Tea, Chai, Cha, Te,

Do you prefer tea or coffee? I favor tea. However,  I am in the minority in the US for having that opinion. 75% of Americans favor coffee, while only 25% would rather have tea.

tea and coffee around the world

If you go to the actual link, you can interact with the infographic and see the percentages in each country.

Tea is overwhelmingly embedded into cultures.  It speaks of hospitality, of tradition, of history. The tea ceremonies of Japan, high tea in England, the offering of spicy chai in India when a neighbor visits.

It is said that tea was first discovered in China in the Yunnan Province probably before 1000 BC, so tea has been around for quite some time. The legend is that Emperor  Shen Nong was boiling water to drink when some leaves fell into his water from a nearby bush, and he decided he liked this new drink. Tea traveled from China into other areas of Asia, then to Europe, and then on to America.

Did you know that tea is grown on a bush? If left untended, the bushes turn into tea trees, which can grow to be 50 feet tall. The tea fields are beautiful because of the arrangements of the rows.

I had the chance to visit the Longjing (Dragon Well) tea fields in my Chinese hometown of Hangzhou. It was amazing to see the beginnings of a beverage I love so much- the picking of the leaves, the roasting.

Longjing Tea

Chinese Woman Picking Tea in Tea Field

American drinking green tea in China

Tea was constantly offered to me in China- at meetings, in people’s homes, from complete strangers! It is a way to connect with people, a way to show hospitality, and a way to socialize with friends. While bars are the most common places to consume a beverage in the West, most Eastern countries spend their time in teashops. I wish America was more of a tea culture still like it was in the revolutionary days. I need more people who can understand my need for a good cup of black tea with milk and sugar in the morning! I’ve even had my girl friends over to my house in the US for tea parties, and we really had a lot of fun. I am trying to single-handedly bring back the tea culture to the US!

American girls drinking tea

Iced tea was invented at the 1904 World’s Fair when a tea plantation owner couldn’t sell his hot tea to fair-goers because of the high temps, so he dumped a bunch of ice in his tea, and it became a craze. And now southerns can’t live without it! I have an IV of sweet tea that is pumped into my bloodstream daily. Southerns in America use sweet iced tea to show hospitality to their guests, much like the hot tea traditions around the world. In fact, 80% of tea consumed in the US is served cold.

Tea is thought to have quite a few health benefits, especially green tea. Cancer prevention is one of the greatest of these benefits. Tea may help cardiovascular health, improve metabolism, and help fight viruses. Drink tea for your health!

As a language teacher, I’ve always wondered about the word “tea” and its origins.  I’ve always heard that tea comes from the Chinese word, but I know the Chinese word is cha, which sounds nothing like tea. So, one day my boss and I, the language nerds we are, looked it up online. Apparently, it comes from a southern China dialect in which it is “teh” or “te”, which is how we have the English word tea. The word  probably traveled out of a port in Xiamen and moved on to Europe.  However, many languages follow suit with the more Chinese-sounding cha, while many middle eastern or western Asian countries stick with a variant of chai.

German- tee                    Spanish- te               Swedish- te

French- the                      Italian- te                 Indonesia- teh


Korean-cha                      Persian- cha            Tibetan- ja

Japanese- cha                  Thai- cha                  Punjabi- chah


Aramaic- chai                Ukrainian- chai        Turkish- cay


Only an English teacher would make a chart about the etymology of the word tea! Please don’t tell anyone I did this! I’ll never admit it. :] 

Tea is the second most consumed beverage in the world after water. Now can you tell me if you prefer tea or coffee?

Please share on your social media if you think someone you know might enjoy reading about tea!

Big City Livin’

New York City is the largest city in the US, population-wise, at a bit over 8 million people. While living in China, I lived in Hangzhou, a city of almost 9 million. My hometown is teeny tiny with a population of only 12,000, and I now live in a city of only 31,000. Even though I lived in the outskirts of that Chinese city, I still got used to big city livin’ over those 2 years. In fact, I miss it! Here’s why:

1) I liked that I could just hop on a bus and go do something interesting and exciting when I had free time. There is ALWAYS something to do or a new place to explore. Some neighborhood you’ve never seen, some site you haven’t checked out…

2) I also appreciated having things within walking distance. I was just thinking of this last night as I was sitting in my house dreading going to Walmart to buy some bananas. Why couldn’t I just walk a block to the little fruit stand? I also miss just walking around and exploring for fun. You can get your exercise in while you take a little stroll. In the city that I live in now, I’d get run over, or I’d have 10 friends stop and ask if I need a ride. Seriously, try to take a walk down a main road in non-sporty clothes and see the stares you’ll get.

3) I love the different cultures of big cities. You’ll find people of all races and from many different countries. And you know what that means? It means Ethiopian food when you’re craving it. It means going for a Taiwanese milk tea or to Japanese karaoke.

4) I need to live in a city that has a major airport. I am so tired of traveling an hour and a half to a small airport and two and a half hours to any major airport. I travel for work and for pleasure, so being that far from an airport is just plain annoying. Oh how I long to have a major airport right in my city once again!

My dad actually said to me this past weekend that he was surprised that I’m still living in the city I’m in. He said he sees me more in Columbus, or Pittsburgh, or Nashville. I think that sometimes myself. Maybe that’s why I travel so much; I can’t experience this here.  Sure there are things about big cities that aren’t good-traffic, higher crime rates, etc. But, for now, I’m missing the big city livin’.

Me and my friends in NYC- Japanese, Colombian, American, and Zimbabwean.