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15 Tea Traditions From Around the World

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Drinking tea is a tradition that's said to date back to 2737 BCE, when, according to legend, Chinese emperor Shennong found his hot water was greatly improved when a dried leaf fell from a plant into his cup. Since then, tea drinking has spread around the world, its recipes and preparations evolving along the way. Here’s how to enjoy a cup around the globe. 

1. MOROCCO 

A mix of mint, green tea leaves, and a generous serving of sugar, Touareg tea (also known as Maghrebi mint tea) is the customary blend in this North African country. Poured from up high into slim, delicate glasses, it's served three times to guests. Each time the flavor varies slightly. Per the proverb: "The first glass is as gentle as life, the second is as strong as love, the third is as bitter as death." Refusing any one of these servings is considered the height of rudeness. 

2. TIBET 

Forget the “milk or lemon” debate. How about adding some salty butter to your tea? Po cha, the traditional tea of Tibet, is made by boiling a brick of Pemagul black tea for hours. From there, milk, salt, and yak butter are added, and the mixture is then churned together. It's said this blend with a soup-like consistency is uniquely comforting and fortifying in the high-altitude and cold climates. 

3. INDIA 

India is both a huge producer and consumer of tea. But for all its variants, the country is best known for its chai blends that mix black tea leaves with spices like cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom, and pepper. Though regional recipes vary, this spicy tea is such a quintessential element of day-to-day life that is sipped on the go, offered to houseguests, and found for sale on nearly every street. Vendors called chai wallahs traditionally sell their brew in small sustainable clay cups made from local earth. Some people consider the dust of these clay cups to be a crucial ingredient to get the true taste of this national drink. 

4. ARGENTINA 

While India has chai, this South American nation has yerba mate (pronounced ma-tay), an herb "tea" made from its titular herb. Called "the drink of the gods," it's a staple of Argentinian life. It is prepared in a small pot or dried calabaza gourd from which it's drunk through a special straining straw called a bombilla. This device will be revived with more hot water, and passed around a gathering so all might share its tea and bond. To say "thank you" in this situation is seen as declining the drink, which is a grave insult. Also insulting: stirring the brew with the bombilla, as it questions the abilities of its brewer/your host. Traditionally, yerba mate is served without a sweetener, but younger generations have taken to adding sugar or honey. 

5. RUSSIA 

The tea traditions of Russia were forged in its leaner days, where food and drinks needed to be stretched to serve as many as possible. From these shortages came zavarka, a loose-leaf tea concentrate brewed in a small metal container called a samovar. In this vessel, a very strong (usually black) tea is brewed and then served in large mugs. However, you wouldn't dare fill the mug. Instead, guests take an inch or less of this powerful concoction that they then tame with boiling water as desired. Russians typically drink it black, but hosts will offer milk and sugar, as well as an accompanying snack. Serving zavarka without cookies, crackers or some other munchable is to serve it "naked" and is considered wildly rude. 

6. CHINA 

The traditional Chinese tea ceremony, Gongfu Tea is an incredibly detailed process, down to the elaborate designs on its small pot and cups. The ritual also involves a tureen, strainers, tongs, tea towels, a brewing tray, and "scent cups," which are used solely to sniff—not drink—the very strong and bitter brew. 

Guests are invited to smell the leaves before brewing. This is just the first of many steps, along with warming the cups with a wash of the tea's first brew. The second is drinking, and the tea will be ideally be poured by arranging the cups in a circle, pouring from high in one continuous motion, around and around until each cup is full. Guests are expected to cradle the cup—and its accompanying saucer if there is one—in two hands, to sip slowly and savor the flavor, and then cradle the empty cup to relish in the aroma after the tea is gone. 

7. THAILAND 

As the Chinese Civil War was drawing to a close in 1949, refugees fled to Thailand, taking with them elements of Chinese culture including a rich tradition in tea. But Thailand's tea culture became unique with the evolution of the distinctly amber-colored Thai iced tea or Cha Yen, a blend of Ceylon or Assam tea with sugar, condensed milk, and spices like star anise, tamarind, and orange blossom, served over ice in a tall glass. Some recipes include topping it off with evaporated milk, creating an appealing ombre effect. It's a sweet and spicy treat that's high in calories but incredibly refreshing on hot days and complementary to the culture's spicy cuisine. 

8. TAIWAN  

A modern innovation on Chinese tradition is Taiwanese bubble tea. A high calorie treat, its base is an iced tea (black, green, jasmine or oolong typically) with powdered milk and sugary syrup. But the bubbles to which it owes its name are small balls of tapioca, a starchy white grain. The origin of bubble tea only dates back as far as 1988, when Lin Hsiu Hui, a product development manager at the Chun Shui Tang teahouse, dropped some tapioca balls from her fen yuan dessert into her tea during a staff meeting, a fortuitous place to experiment. Soon, the teahouse was selling her quirky creation, and in the decades since it's become an international phenomenon with bubble tea shops popping up across Asian, Europe, and the United States. 

9. HONG KONG 

The name "pantyhose tea" may make this concoction sound unappealing, but it's named for the straining sock—which resembles but is not and has never been pantyhose—that is used to strain the tea and milk. The brewing of this powerful blend is labor-intensive, demanding 10 to 20 minutes of dedicated and repeated straining. Most often it appears on the menu in lively tea-centric diners called cha chaan teng, where people of every class and background happily mingle over the beverage and with raucous conversation. 

10. JAPAN 

Like China, this island nation also has highly detailed tea ceremonies with names like Chanoyu, Sado, or Ocha. The movements of the brewer in these processes are carefully choreographed to care and consider the viewpoint of the guest being served. These ceremonies include everything from the preparation of the home to how guests are invited into it, the order in which utensils are brought into the room, the cleaning and warming of these tools, the actual brewing, and the cleanup. Details vary depending on the time of day and season, but the powdered green tea Matcha is the preferred blend. It is served with sweets to play against its bitter flavor. 

11. PAKISTAN 

Tea is a common drink and a courtesy extended to guests across Pakistan. An element of Kashmiri culture, Noon Chai is a special blend of tea that includes a mix of pistachios, almonds, salt, milk, and spices like cardamom, cinnamon, and star anise. It's easy to pick out because of its signature pink color, which can be enhanced with a bit of baking soda. Served on special occasions, Noon Chai is typically enjoyed with pastries like sheermaal, kandir tchot, bakarkhani, and kulcha. More casually enjoyed is "Doodh Pati," or milk tea, which involves no water.

12. THE UNITED KINGDOM 

Tea was introduced to England in the 17th century, but the iconic British tradition of afternoon tea took nearly another 200 years to catch on. In 1840, standard meal times placed lunch at midday and dinner late, around 8 p.m. or so. Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford, requested her household staff prepare a sort of mini-meal around 4 p.m., where tea and a selection of cakes or small sandwiches would be served. Her example inspired the upper class, and then spread across the country, spurring the proliferation of tea gardens where customers could enjoy tea and cake in a lovely setting. Today, tea is a major element of Great Britain's identity and day-to-day life. 

13. NEW ZEALAND 

British missionaries in the early 19th century are believed to have introduced the tea-brewing practice to the Kiwis, and by the end of the century, tea had replaced ale as the beverage of choice for breakfast across all classes. The rise of tea gardens during this time promoted tea drinking to a social activity, which gave men and women the perfect chance to mingle in public without drawing gossip. Inspired by their British roots, "afternoon tea" became a staple, and New Zealand developed its own high tea ceremony, which includes elegant settings, delectable finger sandwiches, and mouth-watering sweets. 

14. IRAN 

After tea caught on in India and China, the taste for it spilled down the Silk Road and into the Middle East by the 15th century, sparking the rise of tea houses known as chaikhanehs. But it wasn't until the 20th century that Iranians began growing their own black tea, making it a nationally embraced beverage, which now welcomes guests and is a crucial element in social life. A silver tray customarily carries in the drink, which is accompanied by a bright yellow rock candy called nabat. So constant is tea's presence in Iranians' lives that its kettle will be kept on a stove burner all day. Tea is served very strong. Rather than mixing in sugar to counteract the bitterness, you're encouraged to place a sugar cube between your front teeth and suck the strong brew through it. 

15. MALAYSIA 

This Southeast Asian country's signature brew contains black tea, sugar, and condensed milk. But what makes teh tarik or "pulled tea" special is how it's mixed. To achieve its distinctly frothy texture, Malaysian brewers pour the beverage back and forth between mugs, giving the liquid repeated access to cool air as it flows from one glass to another. As this tradition developed, so too did the showmanship of its making. To watch teh tarik being mixed is to witness an elaborate and energetic dance, where the brew behaves as a partner, leaping to and fro without a drop ever being lost!

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A Hamilton-Themed Cookbook is Coming
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Hamilton Broadway

Fans of Broadway hit Hamilton will soon be able to dine like the Founding Fathers: As Eater reports, a new Alexander Hamilton-inspired cookbook is slated for release in fall 2017.

Cover art for Laura Kumin's forthcoming cookbook
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Called The Hamilton Cookbook: Cooking, Eating, and Entertaining in Hamilton’s World, the recipe collection by author Laura Kumin “takes you into Hamilton’s home and to his table, with historical information, recipes, and tips on how you can prepare food and serve the food that our founding fathers enjoyed in their day,” according to the Amazon description. It also recounts Hamilton’s favorite dishes, how he enjoyed them, and which ingredients were used.

Recipes included are cauliflower florets two ways, fried sausages and apples, gingerbread cake, and apple pie. (Cue the "young, scrappy, and hungry" references.) The cookbook’s official release is on November 21—but until then, you can stave off your appetite for all things Hamilton-related by downloading the musical’s new app.

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15 Fascinating Facts About Julia Child
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Julia Child was much more than just a bestselling cookbook author and chef. Over the course of her life, she was also a breast cancer survivor, a TV trailblazer, and a government spy. It's the famed chef's spy game that will be the focus of Julia, a new series being developed by ABC Signature and created by Benjamin Brand.

The project will draw its inspiration from Child's PBS program, Cooking for the C.I.A. “I was disappointed when I learned that in this case, the C.I.A. stood for the Culinary Institute of America,” Brand told Deadline. “Cooking Secrets of the Central Intelligence Agency always seemed like a more interesting show to me. Many years later, when I read a biography of Julia Child and learned about her experiences during World War II, working for the Office of Strategic Services—the precursor to the C.I.A.—the story of Julia quickly fell into place.”

Though Julia will be a work of fiction, here are 15 facts about the beloved cook.

1. SHE MET THE INVENTOR OF THE CAESAR SALAD WHEN SHE WAS A KID.

As a preteen, Julia Child traveled to Tijuana on a family vacation. Her parents took her to dine at Caesar Cardini’s restaurant, so that they could all try his trendy “Caesar salad.” Child recalled the formative culinary experience to The New York Times: “My parents were so excited, eating this famous salad that was suddenly very chic. Caesar himself was a great big old fellow who stood right in front of us to make it. I remember the turning of the salad in the bowl was very dramatic. And egg in a salad was unheard of at that point.” Years later, when she was a famous chef in her own right, Child convinced Cardini’s daughter, Rosa, to share the authentic recipe with her.

2. THE WAVES AND WACS REJECTED HER BECAUSE SHE WAS TOO TALL.

Like so many others of her generation, Child felt the call to serve when America entered World War II. There was just one problem: her height. At a towering 6'2", Child was deemed “too tall” for both the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES) and Women’s Army Corps (WAC). But she was accepted by the forerunner to the CIA, which brings us to our next point.

3. SHE WAS A SPY DURING WORLD WAR II.

Child took a position at the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), which was basically the CIA 1.0. She began as a research assistant in the Secret Intelligence division, where she worked directly for the head of the OSS, General William J. Donovan. But she moved over to the OSS Emergency Sea Rescue Equipment Section, and then took an overseas post for the final two years of the war. First in Ceylon (present-day Sri Lanka) and later in Kunming, China, Child served as the chief of the OSS Registry. This meant she had top-level security clearance. It also meant she was working with Paul Child, the OSS officer she would eventually marry.

4. SHE HELPED DEVELOP A SHARK REPELLENT FOR THE NAVY.

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While Child was in the Emergency Sea Rescue Equipment Section, she helped the team in its search for a suitable shark repellent. Several U.S. naval officers had been attacked by the ocean predators since the war broke out, so the OSS brought in a scientist specializing in zoology and an anthropologist to come up with a fix. Child assisted in this mission, and recalled her experience in the book, Sisterhood of Spies: “I must say we had lots of fun. We designed rescue kits and other agent paraphernalia. I understand the shark repellent we developed is being used today for downed space equipment—strapped around it so the sharks won’t attack when it lands in the ocean.”

5. SHE GOT MARRIED IN BANDAGES.

Once the war ended, Paul and Julia Child decided to take a “few months to get to know each other in civilian clothes.” They met with family members and traveled cross-country before they decided to tie the knot. The wedding took place on September 1, 1946. Julia remembered being “extremely happy, but a bit banged up from a car accident the day before.” She wasn’t kidding; she actually had to wear a bandage on the side of her face for her wedding photos. The New York Review of Books has one of those pictures.

6. SHE WAS A TERRIBLE COOK WELL INTO HER 30S.

Child did not have a natural talent for cooking. In fact, she was a self-admitted disaster in the kitchen until she began taking classes at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, where she and Paul lived for several years. Prior to her marriage, Child simply fed herself frozen dinners. It was probably the safest choice; one of her earliest attempts at cooking resulted in an exploded duck and an oven fire.

7. A LUNCH IN ROUEN CHANGED HER LIFE.

Child repeatedly credited one meal with spurring her interest in fine foods: a lunch in the French city of Rouen that she and Paul enjoyed en route to their new home in Paris. The meal consisted of oysters portugaises on the half-shell, sole meunière browned in Normandy butter, a salad with baguettes, and cheese and coffee for dessert. They also “happily downed a whole bottle of Pouilly-Fumé” over the courses.

8. IT TOOK HER NINE YEARS TO WRITE AND PUBLISH HER FIRST COOKBOOK.

Mastering the Art of French Cooking revolutionized home cooking when it was published in 1961—but the revolution didn't happen overnight. Child first began work on her famous tome in 1952, when she met Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle. The French women were writing a cookbook aimed at teaching Americans how to make French cuisine, and brought Child onboard as a third author. Nine years of research, rewrites, and rejections ensued before the book landed a publisher at Alfred A. Knopf.

9. SHE GOT FAMOUS BY BEATING EGGS ON BOSTON PUBLIC TELEVISION.

Child’s big TV break came from an unlikely source: Boston’s local WGBH station. While promoting Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Child appeared as a guest on the book review program I’ve Been Reading. But rather than sit down and discuss recipe semantics, Child started cracking eggs into a hot plate she brought with her. She made an omelette on air as she answered questions, and viewers loved it. The station received dozens of letters begging for more demonstrations, which led WGBH producer Russell Morash to offer Child a deal. She filmed three pilot episodes, which turned into her star-making show The French Chef.

10. ALL HER ESSENTIAL UTENSILS WERE KEPT IN A “SACRED BAG.”

According to a 1974 New Yorker profile, Child carried a large black canvas satchel known as the “sacred bag.” Rather than holy artifacts, it contained the cooking utensils she couldn’t live without. That included her pastry-cutting wheel, her favorite flour scoop, and her knives, among other things. She started using it when The French Chef premiered, and only entrusted certain people with its care.

11. SHE SURVIVED BREAST CANCER.

Child’s doctors ordered a mastectomy in the late 1960s after a routine biopsy came back with cancerous results. She was in a depressed mood following her 10-day hospital stay, and Paul was a wreck. But she later became vocal about her operation in hopes that it would remove the stigma for other women. She told TIME, “I would certainly not pussyfoot around having a radical [mastectomy] because it’s not worth it.”

12. HER MARRIAGE WAS WELL AHEAD OF ITS TIME.

As their meet-cute in the OSS offices would suggest, Paul and Julia Child had far from a conventional marriage (at least by 1950s standards). Once Julia’s career took off, Paul happily assisted in whatever way he could—as a taste tester, dishwasher, agent, or manager. He had retired from the Foreign Service in 1960, and immediately thrust himself into an active role in Julia’s business. The New Yorker took note of Paul’s progressive attitudes in its 1974 profile of Julia, noting that he suffered “from no apparent insecurities of male ego.” He continued to serve as Julia’s partner in every sense of the word until his death in 1994.

13. SHE WAS THE FIRST WOMAN INDUCTED INTO THE CULINARY INSTITUTE OF AMERICA'S HALL OF FAME.

Child spent her early years working for what would become the Central Intelligence Agency. In 1993, she joined another CIA: the Culinary Institute of America. The group inducted Child into its Hall of Fame that year, making her the first woman to ever receive the honor.

14. SHE EARNED THE HIGHEST CIVILIAN HONORS FROM THE U.S. AND FRANCE.

Along with that CIA distinction, Child received top civilian awards from both her home country and the country she considered her second home. In 2000, she accepted the Legion D’Honneur from Jacques Pépin at Boston’s Le Méridien hotel. Just three years later, George W. Bush gave her the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

15. HER KITCHEN IS IN THE SMITHSONIAN.

In 2001, Julia donated the kitchen that Paul designed in their Cambridge, Massachusetts home to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. Although it’s not possible to walk directly through it, there are three viewports from which visitors can see the high counters, wall of copper pots, and gleaming stove. Framed recipes, articles, and other mementos from her career adorn the surrounding walls—and, of course, there’s a television which plays her cooking shows on loop.

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