Drinking Tea in Foreign Lands

Dear Tasha,

I woke up to this unfortunate sight



and then was instantly warmed by reading your post. It was a nice gift to read it after sprinting for the bus whilst wearing running tights.

I’ve had tea in several places in the world, but probably not as many as you. To be quite honest, I have few recorded experiences of drinking tea in foreign lands, probably because my hand is usually wrapped around the stem of a wine glass (see exhibit A):


Exhibit A

Of course, if it’s not a glass, then it’s a small barrel. (Such is the teaching life.)


Survival Pack

Of course, when in France…


Something almost as good as wine

In fact, I loved your post because it forced me to dig through my photos trying to find evidence of drinking tea in unusual places. It certainly didn’t happen in Mongolia, where instead I found myself sipping warm and salty horse milk from a small cup–though much too large for my preference–in a cozy yurt covered in too many rugs to ditch the milk in the company of a hospitable but awkwardly silent nomadic family. The only thing stranger I experienced on that trip was camel cheese.


Preparing our welcome drink


Where we slept, in the company of our dinner.

I did, however, find this cheeky photo of me drinking tea in Poland.

I also remember drinking a lot of mint tea in Marrakech, which I visited with the same friend on a different trip, one she labeled: Ethnic Holiday. Indeed it was. It was my first Thanksgiving in Spain, and we decided to head to Morocco because it was warm and not Europe. We arrived to find that (almost) everything was closed in honor of the Fête du Mouton–or Eid Al-Adha–which means the streets were filled with sheep being carted back to homes for their annual sacrificial slaughter. Which also meant that the following morning the streets were rivers of blood (photo elided). I certainly hadn’t packed footwear for the occasion. Despite the trauma, we managed to learn a lot (the very point of travel) and drink some tea along the way.


Served with pastries made in the shape of birds.

You would have loved our little rooftop garden where took our breakfast in the morning


and our tea in the afternoon,


with its views out over the old city


and the red room I loved.


I don’t remember drinking tea in Japan, but I was only 18 when I visited, and I’m not sure I was aware of tea as a consumable beverage. But, I suppose I did. My friend that I traveled there with is there again now, in Tokyo, where he just helped open the first Blue Bottle Coffee in Asia. Our first trip to Asia together inspired him to learn Japanese, and now he’s back in Japan for a third time. I plan to see him in the springtime, when the cherry blossoms are ripe and the weather turning is warm. I would love it if you could go with me. We would kill it on the matcha scene.

I would include some photos of that trip, but that was before the digital camera existed, and all the photos I have of that time are in black and white, printed on matte photo paper, by hand. It was like a dream, walking through the Tsukiji fish market, the wholesale fish market inside the Kachidoki Gate, being handed large chunks of blood-red tuna, hacked off of a fish you wouldn’t believe the size of. Wandering the streets of Kyoto, watching the geisha take mincing steps down cobblestone streets in their wooden platform shoes and giggle behind their hands. You will be amazed when you finally make it there.

While I was doing all this research, I drank two cups of green tea in memory of Japan and found this photo of a puppy in an egg cup.


Can’t argue with a photo of a puppy in any cup.

Now I’m feeling a little bit blue that I backed out of my trip to Dubai and Beirut that I was supposed to be leaving for in a week. I could have been recording my adventures with tea in the Arab world for you. For now, I’ll stay curled up in my blankets, reading my overpriced copy of Not That Kind of Girl and think instead about all the ski days I have ahead of me, the ones we never had together because you never believed I was an outdoor cat. There’s something to be said for snowy slopes and winter weather, but I’m counting down the days ’til summer when I’ll be sitting seaside with you, plowing through a ‘lobstah‘ roll and soaking up the warm Portland sun.

Until then, I’ll dream of this.


Love, m.

Melissa Leighty