When I was a little girl growing up in Czechoslovakia, tea was tea. Cheap black tea from China, India or Ceylon was all we could get. The container said “Čaj”. When you asked for tea, you knew what was coming.
Those times are over. Capitalism arrived and brought with it all sorts of new things. Fruit flavored Pickwick teas were some of the first “bourgeois” arrivals that hit the young Czech market in the early 1990s. They woke up the lethargic Czech tea-drinking nation to a brand new, exciting era of a seemingly limitless selection of tea varieties, flavors and brands that now fill the shelves of supermarkets and specialty tea stores.
Asking for tea is no longer simple business. When I’m ordering tea at a Czech restaurant these days, I’m used to being asked, “Black, fruit or green?”, not necessarily in that order. I was recently at a Prague pizzeria and ordered tea. A container full of tea packets arrived at the table. Lemon, orange and spice, green, chamomile, peach, cinnamon, strawberry, mint… Not a single packet of normal black tea. But again, what is normal? Which reminds me, the same pizzeria used to serve tea in large, thick-glass beer mugs. I loved it. To my great disappointment, the beer mugs were later replaced by boring, fancy tea cups. Oh well.