Around the World in Tea: Iran

This month’s ‘Around the World in Tea’, we journey to Iran in time for celebrations for Nowruz; the Persian New Year, marking the first day of spring and the beginning of the year in the Iranian calendar.

Chaikhaneh in Iran

In Persian culture tea is so widely consumed that it is generally the first thing offered to a guest. Tea is the drink of choice in Iran; it is served for breakfast, lunch and dinner and throughout the day. Tea found its way to Iran from India in the 18th century and soon became its national drink. Seeds from India were planted and cultivated in northern Iran, today millions of people work in the tea industry. Iran has one of the highest per capita rates of tea consumption in the world; historically every street had a Chaikhaneh (Tea House). Chaikhanehs still play an important role in Iranian society today.

Iranian tea comes in an assortment of subtle flavours, it is defined by its deep reddish brown colour, and tea consumers can choose to dilute this with water depending on their preference of strength. Tea is served strong in Chaikhanehs, the stronger the cup of tea, the higher content of tannin and caffeine, so a good cup of Persian tea is much like a strong cup of coffee! Most Iranians prefer to have sugar with their tea due to its strength, the traditional way to do this is to place a sugar cube between your teeth, sipping the tea, and the sugar should melt. Particularly in the colder parts of Iran, Iranians tend to find this a more convenient way to drink multiple cups.

The taking of tea is a ritual, most meetings and formal occasions will commence with the offering of tea, and most meals will finish with it. Traditionally, tea is served from a samovar, this is a heating vessel originally imported from Russia. Samovar quite literally means ‘self-boiler’.

Sadia's Persian Tea

Here’s a recipe for you all to experience tea the Persian way:

Sadia’s Persian Tea

Ingredients

Loose leaf black tea

Handful of rose petals

Sugar cubes to taste

Water

Equipment

Electrical Samovar

Teapot

Directions

  1. Fill the samovar with fresh cold water and bring to a boil. Warm up your teapot by rinsing it with some of the boiled hot water.
  2. Place 2 tablespoons of loose leaf tea in your teapot with a handful of the rose petals.
  3. Pour water into the pot over the tea and rose petals, fill it nearly to the rim and put the lid back on.
  4. Place the pot on the samovar; allow it to brew for 10-15 minutes.
  5. Rinse your glass teacups with hot water, warming the cups.
  6. Fill ¾ of each teacup with the tea, if you prefer your tea dark and strong, increase this amount.
  7. Adjust the strength of the tea in the teacups by adding some of the boiled water from the samovar.
  8. To add some extra flavour you can add the following ingredients to the teapot: 2-3 cardomom pods opened and/or 2 small sticks of cinnamon.

And all of this just in time for Nowruz and the special Persian inspired tea party that were hosting later this month….

Sadia’s Persian Tea Party

Sadia's Persian Tea Party

Sunday 23rd March, 2pm

Tea found its way to Persia (now Iran) from India and soon became the national drink; some even say it’s the national pastime in Iran! To mark Nowruz; the Iranian New Year why not experience how tea is enjoyed in Iran with artist and tea hostess Sadia Ur-Rehman in this unique pop-up tea party that takes you on an extraordinary voyage to Central Asia.

Tickets are £18 per person.

Pre-booking is essential, to book your ticket, call Valentines Mansion on 020 8708 8100. Tickets are limited and will be on a first come – first served basis, so don’t miss out!

Around the World in Tea: Tunisia

I’ve just returned from holidaying in Tunisia and in time to share my experiences of tea for this month’s blog post. I had a glorious time exploring the Tunisian landscape, and of course drinking lots and lots of tea! We drunk tea in the capital; Tunis, by the sea in Hammamet, in Nabeul the ceramic central of the country and more tea drinking took place in the holy city of Karaouan. All absolutely glorious and providing a new experience in each place.


One of the international tea parties that we offer is the ‘North African Tea Party’ and this tea party serves traditional ‘Maghrebi’ mint tea as drunk in the ‘Maghreb’, this defines the region of Northwest Africa made up of the following countries; Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, Libya and Mauritania. The ‘Maghrebi’ tea culture has spread throughout North Africa including Egypt and Sudan and southern Spain. ‘Maghrebi’ style mint tea, borne in Morocco, we found occupies an important part of the Tunisian day.

Maghrebi – style mint tea is green tea (gunpowder tea) served with mint leaves and copious amounts of sugar! Served not only a meal times but throughout the day, it is a drink of hospitality, impolite to refuse, this continues throughout North Africa.

My favourite glass of tea had to be the one drunk in Hammamet by the sea. It was remarkable drinking the sugary concoction that is Maghrebi style mint tea as we watched the tides crash in, scented with jasmine and sea breezes. Glorious, absolutely glorious.

Here’s our recipe for you all to experience tea the Tunisian way.

Making Tea the Maghrebi Way

The customary green tea used is a gunpowder tea imported from China, I brought some back from Tunisia however it is widely available in England. Here is how you can make a pot of tea the Maghrebi way.

Ingredients
½ litre of water
2 tsp gunpowder tea
5 tsp sugar
Handful of fresh mint leaves

Maghrebi mint tea ingredients

Directions
1. In a teapot, combine two teaspoons of tea-leaf with half a litre of boiling water. Allow it too steep for at least ten minutes.

Add 1/2 litre of boiling water to tea leaves
2. Filter the mixture into a different stainless steel pot, so that the tea leaves and coarse powder are removed.

Filter the mixture into a different stainless steel pot
3. Add sugar (about one teaspoon per 100 ml).
4. Bring to boil over a medium heat.

4.	Bring to boil over a medium heat
5. As desired, add fresh mint leaves either to the teapot or directly to the cup.

Maghrebi mint tea
There you have it folks, enjoy! Serve with makroudh, a pastry filled with dates that I brought back from Tunisia or the more widely available baklawa. And please do come back next month when we feature another tea from a different part of the world.

Around the World in Tea: Elaichi Chai in Pakistan

This month’s ‘Around the World in Tea’ is another homage to my roots and an ode to a tea that I have been drinking since I was very young. I have wonderful early memories of starting my day with my mother making a pot of elaichi chai (cardamom tea) for the family to drink over breakfast, it was the perfect start to the day, and I continue this custom today, with my first cup of tea, also my favourite, enabling me to prepare myself for the day and whatever lies ahead.

Sadia's Elaichi Chai 1

Elaichi Chai is drunk throughout Pakistan; tea drinking in Pakistan has become an important part of everyday life and has become embedded in the culture and social life there. The times that I have visited my parents’ home town in Pakistan, tea has played a pivotal role and epitomises the hospitality that guests receive, when visiting guests expect a cup of tea as a minimum. If you’re lucky enough to visit a Pakistani bazaar (market) you’ll notice that the shopkeepers drink tea on tap, quite literally!

Elachi Chai in Pakistan

A view of a tea shop in Karachi. Photo: Jalal Qureshi/ Express

Black tea in Pakistan was initially introduced during the colonial British era in South Asia. Cities like Lahore had a very vivid tea culture, the beverage quite quickly absorbed into local culture and the home. Today tea is consumed throughout the day, at breakfast, during lunch breaks, in the afternoon after lunch, and in the evening at home.

Pakistan tea culture is rich and diverse with various regions of the country having their own assortment of flavours and varieties. In Karachi, Elaichi Chai is popular, whilst Doodh Pati Chai (a very thick and milky version) is preferred in the Punjab. Varieties of sweet biscuits accompany and are enjoyed with tea. In northern Pakistan, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region they enjoy a green tea called ‘kahwah’. And finally in Kashmir, a ‘pink’ Kashmiri chai is enjoyed that is a wonderful concoction of pink, milky tea with pistachio and cardamoms. I’d love to share the recipes for these teas with you all over time on this blog.

Sadia’s Elaichi Chai

Serves 4

Ingredients

3 cups of water
1 cup of milk
10-12 green cardamom pods
4 tsp sugar
4 heaped tsp of your favourite loose leaf tea

Directions

Step 1. Bring water to boil in a stainless steel or non-stick pot.

Sadia's Elaichi Chai 2

Step 2. Split the cardamom pods and add to the boiling water.

Sadia's Elaichi Chai 3

Step 3. Add the tea leaves and sugar and simmer for a minute.

Sadia's Elaichi Chai 4

Step 4. Add milk and boil till the tea is a creamy caramel colour.

Sadia's Elaichi Chai 5

Step 5. Remove from the flame and pour into teacups, ensure you use a tea strainer to catch the tea leaves and cardamom.

Sadia's Elaichi Chai 6

Voila and serve with biscuits, I love a particular variety of almond and pistachio biscuits that you can purchase from most good South Asian shops in London.

Sadia's Elaichi Chai 7

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

Ingredients

4 cups of Water

1 tsp Green tea leaves

3 crushed Green cardamoms

1 tsp of dried lemongrass (optional)

Sugar to taste or ghur

Directions

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.

Sadia’s Tottenham Tea Party

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?

The next stop for our pop-up travelling tea parties is Tottenham. As part of the Living Archive project by arts organisation Make-Room, we’ve been asked to host a special Tottenham inspired tea party in their temporary pop-up space which is a former Caribbean food takeaway on Broad Lane.

Make-Room: The Living Archive
We’re looking forward to taking over the former takeaway for a day, decking it out in bunting and hosting our tea party on Saturday 30th November. What an interesting space for a tea party to take place. Guests will join us for afternoon tea, Tottenham inspired treats and themed parlour games including our ‘Tottenham Quiz’ and have an opportunity to share their memories and experiences of the local area and contribute to the wider ‘The Living Archive’ project.

Looking forward to a Tottenham-filled day!

Sadia’s Vintage Tea Party

My love affair with all things vintage, antique and shabby chic has been the inspiration for our vintage styled tea party. An addition to our current line-up of tea parties, I have relished collecting and sourcing paraphernalia over time to make this a truly authentic experience.  Our glamorous tea ladies will even serve your guests in vintage attire. We’ll organise and design traditional bespoke parlour games to accompany tea and provide some merriment. All you need to do is offer the venue, and Sadia’s Tea Party will transform it to another moment in time.

With a touch of decadence and nostalgia, let Sadia’s Tea Party create for you and your guests a fabulous vintage tea party. Transport your guests back to a golden era, immerse yourselves in a delightfully aesthetic and mouth-watering experience befitting any occasion.  We provide an atmosphere of pure glamour and decadence…Take tea in exquisite fine bone china, dine on traditional tea party fayre and be wowed by our classic and sumptuous cakes and cupcakes.

For further information why not drop us a line.

Here are some photos from a vintage-styled tea party at Beltcraft Studios in London.

Photo credits: Connie Taylor Photography

Make Up Artist: Flawless by Faz

Hats by: GG’s Pin-Up Couture

 

 

Around the World in Tea: England

Tea; a quintessential English drink? Well, you would think so! However it has only been grown, produced and sold since 2005 in England at the Tregothnan estate in Cornwall, the only tea plantation in the UK. And earlier this year, I was lucky enough to spend a weekend away in the glorious Cornwall, and paid Tregothnan a visit.

As an avid tea drinker/obsessive it was fascinating to see how tea was being grown in Tregothnan. I was told that the special ‘microclimate’ was perfect for growing tea here in England, a tall task that wasn’t viable before. During our visit we got to taste the ‘Earl grey’ and ‘Classic tea’ blend, only 2 of the teas available in the wide selection of 35 to choose from! Here are a few snaps from our visit:

Over 150 million cups of tea are drunk daily in Britain today; we are now a nation of tea drinkers with tea being our most drunk beverage. So how is it that this drink that was only produced and sold on British soil from 2005, how did this become our most popular beverage?

Well, tea came to Britain via a foreign entity.  It was the marriage of Charles II to Catherine of Braganza that would prove to be a turning point in the history of tea in Britain in the 17th century. She was a Portuguese princess, and a tea addict, and it was her love of the drink that established tea as a fashionable beverage first at court, and then among the wealthy classes as a whole.

The British took to tea with an enthusiasm that continues to the present day. It became a popular drink in coffee houses, which were as much locations for the transaction of business as they were for relaxation or pleasure. They were though the preserve of middle- and upper-class men; women drank tea in their own homes, and as yet tea was still too expensive to be widespread among the working classes.

In the early 1800s, Anna the Duchess of Bedford, introduced the custom of the afternoon tea or tea party.  The afternoon tea satiated hunger between lunch and dinner and quickly became a social gathering. Tea is now seen as a quintessentially English drink and drunk by all.

One of the international tea parties that we offer is the ‘English Tea Party’, during this tea party you will experience tea English style first hand with traditional afternoon tea, fancy snacks and specially designed themed parlour games.

How to make the Perfect Brew

At Sadia’s Tea Party we love a proper cup of tea made with loose leaf tea served in china, however understand that this is not always practical. So today we present how to make the perfect brew using a teabag in a mug! This step by step has been developed after a team of university researchers in 2011 in Northumberland devised quite literally a mathematical formula for the ideal brew which shows that it is best drunk exactly six minutes after being made! So here it is folks.

Instructions for perfect cup of tea for one:

Step 1.  Add 200ml of freshly boiled water to your tea bag (in a mug).

Step 2.  Allow the tea bag to brew for 2 minutes.

Step 3. Remove the tea bag.

Step 4.  Add 10ml of milk.

Step 5.  Wait 6 minutes before consumption for the cuppa to reach its optimum temperature of 60 degrees centigrade.