Silver tea is essentially just a cup (preferably a teacup) of hot water, most often served standing on a saucer, complete with a teaspoon. The term (as well as the beverage itself) is in general and frequent use in Sweden, where its spelling and pronunciation are understandably somewhat modified, to suit the Language of Honor and Heroes. So in Stockholm you would order a cup of “Silverte”, by pronouncing it approximately as “silver-teh”. Note that Swedish and a fair number of other languages (Danish, Norwegian, German, Estonian, Finnish, et al) use the device of compound words, to generate new concepts – in Swedish it is consequently “silverte”, not “silver te”, like it would be if you followed the English method.

Compound words, a linguistic digression
The use of compound words is an ingenious method for creating completely new words out of the blue and still being understood by all. Because even if the listener hears this particular word for the first time, the parts (elements) of the new word are generally old, well-defined meaningful words, and it does not take much intelligence to figure out the meaning of the new word.

Unfortunately, widespread knowledge of English, a language that normally does not practice the use of compound words, is having a disastrous influence in this respect, making non-English-speaking people separate the parts of their local compound words. The results are devastating. For example, the Swedish word for nurse (= “sjuksköterska”) is in literal translation “sickcaretaker”, its meaning being understandable to most of us. But separating the first part gives rather a different concept – a sick caretaker.

No discount

Silver tea is had “as is”, or with a lump or two of sugar (the teaspoon is provided for that eventuality). You can have silver tea for free at home, and in any Swedish café or restaurant at a stiff price. Don’t expect to get silver tea at a discount – they will charge you at least the same amount as if you had ordered a cup of Earl Grey or Oolong, or a pot of Gen Mei Cha (aka Genmaicha).

But then, particularly in wintertime, a cup of hot, steaming silver tea can be just as satisfying as any Oriental type of tea.

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