A culture of tea


There are not many things in Mauritania that are as important as tea. Many say they get a headache if they don’t have their tea every day and sure that must be true. They put a ton of sugar in it. “It’s not the tea you’re addicted to, it’s the sugar” I tried to tell a friend once. “No no no, it’s the tea. I swear it’s the tea” he replied, and handed me another glass.

It’s prepared through boiling tealeaves in a small jug over the fire. When the strong brew is done you add sugar. Pour some into a glass and then back into the jug. The foam is very important. It’s supposed to be thick and high, you get it by pouring the hot tea between the glasses a few times. Keep the pouring glass high up in the air and the foam will form itself more or less. Less in my case, more in Hamady’s case.

The tea is served in three. You almost never have just one or two glasses, always three per teatime. Last year when I rode the train from Nouadhibou to Choum the men in the carriage started preparing tea as the sun had set. They passed the glasses so everyone would have some, and before the third glass was served I had fallen asleep. Awoken by someone shaking my arm I had to have the third glass as well, no matter how deep my sleep had become.

It’s a tradition well looked after. You will see it everywhere; the gas stove, jugs and small glasses. The first glass is always the best; sweet and clear. The third one is the most bitter and sometimes the one I’d rather decline (but never would).


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