Somali tea

Recently our pastor stopped by for a visit. Knowing how much of a coffee connoisseur he is, I was too intimidated to serve him coffee. I tend to mentally drop out of the conversation when people start using terms like cold press and French press, and I was certain I could not prepare a cup of coffee that would make the grade.

So we served tea. I call it “Somali tea,” though my husband is quick to point out that no tea grows in Somalia. What I mean is tea prepared with spices the way Somalis prepare it. But that’s too long to be a name for tea, not to mention a bit annoying in its precision.

Well, our pastor liked the tea. Liked it enough to have a second cup. Liked it enough to have his wife call me a week later to ask for the recipe. There is no recipe, really. I learned to make it from my husband who believes that using a recipe is kind of like cheating. In his view, a good cook has this intuitive sense about ingredients and does not need to write anything down. But I, having been taught to use standard measurements in the kitchen, have made this tea enough times to be able to share the approximate quantity of each ingredient.

Somalis are impressed that I know how to make it; Anglos generally like it. I have shared this recipe twice this week—thrice if you count this blog.

Here is how we make Somali tea in our home.

Put all of the following in a tea kettle (or sauce pan):
2 ½ cups of water
1 regular black tea bag (or the equivalent in loose black tea)
1/3 of a stick of cinnamon
3 whole cloves
4 green cardamom pods, crushed a bit
a slice of ginger root, if you have it on hand

Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer seven to ten minutes. Add sugar and evaporated milk or cream to taste—it should look rather white. Reheat, strain, and serve immediately.

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One thought on “Somali tea

  1. […] I recall one Somali-American mother telling me about how easily her children toss around the phrase, “I’m bored.” In her mind it is a sign of assimilation. Just for the record, my husband now gets bored too. At least that’s the reason he’s given at times for singing aloud to himself and for making tea. […]

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