Sip and taste a country’s unique culture and flavours in just one cup
No experience of visiting a new country is complete until you’ve sampled their cuisine. Just like food, drinks offer more than sustenance or pleasure; it’s also part and parcel of a nation’s cultural identity. A great drink can make or break the quality of a meal and, in some countries, they’re taken seriously as pairings to certain dishes. A raised toast is also the universal symbol of celebration in many parts of the world. Here are eight traditional drinks to take you on a whirlwind trip around the globe.
Maghreb mint tea
More than just a refreshing beverage to cool off from the dry desert climate, Morocco’s famous mint tea – green tea steeped with spearmints and sugar – also serves as a ceremonial ritual of hospitality and friendship. The presentation of the tea is a performance in itself; it’s poured from a teapot elevated at a distance from the glasses. The sweetness level of the tea also varies from region to region.
Where: South Africa
Originating in southern Africa where it was drunk for centuries, this caffeine-free herbal tea is gaining popularity for its nutritious benefits. It is made from the fermented leaves of the red bush plant, a shrub that is native to South Africa, which turns it to a reddish-brown colour. The tea is then blended with fragrant spices, dried fruits and an option of flavours. Packed with minerals and antioxidants, the mild flavoured brew is also used to treat eczema, stomach ulcers, sunburn and tooth decay.
From Taiwan to Los Angeles and London to Singapore, this milky tea is conquering the world at lightning speed. Also referred to as ‘boba’, ‘pearl tea’ and or ‘bubble’ tea, it was first invented in Taichung in the late ’80s, where the deliciously milky tea mixed in with the satisfyingly chewy pearls became an immediate hit.
Where: South India
An antidote to the sweltering summer heat of South India, this spiced buttermilk drink has a spicy and grassy tang, and is said to be the perfect aid for digestion. All it takes is yoghurt, water, coriander leaves and salt as the base ingredients. Neer mor is usually served frothy and cold, and sometimes added with herbs and spices such as ginger, mint leaves and mustard seeds for a richer flavour.
Summertime in Turkey is not complete without ayran, its national drink. This frothy, cooling beverage is a simple concoction of cool yoghurt, water and salt. Dating back thousands of years ago, it’s believed to be invented by nomadic Gokturks who diluted the yoghurt’s bitter taste with water. Ayran is typically consumed with grilled meat or rice during summer; so beloved is the drink that it’s found its way onto their fast-food chain menus.
You might already be familiar with the teh tarik, often said to be Malaysia’s national drink; but have you heard of air bandung? This sweet, pastel pink drink is mixed with a rose cordial syrup and evaporated milk, which lends to its fragrant rose scent and hue. Air bandung is a staple in the Malay community, and usually served during special occasions like Ramadan, Hari Raya and weddings.
Colombian hot chocolate
Hot chocolate is a crowd favourite in Colombia, especially in its cooler regions like Bogota. Locally known as chocolate Santafereño, this comforting concoction of melted semi-sweet chocolate, milk and water is a breakfast ritual in Colombia. It is also sometimes drank dipped with cheese, depending on the region it’s consumed in. The traditional way of making the beverage calls for a special metal pitcher to heat the chocolate with and pour from, as well as a paddled stick to stir and froth.
Mexicans have devised ways to tackle the heat wave come summer, one of which is this refreshing cooler. Agua fresca – or literally ‘fresh water’ – is a light, naturally sweetened drink with a fruit blend. Seen as a healthier alternative to the usual ice tea or lemonade, you’ll find this drink everywhere on the streets of Mexico. To recreate this classic thirst quencher at home, just blend and puree watermelon, strain the pulp, and add water, lime juice and sprigs of mint after.