Around the World in Tea: Iraq

This month’s ‘Around the World in Tea’ takes us to Iraq. Iraqi-style tea; chai is found on the streets of Baghdad, in Iraqi restaurants, cafes and households worldwide.

Iraqi tea house

Iraqi tea is not far from Turkish or Persian tea in preparation, this ultimately derives from the Russian empire with the use of the samovar. Tea is mostly drunk black in Iraq and drunk throughout the day, wherever you go you will find tea stalls and vendors serving up Iraqi-style tea.

Our feature this month coincides with an insightful exhibition entitled ‘Welcome to Iraq’ at the South London Gallery in Peckham. It is a restaging of a group exhibition that was originally shown as part of the Venice Biennale in 2013. It was a lucky coincidence for us! The exhibition features works by eleven contemporary Iraqi artists all exploring the everyday nature of life in Iraq. As a visitor you are invited to relax and reflect on the works shown in the comfort of recreated spaces, it is much like stepping into a traditional Iraqi home. Sofas are strewn with traditional Iraqi throws and coffee tables are laden with books about Iraq, there is even a salon-like space set up with Iraqi tea and kletcha biscuits that you can enjoy. The added details give a lovely sense of welcome, as is in the title of the exhibition and speaks of the hospitality that one receives entering an Iraqi family’s home.

'Welcome to Iraq' at South London Gallery 1 'Welcome to Iraq' at South London Gallery 2

'Welcome to Iraq' at South London Gallery 3

I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and recommend that you see the exhibition and taste the tea whilst it’s still open, a lovely introduction to a taste and a feel of Iraq in Peckham, London.

Here’s the recipe for Iraqi tea:

Iraqi Tea

Iraqi Tea

Ingredients/Equipment:

  • Samovar with teapot
  • Loose black tea
  • Water
  • Sugar (optional)
  • Tea glass and saucer.

Method:

1. Boil the water in the samovar.
2. Fill the teapot with some of the boiled water and add one or more teaspoons
of tea.
3. Return the teapot to the samovar and leave it brewing for 10–15 minutes.
It is most important that the tea doesn’t boil.
4. Pour tea into the glass and mix with hot water from the samovar according
to your taste. It can be very light, medium or dark. Add sugar. Enjoy.

Enjoy! And do come back next month when we feature another tea from a different part of the world.

Around the World in Tea: India

This month’s ‘Around the World in Tea’ we find ourselves in India exploring the history and connection to tea. India is now second to China in tea production.Tea plantation in Assam, India

Tea was first introduced to India by the British in an attempt to break the Chinese monopoly on tea.  In the 1830s, the British East India Company were increasingly becoming concerned with the Chinese monopoly on tea, this constituted most of its trade and sustained the vast consumption of tea in Great Britain. The British, using Chinese seeds, planting and cultivating techniques set up a tea industry by offering land in Assam to any European who agreed to cultivate tea for export. In 1870, over 90% of the tea consumed in Great Britain was still of Chinese origin, but by 1900 this had dropped to 10%, largely replaced by tea grown in India (50%) and Ceylon (33%).

Consumption of tea within India remained pretty low until an aggressive promotional campaign by the (British owned) Indian Tea Association in the early 20th century, this encouraged factories, mines, and textile mills to provide tea breaks for their employees. It also supported many independent chai wallahs throughout the growing railway system.

Tea was officially promoted the ‘English way’ with small amounts of milk and sugar added. The Indian Tea Association were very disapproving initially of independent vendors’ tendency to add spices and increase the proportions of milk and sugar, reducing their usage of (and purchase) of tea leaves. However masala chai as its known today has firmly established itself as a popular beverage, not just outlasting the British Raj but spreading beyond South Asia to the rest of the world.

Today ‘India is run on chai’, as many people tell me! It is drunk copiously throughout the day. Milky, sweet and spicy it seems to be the perfect antidote to the Indian heat. Famous for its ‘Chai Wallahs’, wherever you go in India, you’ll find a chai wallah on a street corner brewing up some chai. They are everywhere, from train platforms to busy street corners, to pilgrimage sites, food bazaars, and outside offices.

Chai wallah in India

Masala Chai in India

One of the international tea parties that we offer is the South Asian Tea Party in which you’ll get to experience tea drunk the Indian way. We serve up a special brew of masala chai that we’ve honed over time. Here’s the recipe for you to all enjoy:

Sadia’s Masala Chai

MasalachaiServes 2 people

Ingredients

1 and a half cups of water

2 heaped teaspoons of Assam tea leaves

1/4 teaspoon of Masala Chai

Sugar to taste

1 cup of milk

3 crushed cardamon pods

Method

  1. Boil 1 and a half cups of water, adding 2 heaped teaspoons of Assam tea leaves whilst the water is boiling.
  2. Then add 1/4 teaspoon of Masala Chai (this can be brought from any good Indian/South Asian shop).
  3. Bring water to the boil and then add 1 cup of milk and the cardamon pods and sugar to taste.
  4. Let the chai simmer for a few minutes (to let the milk heat up) and then using a strainer pour your tea out and serve.

Voila there you have it folks, Masala Chai. Enjoy. And do come back next month when we feature another tea from a different part of the world.

 

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….

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

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.

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.

 

Around the World in Tea: Morocco

I was lucky enough to spend a week in Fes, Morocco in September. During my week of Moroccan adventures, there was of course much tea drinking to my delight. The Moroccan’s are heavy tea drinkers, in fact the locals jokingly told me they call it ‘Moroccan whiskey’! Sadia's Tea Party in Fes

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; Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Libya and Mauritania. The ‘Maghrebi’ tea culture has spread throughout North Africa including Egypt and Sudan and southern Spain. Tea we found occupies a very important place in Moroccan culture and is considered an art form.

Drinking Maghrebi – style mint tea in the hot climates was lush, a thirst quencher and very refreshing. It 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.

Interestingly enough, tea is not native to Morocco. It came over after the Crimean War; British merchants were in search of new markets in which to sell their tea. The Moroccans took greatly to this new drink, adapting and making it their own. The medicinal qualities of mint were enjoyed by folk in this region and grown in abundance; fittingly they added sprigs of fresh mint to the tea to create what we now know as ‘Maghrebi’ mint tea.  Today the main provider of tea to the Maghreb is China.

Whilst out in Morocco, my favourite cup of tea was in Bhalil, with a little lady called Mama Aisha and our tour guide for the day, Hassan. Walking through Bhalil involved quite a climb up roughly paved streets. Bhalil is famous for its cave houses, apparently 40 of these are still inhabited, and a few are routinely open to tourists. In one of them we had Maghrebi style mint tea with Mama Aisha, a strong, sprightly lady in her eighties, whose family had resided in this home for the past 3 centuries.

Making Tea the Maghrebi Way

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

  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.
  2. Filter the mixture into a different stainless steel pot, so that the tea leaves and coarse powder are removed.
  3. Add sugar (about one teaspoon per 100 ml).
  4. Bring to boil over a medium heat.
  5. As desired, add fresh mint leaves either to the teapot or directly to the cup.

There you have it folks, enjoy! And please do come back next month when we feature another tea from a different part of the world.

‘Around the World in Tea’ Blog

This month we launch our monthly blog post ‘Around the World in Tea’, on the 5th of each month we’ll be talking about a tea from a different region of the world. Sharing our love for tea customs and cultures, we’ll explore the tea, its origins and history, share some stories and recipes and open the floor to you, our readers…Do you have any experience of the tea were sharing? Any stories, memories, anecdotes? Any recipes?  We look forward to launching the monthly blog posts this week and look forward to hearing from you! Have tea-riffic days all…

Around the World in Teas