The World in Your Cup: Exploring International Teas and Coffees

An assortment of dried teas in wooden bowls, a red teapot, cups with a lemon slice and mint leaf, and fresh lemons on a dark stone surface, ready for brewing.

Tea and coffee are loved the world over. Yet the significance of these universal beverages varies widely among different cultures. Join International Fresh Market – Naperville’s premier international grocer – as we take a brief tour of the extensive tea and coffee selection you’ll find here. You just may discover a new palette sensation you didn’t know you were looking for.

China, India, and Japan have long made tea a central tenet of their overall heritage. The Japanese tea ceremony, for example, has become a hallmark in general etiquette and a means of total immersion in the moment at hand.

Tea entered Japan around the 1300s (CE) from China, where it was also revered, but seen as a somewhat divisive class issue at times. The ancient Chinese likely learned of tea’s stimulating effects from northern India. Legend has it ancient practitioners of Ayurveda (a Sanskrit term meaning “life science”) had been experimenting with the medicinal effects of tea for over 5,000 years.

Truly, its roots run deep.

Coffee similarly embodies tales of intercontinental and cultural exchange, though its origins are somewhat more obscure than tea. A popular legend pinpoints the foothills of Yemen in 850 CE as the place and time when humankind first learned of the psychoactive, energizing effects of the coffee tree.

Whether true or not, historians can say with certainty that East African tribes were known for combining ground coffee cherries with animal fat (the original “energy bar”?) around 1000 CE. Coffee’s most natural habitat also extended to the Arabian Peninsula, which holds the first attribution for the hot coffee drink we know and love today.

Coffee growers throughout Africa, the Middle East, South America, and beyond have cultivated a vast range of unique coffee beans and roasting techniques. While Americans are quite normalized to drip coffee and espresso (the latter an import from Italy), there are many other enticing coffee delicacies from around the world. To name a few:

  • Ethiopia uses a 2–3 hour process with ritual earthenware during important social rituals and ceremonies
  • Senegalese and Mexicans often brew their coffee with spices (e.g., clove, cardamom, and cinnamon)
  • Scandinavians are fond of a cheese-coffee concoction, traditionally served in a birchwood mug
  • Germany and Ireland innovated hot cocktails made of coffee and spirits – often topped with an enticing dollop of whipped cream

Brewing the perfect cup of coffee or tea is a blend of art and science. A given method may depend on precise temperatures, steeping durations, and other key factors. Here are just some tried and true techniques for brewing the perfect cup:

  • The English generally wait for a freshly boiled kettle (using fresh water to increase oxygen content) to settle. By waiting around 2–3 minutes before poring over the tea, you can prevent scalding the leaves, which alters the flavor.
  • Chinese brewing methods are more suitable for large batches. Simmering a pot of tea leaves can also release more bioflavanoids and other active compounds.
  • French press connoisseurs prefer coarser coffee grinds, with a steeping time of only 10–15 minutes.
  • Settled on a Mr. Coffee drip machine? Even then, choice in filter bears a significant effect – paper removes more of the coffee oils than non-filtration methods, or even metal filters.
  • If you’re watching your consumption of acidic compounds, consider sprinkling a small amount of baking soda or eggshell powder in your coffee (perhaps with extra sweetener).

International Fresh Market has a wide array of exotic teas and coffees, as well as diverse steeping and brewing implements from around the world. That includes individual tea baskets, large steeping implements, artfully crafted kettles, and other paraphernalia.

Tea and coffee both carry numerous health benefits, and a dedicated morning ritual can even extend those benefits to mind and spirit. As mentioned, the Japanese tea ceremony is ubiquitous with a very contemplative approach to life and death, and Ethiopians reserved special preparation methods for honoring guests.

Whatever process you choose, approaching it with deliberate care can elevate your mood and brighten your day before the tasty beverage even reaches your lips. If such mind-over-matter ideations aren’t your cup of tea, you can still remain confident that you’re getting a rich serving of numerous physical benefits:

  • Health Benefits of Coffee
    • Neuroprotective effects
    • Improved memory
    • Rich antioxidant content
    • Enhanced athletic performance
    • Greater blood sugar control
  • Health Benefits of Tea
    • Anti-inflammatory effects
    • Reduced oxidative stress
    • Enhanced cardiovascular and metabolic health
    • Cancer-fighting properties

There are also numerous herbal tea options with benefits ranging from deeper relaxation, enhanced hormone synthesis, and adaptogenic properties that encourage homeostasis.

Nothing beats a warm cup of coffee with a rich and creamy treat or breakfast. Pairing coffee with sugary foods is not only delicious, but also maximizes blood sugar regulation (pro tip: add a dash of cinnamon for even greater effects). Coffee is also the perfect companion for meal containing cheese, rounding its rich, dominating flavor with a smokey aftertaste.

Tea is suitable for almost any meal – given nominal consideration for which varieties you prefer. For instance, white tea is exquisite with berries and other naturally sweet dishes. Black tea is helpful to cut through stronger, more succulent tastes (much like coffee), and green tea lends a floral undercurrent that suits a wild rice or pilaf-based dish.

Various herbal teas feature such diverse flavor profiles, that your best bet is to simply mix and match new teas and meals to your heart’s content.

We enjoy playing a central role in our communities’ culinary journeys. From individual explorations to group forrays, we carry the exotic teas, coffees, and accessories needed for an enriching and heartwarming session with your favorite cup of warmth and rejuvenation.

Visit International Fresh Market today, and learn why we’ve become the leading supermarket in Naperville for unique delicacies and new flavor sensations.

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International Fresh Market is a local, family-owned grocery store that serves the Chicagoland community.We are excited to serve the residents of Naperville, Aurora, Warrenville, Woodridge, Plainfield and the surrounding area!