Tea is a staple of Egyptian households, introduced by the British in the 16th century. Today, kitchens are lined with loose-leaf teas, tea bags, and crystal glasses made just for tea enjoyment. Unlike Chinese and British customs that dedicate particular periods of the day to tea, Egyptians enjoy tea at any given moment. It has become a part of their culture, not just for its affordability, but also for its variety.
Tea as a Symbol of Egyptian Hospitality
Drinking tea has become a core element of Egyptian hospitality. It is offered to loved ones in multiple cups and served after any meal offered to a guest. Egyptians consider it a simple and modest show of love and courtesy, stretching across social taboos and preferences. Tea is a love letter to those who are not fond of coffee or wine. In many homes, there is a small mint plant on the windowsill and a plastic tray dedicated to serving that sweet-smelling sugared black tea.
Variety of Tea in Egypt
Egypt offers an endless variety of tea choices, but some particularly popular ones are worth mentioning. Koshari Shai, a favorite of the north, is light and fragrant, complemented with sugar cane and fresh mint. This is one of Cairo’s defaults when it comes to tea orders and is colloquially referred to as Shai El Arab. Alternatively, the south has its own darling: Sa’idi Shai. Bold, bitter, and black, this Camellia sinensis-based tea is sometimes brewed with milk to soften the taste, along with the sweet-toothed Egyptian addition of sugar, honey, and a side of baklava.
Tea Bags in Egyptian Culture
Tea bags are the most common way that locals enjoy their tea, with Lipton, Shai El Aroosa, or Ahmad Tea as strong pillars of this benign drinking culture.
Conclusion: Tea as a Moment of Reprieve in Egyptian Life
Tea is more than just a drink in Egypt; it is an experience that offers a moment of reprieve from the hard-knock life many Egyptians have to battle daily. From the silence and warmth to the deep sentimental connections made with others over it, tea culture has become a symbol of comfort and hospitality for the people of Egypt.