There is saying in Myanmar: “the best of meat is pork, the best of fruits is mango, and the best of leaves is tea”.
This Southeast Asian country is where tea consumption is a way of life and tea houses reign as the go-to hangout. Instead of bars, tea houses serve as the social gathering place of Myanmar people and instead of rowdy boys, peaceful Buddhist monks sit and enjoy warm cups of brew. Every neighborhood has at least one of these corner shops, and they are easily recognizable by the small plastic tables and stools that spill out on the street. A few famous tea shops are open 24 hours, they’re a popular place to go when hungry. Once you find a cozy tea shop in Myanmar, you will most likely be served green or black tea, the most common flavors. The tea is served plain, with no additives, and certainly no sugar or half-and-half on the table. The exception would be La Phet Yay, popular brewed black tea from the highlands of Shan state traditionally served with sweet condensed milk.
Tea is not only to be sipped but chewed. In Myanmar, tea is also a food known as la phet thoke or “tea leaf salad”, usually found in the countryside. Tea leaves are layered with sesame oil, peanuts, garlic, dried shrimp, coconut, and ginger, and left to infuse and ferment. The dish is a ubiquitous condiment on the Burmese table and a must-try for the curious culinary explorer. Located on the lower block of Pansodan Road, the Rangoon Tea House is a must for anyone looking to experience a typical tea house menu in a comfortable, yet authentic setting. Even though the interior feels slightly modern in style, the carefully restored space is reminiscent of the grand tea houses you would have found in Yangon during the British colonial heyday and some parts of India.
In a late afternoon, find a seat at the Rangoon Tea House, order a cup of tea and a light snack, enjoy the flavor of the old city, wonderful food and vibrant atmosphere of downtown, you will understand what true happiness is.