|"Sick of tea? That's like being sick of breathing!"|
|— Iroh to Zuko after the latter professed his antipathy toward the beverage.|
Tea is a commonly served beverage in the World of Avatar. It is brewed from a variety of leaves and herbs, which are steeped in hot water prior to consumption. While milk is not typically added to traditional brews, Iroh suggested it as a complementary additive when he attempted to create his own varieties.
Tea is most commonly consumed in the Earth Kingdom and Fire Nation due to its relative accessibility. Comparatively, tea is not as actively consumed in the Water Tribes due to the lack of suitable plants from which to create it. Air Nomads are also known to have drunk tea before their genocide, having their own distinct style. Tea is also known to be consumed in the Spirit World, as it was served during Iroh's tea party that Korra attended in 171 AG.
The hot beverage has been enjoyed by individuals across the world throughout the ages, consumed as early as 9,829 BG by Wan, Yao, and Jaya atop a fire lion turtle. The most notable tea drinker was Iroh, who enjoyed it on a regular basis. He had a lifelong dream of opening a tea shop, realizing this goal upon opening the Jasmine Dragon in Ba Sing Se.
Air Nomad style
Air Nomads are known to have their own style of tea, which includes the addition of flour. Jinpa served some to Hei-Ran and Atuat using ingredients he borrowed from the Fire Nation Royal Palace kitchen. The nomads also used butter or milk in their tea in order to keep their bodies warm and balanced. Butter tea was used to greet their friends from other air temples as a special sign of welcome.
Black teas are much stronger in flavor than most and are made with withered leaves. In the Jasmine Dragon, a blend of this tea was named Metal Brew in honor of Toph Beifong. Iroh claimed that this tea fuels the customer up for the day, but also warned that it also "packs a punch".
When consumed, chi-enhancing tea is a natural stimulant that improves strength and increases energy tenfold. It is consumed by Earth Kingdom military officials and soldiers, though rather sparingly due to its rarity.
When made with fresh roots, the infusion is intense yet delicate. As it steeps, the gingseng flavor in the tea will bloom and grow stronger.
Zuko and Iroh were served ginseng tea during their stay at Zhao's base. Upon being invited to a drink by the commander, Iroh claimed it was his favorite since he was young and enjoyed several cups of this tea. He later reaffirmed this view to Zuko upon their departure.
Green tea is one of the many teas served in the Jasmine Dragon, where it was called the Ba Sing Quon. It is enjoyed primarily by citizens of the Earth Kingdom. Its leaves have a refined shape and soothing texture, being subtle in its tastes due to a faster brewing time on lower heat, and was recommended for the refined palettes of the Upper Ring.
Said to be a relatively soothing brew, jasmine tea is a favorite of Iroh's. According to Iroh, achieving balance in this tea is what makes it really shine. By bringing together different expressions of jasmine – as fragrant flowers, also naturally infused into rolled green tea leaves – this tea maintains its gentle nature while being strong enough to stand alone and stand out.
Iroh offered jasmine tea to Zuko immediately after seeing the light in the sky resulting from Aang's release from the iceberg. After customers of the Jasmine Dragon requested for a cold version of his jasmine blend, Iroh began to experiment with new flavors, as cool beverages need more seasoning to harmonize the ingredients. He finally settled on an addition of ginger.
A tea available in Iroh's teashop, this brew is enjoyed by many citizens of the Earth Kingdom, specifically those in Ba Sing Se. It is made from lychee nuts and, due to the fruit's availability, is commonly found in many parts of the globe. In the summer, lychee juice is the most popular drink in the Jasmine Dragon, and it is made in the same manner as the cantinas at Misty Palms Oasis. Lychee nut tea is also served in a plant-based restaurant at the Flameo Hot Springs.
A traditional, partially oxidized tea. At the Jasmine Dragon, a strain of oolong was available under the name Bender Tea. Blended for those who cultivate a much more balanced approach to life, it was named for Aang and Katara and it reflects "their beautiful legacy". This tea grows atop the mountains of the southern islands and its flavor is influenced by the region's independent spirit and the mysterious fog created by water and air.
This tea is amber in color, grassy in taste, and very bitter. Iroh does not consider this a very good tea and considered taking it off the Jasmine Dragon's menu. It is a blond, complex, and confusing blend, which Iroh resembled to his nephew. He chuckled to himself whenever a client gravitated to this tea, as he knew they would get along with Zuko.
Invented by Iroh, this kind of tea is made by stewing tapioca balls until they are soft and tender. The tapioca is subsequently added to a cup of tea, along with a small amount of milk. Both Zuko and Aang disliked the drink, with Zuko spitting his out and Aang commenting that he found it chewy. At the Jasmine Dragon, this was called the Appa Blend.
Despite Iroh's failed first experiments with bubble tea, the drink later became a hit in the teashop, as his customers loved the chewey tapioca balls. This success led the firebender to add the ingredient to all sorts of teas at the Jasmine Dragon. The top seller was a particular combination of rich, malty black teas from the montainous eastern slopes of the Earth Kingdom.
White tea is considered the most delicate of all teas by its connoisseurs, but it also holds a complex undercurrent of intriguing tastes and strength under its natural layers of sweetness. In the Jasmine Dragon, this was called the White Lotus Tile.
The white dragon bush is a plant that grows in the eastern Earth Kingdom. According to Iroh, the plant can be used to brew a tea "so delicious, it's heartbreaking". It is sometimes confused with the white jade bush due to the similar appearance of the two plants.
The white jade bush is a plant that grows in the eastern Earth Kingdom. It is sometimes confused with the white dragon bush, due to the two plants having similar appearances. Tea made from the white jade bush can be poisonous to the drinker if brewed incorrectly. When Iroh brewed a tea from the white jade plant, he developed a severe rash that would have caused his throat to swell and restricted his breathing if left untreated. However, it can be prepared for safe consumption, as Ming served a cup of this brew to Iroh when he was detained in the Capital City Prison, stating that she knew how much he liked rare teas.
Notable tea houses
- Main article: Jasmine Dragon
The Jasmine Dragon was a tea house owned by Iroh and located in the Upper Ring of Ba Sing Se. Traditional in design, the once-failing business was revived after being taken over by Iroh and was frequented by many high-class citizens due to the renowned tea served there.
King's Tea Palace
Located on the grounds of the Earth Kingdom Royal Palace and surrounded by lush gardens, the King's Tea Palace was among the most prestigious in Ba Sing Se, considered a place for tranquility and reflection. With servants on hand to brew and serve the tea, it was often used by Earth King Kuei as a place to meet with guests, or frequented by the king and his pet bear, Bosco. In Kuei's time, the King's Tea Palace was surrounded by animal topiaries representing the king's menagerie of exotic fauna.
Madam Qiji's teahouse
Located near Chameleon Bay, a small inlet in northeastern Earth Kingdom, Madam Qiji's teahouse was used as a daofei headquarter in 296 BG. Its yellow roof stood out among its green neighbors and rose above them in the haphazard layout of the town, ringed by the broadest avenue of open space around. Its inside was only halfway finished; while the ground level was dedicated to serving food and drinks, the second one did not have a floor. Near the middle of the teahouse, there was a Pai Sho table surrounded by ratty floor cushions.
Pao Family Tea House
- Main article: Pao Family Tea House
The Pao Family Tea House was a tea house in the Lower Ring of Ba Sing Se owned by Pao. It enjoyed commercial success during the short period that Iroh worked there and was frequented by citizens of the Lower Ring searching for a place to relax and talk over a cup of tea.
- Main article: Stone Kettle
A dingy little tea shop, the Stone Kettle is tucked in an alley off a boisterious restaurant row in the Middle Ring, not far from where the Flying Koi Carnival takes place. Its basement hides the headquarters of the Paper Lantern Gang.
Zoryu Hall's tearoom
- Main article: Zoryu Hall's tearoom
Zoryu Hall had a tearoom, which was a natural gathering point for those in the building. High walls hung with bright red lanterns and numerous paintings of pastoral landscapes frame scholars carrying on debates from the lectures and challenging one another's ideas.
Real world connection
Tea is also a common drink in the real world, especially in Asia and the British Isles, the former being a continent with various cultures from which the franchise draws influence. Many types of tea in the Avatar World also exist in the real world.
Iroh's "tapioca tea" is similar to bubble tea, which was invented in Taiwan in the 1980s and includes many varieties, one of which involves the use of a tea-based mixture blended with milk, fruit, and toppings like tapioca pearls and various jellies to create a beverage with a thicker consistency.
Kombucha, served in Iroh's Jasmine Dragon, is a fermented, lightly effervescent, sweetened black or green tea drink commonly consumed for its purported health benefits. It is thought to have first originated in China where the drink is traditional.
- During his temporary reign as Fire Lord in 101 AG, Iroh declared there would be a "National Tea Appreciation Day".
- The ingredients involved in the creation of the chi-enhancing tea were not specified, though the intended increase in energy and Aang's subsequent hyperactivity after consuming it are similar to the effects associated with caffeine consumption, an active ingredient of many teas.
- Reading the shape of tea leaves at the bottom of a cup is a type of fortunetelling. It is known that a swan symbolizes good luck and a new love.
- By 295 BG, tea was sometimes served in a ceramic gaiwan.
- According to Iroh, brewing tea is a thoughtful exercise in appreciating what nature can offer, a respect for the hard work of others, and a gentle appreciation of being able to take a moment and have some delightful tea. Before he discards his used tea leaves, he likes to close his eyes and say thank you for offering him the opportunity to have tea in his life.
- Several tea types and recipes are featured in Avatar: The Last Airbender Cookbook: Official Recipes from the Four Nations.