Thursday, October 8, 2009

Tea Time

There is something quite fascinating to watch here in Senegal and that is 'tea time'. Often you will see large gatherings of mostly men and boys circled around a brewing kettle on the side of the road.

These gatherings are not just about wanting to drink a cup of tea, but more about socializing, people watching, chatting with friends, gossip, jokes, etc. while the tea is brewing.
The tea is called 'ataaya' and it almost looks like a Guinness beer when served. Ataaya is a West African tea with an extremely high caffeine content mostly made from large amounts of green tea leaves and lots of sugar.

There are some precise laws to follow when making this tea. The main rule is that making tea shall never be rushed.
Green tea leaves should be infused with a small amount of water and a large amount of sugar for hours. The 'in-charge' tea maker must constantly watch the kettle to make sure to remove from heat when the lid starts to rattle. The first infusion is usually ready after an hour. Then, the tea maker pours the tea from the kettle into 4 tiny shot glasses from 3 feet above. This will ensure lots of froth. The glasses are then emptied into the kettle and finally, then poured again back into the glasses which are now heated and covered with froth. Truly, these tiny shot glasses have the appearance of Guinness with a nice amount of froth at the top.

The first infusion is a considered a strong wake up call, only given to strong men and 'those that dare'. The 2nd infusion is strong and sugary. The 3rd is 'sweet as love' as they say here.

At Rich's office, the guard makes them ataaya everyday around noon. Rich said that they only receive two rounds, not the full three, which makes me wonder....which of the 3 infusions he receives.

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