By Susan Cunningham
Thailand has never been a nation of tea drinkers. So much for stereotypes about Asia. There have been a few exceptions. Chinese immigrants and their children always drank tea–and not only tea brewed from the leaves of the familiar Camellia sinensis bush. They also drank tea made from chrysanthemums, ginger and ginseng, to name just a few alternatives. Some hill tribe people not long out of China were recreational tea drinkers as well.
But for the vast majority of Thais, living in farming or fishing villages, plain water from the rain jar was the only refreshment at meals and work breaks. For serious relaxation, there was homemade rice whiskey. Those age-old practices have only changed in the past twenty or thirty years as the habits and advertisements from the city have seeped through the countryside.
In Bangkok, the upper class and the emerging middle class were the first to acquire the leisure habit of tea-drinking, probably from their Chinese immigrant neighbors. They moved on in the 20th century to coffee, fruit juices and soft drinks. When electricity, refrigeration and ice finally reached rural areas, Continue reading