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!

Why Do Asians Always Do The Peace Sign?!

I sent a few pictures to my Dad of my recent field trip with my ESL students. He said, “Why do Asians always do the peace sign in pictures? They always did it when you lived in China.”

Anji, China

In China


“When you visited Korea and Japan, they did it too. ”

Koreans Doing Peace Sign

In Korea

Japanese people doing the v

In Japan

“They do it in the US. What does it mean and why did it start?”

I was able to explain that it actually is a “v” for victory, not a peace sign. But what does it really mean, and when did it start? I wasn’t able to give an explanation. So, I thought I’d do a little research on the topic.

The V sign began to be used during World War II by Allied troops.  Victor de Laveleye, former Belgian Minister of Justice, suggested the V sign on his 1941 BBC news broadcast as a way to rally support for the war. It spread through Belgium and moved on to France and the Netherlands and eventually all of Europe. Even Winston Churchill used the V for victory sign.

US President Richard Nixon went on to use the V sign for victory in the Vietnam War. However, protesters and hippies who were against the Vietnam War, changed the v from “victory”  to “peace” by holding up the same sign but saying “peace” as they did it as a subtle protest of the war. They wanted this hand gesture to change from its meaning of war to a meaning of positivity and happiness. 

The V sign probably became popular in Asia through an ice skater named Janet Lynn, who was a peace activist. She was often photographed in the Japanese media in the 1970s doing this sign.  Although the Japanese knew the V sign as victory because of WWII, Janet Lynn often displayed this sign as peace.

Another story says that a famous Japanese actor named Jun Inoue starred in some camera commercials in the 70’s where he flashed the V sign, thinking it was popular in the West, and it caught on from those commercials.  All in all, a lot of Asia copies Japan. And more importantly, Asia copies the West. Whether or not it was from seeing this ice skater make the V sign and thinking it was a popular thing to do in the West, we may never know.

China, Taiwan, and South Korea are also well known for doing this sign in photos. They say that the symbol means “yeah!”, like they are feeling good. But, really, Asians do so many poses for photos. They have the need to do hand gestures  in almost every informal photo.

There is one that guys do in China that means handsome. They might even just throw up a fist.

Chinese guy pose for photo

My students Cole and Soul doing the handsome pose and a fist


When girls do the V sign, it is usually close to their face. My Chinese friends told me it is a good chance for them to cover up some of their fat face. (Having a fat face is a big issue that many Asian girls dread).

Asian girl doing peace sign


I had to include this photo of me and my friend Ben in a bowling alley in China. Here I am being all fierce and competitive, and he told me he was doing a pose like a flower!

bowling in China


I even started doing the V sign after living in China for 2 years and traveling there in the years after.  It just became natural. In fact, it was nice to actually have something to do in a photo instead of just standing there awkwardly with my hands down to my sides.

Americans in China

Not a single Chinese person in sight, but here we are in China doing the V sign


American and Chinese on Great Wall of China


So the general rule of thumb is for that every month you live in Asia, you are 5% more likely to throw up your V sign in a photo. And, actually, it can be kind of fun. :] So I’m still not sure I fully understand why Asians do the V sign, but hey, sometimes with cultural differences, we don’t need to and can’t fully understand certain phenomenons, and there’s a real beauty in that.

The Great Language Game

A travel site I follow on Facebook shared a link to a great game. It plays someone speaking in a certain language, and you choose what language it is from 3 or 4 choices. While I wouldn’t say I’m good at learning languages, I definitely have an ear for languages. I can usually tell the difference between Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, and Korean. I can tell if a language is from Eastern rather than Western Europe. I can figure out that a language being spoken is Middle Eastern. It’s actually kind of strange. Anyway, if you like languages, culture, or travel, give this game a try by

clicking here.

I got a score of 900 on my first try! I’m kinda proud of myself if I do say so. Play the game, and comment with your score. Share this post with others who you want to challenge to this game.


International Literacy Day

September 8th  is International Literacy Day, and the month of September is  International Literacy Month.  Nearly 1/5 of adults in the world don’t know how to read or write. That’s about 775 million people that don’t posses these basic skills that are essential in being successful in today’s world. Sub-Saharan Africa and south and west Asia have the worst literacy rates- 50% of the people in these areas can not read or write.  Literacy affects one’s income, health, and even relationships. UNESCO says that “literacy skills are fundamental to informed decision-making, personal empowerment, active and passive participation in local and global social community.” Illiteracy can help  breed hate, violence, and ignorance.  Literacy can help reduce poverty and lead to further learning.  Have you ever thought of literacy as a right? The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights highlighted  the right to education.


Source: UN Human Development Report

While we typically think of the United States as a well-educated nation, in actuality, about 14 % of the population is illiterate.  The proceeding infographic says that 160 million people in rich countries struggle with literacy.

literacy around the world

Source: UNESCO

What are some causes of illiteracy? Fees for schooling prevent many from being literate. The need to work instead of attending school is an issue for many. Families and communities not seeing education as important can decrease literacy. Additionally, poverty is a huge factor in illiteracy. When you are worrying about having clothes to wear and food to eat, you aren’t as concerned about learning to read.

Why are more women than men illiterate? 2/3 of the illiterate are women. The cause for this is that women are not encouraged, as men are, to be educated in many parts of the world. In some countries, they are even discouraged. The education of women is often discouraged, because if women are educated, they may become a threat. Educated women may not stick to the traditional roles for women in their country.  Let’s get rid of this discrepancy!

What can we do to help solve the world’s literacy problem? The biggest thing that can be done is simply this: literacy and education must be promoted. It must be promoted by governments, by communities, and by families. All of these entities must stress the importance of being able to read and write. Do what you can this month to promote literacy.

The Queen of, like, Everywhere

I was sitting around chatting with some friends when somehow we started talking about Australia and its government. I said something about the Queen and everyone was like, “Huh?!” I mentioned that the Queen of England is also the Queen of Australia technically. She’s also the Queen of Canada, New Zealand, and on and on. No one believed me. Why do I know these random facts anyway? Haha. So here is some info on how the Queen is the queen of everywhere!

Queen of England meme

Image from memegenerator.co

The Queen is currently sovereign over 15 commonwealths. The Commonwealth has existed for more than 60 years and is made up of 54 independent countries, which used to be under British rule. In 1949, India became the first country to become independent, yet want to stay tied to the Commonwealth group. The London Declaration declared King George the VI as the King of these countries, and then Queen Elizabeth the II after King George’s death. Some other countries that are a part of the Commonwealth are South Africa, Belize, Pakistan, Singapore, Ghana, Bangladesh, and so many more.

So while there are 54 independent countries, there are still 15 that are controlled by royalty. What does that mean exactly? Just like England, Canada has a prime minister instead of a president. Have you ever wondered why? Well, now you know. Countries with royalty usually have a King or Queen who is just a figure-head, while the prime minister is the one with the political power.

The same is true for the 15 Commonwealth realms in addition to the UK-Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Papua New Guinea, St Christopher and Nevis, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Tuvalu, Barbados, Grenada, Solomon Islands, St Lucia and The Bahamas.

Many of these are islands, some of which we may not have even heard of, but I think many people will be shocked to hear that Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Jamaica have a queen.
Check out this website for more info on any of this. Did you already know this? Do you know any more crazy facts like this that none of your friends knew or even believed you? And, as always, please share on your social media sites if you want your friends to read this too!