Tea Types in Egypt: Koshary Shai and Saidii Shai

Tea is the most popular hot beverage in Egypt, enjoyed by people of all ages, genders, and social classes. Whether on the banks of the Nile or the shores of the Red Sea, or in modern Cairo or ancient Alexandria, tea is a daily drink consumed during long conversations or leisurely games of backgammon. Here’s a closer look at the history, types, and traditions of tea in Egypt.

History of Tea in Egypt

Tea arrived in Egypt in the 16th century, thanks to the growing influence of the British. Its popularity quickly grew due to Egypt’s proximity to tea-growing countries such as China, Kenya, India, and Sri Lanka, as well as the Islamic prohibition on alcohol. Additionally, tea was cheaper and more readily available than coffee, making it the beverage of choice for Egyptians of all classes.

Types of Tea in Egypt

Egypt is known for its strong, black, and sweet tea made with loose leaf tea from Kenya, India, or Sri Lanka. Traditionally, sugar is added in copious amounts, and milk is never added. Nowadays, tea bags have become popular for their convenience. There are two main types of tea in Egypt: Koshary Shai and Saidii Shai.

Koshary Shai

Koshary Shai is the preferred tea in the northern part of Egypt. It is a lighter tea made by steeping tea leaves in hot water. Sugar is always added, and sometimes mint leaves are included for a refreshing flavor. Milk is never added.

Saidii Shai

Saidii Shai is common in the southern part of Egypt. Unlike Koshary Shai, Saidii Shai is boiled or cooked in hot water for a long time, resulting in a bitter and strong flavor. Egyptians add a lot of sugar to balance the bitterness. Milk is never added.

Shai Bil Nana

Tea with mint leaves is known as Shai Bil Nana. The preparation of Shai Bil Nana is the same for both Koshary Shai and Saidii Shai. Sugar is added to the glass, fresh mint leaves are added, and tea is poured over the top. The mixture is stirred to dissolve the sugar, and the tea is ready to enjoy.

Tea Traditions in Egypt

Tea in Egypt is typically enjoyed without an accompaniment, but when guests are served tea at home, it is usually accompanied by traditional Egyptian cookies such as Kahk, Nasahder biscuits, Basbousa, and Baklava. Tea is always served in transparent glasses decorated with traditional designs. Unlike the delicate cups of Turkey or Iran, tea glasses in Egypt are larger and hold more tea, ensuring that the design does not obscure the drink.

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