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5 Places for a Great Cup of Tea

We have the Chinese god Shennong to thank for discovering Britain’s favourite drink. According to legend, tea was created after a few leaves landed in the water “the Divine Farmer” was boiling. Today, it is the world’s most consumed beverage after water, grown from Asia to South America. Try the “froth of the liquid jade”, as Taoist philosopher Lao Tzu put it, in these spots.

Central Mountains, Sri Lanka. (Uva) The honey-red blend with hints of cranberry is grown in Nuwara Eliya or “Little England”. Visitors are transported back to a time when Ceylon was still a part of the British Empire, its old houses and hotels having a distinct English design. Valleys, paddy fields, cliffs, waterfalls, and all sorts of birds will entice any nature-lover, while tourists longing for a taste of home will be appeased by the many parks, polo grounds, and a well-known golf course. The epic Ramayana comes to life among the statues of Sita Temple and the roses of the Haggala Gardens. This is where the hero’s wife was held captive by a demon king.

Darjeeling, India. (Darjeeling) Famed for its muscatel tang, the “champagne of teas” is found in a town of the same name. Mother Teresa first began her missionary work here in the “land of the thunderbolt”, so-called because the sceptre (“thunderbolt”) of the Hindu god of heaven Indra is supposed to have fallen here. Now a hill resort, sightseers can head up to Tiger Hill, famous for its mesmerising sunsets and views of Mt Everest. They can take in more vistas at Observatory Hill, especially those of the snow-capped Mt Kanchenjunga, the third highest peak in the world. Buddhists and Hindus frequent the monasteries and temples here.

Mt Chiri, South Korea. (Nok-cha or Green Tea) This bitter, vitamin-rich brew improves skin and sight, and fights aging too. The leaves are gathered in Chiri-san (“san” is Korean for “mountain”), a national park where a virgin forest lies among the clouds and Buddhist temples stand among azalea flowers. It is one of the most important mountains in Korea, and is believed to be the residence of God. There are a lot of gory stories surrounding this peaceful picture though. More than a thousand years ago, monks were sacrificed to “monsters” here, while a barren woman was turned into stone after drinking from the “spring of fertility”.

Taichung City, Taiwan. (Zhen Zhu Nai Cha or Bubble Tea) More of a snack than a drink, Bubble Tea is a fun mix of tea, honey, condensed milk, and chewy tapioca balls. It became popular in Taichung, the “Cultural City”, in the 80s, and spread worldwide in the new millennium. Here, visitors can soak in a hot spring, worship in 19th century temples, stargaze at the Wang Gao Liao Lookout Point, freefall at the Mala Bay Discovery World and Water Park, and even raise cattle in a tourist farm. A trip to ZhongShan Park is a must, to see the pavilion that has become a local symbol.

Fukuoka, Japan. (Gyokuro) Translating to “Precious Dew”, this concoction is served only on special occasions or to a guest. It is believed to prevent cancer too. Gyokuro leaves are cultivated in Yame, Fukuoka, where fishes fill the waters and fireflies flit at night. The city is known for crafting exquisitely painted silk and paper lanterns, as well as Buddhist altars made of bamboo. Stellar scenes can be glimpsed at from the Star Culture Center in Hoshino Village, while lofty landscapes can be enjoyed from the suspension bridge at Somanosato Keiryu Park.

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