The secrets of senegal’s ataya tea ceremony

iGFM – (Dakar) This beloved ritual can take up to three hours, and it’s worth every second

In Senegal, it’s not just afternoon tea—the ceremony called ataya (sometimes spelled attaya) can take place any time of day, and just about anywhere. Whether at work, at home, or even in the streets, it’s a crucial part of Senegalese social life, much like Ethiopia’s coffee ceremony. Ataya’s not a quick process—the whole thing can take up to three hours—but that allows for more time for friends and family to talk and catch up.

There are three stages to the tea-brewing, each of which takes place in a kettle that continuously boils on a stove. Chinese green tea is brewed strong and bitter, then elegantly poured into tiny glasses called kas; the tea’s then poured from glass to glass to create a thick foam on top. The higher up you pour from, the better.

The subsequent stages follow the same practice but add fresh mint leaves and more and more sugar as you go. The stages are also rumored to have different meanings depending on the person serving up the tea.

To see the tea ceremony in action, check out reporter Tracy Thompson’s video from a ceremony in the Bronx, New York. And for more Senegalese cuisine, check out our spotlight on Pierre Thiam and the food of his home.



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