All across the arid territory that stretches in a swath down north-west Africa, the harshness of desert life is punctuated by the gentle ritual of the tea ceremony. Three or four times a day, work or travel - or war - comes to a halt while the drink is being prepared. Saharans use what they call gunpowder tea, a green leaf that they combine with chunks of sugar chipped off a large cone.


green tea leaves

sprigs of fresh mint


boiling water


The tea is brewed in small brass pots, and drunk in 3-inch tall glasses that also are used as measures. To make 3 servings, fill half a small container, such as a liqueur glass, with green tea leaves. Put them in a warm pot. Add 2 glasses of boiling water. Shake pot for a moment, then pour the water away. This is the washing of the tea.

Now add several sprigs of fresh mint to the pot, along with up to 10 spoons of sugar. Pour in 3 glassfuls of boiling water. Let steam for a moment, then pour from the pot into a glass. Return liquid to the pot. Repeat the process of pouring tea back and forth between the pot and the glass several times. Taste (to decide whether to add more sugar!), then serve.

Repeat this entire process twice more, adding additional water and sugar to the pot, but not more tea. At the end, everyone will have had 3 glasses, each milder than the one before.

Saharans say that the first tea is bitter, like life; the second is sweet, like love; and the third is gentle, like death.


Serves 3.


country : Western Sahara

course : beverage


source : The Africa News Cookbook : African Cooking for Western Kitchens / Tami Hultman