Time to go to the tea shop!
Myanmar passion for tea shops
In Myanmar, it’s a common scene that small tea shops or stalls play out music gently with a set of colorful local-made stools dotting around a sidewalk. Since there are so many tea shops and stalls in Myanmar, it’s not unusual to see one teashop lining up closely after one another. You can imagine how much tea is popular in Myanmar if you hear someone say ‘In England we gather in bars, in Myanmar it’s a tea shop’. The lyrics from a famous song sung by Kaing Zar reflect a Burmese way to socialize by sitting and chilling out at a teashop. The song goes like:
It’s 6 o’ clock already
Let’s come out,
Time to go to the tea shop…”
Tea shop is one of the most favorable spot to gather and meet up.
From the young to the old, either students or business men like to hang out there. The shops open all day, mostly from 6 am. to 10 pm. The main menu is milk tea, called La Phat Yay (လဖက္ရည္) in Burmese. Once you take a seat at the shop, you say “La phat Yay” to order a cup of milk tea. However, if you observe how people order, they use different Burmese slangs to specify their favored tastes of drinks. Generally, there are seven options based on types of the tastes:
– Cho Kya (ခ်ိဳက်) (sweet and bitter)
– Pon Hman (ပုံမွန္) (normal sweetness and normal bitterness)
– Paw Kya (ေပါ့က်) (less bitter)
– Cho Paw (ခ်ဳိေပါ့) (less sweet)
– Paw Saing (ေပါ့ဆိမ့္) (less sugar, less bitter and more creamer)
– Kya Saing (က်ဆိမ့္) (more bitter taste with creamer)
– Cho Saing (ခ်ဳိဆိမ့္) (less sugar, more creamer)
The tastes vary depending on tea master of the shop. From the most to the least degree of sweetness or bitterness, he makes tea with three main ingredients; milk, sugar and creamer. This is why “tea master” is key to a shop, just like the chef of restaurants. His formula of the combination and creativity can make his tea popular and draw consumers to the shop every day.
But tea shops not only serve milk tea, they also serve many other items in the menu such as စမူဆာ (Sa Mu Sar), အီၾကာေကြး (E Kyar Kway) and ပလာတာ (Pa lar Tar). These are snacks made of wheat that Burmese people usually have for their breakfast together with milk tea. This is why most of tea shops have their busiest time in the morning. The price of tea is cheap. Any kinds of La Phat Yay (လဖက္ရည္) normally costs about 200Ks (0.2 USD) and စမူဆာ (Sa Mu Sar) or
အီၾကာေကြး (E Kyar Kway) are about 100Ks to 200Ks depending on their size. Don’t be surprised if the waiter brings you a side dish of စမူဆာ (Sa Mu Sar) or some traditional cakes without you ordering for it. Those are complimentary.
Now you know better what and how to order in a tea shop in Myanmar. Feel relaxed and sit comfortably at the shop. Simply say ‘Give me one cup of Paw Saing (ေပါ့ဆိမ့္)’ to the waiter. Try it together with စမူဆာ (Sa Mu Sar). That’s my favorite option I recommend.
Aung Ph Zaw