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tea-drinking In Other Lands

While tea-drinking outside of Japan and China is not attended

with any high-days and holidays, still there are countries

where it is just as important element of the daily life of its

people as it is in the Land of the Rising Sun.

Among the Burmese a newly-married couple, to insure a happy

life, exchange a mixture of tea-leaves steeped in oil.

In Bokhara, every man carries a small bag of tea
about with him.

When he is thirsty he hands a certain quantity over to the

booth-keeper, who makes the beverage for him. The Bokhariot, who is

a confirmed tea-slave, finds it just as hard to pass a tea-booth

without indulging in the herb as our own inebriates do to go by

a corner cafe. His breakfast beverage is Schitschaj--tea in

which bread is soaked and flavored with milk, cream, or mutton

fat. During the daytime he drinks green tea with cakes of flour

and mutton suet. It is considered a gross breach of manners to

cool the hot tea by blowing the breath. This is overcome by

supporting the right elbow in the left hand and giving an easy,

graceful, circular movement to the cup. The time it takes for

each kind of tea to draw is calculated to a second. When the can

is emptied it is passed around among the company for each

tea-drinker to take up as many leaves as can be held between the

thumb and finger; the leaves being considered a special dainty.

An English traveller once journeying through Asiatic Russia

was obliged to claim the hospitality of a family of Buratsky

Arabs. At mealtime the mistress of the tent placed a large kettle

on the fire, wiped it carefully with a horse's tail, filled it with

water, threw in some coarse tea and a little salt. When this was

nearly boiled she stirred the mixture with a brass ladle until the

liquor became very brown, when she poured it into another

vessel. Cleaning the kettle as before, the woman set it again on

the fire to fry a paste of meal and fresh butter. Upon this she

poured the tea and some thick cream, stirred it, and after a time

the whole. Was taken off the fire and set aside to cool. Half-pint

mugs were handed around and the tea ladled into them: the

result, a pasty tea forming meat and drink, satisfying both

hunger and thirst.

M. V?mb?ry says: The picture of a newly encamped caravan in

the summer months, on the steppes of Central Asia, is a truly

interesting one. While the camels in the distance, but still in

sight, graze greedily, or crush the juicy thistles, the travellers,

even to the poorest among them, sit with their tea-cups in their

hands and eagerly sip the costly beverage. It is nothing more

than a greenish warm water, innocent of sugar, and often

decidedly turbid; still, human art has discovered no food,

invented no nectar, which is so grateful, so refreshing, in the

desert as this unpretending drink. I have still a vivid recollection

of its wonderful effects. As I sipped the first drops, a soft fire

filled my veins, a fire which enlivened without intoxicating. The

later draughts affected both heart and head; the eye became

peculiarly bright and began to glow. In such moments I felt an

indescribable rapture and sense of comfort. My companions

sunk in sleep; I could keep myself awake and dream with open


Tea is the national drink of Russia, and as indispensable an

ingredient of the table there as bread or meat. It is taken at all

hours of the day and night, and in all the griefs of the Russian

he flies to tea and vodka for mental refuge and consolation. Tea

is drunk out of tumblers in Russia. In the homes of the wealthy

these tumblers are held in silver holders like the sockets that

hold our soda-water glasses. These holders are decorated, of

course, with the Russian idea of art.

In every Russian town tea-houses flourish. In these public

resorts a large glass of tea with plenty of sugar in it is served at

what would cost, in our money, about two cents. Tea with

lemon is so general that milk with the drink, over there, is

considered a fad.

The Russians seem to like beverages that bite--set the teeth on

edge, as it were.

The poor in Russia take a lump of sugar in their mouths and let

the tea trickle through it. Travelling tea-peddlers, equipped with

kettles wrapped up in towels to preserve the heat, and a row of

glasses in leather pockets, furnish a glass of hot tea at any hour

of the day or night.

The Russian samovar--from the Greek to boil itself--is a

graceful dome-topped brass urn with a cylinder two or three

inches in diameter passing through it from top to bottom. The

cylinder is filled with live coals, and keeps the water boiling hot.

The Russian tea-pots are porcelain or earthen. Hot water to heat

the pot is first put in and then poured out; dry tea is then put in,

boiling water poured over it; after which the pot is placed on top

of the samovar.

We all know about tea-drinking in England. It is not a very

picturesque or interesting occasion, at best. To the traditional

Englishman's mind it means simply a quiet evening at home,

attended by the papers, and serious conversations in which the

head of the house deals out political and domestic wisdom until

ten o'clock. During the day, tea-taking begins with breakfast

and rounds up on the fashionable thoroughfares in the afternoon.

Here one may see the Britishers at their best and worst. These

places are called tea-shops, and in them one may acquire the

latest hand-shake, the freshest tea and gossip, see the newest

modes and millinery, meet and greet the whirl of the world. An

interesting study of types, in contrasts and conditions of society,

worth the price of a whole chest of choice tea.

We are pretty prosaic tea-drinkers in America. Is it because

there is not enough touch and go about the drink, or that we

are too busy to settle down to the quiet, comfort, and thoughtful

tea-ways of our contemporaries? Wait until a few things are

settled; when our kitchen queens do not leave us in the gray of

the morning, and all of our daughters have obtained diplomas

in the art and science of gastronomy.

However made or taken, tea at best or worst is a glorious drink.

As a stimulant for the tired traveller and weary worker it is

unique in its restful, retiring, soothing, and caressing qualities.