I went for a hike with my mate and we started talking about invitations. i just started talking and was going on for a while. Luckyly Jeremy was not getting bored… I thought this might be interesting to share.
Since I left Germany in January 2012, I was -almost everywhere I went- kindly invited for tea. But Tea is not just Tea! Tea sometimes can mean a lot.
In Uruguay people were running around all day long with a thermos in their armpit, a bowl of mate in the other hand and these people managed their life somehow with one half hand (the hand where the thermos is in the armpit) You see them driving around with one hand, steering and shifting, because in the other hand, there is the bowl of yerba-mate.
Most famous is this tea in Argentina. One barely drinks it alone. And even if there is nobody around, straingers are asked to have a mate “queres un mate?” All of a sudden there is a group of straingers haveing a tea together and talking. Most likely tough, you have it with your friends. But if you think you just sit there together and have a cup of tea then you are mistaking. There is just one bowl with a silver straw in, filled with the yerba herbs. This is filled up with very warm water (not hot!) and the guy inviting pours the water over the yerba and has the first drink. Then he fills it up again and gives it to the next person. The person drinks it and gives it back. He fills it again and gives it to the next one and so on. Don´t thank. If you say thank you when you give the bowl back then it means that you are done with mate. If there is water boiling on a fire, don´t dare touching it. This is for the host only. Only the host is allowed to touch the water, otherwise this would be very impolite.
Leaving Argentina and coming to Bolivia where the Koka tea is to be found everywhere. Yes this is the Koka from the Plant where there is Kakain made out of. The leaves have a very putching effect, good for altitude sickness, headache, stomage ache, evey other kinds of not wellbeing and as well just to enjoy like Coffee.
In Colombia is the Coffee more common then the Tea. Here we are taking a little detour from the Tea and going to the hospitallity in Latinamerica. The nicest straingers invited me for yerba, tea, coffee, a meal, or even a place to stay. Payed my beer, didn´t let me pay for my campsite or giving me the feeling of being part of there family even if just met. I was not allowed to pay anything, do anything or help anything. I had to bagg to do something in return but most of the times I was the guest and treated like a King. People were just happy that they could do something good for me.
This sticks with me sometimes in the wrong places. When I was invited to stay with a friend in North America he payed the food we had at his house, and the beer, and more beer and… do you think after such a long time my head would switch to “now is my time to buy the beer and tonight I am going to cook for you guys because I really appriciate that you invited me”? It unfortunetly wasn´t. then it made click and i was not allowed to do anything anymore because I was staying in a different envoirement. Again, people where giving me everything I needed just in return for some of my stories over a beer. I was even told – more then just once – that this is considered very unfriendly if I would pay for myself, or invite my host for a beer of coffee. I sometimes feel terrible that my friends might have gotten the impression that I am just taking everything and not giving back anything.
The tea in russia has a little the symbol of giving you a well being. You are on the road with your motorcycle and you are invited for a soup and a tea, to gain strength to go on your journey. Again, if you are invited in siberia, don´t even think about paying your own bill. This is seen as bad behaviour and not very kind to the people who were inviting you. We once went out with some friends and I wanted to pay the meal of the mecanic who fixed my electrical problem. He answered something and my friend translated with a big smile “he said something similar to `fuck you`” I obviously was not allowed to pay for myself. Nor was I allowed to reimburs the mechanic for the help.
In central Asia i was invited for Tea everywhere. In the heat of Uzbekistan i was invited to rest and have a Tea. But having a cup of tea is not really just having a cup of tea. Don´t dare touching the Teapot! This is for the Host only! It is up to him serving you. If you finished your tea and wish for more, don´t ask. This is embarrasing and a little offensive to your host. This tells people that he is not very welcoming. Pay attention to your teacup! Is it filled up all the way, then you are welcome to stay for one tea. But don´t finish it. Leave a little sip in the cup for “the way back”. If your teacup is filled half by the host, that means that you can stay longer. They will pour you tea whenever your cup is empty or most of the times even before. If you don´t want more, let your host pour you a fresh cup, take a sip and say thank you. That means that the host has served you well. The rest in your cup is again “for the way back”. That there always will be tea if you come back one day. In parts of Kyrgystan and Mongolia tea is topped up with maresmilk. But if you are invited for a tea and you exept the offer then it is very rude and offensive if you don´t drink your tea because the maresmilk discusses you. It took me some invitations to get used to the – let´s say – different tasteing milk. In Kyrgystan, it is common to welcome a guest with fermented mares milk. The first time that happend to me i was luckyly in a Hostel with an incredible nice and helpful owner who tought me the story behind it. If i would have being invited to a house and would have thought that the white stuff in the cup is normal milk i might have gotten into trouble with the host. In some countries it is even important what tea you choose when you are asked if black or green tea. Green tea, with it´s relaxing effect means that you are tired and would like to calm down and chill out after tea, Black tea with it´s pushing effect means that you would like to stay around for a bit longer and are active to do things.
Again unbelieveble experiances of being a gues in russia and central asia.
And off we go to Japan. Where I had the pleasure and enjoyment of being hosted by a great family in the north. I was tought a lot of the japanes habbits and as well how to recieve a tea. Tea mostly comes in bowls, not in cups. It is polite to recieve your bowl of tea with two hands. Hold your two hands up and the bowl of tea is placed by your servant (not nessesarly your host) into your hands. If you just would hold up one hand it would mean something like “yeah, alright, don´t really care…”
In japan I was invited for tea all over the country and had one amazing experiance of staying on a teafarm for a night. In the Mountains when i stopped in a town to fill up or have a look at my map most of the times I recieved a tea to enjoy. I barely could have a conversation with these people but the act of giving me a cup of tea was impressive.
I´m a little excited to see how many more storys about tea i might be able to tell in the future.