You can’t go to Yangon without visiting a traditional tea shop. Here’s everything you need to know before you go.
Tea shop culture was introduced to Myanmar during colonial times, and it’s stuck! Super sweet tea, amazing pastries, and talk about culture, politics, and family is exactly what you’ll find in a traditional Myanmar tea shop. Whilst you can find loads of incredible tea shops that cater more to tourists, we decided to pop into a locals-only shop, where we had to communicate with gestures and figure things out for ourselves. What we got? An authentic, confusing, but beautiful experience – and lots of tea and treats! Read this post to find out all you need to know before visiting a Myanmar tea shop and where to find the best tea!
Yangon First Impressions
Yangon was our first stop in Myanmar, and I was absolutely shocked when we first arrived. For a country that has only recently opened its doors to foreigners, the airport is beautiful! I’ve visited countries that are HUGE tourist destinations, but the Yangon Airport was more modern than those! It wasn’t run down at all, and I quickly had to adjust my expectations for the country.
We took a taxi to the train station, because we were actually heading out of Yangon that night. We bought tickets for the overnight train to Mandalay, and then headed out to explore, carrying all of our bags – backpacker style.
The city of Yangon, like the airport, was so much more modern than I had expected. I don’t know why I had expected to rough it in Myanmar. I thought that if they had only just recently opened their doors to mass tourism, the tourism infrastructure would still be under development, but nope! This city is beautiful and it’s easy to tailor the comfort level to your budget. There are hostels for a few bucks a night, mid-range hotels, and luxury hotels to choose from.
Visiting a Myanmar Tea Shop
After wandering around Yangon’s streets in the heat, we quickly became pretty thirsty! We didn’t have any bottled water, so we stopped in the closest teahouse, a little hole-in-the-wall. It was full of locals and very rustic – 100% my kind of place.
As soon as we walked in, we got plenty of stares. I felt it was quite possible that we were the first foreigners to ever walk into that tea shop.
A man came up and asked us if we wanted tea (I think). We nodded, then took a seat at a table, where sweets were already laid out. More sweets and pastries were brought out by tea boys, followed by a pot of Chinese tea and two cups of Burmese tea.
Tea boys are young boys from poorer countryside villages. In exchange for food, a place to stay, and very little pocket money, they come to the cities to work in these tea houses. As wonderful as it was to see these young boys gaining the opportunity to have food and a place to stay, it was hard to imagine that they had to leave their families at such a young age. It makes you appreciate the comforts of home and family.
How to drink tea in Myanmar
Once the tea boys have brought out your teas, you start with the traditional tea, also called Rangoon tea or Burmese tea. This tea is a strong black tea with condensed milk or evaporated milk in a tiny little teacup. It’s strongly brewed and heavily sweetened. After you’ve had your traditional tea, move onto the Chinese tea from the pot. The Chinese tea is usually a floral, herbal, or green tea. From the array of food on the table, feel free to eat whatever you’d like and to leave whatever you’d like – they’ll only charge you for what you eat. It’s not uncommon to find steamed buns and cake on the table, and if you’re there during breakfast, you can usually find some shan noodles. Where we went, there were just small pastries, but you can find Indian and Chinese food at some other tea shops.
Burmese tea houses are the places to go if you want to delve into local life. There were plenty of Burmese men and women sitting in there chatting, looking at their phones, and enjoying each other’s company. These tea houses used to be where government spies would hang out- all gossip was discussed over tea.
For two pastries, two cups of Burmese tea, and a pot of Chinese tea, our check came out to 1000 kyat, about USD $1. A very cheap, but incredibly priceless, experience.
Where to visit a Myanmar tea shop in Yangon
Sometimes walking into a random tea shop can be a little intimidating. Other times, you just want to know that what you order is going to be good! Here are some of my tea shop recommendations in Yangon.
Modern Tea Shop
This tea house is popular with tourists. While there are a few pastries on the table for you to grab, you should come here if you want to order a meal along with tea. They have plenty of choices and they’re all delicious!
Address: Banyardala Rd, ရန်ကုန်
Lucky Seven Tea Shop
Come here for the tea, stay for the samosas! This tea shop caters to both locals and tourists, and they’re well-known for their exceptionally strong and sweet traditional tea.
Address: 49th Street
King Tea Shop
While this place IS a tea shop, they’re really popular for their buns! You can get sweet buns filled with red bean, or savoury buns filled with veggies or meat. Of course, while here, you’ve gotta try the tea, too!
Address: 303 Anawrahta Rd, ရန်ကုန်
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