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Drinking tea has been a part of cultures and traditions for thousands of years, but now it has seemingly become trendy and part of a healthy alternative lifestyle. There are so many diverse types of tea, uses for tea, and ways to drink it. According to the U.S. Tea Association, the national market or tea has more than quadrupled from the 1990s to today and is now a multi-billion dollar industry!
In terms of travel, sipping tea in different places can give you unique insights into the local history and cultural scene. Tea tourism hasn’t caught on with an enormous number of travelers just yet, but with imports and local production on the rise, it may very well become the next big thing in travel. These are some of the all-time best places to visit for people who love tea.
You may have heard more about Turkish coffee and their tea, but tea is a big deal in Istanbul. Tea is easily grown in Turkey, and the country is one of the largest tea producers in the world. Turkish tea is called cay, which is a blank tea prepared in a strategic way. Cay is served at pretty much any time of day in Turkey and often enjoyed with savory snacks like baklava and borek.
Tea is very closely associated with Chinese culture, so it’s no surprise that this is a top destination for tea lovers. Different Chinese cities have their own tea specialties, and the specialty in Hangzhou is green tea. Tea here grows in the Zhejiang Province in East China near the Pacific Ocean, and one famous tea is called Dragon Well. This destination also has a fascinating history as an imperial capital dating back thousands of years. To learn more about the local tea, make sure to visit the Hangzhou Tea Museum, which is located among the tea plantation fields.
Another great place in China to learn about and try tea in Chengdu, which is known for Ya’an pressed dark tea grown in the Sichuan Province in Central China. This is a relaxing city to visit, and there are tea gardens in the parks that are popular for playing cards, reading, and talking to friends. You can take a tour of the region to learn more about the Ancient Tea Horse Road, where bricks of tea were once carried by horseback.
The city of London and tea go hand-in-hand, and it’s no secret that the British love a good cup of tea. To get the full experience while visiting the city, consider taking a tea crawl, which is exactly what it sounds like – a healthier version of a pub crawl! Twinings on the Strand is an iconic spot for tea, and the Twinings Tea Room has been serving piping hot cups of tea for over 300 years. Other top spots to sip tea here include Camellia’s Tea House (try an in-house infusion) and Bea’s of Bloomsbury (try loose leaf teas).
Tea is a big part of life in the countryside of England too, and there are many great places to sip a cup of afternoon tea in the Cotswolds. Cream teas are especially popular in this area, and tea rooms offer a historic glimpse into local tea culture. A few of the best places to stop by for a cup in the afternoon include the Tisane Tea Rooms in Broadway, Jelly Pickle Jam in the Vale of Evesham, and the Daffodil in Cheltenham. Many teas here feature local and sustainable growing methods, and some tea rooms serve light sandwiches.
Tea is a huge part of Indian culture too, and Delhi is an exciting city where many travelers to India begin their journeys. One recommended tea spot to try is T’pot Café in Malviya Nagar. Masala chi and oolong tea are popular options to choose; however, you’ll find pretty much any tea your heart desires here. Too Mikki Tapas in Chanakyapuri is well-known for top-notch bubble tea and herbal teas. And the Wagh Bakri Tea Lounge in Pitampura is a “5 star tea lounge” that has businesses in Delhi and Mumbai serving over 50 types of tea.
Tea plantations are everywhere you look in Darjeeling, which is a major tea producer in India. Local favorites are light-bodied, floral teas, and the best time to visit the area for tea is between March and November. One recommended place to visit is the Happy Valley Tea Estate, which was established in the mid-1800s, enjoys a scenic high elevation, and is open to the public.
No discussion of tea destinations would be complete without mentioning a couple of top tea spots in Japan. Uji is best known for green tea, which is grown in the region and incorporated into many aspects of local life. Consider joining a traditional tea ceremony, called a chanoyu, to understand what tea is all about here. The Taiho-an Tea House is a formal and beautiful setting in the area.
One of the top things to do in Kyoto, tea ceremonies are bigger here than anywhere else in the world. Here, tea is a spiritual journey, and the etiquette of drinking tea is just as important as the tea itself. Recommended places to experience a tea ceremony here are the Okitsu Club, Camellia, and En. You can also experience less formal versions of Kyoto tea ceremonies in some of the temples, and try the matcha tea for a local healthy treat.
Not to be done by London and other parts of the UK, Dublin is more than a city to find good beer. Days in Dublin can get chilly, so warm up with a cup of tea at Bewley’s on Grafton Street. This is a top spot to grab a traditional Irish breakfast and do some shopping too. Other top spots for tea in the city include Wall and Keogh, The Shelbourne and Clement and Pekoe.
Chiang Mai, Thailand
Chiang Mai is known for its glittering temples and local street food but also has a wonderful tea scene. People in Thailand grow a great amount of tea, but don’t drink it as much as in some Asian countries. Some tea houses here focus on tea as a medicine and have outdoor gardens. One of the top recommended tea houses is TianZi.
New York City, New York
Tea might not be grown in New York City, but as a global capital, travelers can find an amazing selection of tea in the Big Apple. Taking an afternoon break for high tea is especially popular among visitors around the holidays. Some recommended tea cafes include Madeline’s Tea at the Carlyle on the Upper East Side, Eloise Tea at the Plaza in Midtown East, and Alice’s Tea Cup on the Upper East and West Sides. The Russian Tea Room is a famous venue here and offers afternoon tea daily.