When it comes to the art of making tea, hot chocolate, and even coffee, there are some people (I used to be one of them) who think that no one can make it better than they do. Well, that was what I thought before I encountered Yemeni tea. Awesome, delightful, tasty, hot, aromatic, creamy and flavorful—those are the words for this tea.
Some people love the tea recipe they’re used to. Same taste, every single time. Never get tired of it. If the taste is slightly different, their taste buds will pick up the difference and the statement “that’s how I like my tea” is always on their minds.
The good news is that’s about to change—that old recipe is about to get dumped. Already tried this middle eastern tea? Great, that means you know how marvelously warm, delicious and spicy Yemeni tea can get.
Shay Tea, Shai Tea, Or Yemeni Tea?
It’s important to know what to call the things that go into your stomach. The only accurate term among the three options above is Yemeni tea. Why? Because the other two names are redundant and repetitive. Yemen is an Arabic country. It is a Middle Eastern country, and that’s the region from which the tea recipe below has been taken.
Shay, however, is the Arabic word for tea. So, when you say “shay tea,” you’re technically saying “tea tea,” which, depending on the company you keep, can sound funny and/or potentially embarrassing. Shai, on the other hand, is just a misspelling of the word shay—a corruption of the word chai. To be completely accurate, it’s shay, not shai, and it’s definitely not shay tea, a tautology. So please don’t “shai” away from its true name, Yemeni tea.
Chai is the literal translation for tea in many languages: in Chinese, it is called 茶 (cha), in Russian, it is чай (chai), and, in Greek, it is τσάι (tsai). So, if you say chai tea latte, please stop. It’s chai latte. Some people think of Yemeni tea as a spiced chai latte, and that’s perfectly fine to say.
Can I call it Middle Eastern tea?
Yes, you can, but you have to remember that there are other Middle Eastern tea recipes. Yemen certainly isn’t the only country in the Middle East. Yemeni tea, however, is one of the most common teas that might have originated from Aden in Yemen. Thus, another legitimate name for it is Adeni tea.
Now, on to the next important question…
What’s So Great About The Yemeni Tea Recipe?
It has cardamom—an uncommon ingredient in your current tea recipe, which is most likely black tea leaves/bags, milk, and sugar. But, in fact, shay doesn’t have to stop there; it can go well beyond the essentials: how much sugar you add, how long you brew or steep the leaves, what goes in first, and, well, even how many times you stir.
Cardamom is a warm Indian citrus spice that can be purchased both whole and ground. Most of its flavors are sealed in the seeds enclosed within green pods; thus, it’s usually preferable to buy cardamom whole. However, do not leave the pods open for too long, lest the flavor should evaporate.
Yemeni tea is one of many popular Middle Eastern teas enjoyed by everyone, young and old. It is a charming black tea, brewed with fresh Middle Eastern spices and, of course, milk and sugar.
Each recipe’s spices vary—some include traditional favorites like whole cloves, ground ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg—but cardamom is a constant ingredient. Every single recipe I’ve come across has it. If you’re thinking of substituting it for something else, don’t. If you’re not convinced, at least give it a try first.
This tea from Aden takes about 10 to 15 minutes to brew, depending on how you’re making it. Some people don’t even keep track of time during the process; they wait for their nose to pick up the fragrance and, once they’re satisfied with the smell, the tea is removed from heat and sieved.
Use a very small sieve, especially if you’re using tea bags. Reputable brands like Lipton should have orange pekoe tea bags, among other styles. Just open these tea bags and empty their contents into a brewing pan. Or, simply pour them in as they are.
Your choice of milk depends on you.
You can use condensed milk or unsweetened, evaporated milk. And, if you want to use powdered milk instead of liquid milk, that’s perfectly fine. Adeni tea is meant to be sweet and creamy, even with the presence of warm aromatic spices.
The addition of these spices gives this recipe an extra-nutritional edge. Everyone knows that tea is good for you, but spices add even more health benefits. It’s a double treat.
Yemeni Tea Recipe
Spiced Yemeni tea is storming the tea world and removing all conventional tea recipes from kitchen shelves. You will need the following ingredients:
- 2 Lipton tea bags or 1½ tablespoons of black tea leaves
- 2 cups of water
- 8 cardamom seeds
- 5 oz of unsweetened evaporated milk
- 4 – 5 whole cloves
- 5 tablespoons of sugar, or to taste
- ⅛ teaspoon of ground cinnamon
- ⅛ teaspoon of ground nutmeg
- ⅛ teaspoon of ground ginger
- Grind your cardamom using an electric grinder or a mortar and pestle. Then, put the powder aside for later. If your other spices (except cloves) aren’t in powder form, grind them as well.
- In a pot, saucepan, or teapot, bring the water to boil. Open up the tea bags and empty the contents into the boiling water.
- Boil for about 4 minutes, then add your sugar and all spices. Stir and leave for about 10 minutes to ensure all flavors fuse together, or wait until you’ve got a satisfying aroma.
- Add milk and stir for about 2 minutes.
- Remove from heat and pour through a sieve.
- For best results, serve hot alongside a plate of cookies, thamool, or bread.
If you wish, you can add saffron as well. If you’re feeling festive, you can even top up your tea with frothed milk or a pinch of cinnamon.
You can also make this Yemeni spiced tea vegan: simply substitute the milk with your preferred plant-based milk. Almond milk and cashew milk are excellent choices, and the tea will still have the same great, warm taste. Your tea is prepared in the exact same way. However, if you want to maximize health benefits, you can significantly reduce the sugar added, or try brown sugar. Better yet, you can also take the sugar out completely.
You may not believe it, but black tea and green tea are extracted from the same plant. The difference is that black tea leaves are exposed to moist, oxygen-rich air, which oxidizes them. And, contrary to popular belief, black tea doesn’t contain more caffeine than coffee, so don’t worry. Enjoy a nutritious tea, rich in antioxidants like polyphenol, which keeps you relaxed and warm.
In the Middle East, tea is one sure way of receiving guests, and rejecting a cup of tea can be considered rude. Yemeni tea is a great way to start the day—it’s perfect for breakfast and at a weekend brunch. Who said tea is a morning drink? It’s versatile and can be enjoyed at any time of the day—morning, afternoon, and evening. If you’re looking for something cozy, there’s nothing like drinking a cup of Yemeni tea in the winter, cuddled with a book. Drink healthy!