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Coca Tea: Mark Rowland

Coca tea: Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru

Greenish-yellow in color and with a slight bitter taste, the tea made from dried coca leaves will help you acclimate to the Andes; perfect for conquering altitude sickness, it helps with muscle aches, exhaustion, headaches, and more.

It’s another possible aphrodisiac, helps with digestive and bowel disorders (I guess that makes sense; bowel disorders are definitely not sexy), and it’s also thought to improve longevity. But don’t bring leaves home with you; they are a restricted substance in many places.

Green mint tea: Morocco

Mint tea: Richard Rutter

Served throughout the day, with meals or by itself, and often used to welcome guests, green mint tea is an important part of Moroccan culture.

There is to be enough of the tea in the pot to serve at least three cups, and the flavor of the tea is said to change over the three glasses: “The first glass is as bitter as life; the second glass is as strong as love; the third glass is as gentle as death.”

A traditional tea ceremony has the host preparing the tea from start to finish in front of the guest. And when the glasses are poured, it can be from a foot or more in the air. The tea is sweet, strong, fantastically minty, and, in my opinion, one of the best drinks in the world.

Noon Chai: Kashmir

Also known as sheer chai or pink tea, the drink is enjoyed in the Kashmir Valley and in parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan. The drink looks pink from the pinch of baking soda added during preparation. But while many of the flavors are the same as masala chai: peppercorn, cinnamon, green cardamon, and cream, it’s the soda and the added salt that give the tea its distinct flavor. It’s kind of a mix between masala chai and yak butter tea.

Don’t be surprised if you get something chewy or hard in your cup of noon chai – your cup will have a layer of crushed almonds at the bottom.

Layers of delicious: Jeremy hunsinger

Bicerìn: Italy

Italy is known for its coffees and cappuccinos. But go beyond those with bicerìn. It is a deliciously thick and sensuous traditional drink in Piedmont, Italy.

Espresso is topped with hot chocolate and then there is a layer of heavy whipped cream. Warm and decadent, it’s a drink to be savored.

Barley tea: Korea

Barley tea, or bori cha, is served hot in the winter and cold in the summer in Korea. Roasted barley seeds are stewed in hot water. The drink is a coffee substitute, though caffeine-free, and it has a slightly bitter and nutty flavor. It’s full of antioxidants and is said to help cure colds.

(In Japan and China, barley tea is served cold.)

Atole: Mexico

Serving up atole: Ed Fladung

With origins that can be traced back to pre-Columbian times, atole is truly a traditional drink in Mexico and in Central America, where it is referred to as atol. It’s a celebratory drink: it’s often served at Day of the Dead festivities. Chocolate atole is called champurrado, and it’s served during the winter holidays. It’s frothy, foamy and sugary, while traditional atole can be as thick as porridge or as thin as melted ice cream.

It’s masa, or corn flour, cooked and blended with sugar, vanilla and cinnamon. Definitely a comfort food, it will wake you up and get you going in the morning, or give you a warm drink to sip while curled up on a couch.

Hot soy milk: China

5000 years ago, soy beans were designated one of the five sacred grains by a Chinese emperor. It’s been a popular food ever since. Soy milk served hot is a traditional Chinese breakfast food. It can be sweetened with cane sugar or simple syrup, and it may be flavored with ginger juice or pandan leaves. Or it can be served salty, and this is where it begins to appeal to a more specialized palate. Salty soy milk can be just that, soy milk with salt added, but it can also be made with dried shrimp, vinegar, and chopped pickled mustard greens.

White sage tea: Navajo nation

Gathering sage: Chuck Coker

White sage tea has an earthy and bitter flavor. It is used as a healing tool by the Navajo and other Native American tribes, particularly those in the southwestern United States where white sage grows naturally.

It helps with colds: it decreases mucus in the sinuses and throat as well as decrease sweating. If you’re breast-feeding, don’t drink it; it is also used to dry up breast milk.

Sbiten: Russia

Since the 14th century, Russians have used sbiten to say do svidaniya (goodbye) to the winter cold. Cinnamon, cardamon, cloves, and ginger are ground together and mixed with honey and jam. Boiled with hot water, it makes for a warming and comforting tipple, but mix the spices and honey with hot red wine, and it warms you up that much faster.

Mate: Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay

Yerba mate: Paula Rey

The leaves of the Yerba Mate tree are steeped in hot water to make the popular drink mate. It’s served in a hollow calabash gourd and sipped through a bombilla, or straw that also doubles as a sieve. It is a drink to share, with a specific etiquette and technique.

The taste can be bitter the first time around, but the taste mellows as the tea brews. Not only is it a great way to get to know people, but it helps with digestion and reduces blood pressure.

Community Connection

Learn more about hot drinks with Tea Cultures Around the World.

Or learn to make your own hot drinks with the International Guide for Making Hot Drinks.

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About The Author

Kristin Conard

As a child, Kristin wanted to be a librarian, because she thought that the librarian was the one who got to write all the books in the library.

  • Michelle Schusterman

    Awesome list! Okay, question about bori cha.

    When I got sick in Korea, my doctor gave me a gift basket that included a box of what my husband and I thought were little snack packets of ground nuts. We ate them, topped our yogurt and cereal with them, and basically got addicted. When we ran out, we showed our pharmacist the box so he could help us find it, and he told us we’d been eating instant tea (oops). He also said it acted as a spermicide.

    So was that barley tea? I only ask because the description up there says it’s nutty, and you could actually see that some of this instant mix was ground nuts and seeds (hence why we kept pouring it on our yogurt!).

    • Kristin Conard

      @michelle – sometimes the barley tea is mixed with roasted corn kernels, so maybe that was it. I hadn’t heard if it was a spermicide though, so I’m not 100% sure. It probably would be yummy on top of yogurt!

  • EvaSandoval

    Yes, super “cool” (hot?) list. I found myself especially interested in the hot yak butter drink… prevents chapped lips? Sign me up.

  • Carlo Alcos

    I wonder where wattlecino is drunk in Oz? I was there for two years and never heard of it. Sounds delicious though! Will have to go hunting for it when I get back there.

    • Kristin Conard

      It was patented as a drink in 1984, and there are some cafes and restaurants in Sydney and Melbourne that I know serve them. There’s also wattle-lattes!

      • Juliana

        What? I am from Sydney and have never heard of a wattlecino. I am living in London now so it will difficult for me to scout, but where in Sydney do you say serves these coffee substitutes?

        • Kristin Conard

          I know for sure that you can get them at Cafe ish in Surrey Hills in Sydney.

  • Heather

    Sweet list! I’m drooling over that top photo of Afghanistan.

    Pink Kashmiri chai is one drink I could avoid for the rest of my travels. Once my landlady caught me pouring a big cup of it down the sink….

  • Alina Radulescu

    Really interesting list. I want a sip of each, please! Thank you!

    You really made me very curious about trying each and one of them. Nice article!

  • Max

    Fantastic! What a list…!

    Brought my mind around to a couple of things

    Soapberry drinks of natives to north america, a frothy type drink that is more foamy, but is rich in taste and light, slightly tangy with that ever so mysterious lick of soap likeness, hard to describe from a memory

    please do note: definitely NOT the same soap berries native to Central and S America…

    And what about Guaraná ? I kknow now hugely popular in drinks but isnt it the original cola of Brazil? Made from the seeds of a trailing shrub / vine native to Brazil

    and also
    your great article also reminded me of Russian kefir :))
    Great stuff..

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