pots called Matka hence matka chai”. Chai is also a common drink in Indian restaurants and cafes, where it is often enjoyed alongside savory snacks such as samosas or pakoras.

In modern India, chai continues to be an important part of daily life and is also consumed in new and creative ways. For example, many cafes and restaurants now offer iced versions of chai, which are refreshing drinks during the hot summer months. Chai is also a popular ingredient in desserts and baked goods, such as chai-spiced cakes or cookies. In addition, there has been a growing trend towards artisanal and high-quality teas in India, with Darjeeling tea being one of the most famous and sought-after teas in the world. This delicate tea is grown in the Darjeeling region of India and is known for its floral and fruity notes. Darjeeling tea is often enjoyed without milk or sweeteners in order to fully appreciate its refreshing and complex flavors and is seen as a symbol of the country’s tea culture and craftsmanship.

Overall, tea is deeply ingrained in the social and cultural fabric of India and is enjoyed in both traditional and modern ways. Chai continues to be a beloved and iconic drink, while high-quality teas such as Darjeeling are gaining popularity among a new generation of tea drinkers.


Tea has a long history in Taiwan, with the island being known for producing high-quality oolong teas. Traditionally, tea in Taiwan was consumed in a formal manner, with a focus on the appreciation of the tea’s aroma, flavor, and appearance. Taiwanese tea ceremonies are similar to those in other Chinese cultures, with an emphasis on the use of special tea sets and the preparation and presentation of the tea. Oolong teas are the most commonly consumed in these ceremonies and are often paired with light snacks such as nuts, fruits, or pastries. The tea ceremony is seen as a way to connect with others and to cultivate mindfulness and appreciation for the beauty of tea and the surrounding environment.

In modern Taiwan, tea consumption has taken on a more casual and playful tone, thanks in part to the rise of bubble tea. Bubble tea, a drink that combines tea with milk and tapioca pearls, was invented in Taiwan in the 1980s and has since become a global phenomenon. Bubble tea shops are now ubiquitous in Taiwan, and the drink is enjoyed by people of all ages and backgrounds. In addition to the traditional milk tea flavor, bubble tea now comes in a variety of flavors and styles and can be customized with different types of sweeteners and toppings. While bubble tea lacks the formality and tradition of the traditional tea ceremony, it offers a fun and accessible way to enjoy tea and socialize with friends.

Overall, tea in Taiwan has undergone a transformation from a formal and traditional practice to a more modern and accessible one. While traditional tea ceremonies still hold an important place in Taiwanese culture, bubble tea has emerged as a symbol of the country’s creativity and innovation. Taiwanese people continue to appreciate the beauty and artistry of tea, while also embracing new and playful ways to enjoy this beloved beverage.

South Korea

Tea is an integral part of South Korean culture. Traditional Korean tea ceremonies, known as Darye, are still practiced in some parts of the country. In these ceremonies, tea is prepared and served in a ceremonial manner, with a focus on the aesthetics of tea-making and the appreciation of the tea’s flavor and aroma. Traditional Korean teas, such as green tea and barley tea, are also commonly consumed in everyday life and are often served alongside meals.

One of the most popular traditional Korean teas is Ssanghwa tea, which is made from a blend of medicinal herbs and has been used for centuries to promote good health and prevent illness. Ssanghwa tea is usually consumed hot and is known for its strong and bitter flavor and sometimes a raw egg yolk is added to neutralize the bitter taste and ingest protein. It is believed to have a wide range of health benefits, including improving digestion, boosting the immune system, and reducing inflammation. While ssanghwa tea is still enjoyed by many Koreans today, it has become less popular in recent years as modern tea trends have emerged.

In modern South Korea, tea culture has evolved to include new and innovative ways of consuming tea. One of the most popular modern tea drinks in South Korea is fruit tea, which is a sweet and refreshing drink made with fruit juices and tea. This drink is often served cold and is available in a wide variety of flavors and styles.

Tea houses, known as Chatjip in Korean, are also an important part of South Korean tea culture. These tea houses offer a relaxed and cozy environment for people to enjoy tea, snacks, and socializing with friends and family. In addition to serving traditional Korean teas, many chatjip also offer modern tea drinks such as fruit tea and bubble tea. Some chatjip even have private rooms for groups to enjoy tea ceremonies or private gatherings. Overall, South Korean tea culture continues to evolve and adapt to modern times while also remaining rooted in its traditional origins.


In Thailand, tea is a popular beverage that is consumed in both traditional and modern ways. One of the most famous types of tea in Thailand is Thai milk tea, a sweet and creamy tea made with black tea, condensed milk, and spices such as star anise and vanilla. Traditionally, Thai milk tea was consumed in tea houses, which are social spaces where people gather to drink tea, eat snacks, and connect with friends and family. Tea houses are particularly popular in the southern regions of Thailand, where they are seen as important cultural and community hubs.

In modern Thailand, Thai milk tea has become a popular drink in cafes and restaurants, particularly among younger people who are looking for new and creative ways to enjoy tea. Thai milk tea is often served as a cold and refreshing iced drink, which is perfect for the hot and humid climate of Thailand. In addition, Thai milk tea has become a popular ingredient in desserts and baked goods, such as milk tea-flavored ice cream and cakes. Thai milk tea is also available in convenient store and vending machines, making it a convenient and accessible drink for people on the go.

Despite the rise of modern tea consumption in Thailand, tea houses in the south of the country continue to be an important part of Thai culture. Tea houses are often decorated with traditional Thai art and furniture and offer a relaxing and tranquil environment for people to enjoy tea and connect with others. Tea houses in the south of Thailand also offer a wide variety of teas, including herbal teas and local pulled tea. These tea houses serve as a reminder of Thailand’s rich tea culture and its importance in bringing people together.

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka, also known as Ceylon, is renowned for its tea production and consumption. Tea has been an important part of the Sri Lankan culture for centuries, with a long history of tea plantations and exports. Traditionally, Sri Lankans consume tea as a strong black tea, often with milk and sugar. This type of tea is known as milk tea or chai and is typically enjoyed in the morning or afternoon as a pick-me-up. Tea is also a popular beverage at social gatherings and events, such as weddings and religious ceremonies.

In modern times, Sri Lankans have embraced a more diverse range of tea options. In addition to the traditional black tea, Sri Lanka now produces a variety of specialty teas, such as green tea, white tea, and herbal tea blends. Ceylon tea, in particular, has gained a reputation for its high quality and unique flavor worldwide. Sri Lanka’s tea industry has also expanded to include tea boutiques, cafes, and tea-themed tourist attractions, such as tea museums and plantations. Sri Lankans have adapted to the changing times by incorporating modern tea trends, such as bubble tea and iced tea, while still maintaining their love for traditional milk tea.

Despite the emergence of new tea trends, the production and consumption of Ceylon tea remains an important part of Sri Lanka’s identity and economy. The country’s tea plantations and exports provide employment and revenue for many Sri Lankans. Sri Lanka also celebrates its tea culture through events such as the Colombo Tea Festival, which attracts tea lovers from around the world. Whether it’s a traditional cup of milk tea or a unique specialty blend, Sri Lankans take pride in their tea culture and continue to innovate and evolve in the world of tea.


Indonesia has a rich tea culture that spans back hundreds of years. The country is famous for its production of high-quality tea, particularly in regions such as West Java, East Java, and Sumatra. Indonesian tea is typically enjoyed as a hot beverage, and it is common for locals to add sugar or condensed milk to their tea for a rich sweet taste. Indonesian tea is often brewed using a teapot, and served in small glasses or cups. In traditional settings, tea is often enjoyed as part of a social gathering, and it is a common beverage to serve guests. Indonesian tea ceremonies are also a part of traditional culture and are performed during special occasions such as weddings or religious celebrations.

In modern times, Indonesia has seen a shift in its tea culture towards more modern and trendy tea beverages. One popular beverage is Teh Botol which is a bottled sweet tea that is widely available in convenience stores and supermarkets. Indonesian tea culture is constantly evolving and adapting to changing trends, while still holding onto its traditional roots.

If you’re a tea enthusiast or simply intrigued by the rich tea culture in Asia, why not immerse yourself in an authentic tea experience? Whether you want to learn the art of a traditional tea ceremony or try the latest innovative tea drink, Asia has it all. By booking with the Secret Retreats concierge team, you can explore the fullness of Asia’s culture in a way that is truly unique and personalized to your interests. Let us take you on a journey through fascinating Asia to experience firsthand the evolution of tea drinking in Asia. It’s time to sip, savor, and celebrate the magical and enduring legacy of tea in Asia.

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