Guide: Evolution Of Tea House Culture

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Take a stroll down any street in Myanmar, and you are bound to find a smoky corner jam-packed with kindergarten stools and pitchers of tea, customers waited by a small army of working youths, delivering snacks, milk tea, and loose cigarettes. This institution, even more than the noodle shop or beer station, is the sticky sweet heart of ur- ban life in Myanmar.

As far as anyone can tell, tea was originally grown in northern Myanmar, Southwest china, and India’s northeastern states. It’s path to the ubiquitous tea houses, along the streets of Yangon, however, has been a long and complicated path.

Almost 2,000 years ago, tea spread out of it’s mountainous womb into china. From there, it first became a staple of daily life, spreading throughout the empire, and eventually into the rest of East Asia, the Middle East, and later to the The Chinese still held a virtual monopoly on the tea sold to Europe, with their vast plantations and strict export controls.

The British, never ones to kowtow, broke the Chinese monopoly by setting up plantations in their newly conquered colonial territories in India, where the drink took on new characteristics. Instead of the meticulously cultivated green tea leaves, crushed black leaves were brewed, typically with milk. Bombay, now Mumbai, was a hotspot for tea culture, and the tea house, franchised by ethnic Persians, spread throughout the British raj, by then including the Burmese.

When tea came home to British Burma, it filled a social niche in the urbanizing culture. By the early 1900s, it became a nexus of social life, where men would discuss politics, read papers, and relax. They are an opportunity to eat an international array of snacks, from Indian samosas to Chinese Youtiao. Since then, they have gone from a working man’s retreat to a truly egalitarian institution; where women and families, rich and poor, have become increasingly welcome.

Still, one has to be careful where one drinks their lapae yea, with the lack of food quality controls in Myanmar leading to many cut corners.

TEA HOUSES 

Lucky 7
7am to 9pm
$1 – $4

  • Downtown Branch 138/140, Corner of 49th street and Mahabandoola Road, Pazundaung township 01 292382, 09 5142810
  • Ahlone Branch No.115, Lower Kyiimyinndaing Road, Ahlone township 01 223379, 09 73002863

Modern Tea Shop
No.91, Banyardala Road, Bahan township
09 5159240, 09 5112010
8am to 11pm
$1 – $6

Morning Star 
8am to 10pm
$1 – $4

  • Tamwe Branch Building s-6, U Chit Maung Housing, West Race Course Road, Tamwe Township 01 554074, 09 5002039
  • Kandawlay Branch Daw Thein Tin Road and Upper Pansodan, Mingalar Nyunt Township

Shwe Pa Lin Tea House
No.37, hantharwaddy Road, Kamaryut township
01 538736, 01 527850
8pm to 8pm
$1 – $5

MODERN TEA SHOPS


Chat Time
G-41, ground Floor[opposite daiso], Building of u wisara Entrance, People’s Park, dagon township
01 556651
9am to 9pm
$ 2 -$ 4
Rangoon Tea House
77 Pansodan Road, (Lower Middle Block, Above t-Land Phone shop), second Floor, Kyauktada township
09 5178329
8am to 10pm
$2 – $10
Yangon Bake House (Runner-Up!)
Pearl Condominium, Block C, ground Floor,Bahan township
01 557448 Ext;818, 09 250178879
(Monday to saturday) 7am to 7pm, sunday Closed
$2 – $14
Yangon Bake House (New Venue)
Inya training Cafe, 30 inya Road, Kamayut township
09 977117947
7am to 5pm
Starting From $5
Rangoon Tea House Credit @Htet Myint Aung (2)
Rangoon Tea House Credit @Htet Myint Aung

Photo Credit to Htet Myint Aung (Rangoon Tea House)

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Yuko identifies herself as a cultural stew of Nepali, Japanese and American. She loves experiencing new cultures, good food and reading the back label of products. On most days, she can be found contemplating on the meaning of life, scrutinizing billboard ads or attempting a new yoga move. In her free time, she volunteers as an English teacher for Shan youth, who she considers her adoptive children.

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