Travel Picks: Top 10 places to enjoy a cup of tea

Fri Dec 11, 2009 2:09am EST
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SINGAPORE (Reuters Life!) - Fancy a cuppa? From highbrow salons to highland plantations, Lonely Planet lists the world's best places to have a cup of tea in its "1000 Ultimate Experiences" guide. This list is not endorsed by Reuters.


Ladies, don your gowns; gents, start pressing your ties. Afternoon tea at the Ritz is a splendid formal affair: silver pots and fine china chink at 4pm sharp under the vaulted glass and chandeliers of the Palm Court. It's not cheap, but you'll be in good company - this venerable hotel has served exotic infusions to everyone from King Edward VII to Charlie Chaplin. If the budget won't stretch, try alternative institutions: the organization Classic Cafes champions the formica-countered greasy spoons of the 1950s, a dwindling number of which are still serving brews in vintage surrounds. Tie not required.


Nonstop, the epic Moscow-Beijing train journey takes over six days. The best way to spend them is befriending your carriage mates - Russian businesspeople, Mongolian traders, Buddhist monks. Each car has a samovar, a hot-water urn where you can top up your mug to ward off the Siberian chill. Samovars are more than kettles: entrenched in Russian society, they're made for communal drinking. The local saying 'to have a sit by the samovar' means to talk leisurely over endless cups of tea. Fill your flask - and those of your new-found friends - and watch Europe roll into Asia.


Mate is the national beverage - and a national obsession - across sacross swathes of South America, drunk by all, from city-dwellers to pampas-drifting cowboys. Made from the dried leaves of the yerba mate plant, it was, according to the Guarani people, delivered to humans by the moon goddess in thanks for saving her from a jaguar. To join in you need to get the right gear: a silver bombilla (infusion straw) and accompanying guampa (gourd). Tuck these into your saddlebag and set off on a jaunt with the gauchos: this 'liquid vegetable' will keep you riding and cattle-driving through the night.


Ever since a tea leaf allegedly floated into Emperor Shennong's cup of hot water around 2700 BC, the Chinese have extolled the beverage's virtues, medicinal and social. For a brew above others, head to Junshan Island, an atoll of bamboo and woodland set on Dongting Lake, a 45-minute sail from Yueyang. Home to a unique golden tortoise, the island also nurtures a clutch of bushes that produce the exclusive silver-needle tea, one of China's rarest, beloved of rulers past and alleged to contain life-extending powers.   Continued...

<p>A woman prepares "Bao Zhong" tea using a traditional tea set in Pinglin September 27, 2007. REUTERS/Nicky Loh (TAIWAN)</p>