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Two Teas from Ethiopia

August 06, 2007

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As the country known for the genesis of coffee drinking, enhanced and fostered by a centuries-old ritualized coffee ceremony, Ethiopia is not a country I associate with tea. But the Ethiopians do grow and drink tea and when I was at Tana Market, one of the Ethiopian groceries on Cherry Street in Seattle last week buying wine (Dukam, a dry red and Tej, Ethiopian honey wine), I bought two packets of tea that I had never tried before. One was a ginger root tea and the other was a traditional black tea.

Aslihi Kesher Ginger Tea The ginger root tea is interesting to drink, although I do not believe that there is anything distinctive about ginger root tea from Ethiopia versus ginger root tea from anywhere else. The ingredients are not listed in English on the package, but I believe that it is entirely dried ginger root. It is finely powdered and best brewed in a cloth bag. It has a very strong bite to it – pleasant, but not a drink one would typically drink more than one glass of during the course of a day unless it was a component of a medical treatment. It seems that it would serve as a nice beverage for occasional times where an alternative to tea is desired or for a respiratory aid.

Black Lion Tea

The Black Lion tea (pictured above) is a traditional leaf tea, very red in color and very broken and powdery. I am unsure of what the processing of this tea involves, but it must be brutal. The flavor of the tea holds up through the breaking of its leaves, though. I found it to be quite pleasant with a smooth, warm flavor without the slightest hint of bitterness. It would be best brewed using methods that contain all of that powder and tea dust, otherwise it would get a little grainy in the mouth and produce a rather messy situation to clean up after. Black Lion Tea package

A note on tea production from this informational site about Ethiopian export products:

The quality of tea mainly depends on climatic conditions, the type of soil upon which the plant grows and the method of processing. In Ethiopia, tea is mostly grown in the highland dense forest regions where the land is fertile and thus the use of fertilizer is very minimal.

Moreover, the availability of abundant and cheap labor in the Country has made the use of manual weeding, instead of chemical weeding, possible. Because of this mostly organic cultivation, Ethiopian tea is increasingly sought for its aroma and natural flavors. This is confirmed by the “International Gold Star” award for quality recently given by B.D.I. in Madrid, Spain to one of the major Ethiopian tea exporters, Tea Production and Marketing Enterprise.

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