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.
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.”
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.
33 Simple Diet and Fitness Tips
Diet and workout tips that work
Say hello to H20
Find the best fitness friend
Stock up on these
Relieve those achy muscles
Curb your sweet tooth
Buy comfy sneaks
Pick your perfect tunes
When to weigh
Police your portions
Combat cocktail hour
Eat this, run that
Turn your cheat day around
Run with this
Be a weekend warrior
Fun up your food
Up your exercise
Have a fruity ice cream sundae
Swap out your shoes
Snag the right support
Relieve those side stitches
Shake your way slim
Fuel for fitness
Say goodbye to peer pressure
Savor your carbs
Ditch your working lunch
Slim up your snack
Find healthy fast food
Be a mighty maintainer
Up your fiber intake
Work out in the morning
Have a hearty breakfast
Nutrition for kids: 5 tips
Nutrition for kids: 5 tips
1) Stick to concrete ideas
Avoid abstract concepts. Children only start to understand abstract concepts once they reach about 11 or 12 years old. For example some concrete ideas are:
- Eat lots of different foods every day
- Eat fruit and vegetables of all colours of the rainbow every day
- Talking about whole food items
- Classifying foods by where they come from
- “Sometimes” and “everyday” foods
- Note: the classification of foods into everyday or sometimes is an abstract concept, but how often foods are recommended to be eaten is a concrete idea.
Some abstract concepts are:
- Vitamins and minerals
- Other nutrients that can’t be seen (e.g. protein, calcium, saturated fat)
- Classification of foods by nutrients
- Recommended serve size; daily recommended serves
- Chronic disease risk
- Processes by which food affects health
2) Avoid complicated phrases
Kids can often recite facts and phrases without really understanding them. For example, younger children probably don’t understand what ‘variety’ means and many kids might only know the word ‘diet’ to be a special way of eating (for example to lose weight or for diabetes) rather than a person’s everyday food consumption. Other terms kids might not understand are healthy weight, low fat or low sugar. When talking with your child, keep checking in with them and ask them to explain back to you what they know – that way you’ll get an idea for how much they’ve grasped.
3) Use props!
When referring to a particular food, use the real food item or a picture of the food so your child knows what you’re talking about. Chat about the food you’re preparing and eating for dinner. Ask them how the food grows or where you can find it; discuss seasonal produce and the kinds of environments foods need to grow.
4) Be meaningful
Kids live in the present, so focus on the immediate benefits rather than long term ones. Being strong, growing well and having enough energy to climb the monkey bars are important concepts to kids. They’re less concerned about their longterm disease risk or heart health!
5) Be a role model
Research shows what you eat and do influences children’s habits more than what you say. Studies also show that an authoritative parenting style is also associated with positive dietary results in children. Authoritative parenting doesn’t necessarily need to be overly restrictive nor lax, but it sets some boundaries around the consumption of “sometimes” foods. Families that eat meals together are also associated with children who eat more fruit and vegetables.
How to Lose Weight Fast: 3 Simple Steps, Based on Science
There are many ways to lose a lot of weight fast.
However, most of them will make you hungry and unsatisfied.
If you don’t have iron willpower, then hunger will cause you to give up on these plans quickly.
The plan outlined here will:
- Reduce your appetite significantly.
- Make you lose weight quickly, without hunger.
- Improve your metabolic health at the same time.
Here is a simple 3-step plan to lose weight fast.
The most important part is to cut back on sugars and starches (carbs).
These are the foods that stimulate secretion of insulin the most. If you didn’t know already, insulin is the main fat storage hormone in the body.
When insulin goes down, fat has an easier time getting out of the fat stores and the body starts burning fats instead of carbs.
It is not uncommon to lose up to 10 pounds (sometimes more) in the first week of eating this way, both body fat and water weight.
This is a graph from a study comparing low-carb and low-fat diets in overweight/obese women (3).
The low-carb group is eating until fullness, while the low-fat group is calorie restricted and hungry.
Cut the carbs, lower your insulin and you will start to eat less calories automatically and without hunger (4).
Put simply, lowering your insulin puts fat loss on « autopilot. »
BOTTOM LINE:Removing sugars and starches (carbs) from your diet will lower your insulin levels, kill your appetite and make you lose weight without hunger.
Each one of your meals should include a protein source, a fat source and low-carb vegetables. Constructing your meals in this way will automatically bring your carb intake into the recommended range of 20-50 grams per day.
- Meat – Beef, chicken, pork, lamb, bacon, etc.
- Fish and Seafood – Salmon, trout, shrimps, lobsters, etc.
- Eggs – Omega-3 enriched or pastured eggs are best.
The importance of eating plenty of protein can not be overstated.
High protein diets can also reduce obsessive thoughts about food by 60%, reduce desire for late-night snacking by half, and make you so full that you automatically eat 441 fewer calories per day… just by adding protein to your diet (8, 9).
When it comes to losing weight, protein is the king of nutrients. Period.
- Brussels Sprouts
- Swiss Chard
- Full list here.
Don’t be afraid to load your plate with these low-carb vegetables. You can eat massive amounts of them without going over 20-50 net carbs per day.
A diet based on meat and vegetables contains all the fiber, vitamins and minerals you need to be healthy. There is no physiological need for grains in the diet.
- Olive oil
- Coconut oil
- Avocado oil
Eat 2-3 meals per day. If you find yourself hungry in the afternoon, add a 4th meal.
Don’t be afraid of eating fat, trying to do both low-carb AND low-fat at the same time is a recipe for failure. It will make you feel miserable and abandon the plan.
BOTTOM LINE:Assemble each meal out of a protein source, a fat source and a low-carb vegetable. This will put you into the 20-50 gram carb range and drastically lower your insulin levels.
You don’t need to exercise to lose weight on this plan, but it is recommended.
The best option is to go to the gym 3-4 times a week. Do a warm up, lift weights, then stretch.
If you’re new to the gym, ask a trainer for some advice.
Studies on low-carb diets show that you can even gain a bit of muscle while losing significant amounts of body fat (16).
If lifting weights is not an option for you, then doing some easier cardio workouts like running, jogging, swimming or walking will suffice.
BOTTOM LINE:It is best to do some sort of resistance training like weight lifting. If that is not an option, cardio workouts work too.
You can take one day « off » per week where you eat more carbs. Many people prefer Saturday.
It is important to try to stick to healthier carb sources like oats, rice, quinoa, potatoes, sweet potatoes, fruits, etc.
But only this one higher carb day, if you start doing it more often than once per week then you’re not going to see much success on this plan.
If you must have a cheat meal and eat something unhealthy, then do it on this day.
You will gain some weight during your re-feed day, but most of it will be water weight and you will lose it again in the next 1-2 days.
BOTTOM LINE:Having one day of the week where you eat more carbs is perfectly acceptable, although not necessary.
It is NOT necessary to count calories as long as you keep the carbs very low and stick to protein, fat and low-carb vegetables.
However, if you really want to, then use this calculator.
Enter your details, then pick the number from either the « Lose Weight » or the « Lose Weight Fast » section – depending on how fast you want to lose.
There are many great tools you can use to track the amount of calories you are eating. Here is a list of 5 calorie counters that are free and easy to use.
The main goal is to keep carbs under 20-50 grams per day and get the rest of your calories from protein and fat.
BOTTOM LINE:It is not necessary to count calories to lose weight on this plan. It is most important to strictly keep your carbs in the 20-50 gram range.
Here are 10 more tips to lose weight even faster:
- Eat a high-protein breakfast. Eating a high-protein breakfast has been shown to reduce cravings and calorie intake throughout the day (19, 20, 21).
- Avoid sugary drinks and fruit juice. These are the most fattening things you can put into your body, and avoiding them can help you lose weight (22, 23).
- Drink water a half hour before meals. One study showed that drinking water a half hour before meals increased weight loss by 44% over 3 months (24).
- Choose weight loss-friendly foods (see list). Certain foods are very useful for losing fat. Here is a list of the 20 most weight loss-friendly foods on earth.
- Eat soluble fiber. Studies show that soluble fibers may reduce fat, especially in the belly area. Fiber supplements like glucomannan can also help (25, 26, 27).
- Drink coffee or tea. If you’re a coffee or tea drinker, then drink as much as you want as the caffeine in them can boost your metabolism by 3-11% (28, 29, 30).
- Eat mostly whole, unprocessed foods. Base most of your diet on whole foods. They are healthier, more filling and much less likely to cause overeating.
- Eat your food slowly. Fast eaters gain more weight over time. Eating slowly makes you feel more full and boosts weight-reducing hormones (31, 32, 33).
- Use smaller plates. Studies show that people automatically eat less when they use smaller plates. Strange, but it works (34).
- Get a good night’s sleep, every night. Poor sleep is one of the strongest risk factors for weight gain, so taking care of your sleep is important (35, 36).
Even more tips here: 30 Easy Ways to Lose Weight Naturally (Backed by Science).
BOTTOM LINE:It is most important to stick to the three rules, but there are a few other things you can do to speed things up.
You can expect to lose 5-10 pounds of weight (sometimes more) in the first week, then consistent weight loss after that.
I can personally lose 3-4 lbs per week for a few weeks when I do this strictly.
If you’re new to dieting, then things will probably happen quickly. The more weight you have to lose, the faster you will lose it.
For the first few days, you might feel a bit strange. Your body has been burning carbs for all these years, it can take time for it to get used to burning fat instead.
It is called the « low carb flu » and is usually over within a few days. For me it takes 3. Adding some sodium to your diet can help with this, such as dissolving a bouillon cube in a cup of hot water and drinking it.
After that, most people report feeling very good, positive and energetic. At this point you will officially have become a « fat burning beast. »
Despite the decades of anti-fat hysteria, the low-carb diet also improves your health in many other ways:
- Blood Sugar tends to go way down on low-carb diets (37, 38).
- Triglycerides tend to go down (39, 40).
- Small, dense LDL (the bad) Cholesterol goes down (41, 42).
- HDL (the good) cholesterol goes up (43).
- Blood pressure improves significantly (44, 45).
- To top it all off, low-carb diets appear to be easier to follow than low-fat diets.
BOTTOM LINE:You can expect to lose a lot of weight, but it depends on the person how quickly it will happen. Low-carb diets also improve your health in many other ways.
If you have a medical condition then talk to your doctor before making changes because this plan can reduce your need for medication.
By reducing carbs and lowering insulin levels, you change the hormonal environment and make your body and brain « want » to lose weight.
This leads to drastically reduced appetite and hunger, eliminating the main reason that most people fail with conventional weight loss methods.
Another great benefit for the impatient folks is that the initial drop in water weight can lead to a big difference on the scale as early as the next morning.
Here are a few examples of low-carb meals that are simple, delicious and can be prepared in under 10 minutes: 7 Healthy Low-Carb Meals in 10 Minutes or Less.
On this plan, you can eat good food until fullness and still lose a ton of fat. Welcome to paradise.