The Tea Ceremony
The Saharawi tea ceremony is one of the most important rituals of Saharawi culture, and is central to their understanding of hospitality. The tea brewing is a central activity in gatherings. Saharawis usually drink three small cups of strong green Chinese gunpowder tea during the tea ceremony, often adding mint to the second and third cups. A Saharawi saying describes each cup the tea like a different aspect of life: "the first cup tastes as bitter as life, the second as sweet as love, and the third as mild as death. "
History of Saharawi Tea Drinking
In the 18th century, Western Sahara was understood to be a haven for trade, as a gateway to the Great Sahara and North Africa. It is through trade with the British that the potent Chinese gunpowder green tea was introduced to the Saharawis. The beverage soon became popular among the indigenous people of Western Sahara and the original ceremony was adapted to the long journeys through the desert on camel back. As tea and sugar cannot grow in the region and the Saharawis needed to trade for these luxuries, they were considered precious items, only offered initially to honour very special guests. But over time the generous spirit of the Sahrawi prevailed and the tea ceremony became obligatory and a central aspect of hospitality offered to all their guests.
A tea ceremony requires a teapot called "abarad" or abrig made of tanmint (a type of metal); a tray, "tabla", made of red or yellow bronze; bowls for sugar and tea, named "kuntiya" and "a’msar;" an air pump, "rabuz", to keep the fire alive; charcoal, "jmaar", for the fire; and, of course, a great gathering of people called a "jmaa". The perfect tea experience has 3 J's: Jmaar (the charcoal), Jma3 (the gathering) and Jaaf (lasts long).