african tea – do it properly

Please forward this to as many chefs, hotel owners and restauranteurs as possible – including the tonyinira mu kange women (and the latter only so that they enrich the below further with their vast experience and knowledge of this process).

African Tea is NOT “Tea served in a teapot with the milk already mixed.”

This misunderstanding arose out of the definition of English Tea being Tea served on a tray with two pots containing hot water and cold milk (or cream) separately, a sugar bowl, a dainty cup capable of holding about ten sips, a saucer to catch the drips off your chin, and two teaspoons.

This was opposed to the ordinary ‘African’ tea which was poured steaming hot by the half-litre out of a kettle on a sigiri into a gamma or tumpeco, and then displaced by about three tablespoons of sugar. The image in your mind right now is of a large, lesu-wrapped woman sitting on a three-legged spiral wooden stool in a market place talking loudly with other similarly placed women. That tea was fantastic!

The English Tea is complicated – even going by the number of items and the necessity of a tray to convey them from a kitchen to a table at which you are supposed to sit properly to sip your tea. The African Tea was simple, straightforward and scalding hot; and in spite of how hot it was you kept sipping and slurping at it till your lips became red hot – probably how Sambo came into being.

Hot, scalding tea RULES!
Hot, scalding tea RULES!

Enter irony – the complicated English Tea is simple to make: Boil Water. Take Milk out of fridge. Take Tea Bags out of box. The rest of the instructions are to do with collecting the paraphernalia, laying the table and so on and so forth. African Tea, on the other hand, needs to be done properly.

This is the part where chefs, hotel-owners and restauranteurs need to pay full attention:

You will need ntangawuzi (ginger), budalasini (don’t know its English equivalent), chai masala (mixed tea spices) fresh milk, water and sugar.

1. Pour milk into a metallic cooking receptacle (saucepan or kettle). Ensure it is less than half-full, as you will need to add an equal amount of water to it in two steps.

2. Bring it to the boil.

3. Add the water (same amount as the milk) as soon as the milk starts to boil.

4. As the milk and water mix comes up to a fresh boil, crush the ntangawuzi into a stringy paste and add it into the mix.

5. As soon as it starts to boil again, sprinkle tea leaves lightly over the froth. Watch carefully as it starts to boil and note how the boiling action of the tea begins to draw the tea leaves under.

6. Just before the boiling tea bubbles over, lift the receptacle off the cooker/stove/sigiri (I didn’t list this above because unless you are a Kampala City Council building inspector, you can’t require this level of instruction).

7. After two minutes off the cooker/stove/sigiri, place the receptacle back onto the cooker/stove/sigiri and let it boil again. This time it will not bubble over, and you can leave it brewing for as long as it does not evaporate entirely.

8. Drink heartily.

5 thoughts on “african tea – do it properly

  1. I think budalasini is cloves. The recipe is known as chai all over the world but no one makes it like those lesu clad women. not even starbucks!


  2. You had better describe the type of China the chai is served in…

    …because if you go to Arua, chances are that you are served in a glass meant for water, waragi or beer…

    Perhaps in the transparent glasses, they want a clear view of the budalasini, and ntangawizi…

    …But many a times it tastes better than Starbucks chai…too strong I must add.


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