How to have tea with an American/Kiwi (a Cross-Cultural Reference Guide)

August 12, 2016

Americans aren’t known for drinking tea. We’re more known for chucking that stuff in the harbor and then going to Starbucks, but on occasion we do enjoy a good cup of (usually herbal) tea, or a cuppa as it is known in New Zealand.

New Zealand on the other hand, as part of the British commonwealth, are big “tea” fans. The word tea is in quotation marks because in New Zealand it has come to mean so much more than just a cup of leaf-stained water. “Tea” in New Zealand is both a drink, a meal, and a tradition.

To help guide you through the differences between American and New Zealand tea drinking customs, I have put together this handy two-part guide. The first part is intended for my New Zealand readers and will help them to understand how to have tea with their American friends. The second part is intended for my American readers, which will help them to navigate the tea customs of their Kiwi friends. 

Just a disclaimer first though ... I am by no means a tea or cultural expert, these opinions are simply based on my observations from having lived in both countries. 

So without further ado, here they are!

Part 1: How to Have Tea With an American 

A Guide for the Kiwi Reader

Step 1. Ask your American friend what type of tea they would like and if they would like it sweetened (they probably will). Honey is the usual sweetener of choice, but they may like a bit of stevia if you have it and certainly are not above putting sugar in their tea if nothing else is available … especially if it is a nice coconut sugar or turbinado. What, no it’s just white sugar? …. Yes, of course I still want it sweetened!

Step 2.  Let the tea steep in the kitchen for the amount of time indicated on the box.

Step 3. Leave the tea bag in the cup (it continues to add flavor while you drink).

Step 4.  Serve the tea to your American friend making sure to warn them that the tea is still hot.

Step 5: Provide a coaster for the coffee table if needed and hunker down on the sofa with your American friend. Blankets or snuggies are a good optional addition here depending on how close your relationship is – aquantances: no blanket, good friends: individual blankets, roommates/spouses: snuggies.

Step 6. Catch up on the latest gossip with your American friend or watch a good movie together.

Part 2: How to Have Tea with a Kiwi 

A Guide for the American Reader

Step 1. Ask your Kiwi friend over for Afternoon Tea (sometime between lunch and dinner/supper).

Step 2. Make sure that you have a variety of delectables on hand. Packaged cookies, crackers, spreads, cheese, fruit, slice, or cake are all acceptable options.

Step 3. Lay out your spread on your tea table (it’s like a breakfast table but it may not necessarily be in the kitchen).

Step 4. Ask your Kiwi friend how they take their tea.  If they do not specify, leave the tea unsweetened.

Step 5.  After allowing the tea to steep for a minimal amount of time, remove the tea bag as it is now considered rubbish and your Kiwi friend would be politely aghast if you were to serve them tea with rubbish in it! 

Step 6. Sit down at your tea table and enjoy a catch up with your Kiwi friend while you gingerly pretend to eat the food in front of you. Don’t actually eat though or you’ll spoil your supper, which is only about an hour away.

Step 7. Now that the tea is cool enough to drink, say goodbye to your Kiwi friend as they now need to rush off to the shops before they close for the day.

Step 8. Tip their untouched tea down the kitchen sink.

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