african tea tradition
Since time immemorial Africans have created root, stem, leaf, fruit and flower infusions. Some plant-based drinks were made for medicinal purposes. Others filled a religious role. Others still were purely for pleasure. Most often, secular-spiritual, medicinal-culinary distinctions were not made.
The ancient Egyptian scientist, priest, herbalist and tisane enthusiast Imhotep (c. 2650–2600 BC) instructed his followers to “let your food be your medicine and your medicine your food.” Within such a world-view nutrition, medicine, spirituality and pleasure fuse into a single source of vitality.
The African ancestry of many tea tastes often goes unacknowledged. The Angolan origins of Hibiscus sabdariffa (known in Portuguese as quiabo da Angola) are seldom mentioned even as we savour its refreshing, ruby red infusion.
Africa urban and rural is singing with the taste of teas we have yet to explore.
In the wild ginger (Siphonochilus aethiopicus) sold as infusions to cure nightmares at Johannesburg’s taxi ranks there lies vibrant, inner city inspiration for future creations.
The flavour profiles of Lidjiestee (made from Viscum capense) and Devils Claw (Harpagophytum procumbens) and Honger tree (Leyssera gnaphalioides) teas made by remote communities in the Karoo and Kalahari regions are yet to be reconnoitred.
The spiritual solemnity of Xhosa wild olive leaf (Olea africana) teas as prescribed by traditional healers are inspirational elixirs as yet un-assessed.