Thai Studies Center, Chulalongkorn University
Tea drinking is one of the most outstanding Chinese cultures handed down from ancient times to the present. It is closely related to Chinese people and their daily lives. It has also been developed to be a unique culture in several countries around the world. It was believed that Chinese tea has first entered Thailand in Ayutthaya period or earlier. Since then tea drinking behavior has been varied according to time and social change. This paper is an attempt to study tea drinking in term of “culture” at the present time to find out how Chinese tea drinking is still existing, changing or developing. Field studies are at Chinese Tea shops in Bangkok’s China town consisting of Yaowarat Road and nearby, and at Siam Discovery. The study reveals that there still are a lot of tea drinkers in both areas. They are Chinese, Sino-Thai and Thai people. The aims of tea shops at both areas are different. Tea shops at Bangkok’s China town aim at low-cost to middle-cost market; whereas tea shops at Siam Discovery aim at middle-cost to high-cost market. Accordingly, tea quality and variety are different. In Bangkok’s Chinatown, drinking tea at Chinese tea shops is still the way of life of some middle-aged and elderly men. Moreover, the youth and health-conscious person increasingly tend to drink Chinese tea. Although Chinese tea drinking cannot be considered genuine Thai culture, it cannot be considered a passing trend that has come and gone either. Actually, it has gradually been absorbed in Thai way of life and would remind a part of Thai culture in the lasting future to come.
(Presented in the International Conference – Thai Food Heritage: Local to Global, 4-6 August 2009, Tawana Bangkok Hotel, Bangkok, organized by The Project of Empowering Network for International Thai Studies (ENITS), Institute of Thai Studies, Chulalongkorn University with support from the Thailand Research Fund (TRF))