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West Africa’s Tea Culture – a Way of Life

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The term “tea ceremony” usually conjures up mental images of formal rituals in old Japan, or more modern ones in India or Malaysia where business deals are struck over a pot of tea and a handshake. In West Africa, ancient tea ceremony goes by the name “attaya,” and is anything but formal. In fact, tea culture in the continent’s western nations of Gambia, Mauritania and Senegal are the polar opposite of Japan’s ceremonies, where matcha tea is the focal point of a semi-religious event.

Tea

The attaya is more accurately described as a tea ritual or social function akin to a very informal wine-tasting session or round of toasts in Western cultures. Something like 80 percent of all West African children and adults drink tea on a daily basis, most of it being some variety of mint tea made in a way that likely originated among the ancient Moors.

French, Arabic, a little English, and local dialects are interwoven in everyday West African speech; and that makes for colorful, loud and friendly conversations during the traditional three rounds of tea in a typical attaya ceremony.

Despite its wide practice throughout West Africa, centering on Senegal, the attaya ceremony is largely unknown in the West. Here are some key facts that explain how the tea is made and served, how people interact while drinking it, and how to make a pot of West African tea that is “attaya-ready.”

Background

The preparation of typical Senegalese mint tea, the kind used in the attaya ritual, takes quite a while, and is not as easy as preparing other kinds of tea. This is partly by design, enabling everyone to have a long conversation while the tea is being heated and mixed. Mint tea is a natural preventive for cavities and several other dental problems.

Ceremony and history

Every African attaya ceremony consists of three rounds. Tea is served in small glasses (not cups) with each round being quite different in taste. Legend has it that the first, bitter round represents the beginning of life and the difficulties of growing up. The second round is sweeter but retains the strong mint flavor. The third and final round is mostly very weak tea with plenty of sugar. The second round is said to signify the sweetness of mid-life, love, and marriage, with the final round being symbolic of old age. There are hundreds of historic stories about what each round means, but they all point to some version of “stages of life.”

Almost all the words related to African tea ceremony, including the word “attaya” itself, are Arabic in origin because the early Moors are thought to have perfected the art of preparing sweet mint tea. The Senegalese language is largely derived from Arabic. The best-known English word that comes directly from Senegalese is also food-and-drink related; “yummy.”

Tea culture in West Africa

Tea is always served to visitors in West African homes, but more commonly it is drunk during social gatherings at restaurants, on street corners, in alleyways, wherever people meet to talk and socialize.

There are dozens of ways to prepare African mint tea for attaya, but the most common one calls for a large pot of boiling water (preferably over a charcoal fire) to which is added green tea leaves, mint leaves and a generous dose of sugar. After a long boiling period, the tea is mixed by pouring it to and from the glasses several times. This distributes the sugar and mint evenly.

Good African mint tea has lots of foam on top. This is a result of the pouring process (see above) but it is usually less thick during the second and third rounds as the concoction weakens.

It is said that in many West African nations potential burglars and thieves will steer clear of homes and businesses if they smell mint tea being brewed in the evening. That’s because night watchmen and late-shift police typically drink strong mint tea to stay awake. The first round alone is enough to keep a person’s eyes wide open for several hours.

Taste and preparation

The taste of the tea depends on the preparer. Talented tea-makers in Senegal and neighboring countries usually do a careful head count before preparation. That way, they can calibrate the amount of sugar, tea leaves and mint to use, as well as how much water to prepare. Considering that each person will be drinking about 20 ounces of tea over a 2-hour period, very large pots are used when there are more than a few guests.

Because the caffeine content is so high, African-style mint tea is never served on an empty stomach, but always after meals. And contrary to almost every other nation’s tea-drinking practices, West African attaya attendees slurp and gulp their tea rather quickly. The socializing takes place between rounds of drinking rather than during. All of which means that a typical attaya 3-round ritual will include no less than 2 or three sessions of chatting that are each about 30 minutes long.

“Free speech” is the only rule

During an attaya session, guests are expected to express their opinion about the tea, saying whether they think it too strong, too weak or just right. Unlike in Western cultures, it is not considered rude to speak one’s mind about the quality of the tea at an attaya. “Wow, that’s way too strong for me,” and “Is this water or tea?” (during the third round) are routine comments from attaya participants, all of which bring either laughter or a reasoned response from the preparer, like “Well, you Brits and Americans are too weak to drink ‘real’ African tea. Hahahaha.”

Many Westerners are taken aback when they realize that West African attaya sessions are truly free-wheeling affairs, where just about any subject is fair game for discussion, and friendly argumentation is even encouraged and appreciated. (Contrast this with Japanese tea ceremony!)

It’s interesting to note the differences between the world’s most ritualized, formal matcha tea ceremonies of Japan and the much looser, socializing tone of West Africa’s attaya. In the former, virtually every word and action is prescribed by tradition. In a typical attaya, a street vendor might prepare the three rounds of mint tea with varying amounts of sugar and much chatter between host and guests.

Regardless of these obvious differences, West African attaya is one of the most colorful and interesting “tea ceremonies” on earth; and everyone should experience the camaraderie and good cheer that accompanies each glass of African mint served during attaya.

Source: matcha-tea.com

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Healty and tips

3 rules to follow at breakfast to lose weight.

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Eating nothing in the morning is as bad as eating anything. A balanced breakfast that often contradicts the most common habits helps to lose weight and ensure satiety until lunch without problem.

Atlantico: A healthy and balanced breakfast is a first step to regain control of your daily diet and can help us lose weight. What advice would you give that breakfast is a first step in weight loss?

Leaking refined foods with a high glycemic index
Consume breakfasts that are vectors of vitamins, fibers and minerals like the Miam-Ô-Fruit of France Guillain or a house muesli made of barley flakes, pruned almonds, dried apricots, cinnamon, acacia honey , wheat germ and an almond or oat drink. For salty mouths, dare the egg to shell, the slice of poultry or ham (not too often for the ecological impact!), The cheese (for those who tolerate it) with slices of sourdough bread or a full bowl of rice and a rapeseed oil.

Escape the fruit juices especially that of oranges which are real aggressions for the digestive tract, more or less rich in sugar and perfectly indigestible with any type of cereals.
Teas, maté, infusions and coffees of quality are preferable in small volume (200ml max).
Your breakfast should be consumed calmly with chewing applied.
What is the influence of what we eat in the morning on our choices for subsequent meals?

Charles-Antoine Winter: The influence would be rather a consequence … Understand that in the morning, on the blows of 6 to 8h, our body knows its highest concentration of fasting hormone cortisol (in this case, nocturnal fasting ), allowing us to maintain a glucose level (glucose level in our blood) correct without food intake and especially of carbohydrate origin. In other words, your body is on an autonomous metabolism. And this means knowing how to get out of it as wisely as possible.

Here are two possibilities: one where you submerge it of sweetness with an excess of sugar and make it dependent (circuit of the reward). And the other where you empower him with nutrients that require him to work as a team and therefore an autonomy.

Indeed, one of the most harmful and maintained habits in France is the breakfast rich in sugar, in empty calories. Intake of fiber-free sugar at breakfast will inevitably cause hyperglycemia, an excess of sugar circulating in your blood. And your body being in danger, will react to excess by secreting too much insulin, the latter being responsible for the use of sugar by your neurons, muscles, red blood cells (positive point) but also by the conversion of l excess sugar in fat. Worse yet, your sweet breakfast will be responsible, via insulin, morning cravings, your addiction to coffee, your oversized and / or unbalanced lunches. A day that starts and may end on the reward scheme …

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Eight tips for healthy eating

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These eight practical tips cover the basics of healthy eating, and can help you make healthier choices.

Base your meals on starchy carbohydrates
Eat lots of fruit and veg
Eat more fish – including a portion of oily fish
Cut down on saturated fat and sugar
Eat less salt – no more than 6g a day for adults
Get active and be a healthy weight
Don’t get thirsty
Don’t skip breakfast

The key to a healthy diet is to:

  • Eat the right amount of calories for how active you are, so that you balance the energy you consume with the energy you use. If you eat or drink too much, you’ll put on weight. If you eat and drink too little, you’ll lose weight.
  • Eat a wide range of foods to ensure that you’re getting a balanced diet and that your body is receiving all the nutrients it needs.

It is recommended that men have around 2,500 calories a day (10,500 kilojoules). Women should have around 2,000 calories a day (8,400 kilojoules). Most adults are eating more calories than they need, and should eat fewer calories.

Base your meals on starchy carbohydrates

Starchy carbohydrates should make up just over one third of the food you eat. They include potatoes, bread, rice, pasta and cereals.

Choose wholegrain varieties (or eat potatoes with their skins on) when you can: they contain more fibre, and can help you feel full for longer.

Most of us should eat more starchy foods: try to include at least one starchy food with each main meal. Some people think starchy foods are fattening, but gram for gram the carbohydrate they contain provides fewer than half the calories of fat.

Keep an eye on the fats you add when you’re cooking or serving these types of foods because that’s what increases the calorie content, for example oil on chips, butter on bread and creamy sauces on pasta.

Eat lots of fruit and veg

It’s recommended that we eat at least five portions of a variety of fruit and veg every day. It’s easier than it sounds.

Why not chop a banana over your breakfast cereal, or swap your usual mid-morning snack for a piece of fresh fruit?

Unsweetened 100% fruit juice, vegetable juice and smoothies can only ever count as a maximum of one portion of your 5 A DAY. For example, if you have two glasses of fruit juice and a smoothie in one day, that still only counts as one portion.

Eat more fish – including a portion of oily fish

Fish is a good source of protein and contains many vitamins and minerals. Aim to eat at least two portions of fish a week, including at least one portion of oily fish. Oily fish contains omega-3 fats, which may help to prevent heart disease.

Oily fish include:

  • salmon
  • mackerel
  • trout
  • herring
  • fresh tuna
  • sardines
  • pilchards.

Non-oily fish include:

  • haddock
  • plaice
  • coley
  • cod
  • canned tuna
  • skate
  • hake

If you regularly eat a lot of fish, try to choose as wide a variety as possible.

You can choose from fresh, frozen and canned: but remember that canned and smoked fish can be high in salt.

Cut down on saturated fat and sugar

Saturated fat in our diet

We all need some fat in our diet, but it’s important to pay attention to the amount and type of fat we’re eating. There are two main types of fat: saturated and unsaturated. Too much saturated fat can increase the amount of cholesterol in the blood, which increases your risk of developing heart disease.

The average man should have no more than 30g saturated fat a day. The average woman should have no more than 20g saturated fat a day, and children should have less than adults.

Saturated fat is found in many foods, such as:

  • hard cheese
  • cakes
  • biscuits
  • sausages
  • cream
  • butter
  • lard
  • pies.

Try to cut down on your saturated fat intake, and choose foods that contain unsaturated fats instead, such as vegetable oils, oily fish and avocados.

For a healthier choice, use just a small amount of vegetable oil or reduced-fat spread instead of butter, lard or ghee. When you’re having meat, choose lean cuts and cut off any visible fat.

Sugar in our diet

Regularly consuming foods and drinks high in sugar increases your risk of obesity and tooth decay.

Sugary foods and drinks, including alcoholic drinks, are often high in energy (measured in kilojoules or calories), and if eaten too often, can contribute to weight gain. They can also cause tooth decay, especially if eaten between meals.

Many packaged foods and drinks contain surprisingly high amounts of free sugars. Free sugars are any sugars added to foods or drinks, or found naturally in honey, syrups and unsweetened fruit juices.

Cut down on:

  • sugary fizzy drinks
  • alcoholic drinks
  • sugary breakfast cereals
  • cakes
  • biscuits
  • pastries

These foods contain added sugars: this is the kind of sugar we should be cutting down on, rather than sugars that are found in things such as fruit and milk.

Food labels can help: use them to check how much sugar foods contain. More than 22.5g of total sugars per 100g means that the food is high in sugar, while 5g of total sugars or less per 100g means that the food is low in sugar.

Get tips on cutting down sugar in your diet.

Eat less salt – no more than 6g a day for adults

Eating too much salt can raise your blood pressure. People with high blood pressure are more likely to develop heart disease or have a stroke.

Even if you don’t add salt to your food, you may still be eating too much. About three-quarters of the salt we eat is already in the food we buy, such as breakfast cereals, soups, breads and sauces.

Use food labels to help you cut down. More than 1.5g of salt per 100g means the food is high in salt. Adults and children over 11 should eat no more than 6g of salt (about a teaspoonful) a day. Younger children should have even less.

Get tips on cutting down on salt in your diet.

Get active and be a healthy weight

Eating a healthy, balanced diet plays an essential role in maintaining a healthy weight, which is an important part of overall good health.

Being overweight or obese can lead to health conditions such as type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, heart disease and stroke. Being underweight could also affect your health.

Check whether you’re a healthy weight by using our Healthy weight calculator.

Most adults need to lose weight, and need to eat fewer calories to do this. If you’re trying to lose weight, aim to eat less and be more active. Eating a healthy, balanced diet will help: aim to cut down on foods that are high in saturated fat and sugar, and eat plenty of fruit and vegetables.

Don’t forget that alcohol is also high in calories, so cutting down can help you to control your weight.

Physical activity can help you to maintain weight loss or be a healthy weight. Being active doesn’t have to mean hours at the gym: you can find ways to fit more activity into your daily life. For example, try getting off the bus one stop early on the way home from work, and walking.

Being physically active may help reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. For more ideas, see Get active your way.

After getting active, remember not to reward yourself with a treat that is high in energy. If you feel hungry after activity, choose foods or drinks that are lower in calories, but still filling.

If you’re underweight, see our page on underweight adults. If you’re worried about your weight, ask your GP or a dietitian for advice.

Don’t get thirsty

We need to drink plenty of fluids to stop us getting dehydrated – the government recommends 6-8 glasses every day.

This is in addition to the fluid we get from the food we eat. All non-alcoholic drinks count, but water and lower-fat milk are healthier choices.

Try to avoid sugary soft and fizzy drinks that are high in added sugars and calories, and are also bad for teeth.

Even unsweetened fruit juice and smoothies are high in free sugar. Your combined total of drinks from fruit juice, vegetable juice and smoothies should not be more than 150ml a day – which is a small glass.

For example, if you have 150ml of orange juice and 150ml smoothie in one day, you’ll have exceeded the recommendation by 150ml.

When the weather is warm, or when we get active, we may need more fluids.

Don’t skip breakfast

Some people skip breakfast because they think it will help them lose weight. In fact, research shows that people who regularly eat breakfast are less likely to be overweight.

Breakfast has also been shown to have positive effects on children’s mental performance and increase their concentration throughout the morning.

A healthy breakfast is an important part of a balanced diet, and provides some of the vitamins and minerals we need for good health.

A wholegrain, lower-sugar cereal with fruit sliced over the top is a tasty and nutritious breakfast.

More information

  • To help you get the right balance of the five main food groups, take a look at the Eatwell Guide. To maintain a healthy diet, the Eatwell Guide shows you how much of what you eat should come from each food group. It’s important to have only small amounts of foods high in fat and/or sugar.
  • Learn how to have a balanced diet, and read about the energy contained in food in our page on understanding calories.
  • Download Losing weight: Getting started, a 12-week weight loss guide that combines advice on healthier eating and physical activity.

Source: www.nhs.uk

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