We dream of some places: reading stories and looking for information we wonder what are those far away places really like and hope that one that we’ll find our for ourselves. There are also other faraway places: our minds don’t conjure up any images when we hear the names because we know next to nothing about them and have no desire to go there.

Somali tea is strong, rich in spices, milky and very sweet. Some wouldn’t hesitate to call it disgustingly sweet, but as a person who loves tea and likes sugar I treated it as the drink of the gods.

When we sat down for breakfast at the Oriental Hotel in Hargeisa we ordered coffee – oh, what a mistake it was! I still remember our disappointment and incredulity that so close to the kingdom of coffee (and that was definitely what Ethiopia was), there might be people who don’t care about the proper preparation of coffee. It was the first lesson we learnt: while in Somaliland, drink tea!
Nobody will ask you in Somaliland what kind of tea you want, they just ask you if you want it or not, or often simply assume that you do.
The Somali name for tea is shaah – so you’re going to get shaah cadays (spicy tea with milk). Sometimes after meals you might also get shaah bigay (black spicy tea). Each Somali tea I drank tasted differently – they always do because various spices in various proportions might be added.
Each time however, the flavour that is easily noticable is that of cardamon.

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RECIPE:
2 glasses of water
1 glass of milk
2 teaspoons of strong leaf tea (or 4 tea bags)
6 cardamon pods
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 teaspoon of grounded ginger (or a piece of freshly grated ginger)
4 peppercorns
2 cloves
sugar

Grind all the spices in the mortar. Pour water into a pot, add spices, sugar and tea leaves. Bring to boil and then simmer for a few minutes. Pour milk (you can also do it at the beginning, together with water) – simmer for a few more minutes.
Sieve the tea, pour into a pot and serve hot.

You might be surprised that I put such an insignificant thing like drinking tea on my Reverse Travel Bucket List – well, there’s a reason for that.
While we were driving from Hargeisa (the capital) to Berbera (an old port city on the Gulf of Aden) just before the dusk we stopped at the roadside bar. The sun was slowly going down but the heat was still unbearable. There were many tables set in the open air, crowd of men sitting around. I can’t remember how many there were but I remember thinking that it must have been half of a village, a village we couldn’t see. There was a lot of food but nobody was eating. Muhammed brought tea to our table carrying it in a funny holder (see the picture below). Everybody was waiting, the conversations were hushed, and judging from the glances we stirred up quite a lot of interest.
Then we heard the voice of the muezzin and the conversation stopped. Nobody looked at us any more, everybodby concentrated on the plates in front of them.Most of my treasured memories of travels are recollections of sitting. - These are the words of Robert Thomas Allan and I can’t agree more – especially in such moments as the one we had at that roadside bar – sitting somewhere, in the middle of nowhere, in the country that you hardly knew it existed a few months before.
Even when I look through my photos I sometimes find it hard to believe it’s not a dream and I did visit that place.
And this is what I like about travelling – you never know where you’ll end up in your travels.

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The Reverse Travel Bucket List is the list of the places I visited, the things I did and the people I met in places I had never thought I would ever visit, places and experiences I wouldn’t put on my Travel Bucket List but which turned out be be fantastic.
  • I am not surprised you put this experience in your reverse bucket list – since you enjoyed it! I try coffee wherever I go. You’d be surprised to know that the countries where I have had the most horrible coffee are the ones that actually produce it. The preparation process, as you say it, is key – and they don’t get it right!

  • I never had or heard of this before but it sounds like something I would definitely try!

  • I love the idea of a reverse bucket list! It is very true, that so often the things that you never expect end up being some of your most memorable travel experiences! I ‘ve always been a big tea drinker, but coffee is still relatively new to me. That being said, I am really enjoying trying local coffee in all the places I go now – it is something that is really flavoured and prepared distinctly in each different location.

  • I had to laugh at how quick you learned to not drink the coffee! But your recipe for the tea looks interesting, I’ll have to give it a try.

  • Ow this looks interesting I may have to give it a try. I have just come back from India and brought about a hole lot of masala chai and have been OBSESSED with it. I love trying the local drinks!

  • Wow, tea in Somalia. Who would have thought? I like the idea of a spicy tea (and cardamom(n)). Since I am not a coffee fan, this place sounds very tempting to me. Isn’t it a bit dangerous, though?

  • Such a unique experience! Love to take part in those when I travel. Thanks for this!

  • What an interesting experience. When I was in Indonesia I managed to get to a coffee plantation and it was such a neat experience to have coffee straight from the grounds!

  • I often think the key to getting under the skin of a new place is to get into drinking whatever it is that the local drink, even though I usually can’t stand either tea or coffee. I love the Berber mint tea in Morocco, its more about the ritual than the taste, but so integral to the experience. Your recipe sounds actually quite good, might just have to give it a go in my ongoing search to find a hot drink I like.

  • Sounds weird but I love learning about the countries I visit in relation to their tea or coffee drinking culture – I think it says a lot about the place. I try to experience it everywhere!

  • As a love of tea, I can safely say that tea is vital to life. I applaud your recipe!

  • I only drink green tea at home…. but when im travelling I love to try the local drinks, that spicy tea sounds nice.

  • Such a very special experience you have in there! I prefer coffee over tea, but reading this post made me want to try this Somali tea! Some of the great experiences I had was in some places I never thought I’d visited too!

  • Definitely sounds like something I wouldn’t put in my bucketlist but will want to try! Thanks for sharing!

  • I love this idea of a reverse travel bucket list. There are so many places that you never planned to visit but make a great discovery. Somali would also be on my reverse travel bucket list (in case I visited). I will give a try to the recipe :)

  • I love trying to make recipes out of the things I have eaten and drunk on my trips when back home.

  • It’s so often the unexpected experiences that end up being more memorable and special than the planned ones. A great piece, I could almost taste the tea!

  • Nic

    I am usually not one for tea but I do prefer it sweet! But in many ways it not just about the tea, it’s the experience it brought! I love the idea of the reverse bucket list too!