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from: Western Africa

Green Tea with Mint

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. The Chinese call it zucha (pearl) tea for the same reason. Rolling the tea leaves helps preserve the flavor; a desirable quality considering the tea's journey from Asia to Africa. Some Chinese green teas, called Moroccan-style Tea or Moroccan Mint Tea, come with mint already mixed in.

gunpower tea from china

What you need

What you do

Depending on whether you are British or not, you may wish to make an iced-tea beverage. (Iced green tea is very good, though this is not the African way). The best way to make iced-tea is to follow this recipe and then pour the hot tea over enough ice to chill it thoroughly (do not use a glass pitcher: the suddenly changing temperature could shatter it), then place the iced tea in the refrigerator. Placing hot tea in the refrigerator without icing it first will make the tea cloudy.

In and around Senegal, tea is prepared and presented in an elaborate process known by the Wolof word, attaya or ataaya.


Eddy L. Harris

Very sweet & Why we always drink three cups of tea

In Native Stranger: A Black American's Journey into the Heart of Africa (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992), Eddy L. Harris describes tea with a Senegalese man living in Paris; later in the book he learns why Gambians always have three cups of tea:

. . . He is just about to dump a fistful of sugar into the pot.
"Do you want your tea the way we drink it in Africa?"
"How do you drink it in Africa?"
"Very sweet," he says. "Very sweet"
He add more sugar and tastes the tea, which is still not quite right. He adds a bit more sugar, slurps again, and smiles.
(Into Africa Through the Back Door)

"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)


Other African gastronomical excerpts


Richard Trench

Tea-drinking . . . was the pivot of desert existence

Richard Trench traveled across the Sahara in Mali to visit the salt mines of Taoudenni. In his book, Forbidden Sands: A Search in the Sahara (Chicago: Academy Chicago Limited, 1980), he describes tea-drinking:

Tea-drinking, I soon discovered, was the pivot of desert existence. For hours the nomads would huddle together around their open fires, knocking back the tiny thumb-sized glasses of sweetened tea, uttering a 'Bismellah' (in the name of God) followed by a 'Hamdullah' (thanks be to God) with the same gusto that a whisky drinker might have exclaimed 'Cheers' ten years ago. A nomad's dependence on tea is not unlike a seasoned whisky drinker's dependence on alcohol. With tea inside him, he is capable of almost superhuman feats of endurance. Without it he becomes a complaining wreck. 'Arab whisky', the camion driver had called it to me, showing off his cosmopolitan outlook.
...
I took my tea with Omar and his father, passing alternate mornings in each tent, with tea, sugar, kettle, pot, and thumb-sized glasses laid out neatly before us. There was always silence, a very primeval silence, when the old man struck flint against steel and the smoldering rag, torn off his turban, grew into a bush of flame, eating the dried-up roots that the black-robed women had collected the day before.
When the water had boiled it was poured into his silver pot, with a measure of green tea and several hunks of sugar, and left on a glowing bed of embers to stew. Then the old man would raise the teapot high above his head and pour a thin column of steaming tea into the glasses below and taste. If it tasted satisfactory, the old man would give thanks to God and hand round the glasses. If it was unsatisfactory, he would screw his face round his nose and add more sugar.
Three times he would go through these motions, three glasses and three brews for each person. Why three? I never found out. Once I asked Omar, but he just looked at me in disgust, shocked at my ignorance. 'Because it has always been so,' he said. I might just as well have asked him why the sun rose each morning.
No one ever hurried over the tea-ceremony. They dawdled over the fire as if Time stood still while they drunk their tea. It was often mid-morning before the group had fragmented, each part splitting off to its separate task.
(The Well at Chegga)


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