Spain's Tea Culture
One of our writers recently told us a story about how, one time, going out for breakfast he decided to order tea. In a second, his father, who was out with him, asked him if he felt sick or if his stomach hurt from something he had eaten at dinner the night before.
In a country like Spain, with a coffee and chocolate culture dating back centuries, drinking tea used to be pretty strange. Herbal teas were linked with health and there weren’t many varieties available apart from classics like chamomile for stomach aches or star anise to help gassy children (a controversial use). Drinking peppermint tea was considered a walk on the wild side in healthy life.
However, today there are cafés and stores dedicated exclusively to the sale of tea on many streets, and in many cities in Spain. Whether these places are big chains or locally owned, they offer many different types of tea to choose from (black, white, red, green…) to the point of being overwhelming at times. Have we taken on the custom of drinking tea with a fervor that would make a Brit pale in comparison?
As with everything in life, we should probably take a variety of factors into consideration. We should first look at the fact that the benefits of coffee have recently been called into question. Recently, very recently, different studies have come out about the negative effects drinking too much coffee can have on our health. Insomnia, stress, nervousness, anxiety… seem to be linked with its excessive consumption (remember that Spaniards drink a lot… up to four cups per day). Drinking a cup of black tea, which is also strong, but more “natural,” became a good alternative. In fact, some doctors started to recommend substituting coffee with tea.
Secondly, we should mention the proliferation of ethnic restaurants in Spain. In Chinese, Japanese, Lebanese or Arab restaurants you can find a wide variety of different types of tea. Trying one out of curiosity has made habitual tea drinkers out of many.
Thirdly, we should definitely cite Spain’s fascination with all things British. Period films, series about aristocracy and servants, books about glamorous families or witty stories full Britain’s famous dry humor. Why not take part in this distinctive culture with a nice cup of Darjeeling?
And lastly, we should look at how easy and fast it is to prepare tea. Isn’t it easier these days to heat up a little water, throw in a tea bag and let it steep on your way, than to wait for the office coffee maker to spit out a watery mix of bland coffee after waiting for five minutes?
It may sound corny, but some people say Spain is modernizing and opening up to the rhythm of a teaspoon clinking the side of a porcelain cup. Could it be too much to say?