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Opinions of Sunday, 11 October 2015

Columnist: Edward Agyemang-Duah

Tea time at Nima

Every community has a meal that is seen as a significant aspect of its culture. It could be commercial or domestic. In some communities, you can count numerous chop bars or drinking bars. Interestingly, the situation is different at Nima, a suburb of Accra.

Every step you take from Frankies Hotel in Nima towards Maamobi, there are various tea shops.

From those displayed on tables, containers, wooden and concrete shops. Tea bases proliferate the same way that Starbucks coffee shops abound in Europe and North America.

Tea varies from noted brands to organic herbal ones such as Black tea or Green tea. Being a predominantly Muslim community, alcoholic beverages or drinking bars (pubs) are few and far in between, unlike areas such as Adabraka, Accra New Town, Abeka, Dansoman and many more.

Interestingly, when you visit friends or relations who live at Nima, you are likely to be offered tea or water or both.

Tea tradition

Tea rituals at Nima originate from settler communities who brought the tradition with them from the Middle East and Sahelian states such as Senegal, Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso.

In those communities, apart from the normal tea, there is a specially brewed one called Ataya, a Wollof word.

The preparation and offering of tea in those regions is often marked by elaborate ceremony, led by men as heads of their households.

Tea drinking stimulates conversation and maintains friendship because of the elaborate procedure involved in its preparation.

Historically, these ceremonies served to welcome thirsty guests in desert communities.

They also create a relaxed, welcoming environment in which community members could gather and chat about local issues.

Ataya drinking, therefore, has strong symbolic functions within these communities.

Today, when it comes to Ataya moments, most men sit under the shade of a tree or in front of shops with their friends while one of their buddies prepares the tea.

With a stainless steel mini kettle on fire with some tiny tea mugs, the Ataya tea ceremony is set rolling in three stages. The first cup normally has some blend and also pretty strong, then a little less, and the third one a bit more sugary.

Background of tea

All types of tea is produced from a plant called Camellia Sinensis. The thousands of different varieties of tea available in the world only vary by the region it was grown, the time of year picked, and the processing method.

Tea comes from all over the world with China, India, Kenya and Sri Lanka leading the pack of top producers. However, many of the ones this reporter saw at the various sale points were the Chinese and Japanese types.

They include Green tea, Oolong, and Black tea, Honey tea, Mint tea, Spearmint tea, Compressed tea, Tea bricks, Matcha, White Tea and Pu-erh, Rooibos, Lemon Rooibos, Chamomile with lemon grass, Honeybush, Peppermint, Chamomile tea, Yerba Mate, Tulsi or Holy Basil and Lemon with Ginger.

There were herbal infusions or tisanes, sometimes called herbal tea, which do not actually contain the Camellia Sinensis plant.

Alhaji Ali Gariba, a tea expert, told The Mirror that each type of tea has its own characteristics including a different taste and health benefits.

“Different types of tea should be brewed at different temperatures for different lengths of time," he advised.

As with everything, however, moderation is important.

Two years ago, Sierra Leonean psychiatrist, Dr Edward Nahim, warned against "Ataya addiction" because of its heavy caffeine content. This was because many people were coming to see him with Ataya-induced psychotic disorders.


White tea

White tea is said to be the purest and least processed of all teas.

This loose leaf tea brews a light colour and flavour. White teas also contain healthy antioxidants and are the best for the skin and complexion.

Green tea

Green tea is the most popular type of tea, mainly because it is the beverage of choice in Asia. Some loose green teas are scented with flowers or mixed with fruits to create scented or flavoured teas.

Green tea contains healthy antioxidants. They help maintain cholesterol levels that are already within the normal range, are good for the skin and teeth, and can be used as part of diets to maintain a healthy blood sugar level.

Oolong tea

Oolong tea, also known as wu long tea, is full-bodied with a flavourful fragrance and sweet aroma.

Most people commonly recognise oolong tea as the Chinese tea served in Chinese restaurants. Oolong tea can be a healthy part of your weight loss programme.

Black tea

Black tea is the tea most people know since you likely grew up dipping black tea bags in your cup.

Black tea helps to maintain cholesterol levels that are already within the normal range, as well as helps to maintain cardiovascular function and a healthy circulatory system.

Herbal tea

Herbal tea does not contain any leaves from the Camellia plant family, so it is sometimes referred to as a tisane.

Herbal tea can be broken into three categories: rooibos tea, mate tea, and herbal infusions.

Herbal infusions consist of pure herbs, flowers, and fruits. Herbal tea is rich in vitamin C. They can be delicious hot or iced.

Rooibos tea

Rooibos tea, or red tea, is made from a South African red bush. This premium tea is a healthy source of vitamins and minerals; it also contains antioxidants.

Rooibos tea helps promote digestion, support your immune system, and promote healthy skin, teeth and bones.

Mate tea

Mate tea is considered the coffee lover's favourite . Made from the leaves and twigs of the yerba mate plant, mate tea gives the same energy as coffee without the jitters.

They may also curb your appetite and contain 21 vitamins and minerals.

Although the tea market looks lucrative, tea bags made in Ghana are conspicuously missing on display.

However, Kenya, is currently the largest producer of tea in Africa.

Kenya has quadrupled its tea exports over the last decade, according to the Kenya Tea Board.

Unfortunately, with the entire boom in the tea business, there is no "Made in Ghana" tea among the lot.