Tea. Lovely tea. As a long time fan of camellia sinensis, I’ve more tea than any sane person should have, stashed away in a large cabinet at home – everything from delicate white teas and sticky sweet matcha to smooth-as-silk darjeelings and it-tastes-like-dirt lapsang suchan. Every morning I have a cup to start my day.
But what about when I’m on vacation? How does one have that “tea experience” on the road? And where can I get my fix, uh, cuppa? It turns out that tea while traveling can be part of the vacation experience itself with very little effort.
Taking your favorite tea with you is an obvious first step. A tin, small toiletries bag or a simple zip-lock baggie filled with bagged teas (and don’t forget sweeteners if that’s a must for your enjoyment of the brew) should be in every tea lover’s carry-on luggage. (It’s in my carry-on. And I’m not weird. Mostly.) While baggies of tea won’t have to be brought out at security checkpoints, do be aware that if you – like a certain someone – stuff your carry-on full of tins of various loose leaf teas and several of those really nifty Chinese teas tied up in dried husks that you found in that cool tea shop, you will likely get pulled over and have your luggage rifled through.
Finding places to drink tea while traveling is the obvious next step. From traditional tea houses in Azerbaijan to a café by the Mediterranean in Greece, tea isn’t hard to find when traveling outside of the U.S. Take some time to learn a few words in the local language so you can read a menu and discern the green teas from the black teas. While in Switzerland I found I often had the choice of “tea for one” (one to three cups worth) or a largish pot fit for a small group of people. Take a look around and see what others are having with their tea and be brave. Be bold! Have some of that scrumptious looking cake. I found that a cup of tea and some of the local pastries went a long way towards perking up my traveling companion and I in the afternoon. Two of the most memorable places I’ve been to on recent vacations:
The Dushanbe Tea House, Boulder, Colorado. On 13th Street, within walking distance of great shopping, this teahouse was built in partnership with Boulder’s sister city, Dushanbe, Tajikistan.
Heini’s Tearoom, Lucerne, Switzerland. On Falkenplatz, at the corner of Old Town, the pastry choices here are overwhelming and the people-watching is fantastic.
But it’s not just about drinking tea. It’s also about shopping for tea. In some places you can find specialty stores filled with a wide assortment to choose from. On the same trip to Switzerland I found that these shops were often a visually spectacular combination of tea and spices. Ordinary home decorating stores can wear out your credit card as well – European stores tend to have many more tea-related items to choose from than is commonly available in the U.S. Sexy tea paraphernalia is everywhere, from lovely strainers that sit in the tea cup and allow the tea leaves to swell and brew, to measuring spoons, electric tea kettles, teapots and teaspoons. Antique stores and local flea markets are also a treasure trove for tea lovers with piles and piles of silver teaspoons and old teacups available. I even found large garden pots in the shape of teacups, though they wouldn’t fit in my luggage. Unfortunately.
Even a trip to the museum can be a tea-experience. Learn all about the history of tea and coffee in Europe at the Bramah Museum in London. Find out why half a million pounds of perfectly good tea was dumped into Boston Harbor at the Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum in Boston, Massachusetts. Peek inside an “excavated” alpine teahouse in the Matterhorn Museum in Zermatt, Switzerland. And be sure to check out the China National Tea Museum and gardens in Hangzhou.
But if all that’s just too much time, expense and distance for you, consider an easier alternative: brew up a cup, turn on the Travel Channel and imagine you’re cruising the Rhine, the Yangtze or the Amazon river in your jammies, brew in hand!
Be sure to check out Fazia’s tea blog, All About Tea! It’s great!
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