Cultures in a teacup

The culture of a land lies in its cup of tea, is what many passionate travellers believe.

Cultures in a teacup


Krishnaraj Iyengar

The culture of a land lies in its cup of tea, is what many passionate travellers believe. Tea is the magical elixir that binds hearts, enlivens the spirit and takes you on a journey of its culture of birth. Tea is a symbol of hospitality, friendship and warmth. Now, while travelling to diverse regions of the globe can be expensive and time consuming, experiencing various cultures in your kitchen is far easier.

In India, chai is staple in most parts of the country. Right from Japan in the Far East to Morocco in the West, it is the magic of tea that contains the soul of culture. To bring diverse cultural experiences to your living rooms, we share four diverse yet simple tea recipes that will enrich your chai experience.

Maghrebi Magic

The Maghreb region of North Africa comprises of Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco. Shaayi bi-n-Nana in Arabic or ‘thé à la menthe’ in French is the legendary mint tea that symbolises Maghrebi culture. “Chinese gunpowder green tea is most commonly used in Maghreb. While in big cities, mint tea is sweeter and the content is less of tea and more of mint, it gets more rugged as you go further south. “Our tea is heavier than the Moroccan one. From the beaches of the Mediterranean to the wilderness of Sahara desert, it is mint tea that binds our spirits. We usually utter Sahha Sahha or ‘To health’ before drinking tea,” explains Tunisian chef Sidi Adel.

  • Water of desired quantity
  • One green tea bag or tea leaves
  • A hand full or bunch of fresh mint leaves
  • Sugar or honey

Wash the mint thoroughly. Bring water to a boil. Immediately add green tea leaves and allow to briefly steep or dip the tea bag until the yellow colour begins to show. Add the mint to the teapot. Add honey or sugar to sweeten (optional) after pouring into cup/glass. Mint leaves can be placed in the glass while the tea is brewed separately and then poured into the glass. This will help release the aromas of mint as you continue drinking.

Black tea can replace green tea to prepare the Libyan version.

Yemenly Yours

Strikingly similar to the Indian masala chai is the ‘Shaayi Adeni’ from Yemen. While many savour the kadak chai, which is said to have originated in India, this is yet another milk tea that spells sophistication and richness.

  • Water
  • Cardamom pods
  • Cloves
  • Nutmeg (optional)
  • Cinnamon (optional)
  • Milk
  • Sugar

Choose an appropriate quantity of spices to create a well-balanced preparation. Add the spices to water, sugar and milk. Let it boil for a few minutes until the sugar begins to caramelise and the spices release their flavours. Add the tea and let it steep.

From Lebanon With Love

This pretty and scenic Mediterranean country is famed for its mouthwatering cuisine. Who can ever resist the world famous hummus, falafel and bababganouj after all! 

Lebanon’s tantalising spiced tea is simple and healthy and known to be excellent for digestion. The yansoon and qirfah or anise and cinnamon tea is a must try.

  • Water
  • Aniseed (not star anise)
  • Cinnamon sticks or powdered cinnamon 
  • Ginger (optional)

Add the spices and the anise to water and bring it to a boil. Let it steep and have it plain or add a subtle touch of black tea and ensure that all the other flavours are retained. Sugar is optional.


In the forbidding deserts of the Gulf, huddled up in a Bedouin tent with the fragrance of myrrh permeating the air, a rustic stove prepares the age-old symbol of endearing Arab hospitality, tea! “All over the Gulf, cardamom tea or ‘shaayi bil heel’ is offered to guests as a refreshing and rejuvenating beverage. While mint tea is common, cinnamon tea is less popular among us although it is sometimes beautifully brewed,” says senior Bahraini culture scholar Maher Zayyan.

  • Water
  • Cardamom pods
  • Black tea
  • Sugar ( optional)

Crush one to three pods of cardamom (depending on your preference) after peeling off the skin for a more intense taste, or leave it whole. Add the crushed or whole cardamom to water and then bring to boil. Let the water settle and then add black tea and allow to steep. Sugar or honey is optional. The ratio of tea is to cardamom must be balanced. One must not overpower the other. This tea variety is often consumed with dates and dry fruits.


View All