Skip to navigation

Mark Moxon's Travel Writing

Mali: Tuareg Tea

Tea is one of the most universal of all drinks; I can't think of a country that I've visited that hasn't had some kind of tea on offer, even though sometimes it's barely recognisable as such. Drinking tea of some kind is a global phenomenon, and the world is a better place for it.

Tuareg Tea

Tea is huge in north Africa, too, where it has assumed a social significance that makes the English habit of taking tea at four o'clock look positively blasé. The north African tea ceremony is well known to be the oil in the cogs of commerce from Morocco to Egypt; it spread along with the Sahara's nomadic tribes from the Berbers in the northwest to the Tuareg in the Sahara, and if you ever try to buy a carpet in a carpet shop or a pair of slippers in a souq, you'll be offered tea. It's an unavoidable part of life in desert Africa.

And that's the Tuareg tea ceremony, a routine you see performed everywhere, all the time, from the side of the road to the deck of a pinasse. It's not so much the tea as the whole ceremony that goes with it; it's the tea drinkers' equivalent of rolling your own cigarettes, and it's just as satisfying.