Throughout Myanmar you’ll find tea shops filled with men wearing “longyis”, laughing with friends while sipping endless cups of thick, sugary sweet Myanmar Tea. They are truly the heartbeat of Burmese culture, especially in larger cities like Mandalay. Most of the hotels in Mandalay include breakfast but if you really want to experience the culture of the country, opt to wake up early and head out to your local tea shop instead.
There are hundreds of tea shops to choose from in Mandalay so we’ve narrowed it down to our favorite 4 that you must try during your trip to Myanmar!
A Few Things to Know Before You Go
- The seating is a free-for-all so when you arrive at a tea shop just grab an open table and you’ll be quickly approached by one (or several) of the waiters. Tea shops in Mandalay employ a virtual army of waiters. They are constantly meandering about, taking orders, bringing out food, or simply hovering over you, awkwardly watching you eat.
- There is no particular waiter assigned to your table so whenever you need something just flag down anyone that looks official. The best way to get the attention of a waiter is to purse your lips together and make a kiss noise. Sounds strange but it’s the local custom. And generally the waiters are easy to identify in their colored polo shirts.
- While all of these tea shops have menus with at least some English words, the prices are not listed. It can be a bit disconcerting to order without knowing the price, but everything is so incredibly cheap in the tea shops you’d be hard pressed to spend more than a couple dollars on any one item.
- You’ll be brought a couple of small porcelain cups and on each table you’ll find a thermos full of pipping hot green Oolong tea. It’s complimentary so feel free to drink all you want!
- You won’t get a paper receipt in these tea shops. The waiter will tally up your bill by taking a look at the dishes that are sitting on your table. So don’t expect any of your dirty dishes to be removed while you’re eating.
- Finally, be aware that Mandalay tea shops open very early (~5:30am) and close around 5:00pm and popular dishes can sell out early.
What to Order at a Burmese Tea Shop
- Myanmar Tea – Also called milk tea or “lahpetyei gyo”. It is creamy and delicious and loaded with sugar.
- Mohinga – This is the most famous breakfast dish of Myanmar. It consists of a fish-based broth, rice noodles, fried onions, and egg. It is pretty heavy so plan for a nap after eating.
- E Kya Kway – This deep fried strip of dough pairs perfectly with Myanmar Tea.
- Parathas – The Burmese take on the Indian crepe. Try them with eggs or bananas (or both!).
- Shan Noodles – One of our favorite Burmese dishes. It’s essentially chicken noodle soup served with a side of pickled mustard greens.
- Mont Di (or Mont Ti) Noodles – Thick round noodles are mixed with daal powder and oil to create a noodle salad that taste a bit like macaroni and cheese (though no dairy is involved).
- Samosas – Deep fried triangular pastries filled with potatoes, onions, and spices.
- Puri – Fried puff pastries served with potato curry for dipping.
The Best Tea Shops in Mandalay
Shwe Pyi Moe
Shwe Pyi Moe is the most famous tea shop in Mandalay and is widely considered to be the best. They have recently moved to a new location at the corner of 75th and 33rd street and the new location is much nicer and more spacious.
It is now a large, open-air restaurant with plenty of tables, a high ceiling, and numerous fans that manage to keep it relatively cool even in the scorching Mandalay heat. Due to Shwe Pyi Moe’s fame you’ll find tourists and locals alike keeping the place busy from open to close.
To accompany your cup of Myanmar tea, try a banana paratha for a sugar fix or the Shan noodles if you’d prefer something savory.
Min Thi Ha
Min Thi Ha is supposedly the oldest tea shop in Mandalay and is a close second behind Shwe Pyi Moe in the competition for the best. It is a squat, run down restaurant so don’t expect air conditioning or comfortable chairs.
They offer just a few stools to sit on and old fans to circulate the hot air. The condition of the restaurant caused us to question the hygiene of the kitchen, but we are happy to report that we had no stomach issues after enjoying a meal here.
If you are looking for upscale dining this probably isn’t the place for you. But if you want an authentic Mandalay tea shop experience, this is the perfect morning breakfast stop.
Their menu can be difficult to decipher and there are no English speaking waiters, but you can’t go wrong with a cup of Myanmar tea and a bowl of mohinga. Or, better yet, just point to a few random things on the menu and be surprised by what you get!
Pan Tha Khin
Pan Tha Khin is another longstanding Mandalay institution. Without a doubt they are in the running for the best tea house with a huge selection of Burmese and Indian dishes as well as Dim Sum. It is laid out very similarly to Shwe Pyi Moe, with lots of seating, high ceilings, and fans working non-stop.
Make sure you try their samosas which may very well be the best in Mandalay. The fried Korean pot stickers are also piping hot and delicious. They have amazing bao but if you want to try it you’ll have to get there early, before it sells out.
Unique Mandalay Tea Room
If you want to sample traditional Burmese cuisine in a more upscale setting, then check out Unique Mandalay Tea Room. In our opinion this is the best place you can eat in all of Mandalay!
The food is fantastic and while you’ll pay a bit more than at the other tea shops, there is still nothing on the menu over 2,000 kyat (~$1.50). You can also count on a clean kitchen, an air-conditioned dining room, and a western style toilet.
The menu offers detailed explanations of each dish in English so it is easy to order and the waitstaff is extremely attentive.
Try the Mont Ti noodles or the Shwe Taung Kauk Swe (a coconut milk soup with egg noodles, chicken, onions, and lime).
Enjoy your tea! And if we have missed your favorite tea shop in Mandalay drop us a note and let us know!
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