The best kind of party is a tea party. Even better? A themed tea party. This week we’re exploring the Central Asian Tea Party.
As I read through many descriptions of teas in Turkmenistan (this week’s Global Table) and her neighboring countries, I realized there are just FIVE basic things you need for a Central Asian Tea Party.
Anything else is icing on the proverbial cake.
1. Green or Black Tea.
In Central Asia, people drink two main kinds of tea, green or black. Green tea is typically sipped in order to relax, while black tea is enjoyed for an energetic boost. Both are called “Chai,” which simply means tea.
When serving, the tea should be poured from very high up into each glass… do this at least three times. This aerates the tea and makes tiny bubbles (more on this in a moment).
2. Fun superstitions
Much of the fun of any global tea party is learning the superstitions that go with them. Here are two from Central Asia.
a) If you can tap the bubbles on your tea before they reach the edge of the glass, then Turkmen folk say you’ll come into good fortune.
We all got good fortune at our tea party!
b) If your tea leaves don’t settle to the bottom of your cup, it is said that you will have a visitor soon.
3. An attitude of “Less is more”
Central Asia is a place of simplicity. There are many nomads and there’s just not a lot of time for fuss. Consider using cups without handles, if you have them; they drink from what looks like small bowls.
Also, you can easily make do without a table. In fact, sitting cross legged around a clean cloth is a great move… and much more traditional for many parts of Central Asia.
4. Fresh Fruit & Nuts
Tea time is also snack time. Spread your table with a bounty of apricots, plums, cherries, grapes, cantaloupe, figs, and pistachios. In Turkmenistan they particularly love dried cantaloupe. I found some at Whole Foods.
5. Serve something very sweet
Small cakes, pastries, and other treats are often included in the spread. They should be dripping with honey – built with the kind of all consuming sweetness that makes you want to drink down your tea. Fast.
Another great option is bread with jam. Watermelon Jam is a thing in Turkmenistan.
Yum and yum.
So… what are you waiting for?
Enjoy a refreshing Central Asian tea with your loved ones.
Much of these tips were found in Turkmenistan, by Paul Brummell and Chai Budesh? Anyone for Tea?: A Peace Corps Memoir of Turkmenistan by Joan Heron.