February 07, 2005

Tea Making 101

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"Anyone who has visited Western African will associate Gunpowder Tea with mid-day breaks and after-dinner visits. Gunpowder Tea is Chinese green tea named for the way the tea leaves are rolled into small pellets, which look like old-fashioned gunpowder. [...] In and around Senegal, tea is prepared and presented in an elaborate process known by the Wolof word, attaya or ataaya."

"Do you know why we always drink three cups of tea?" Peter asked.
"And do you know why the first cup is always the sweetest?"
I slurped my tea. "No, why?"
"The first cup is the love of your mother. The second is the love of your friends. The third is the love of your love."
I laughed.
"It's true," he said. "Ask anybody."
(The Misfortune in Men's Eyes)

from http://www.congocookbook.com/c0057.html

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Attaya is the way tea is served in Senegal. It’s typically served in three rounds: each being of a different flavors and strength. The art of making this tea is quite elaborate and requires an old fashioned stove with coal in the bottom and tiny vodka-shot like glasses.

Round one: Strong and bitter tea
1. Fill your little tea kettle with 2/3 of the content of a chinese tea bag.
2. Add a little bit of sugar.
3. Heat on stove until boiling.
4. Pour in small glass cups. Pour the liquid back and forth until a thick foam settles on the surface of the glass.
5. Drink the bitter, bitter mixture without making a sour kissy face.

Round two: Sweeter with mint
1. Leaving the previous contents inside, add a little bit more tea from the bag.
2. Add sugar and mint.
3. Heat on stove until boiling.
4. Pour in small glass cups. Pour the liquid back and forth until a thick foam settles on the surface of the glass.
5. Enjoy and hope that you don't develop a caffeine addiction.

Round Three: Sweetest and Mintiest
1. Leaving the previous contents inside, finish the tea bag.
2. Add generous amounts of sugar and mint.
3. Heat on stove until boiling.
4. Pour in small glass cups. Pour the liquid back and forth until a thick foam settles on the surface of the glass.
5. Relax as this last tea will go down pretty well, but will undoubtedly cause deep cavities and prevent you from sleeping for two days.

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I was taught this tea making technique when I was in the Sine Saloum. Now I don't know a lot of Wolof, but during lunch, one of our guides passed the hot sauce to his friend and said "Fi, Piment Toubab, way", which means "hey man, here's white person hot sauce". I'm pretty sure they were commenting on the strength of the sauce: Hell hot, mild and white-person weak.

D'oh.

3 comments:

Red Handed Jill said...

thanks for posting this. it's very interesting.

007 in Africa said...

You're welcome. I expect you'll practice the art of Attaya making and become an expert? Just kidding, for once, tea-making is a man's activity. I have never seen a woman do this (they only have to do every other chore after all :) BTW what happened to your blog? I really enjoyed it.

Paul said...

I had this kind of tea while I was in Burkina Faso. A couple of the people there put 5-10 crushed peanuts in each glass of tea. Adds a neat taste.