The ritual of Ataya
Many of you ask what was the inspiration for our store's name. In this blogpost we reveal the meaning of Ataya.
Literally, 'ataya' in Arabic translates to 'the gift from God'. It is also a name for a tea ceremony, practiced daily in West African countries, mainly Senegal, Mauritania, Morocco, Guinea etc. Each community might do it in a bit different way. For example in Morocco it is called 'Atay' and it is not so strong as in Senegal or Mauritania. It is also often served with some regional sweets.
Everywhere the purpose is the same: bringing together family, colleagues and friends. It is one of the magical moments that favors discussion, relaxation and sharing. Preparation for Ataya is above all a pretext for meeting and discussing, spending time together and debating on current issues in the region and beyond. It's a convivial moment after the meal, under a shelter, a tree, in the living room, in the morning, at noon, in the evening, on the floor or on a stool ... no matter the place or the weather. We will always do a little more for the visitor. More than a drink, Ataya is a symbol that praises hospitality, which in Senegal is called 'teranga'.
Its preparation is often long, and it is often the youngest who inherits this task which requires know-how. It is considered to be an art.
Ataya is always served warm and it is high in caffeine. The main ingredients are green tea, mint, sugar and water. Green tea and mint have a cooling effect, even when served warm, this is why they are so popular in West Africa.
The tea mixture is boiled in a charcoal stove for several minutes. Then follows a little ritual, the contents are poured into small glasses, then back into the teapot, then into the glasses, leaving a little foam to appear in the process, then the precious mixture is again returned to the fire. The transfer from teapot to glasses can last several minutes, this is the secret of a good Ataya. The tea is then served hot in small glasses with a foam on top. The same operation is repeated for the second and third round. In between the rounds the glasses are washed with water.
Each tea serving is a symbol. People use to say that the first serving is bitter as life, second is soft as friendship and third is sweet as love.
You can spend hours consuming it, having friendly debates that accompany it. You will understand, taking Ataya is not just having a quick glass of tea, it is above all a moment of sharing that is savored and which allows visitors to be honored. If you ever visit West Africa you should definitely discover this ritual that will make you want to stay there.