A meditator, a tradition, a national treasure, a legacy: a cup of tea goes far beyond simple enjoyment.
We have the Chinese to thank for the idea of drinking the soothing beverage. Legend has it that Emperor Shen Nong discovered the energising and refreshing effects of tea in 2737BC, when some leaves fell into his cup of hot water. In the beginning, it was regarded as a therapeutic infusion brimming with antioxidants; although initially available to royalty and the rich, it quickly became a daily custom for those living prosperous lives. From the 10th Century onwards, China started to first export its tea to neighbouring countries, but it made its way to Britain much later.
Already becoming commonplace in Europe, Thomas Garraway was one of the first merchants to start serving tea at his London coffee house in 1657, but it became more established when Catherine of Braganza - the wife of King Charles II - brought over flavoured leaves from Portugal. This instantly started a 'tea trend' amongst the 17th Century British aristocracy.
From the ancient Chinese Dynasty to present-day Britain, tea has travelled through the centuries and across the globe; making its way into our lives and traditions. Here we take you on a journey to discover which destinations played a significant part in this history and where to head for intriguing tea rituals and experiences across the world. When the birthplace of tea could no longer keep up with the growing demand, India took advantage of the situation and began the first real commercial production of the beverage. Recognised as pioneers, explorers and innovators, Britain's East India Tea Company revolutionised the industry and facilitated the colonisation of much of this part of the world. The first English tea garden was established in Assam in 1837, with numerous tea plantations soon rolled out across the country. Today, India produces and consumes more tea than any other nation in the world.
Allow Cameron Highlands Resort, Malaysia to lay out a sumptuous al fresco picnic in the heart of the BOH tea plantations. Enjoy an enriching tea tasting class before sampling an assortment of delectable bites with scenic views across the flourishing tea valley.
Moving south, originally a hub for coffee production before the crops were decimated by a fungal disease in the 1870's, Ceylon quickly adapted to produce tea. The first leaf landed on Sri Lanka's shores in 1824 and twenty-three years later, British planter James Taylor created the country's first tea plantation. From an initial 19 acres in size, the plantation grew steadily until the industry began to soar, paving the way for the rise of the Ceylon blend.
Ceylon Tea Trails is perched on the hillside of this extraordinary tea region. Here, you will find four distinct bungalows, each decorated with quintessentially colonial furnishings. Traditional Bed Tea is served by a butler each morning whilst guests gaze at the breathtaking panoramas of Sri Lanka's central highlands; recognised as an UNESCO World Heritage site.
The essential Tea Trails Experience comes highly recommended and is led by James Taylor, the great, great grandson of the founder of the famous Taylors Tea brand. Learn first-hand the age-old tea making process - from discovering the 'two leaves and a bud' rule of tea picking to exploring the factory where the fresh leaves are converted into black tea ready for sampling.
Asia has adopted the quintessential British afternoon tea and given it an eastern twist with dim sum bites, scones and sashimi. Axis Bar and Lounge in the cosmopolitan hotel, Mandarin Oriental, Singapore is where we would recommend visiting for an indulgent five-course high tea. Located on the fourth floor, with sweeping views over Marina Bay, this venue exudes style and sophistication.
The Caribbean is also renowned for embracing English heritage and nowhere more so than Barbados. Known worldwide as the 'England in the tropics', its strong British legacy has meant that colonial traditions are still firmly interwoven into Bajan society. Reflecting the island's imperial background, guests of Cobblers Cove enjoy a complimentary daily afternoon tea served in the Pavilion at the Great House. Take in views of idyllic, azure waters whilst sipping on a selection of caffeinated and herbal teas. Make sure you also try the delightful delicacies that the talented culinary team have prepared to complete this authentic and memorable experience.
Journey across the Atlantic to discover the vibrant and mouth-watering wonders of afternoon tea at The Oyster Box, in Durban. This boutique South African hotel is popular with tourists and locals alike. A grand table is dramatically centred amongst the opulent surroundings of the The Palm Court Restaurant and laden with an abundance of sumptuous treats. Sit beneath the glistening chandeliers purchased from the Savoy Hotel in London and sample the freshly baked scones, gold leaf éclairs and colourful macaroons whilst listening to the harmonious chords of the talented, in-house pianist.
North of the African continent, unearth the origins of naa-naa - the renowned Moroccan mint tea. During the 18th Century, a British merchant found himself in Morocco with an abundance of Chinese gunpowder green tea. Moroccans were enraptured by the sensational flavours emerging from the leaves, especially when mixed with mint. Sweetened naa-naa rapidly became Morocco's national drink and was quickly established as a sign of friendship and hospitality.
The Maghreb tea ceremony is a sacred ceremonious ritual which is central to Moroccan life; customarily prepared as a welcome drink to honour guests. In the heart of the Red City sits Four Seasons Resort Marrakech, a calming oasis showcasing the finest Moroccan architecture. Nestled within this contemporary haven is the Maarifa Cultural Centre, a space dedicated to art and the cultural traditions of Morocco.
Watch as boiling water is skilfully poured from an intricate silver teapot over fresh spearmint, dried tea leaves, and sugar into ornate and fragile glasses from a height of around twelve inches. Learn this fine art before heading to Inara Lounge to be served your own Maghreb tea accompanied by authentic local sweet treats.