As Elizabeth Barrett Browning said, “How do I love thee, let me count the ways.” And thus it is with tea. It is known by many words and loved in many ways. I went scouring around the Internet and found various lists, forums, discussion boards, etc., with words from all corners of the globe. A bunch of them are presented here:
The main thing to note is that there are four root words: te, ta, cha, chay. (There are a few exceptions such as “herbata” from Poland and “lahpet” from Burma.) Of those four root words, there are variations in spellings and pronunciations. Plus, we are dealing with different styles of characters and alphabets, such as Hebrew and Malayalam. What also popped up online is people saying that in just about any country they could order “tea” and be clearly understood. It seems, therefore, that there is a universal character to the word “tea” that goes beyond the beverage itself, which is said to be the second most consumed beverage on Earth after water.
Let’s not forget that for many, especially in the UK, the word “tea” means more than the beverage. It usually refers to a time when you stop, have some kind of food and drink the beverage called “tea.” That can be a bit confusing for some of us. When we are asked if we want tea, we may be thinking only of the beverage. But quite often various foods are involved. These range from light fare such as cucumber and cream cheese finger sandwiches, fresh fruits, and raw veggies, to full meals that include a meat entrée such as steak and kidney pie (a personal favorite) or Shepherd’s Pie (another delight).
Whatever word you use for “tea” will suit this beverage well, for it is many things to many people. It refreshes, invigorates, soothes, serves as a dessert, complements many foods, acknowledges the past both in terms of history and traditions, and brings people together. A truly miraculous cuppa!
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