South Asia is a major tea producing region, as well as an important tea consuming region. India and Iran are the two most important tea producers in the region. These two countries both favour black tea, but their drinking habits are entirely different.
India has the second largest population in the world. For a very long time, its tea production and consumption both ranked number one in the world. Only in recent years, China's tea production surpassed India. China's tea production is primarily green tea, while India mainly produces black tea, with black tea from Darjeeling and Assam being the most famous.
Everyone in India drinks tea every day. They drink tea in a rather unusual way. They brew black tea, milk,and sugar together in a glass teapot. They drink the remaining juice after filtering out the tea leaves. They also have very interesting customs. Men sit cross-legged, and women sit on the forelegs in the Vajrasana position. After the guests arrive and are seated, the host brings up fruits and desserts. The first time the host hands the guests tea, the guests must first give thanks then decline to accept the tea. The host then offers them tea for a second time,and now the guests may accept,but must receive it with both hands. Another thing to note, is that neither the host nor the guests can pass or receive tea wares with the left hand. In their view, the left hand is used in showers and bathrooms. It is not clean enough to for tea wares.
People in India love masala tea or masala chai. means "to mix" in Hindi. This is a type of milk tea mixed with all kinds of Indian spices and herbs. There are four basic ingredients in masala chai: black tea, milk, spices and herbs, and sugar or honey. There are no rules as to what kinds of spices and herbs should be used in masala chai. The various spices and herbs used vary with regions and tastes. Tea drinkers choose according to their own preferences. Some of the most popular spices and herbs include cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, bay leaves, and star anise. These spices and herbs can be used in their raw form or in processed powders. Each family may create its own favourite blend.
Indians traditionally cook masala chai on stove with a slow fire, and then serve out of the pot with a ladle. When sampling very fine teas, there is an emphasis on etiquette and appropriate tea wares. When having masala chai, most of the formality can be relaxed.
Though chai is simply the word for "tea" in India and much of South Asia, many English speakers outside the region have come to use chai to specifically denote masala chai. It is not difficult to infer the prevalence of masala chai in India.
The Iranians are people that are particularly fond of tea. Their habit of drinking tea is linked to the ancient history of the Silk Road. The Iranian people love the rich flavour of black tea and whenever they are free, they start drinking tea. Drinking more than ten cups of tea every day is quite normal in Iran. Since most Iranians are Muslims, drinking alcohol is strictly prohibited, while drinking tea is heavily promoted.
When a glass of tea is served in Iran, there must not be a single tea leaf in the glass. The glasses in which the black tea is served are usually red, consistent with the colour of black tea. On the body of the glasses, there are delicate carvings and metal inlays. Such decorations make these glasses artworks, and also serve the function of glass covers that protect the hands from too much heat
The main difference from India is that, people in Iran do not add milk in their tea. Freshly brewed black tea is slightly bitter. Therefore, sugar cubes are indispensable when drinking tea in Iran. However sugar cubes are used in a different way. Instead of putting them in the tea, the Iranians put the sugar cubes directly in their mouths and then drink the tea.
This way, the tea drinkers can freely control the sweetness of the tea by choosing the size of the sugar cubes and controlling the speed of melting. This is an extra pleasure of drinking tea.
For the Iranians, the best companion for tea is hookah, a type of water pipe. When they are drinking tea, they often have with them a colourful long-necked flask. This is a hookah. Through the water pipe, the smoke is filtered through water, the irritating flavour of the smoke is eliminated and a pleasant fruity taste is added. Smoking through the water pipe is also less harmful to the body. A person can enjoy a hookah alone with his tea, or he may share it with a group of friends together.
The Iranians are not very demanding about the tea rooms. These places can be modest and small, or extravagant and big. The Iranians prefer to be close to nature. They like to drink tea under a tree beside a stream, experiencing a more peaceful rhythm.