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12 of The Most Interesting National Drinks Worldwide

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Updated on February 4, 2024

Our world is brimming with diverse cultures, attractions, histories, cat breeds, and, more importantly, cuisines. Every country has its very own set of culinary practices, traditions, and ingredients, which create a special array of dishes and drinks that make it stand out among others. One main characteristic of every country’s cuisine is their national drinks.

From the invigorating kick of a robust Colombian coffee to the refreshing boost from New Zealand’s L&P, each nation boasts a beverage that encapsulates its essence, history, and social rituals. These national drinks are more than just liquids; they are time-honoured symbols that weave a narrative of a country’s identity, connecting people to their roots and offering a taste of their heritage.

Join us in this exploration to learn about 12 of the most interesting and delectable national drinks in the world. We will uncover the stories behind these iconic beverages, the familial gatherings, and the communal celebrations that have shaped the cultural significance of each sip. So bring your national drink, and let’s hop into it.

National Drinks

So, as we just mentioned, national drinks refer to beverages that are often considered representative of a particular country or region. They are integral parts of national identities, both influenced by and reflecting each country’s climate, history, and traditions, and they play a significant role in social gatherings and celebrations.

The emergence and development of national drinks often stem from a combination of factors. The availability and abundance of specific ingredients allowed national drinks to originate and be passed down through generations. For example, the cultivation of agave plants in Mexico led to the creation of tequila, while rice cultivation in Japan contributed to the production of sake.

The climate of each region greatly influences the types of beverages that are popular. In warm climates, hydrating drinks might be more prevalent. Everyone can easily picture a cool, refreshing cocktail with a fruit garnish and cocktail umbrella once tropical islands are mentioned. Similarly, warm and spiced beverages dominate in colder regions. A hot chocolate with marshmallows or whipped cream is an iconic winter drink.

Many national drinks are also deeply rooted in cultural traditions and rituals. These beverages may be associated with religious ceremonies, social gatherings, or historical events, fostering a sense of community and shared heritage. For instance, the consumption of plain Turkish coffee in Egypt, with no added sugar, is tied to giving condolences for the loss of someone. As sugar represents joy and happiness, removing it means the opposite.

We can pretty much say that every country now has one official national drink. Many of these drinks have evolved and adapted to changing tastes and preferences over time, while others are highly influenced by innovations in production methods, variations, and the incorporation of new ingredients.

One way to categorise national drinks is by checking whether or not they have alcohol. Most national drinks of Central and South American countries, for instance, incorporate rum. Another way is to check if they are tea or coffee, happen to be some variation of them, or if they use completely different ingredients.

In the following section, we are going to explore 12 of the most interesting non-alcoholic national drinks from all around the world that are not plain tea or coffee.

1. Maté (Argentina)

national drinks
Argentina’s Mate

Also spelt as mate or yerba mate, maté is the national drink of Argentina that is also consumed in other South American regions. Argentinians often drink maté in the morning, as a pick-me-up in the afternoon, and on social occasions. As it is easy to prepare, many carry a thermos of hot water and a mate gourd with them for a little boost of energy when needed.

Mate is an herbal drink with a distinctive earthy, grassy, and slightly bitter flavour. It has moderate caffeine content, which comes from a plant called yerba mate, from which the beverage is made. That is why mate is often used as a stimulant, similar to tea and coffee, though it usually has less caffeine than they do.

This caffeine content, however, varies depending on factors such as the specific type of yerba mate, the region where it is cultivated, and the processing methods employed. When preparing mate, the dried yerba mate leaves are mainly steeped in hot water to extract the caffeine and the resulting infusion is then consumed.

2. Masala Chai (India)

national drinks
India’s Masala Chai

India is synonymous with spices, so it does make sense for them to have a spiced national drink, which you will find is not as bizarre as it sounds when you give it a shot.

Masala Chai is the most popular and flavourful beverage in India, and it is typically made of four components. Chai is a mixture of whole cow’s milk and robust black tea, either Assam tea or Ceylon tea. Masala is a combination of spices, primarily cardamom and ginger, along with cinnamon, cloves, black pepper, anise, fennel seeds, and nutmeg. The last component is the sweetener, be it sugar or honey.

Like tok-toks, masala chai is everywhere in India. It is served in every Indian house at all times of the day. You can order it at any restaurant. There are even street vendors and chai stalls in most cities and towns offering freshly brewed masala chai on the go for a quick and affordable refreshment.

3. L&P (New Zealand)

L&P, short for “Lemon & Paeroa,” is New Zealand’s national drink. Unlike the previous two, L&P is actually a soft drink—yes, like Coca-Cola—that has a unique and distinct flavour combining lemon with carbonated mineral water sourced from the town of Paeroa in the north island of the country—New Zealand is mainly made of two islands drifting solely in the South Pacific Ocean.

No one knows for certain who invented L&P; however, it is generally believed that some local guy in Paeroa inadvertently mixed lemon syrup with the mineral water from the town’s natural springs back in 1904. The resulting beverage became a local sensation, and in 1907, the Lemon & Paeroa company was officially established.

Over the years, L&P has grown to become one of New Zealand’s most iconic soft drinks and even qualified as the country’s very national drink. It is known for its refreshing taste and is often enjoyed on its own or used as a mixer in cocktails. The brand has been owned by various beverage companies over the years and is now a property of the Coca-Cola Company.

4. Kinnie (Malta)

Kinnie is the non-alcoholic national drink of Malta, this tiny Southern European island country located in the Mediterranean Sea. Like L&P, Kinnie is a soft drink, yet it has a more bittersweet flavour profile. Kinnie was first introduced in 1952 and has since become a well-loved beverage in Malta and other Mediterranean countries.

This Maltese drink, which has nothing to do with Maltesers, the chocolate balls, combines a citrusy taste from bitter oranges and a dozen aromatic herbs, along with low sugar content to get its distinct bittersweetness. That being said, the specific herbs used in Kinnie are part of its proprietary recipe, and the exact combination is also a closely guarded secret.

Kinnie is often enjoyed casually, similar to other soft drinks. People might have it at home, during meals, or simply when looking for a refreshing beverage. The drink can also be paired with a variety of foods. Its bittersweet taste complements both savoury and sweet dishes, making it a versatile choice for enhancing the dining experience.

5. Coconut Water (Marshall Islands)

national drinks
Marshall Islands’ Coconut Water

Marshall Islands is a little country situated in the central Pacific Ocean, somewhere near the equator, and consists of a chain of atolls and volcanic islands. As coconut palm is abundant in the Marshall Islands, coconut water has been so widely consumed and cherished that it has become the country’s national beverage.

Coconut water is a natural and pretty refreshing drink obtained from the liquid inside young green coconuts. Unlike all other national drinks, this one requires no preparation or manufacturing. All there is to do is harvest a green coconut, crack it open, and drain the refreshing, mildly sweet, and slightly nutty water inside—yes, exactly like what Tom Hanks did when he was cast away back in 2000.

It is important to note that coconut water is different from coconut milk. Coconut water is the clear liquid found inside young coconuts, while coconut milk is actually made by grating the flesh of mature, and brown, coconuts, blending it with water, and then straining the mixture.

6. Bubble Tea (Taiwan)

national drinks
Taiwan’s Bubble Tea

Tasting even more delicious than it looks, Taiwanese bubble tea, also called boba tea, is the country’s national drink that has gained worldwide popularity over the years as well.

Bubble tea is a tea-based, either black or green, drink that typically includes sweetened milk or fruit flavours and chewy tapioca pearls, known as boba. These are the signature chewy balls at the bottom of the drink, made from tapioca starch and are typically black or translucent. Bubble tea is often served over ice, making it a refreshing and cold beverage.

As a global phenomenon, bubble tea now comes with countless variations and creative recipes available in different regions. Varieties of teas, milk and sweeteners are used to make bubble teas that suit every taste.

7. Thobwa (Malawi)

Thobwa, also known as “Maheu” in some regions, is a traditional fermented beverage that is common in parts of Southern Africa and is the national drink of Malawi. Although it translates to sweet beer in English, thobwa is a non-alcoholic drink made from fermented grains, typically maise (corn), sorghum, or millet. The fermentation process creates the mildly sour and tangy flavour of the drink. 

Speaking of texture, thobwa has a thick, porridge-like consistency. It is often described as a slightly viscous beverage with a texture that can range from smooth to slightly grainy, depending on the preparation method. If left to ferment for an additional five days, thobwa becomes mowa, a traditional alcoholic beverage.

There are regional variations of this drink, and the specific grains used may vary.

8. Teh Tarik (Malaysia)

national drinks
Malaysia’s Teh Tarik

Back in Asia, the next national drink we have is teh tarik, Malaysia’s very version of tea with milk, a thick, sweet, rich tea with milk, to be precise. Teh tarik translates to “pulled tea” in Malay, referring to the unique method of preparation that involves “pulling” or pouring the tea repeatedly between two containers to create a frothy and well-mixed drink.

Teh tarik is made using strong black tea, often a variety like Ceylon tea. The tea leaves are typically infused in hot water to create a robust and flavorful brew. The tea in one container is then poured from a height to another containing sweetened condensed milk. This ‘tarik’ action, which aerates the tea, is done back and forth to create a frothy layer on top.

To showcase the frothy layer on top, teh tarik is often served in a glass.

Teh tarik has gained popularity beyond Malaysia and is enjoyed in various countries with a significant Malaysian and Southeast Asian diaspora. It is also often featured in Malaysian and Singaporean eateries around the world.

9. Golden Apple Juice (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines)

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is quite a small island nation, an archipelago consisting of the main island of Saint Vincent and a chain of smaller islands known as the Grenadines located in the southeastern Caribbean Sea. Its national drink is the refreshing golden apple juice.

This golden apple juice is made from the tropical fruit known locally as the golden apple or June plum, which is completely different from the yellow apple. So, the juice has a distinct sweet and tangy flavour, which may vary slightly depending on the ripeness of the fruit.

10. Almdudler (Austria)

Although Austrian cuisine has a diverse array of alcoholic drinks, the country’s national drink happens to be an herbal beverage or, to be more precise, a carbonated soft drink called Almdudler, made from a combination of Alpine herbs.

Since its creation in the 1950s, Almdudler was deeply ingrained in Austrian culture and has become a symbol of the country. It is often associated with leisure, outdoor activities, and the Austrian way of life. It has also gained some international popularity and can be found in certain international markets, particularly in areas with a significant Austrian expatriate community or tourist presence.

The drink has different varieties, including original, sugar-free and uncarbonated. There is also a type of Almdudler that is mixed with carbonated mineral water.

11. Atay (Morocco)

national drinks
Morocca’s Mint Tea

Although mint tea is quite popular in the Middle East, each country seems to have its very special way of preparing it. The Moroccan mint tea, also known as “atay” tea, happens to be one of the most distinct versions in terms of the preparation, taste, colour, and aroma that it has become, over the years, the national drink of the country and an integral part of Moroccan culture and hospitality.

Moroccan mint tea is made from gunpowder green tea, whose leaves are rolled into small pellets. The mint used is a fresh variety called spearmint, and the sweetener is typically white sugar. Moroccan mint tea is often sweet, but the level of sweetness can be tailored based on preference.

Like teh tarik, Moroccan mint tea is poured from a height into small glasses, creating a frothy layer on top. This pouring and aerating process is repeated several times to achieve the desired frothiness. It is common to serve multiple rounds of tea during a gathering, each round with a unique flavour profile as the tea leaves continue to infuse.

12. Kava (American Samoa)

national drinks
American Samoa’s Kava

American Samoa is an unincorporated territory of the United States, which means it is not a U.S. state, but it is under U.S. sovereignty. The people of American Samoa, around 44,000, are U.S. nationals but not U.S. citizens. American Samoa is made of five volcanic islands and a couple of coral atolls situated in the South Pacific Ocean, about halfway between New Zealand and Hawaii.

Kava is the national drink of American Samoa and is made from the root of the kava plant that is native to the islands. It has a distinct flavour often described as earthy, bitter, sometimes strongly bitter, pungent, and peppery.

Usually, the kava root is cleaned, peeled, and then ground or pounded into a fine powder. In some cultures, the root may be chewed, spit into a container, and then strained to extract the liquid. The kava powder is then mixed with water to extract the active compounds, primarily a group of psychoactive substances called kavalactones.

Kava is often shared during informal and formal social gatherings. It is a customary practice for friends, family, and community members to come together and share kava as a way of fostering social bonds.

National drinks are more than beverages; they are time capsules, preserving the essence of a region, embodying the rituals of generations, and serving as a toast to the resilience and creativity of humankind. In every clink of glasses and shared sip, we celebrate not only the craftsmanship and ingenuity of beverage creators but also the shared humanity that transcends borders.

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