Tea one of the favourite drinks of the Middle East, more popular in many countries than coffee. Middle Eastern tea is usually served strong, sweet and black, although Moroccan-style mint tea is well known in this region too. The Arabic word for tea is “chai”, the same as the Hindi word for tea, and tea was first introduced to the Middle East by Arab traders who knew about the drink long before European merchants did. Can you know another tea as sage tea, check out the benefits.
According to some sources, Arab traders knew about tea as early as in the year 850. Although the honour for bringing tea to Europe often goes to Dutch traders, it is possible that tea first came to Europe via Arab merchants who introduced it to the Venetians around 1559. Venice was powerful and influential at the time, and much of its power came from its flourishing trade. Venetian traders bought spices and other goods from Arab merchants who traded with the East, and then sold them on to the rest of Europe with a good profit.
Tea is mentioned by the Italian writer Giambattista Ramusio (1485-1557) in his collection of stories about explorations, voyages and discoveries: Delle navigationi e viaggi. Ramusio is believed to have met a Persian merchant, Hajji Mahommed, who told him about “Chai Catai” or Tea of China. He also claims that tea can remove fever, headache, stomach ache, pain in the side or in the joints, gout and many other ailments.
Coffee houses have been known in the Middle East for centuries: they existed on the streets of Middle Eastern cities from Damascus to Constantinople already in the 16th century. Over time, however, tea overtook coffee as the drink of choice in the area, and today tea houses and tea drinking are part of daily life in most Middle Eastern countries.
Tea is served in tea houses from Iran to Syria and from Turkey to Egypt. Tea is always offered to visitors as a gesture of hospitality, and tea is also brewed in shops and souks for shoppers who can enjoy the drink while making their purchases and negotiating prices. One of the world’s biggest tea consumers is Turkey, where sweet black Turkish tea is served in every occasion, often from a Russian-style samovar. Turkey and Iran also cultivate tea.
Strong and sweet Middle Eastern tea is served very hot, often in small glasses. It can be flavoured with spices, such as anise or cinnamon, or fresh mint leaves can be added. In some countries green tea is a common alternative to black tea. There are many ways to spice up a Middle Eastern tea, but one of the most special types of tea in the region is the Finjan Erfeh which is served to celebrate a newborn baby and is flavoured cinnamon, ginger, anise and cloves.
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