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Off to Tottenham for Tea

Did you know that internationally renowned singer-songwriter Adele was born in Tottenham? Or that South Tottenham is reported to be the most ethnically-diverse area in Europe, with 300 languages being spoken by its residents? These are two of the facts that featured in our Tottenham Quiz that was one of the bespoke games guests played at our ‘Tottenham Tea Party’.

On Saturday 30th November we took over a former Caribbean food takeaway on Broad Lane, Tottenham.  As part of the Living Archive project by arts organisation Make-Room, we were asked to host a special Tottenham inspired tea party in their temporary pop-up space.

Make-Room: The Living Archive

Adorning the space in bunting and floral brightness, we met some really interesting folk who shared their stories, experiences and memories of Tottenham whilst playing our games and supping on tea and eating Tottenham cake. Here are some snaps from the day:

Photo credits: Jenni Grove

Tea & Community Dialogues at Kew Gardens

Earlier this year we worked on a really interesting community engagement project at Kew Gardens using our tea parties as way to engage new audiences at Kew.  The project ‘Community Dialogues’ aimed to engage and bring together groups of different, diverse cultural backgrounds to creatively explore and exchange dialogues on edible plants at Kew. The origins of a series of edible plants were explored, how they are used in cooking and in particular specific stories shared and captured all of course over a good cuppa tea!

We worked with five community organisations in a series of workshops in the format of a ‘pop up tea salon’ to explore edible plants in both the Temperate House and Palm House. The structure of the project enabled us to meet the group first, running an initial workshop on ‘Edible plants’ and getting participants to think about how they use edible plants in their day to day lives. The next time we met the groups was for a tour of both the Temperate and Palm houses, exploring edible plants that lived at Kew and then onto tea at our bespoke tea parties themed to a series of edible plants including tea, chilli peppers, sugar cane, date palm to name a few.

The project was a lovely opportunity to meet and work with some really interesting groups, enabling them to explore their own relationships to a number of diverse edible plants. We learnt about exotic recipes, heard childhood memories and stories of growing up eating these edible plants, and we saw how relationships had grown with these edible plants, for example Harjit Kaur from the Hounslow Senior Trust reminisced about early childhood memories of drinking chai (tea) over breakfast with her family, how it began her day and how this has continued as a custom for her throughout her life. She also shared her recipe for Masala Chai.

The groups involved came from diverse cultures and backgrounds, and from all walks of life. Participants from the Brazilian Educational & Cultural Centre talked of edible plants native to Brazil and other countries in South America, it was fascinating to hear about these plants and how they were eaten, and one only wished we could have had a taste! The ladies from the Al Hasaniya Moroccan Women’s Centre  and the Al-Manaar Muslim Cultural Heritage Centre added a new dimension to the tea party that we hosted for them. The tea party, originally a traditional English, became something new after the ladies all from Arabic descent brought along their own traditional food using some of the edible plants we were exploring. It was a lovely addition and very, very yummy! We really enjoyed this cultural mixing of food and language. Lively discussions and lots of story sharing took place at the tea parties, they were a real opportunity to hear an assortment of experiences to the edible plants that we explored during the project.  The project culminated in a short film:

We also created shorter edits of the film for each of the edible plants we explored during the project. You can watch them here.

Around the World in Tea: Kahwah in Afghanistan

This month’s ‘Around the World in Tea’ is a homage to my roots and an ode to a tea that I’ve been drinking since I was a young girl. Kahwah is a traditional green tea preparation consumed in Afghanistan, northern Pakistan, some regions of Central Asia and the Kashmir Valley. In Pakistan it is made in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region, both of my parents were born there.

Tea Shop in Peshawar, Pakistan

The times that I have visited my parents’ home town in Pakistan, tea has played a pivotal role and kahwah was generally served in the afternoon as a refreshing alternative to chai and often after dinner to aid digestion! My parents have continued this custom when they have guests and tend to also serve kahwah after dinner. Kahwah is normally served in small handle-less bowls, much like the Chinese tea bowl with ghur; a lump sugar made from sugar cane. I find it to be a light and aromatic tea that is subtle in flavours.

In London, a number of Afghan restaurants have been popping up and becoming increasingly popular over the last few years. One which I like to go to is Charsi Tikka in Forest Gate the kahwah there is splendid!


How to make Kahwah

Serves 4


4 cups of Water

1 tsp Green tea leaves

3 crushed Green cardamoms

1 tsp of dried lemongrass (optional)

Sugar to taste or ghur


Step 1. Pour water in a vessel.

Step 2. Add crushed green tea leaves, cardamons and lemongrass

Step 3. Bring to boil. As soon as it boils, add sugar to taste. (If using ghur omit the sugar)

Step 4. Cover and boil for a few minutes.

Step 5. Remove from the flame and pour into small bowls.

I hope you enjoy this light and lovely tea folks, in 2014 I plan to develop an ‘Afghan’ inspired tea party.

I thought I’d end this post with a really interesting quote from Greg Mortenson’s book, ‘Three Cups of Tea’ that summarises tea and hospitality in both Afghanistan and northern Pakistan:

‘Here we drink three cups of tea to do business; the first you are a stranger, the second you become a friend, and the third, you join our family, and for our family we are prepared to do anything – even die’ – Haji Ali, Korphe Village Chief, Karakoram mountains, Pakistan.