What is Ataya Tea?

Cropped Ataya Tea

Ataya (sometimes spelled Attaya or Ataaya) is a staple of Senegalese tea culture. This bittersweet brew of Gunpowder green tea, sugar, and mint isn’t an ordinary tea. Ataya is a tea on steroids.

About Ataya

The elaborate three-round process known and the tea itself is know as “Ataya” in Wolof, a native language and ethnicity in Senegal. The time-consuming process is often performed while socializing with friends or family. Each of the three-rounds takes approximately 20 minutes.

Preparing Ataya

During the process, Chinese Gunpowder green tea leaves are put into a teapot with water and mint leaves and boiled over a charcoal stove. Sugar is added to the teapot and the tea is poured into small glasses of a certain height and then poured back and forth from the glass to the teapot several times so that foam appears in the glass. The thicker the foam, the better the tea.

The first glass of tea tends to be quite bitter, the second is sweeter and the third is very sweet with a weak tea taste because the same tea and mint leaves are steeped to prepare all three glasses.

Legend of Ataya

According to folk legend, “The first cup is the love of your mother. The second is the love of your friends. The third is the love of your love.”

Benefits of Ataya

Although the leaves in this tea are the same as those in other green teas, gunpowder tea leaves are rolled into small pellets that expand when steeped, releasing the flavor and nutrients. The tea’s health rewards come from flavonoids called catechins, which influence cell-signaling pathways. A large-scale study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association in 2006 indicated a possible link between green tea consumption and a longer life span.

Have you tried Ataya tea? Tell us about it.

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6 thoughts on “What is Ataya Tea?

  1. I travelled to Senegal frequently for a decade and lived in Dakar for a year, drinking Attaya with friends often. The first round is strong and takes some getting used to, the second round is almost a perfect blend of the tea, fresh mint, and sugar, the third sweet and minty. The time that it takes to make the three rounds of tea will discourage many busy Westerners.

    It also takes time to learn to skillfully pour the tea between the small glasses properly to create the flavorful foam (and not spill most of the tea!), but once you’ve experienced the three rounds of Attaya no other tea quite measures up.

    I quickly learned to appreciate the Attaya time as an hour set aside to properly visit with friends. The time and attention to detail required to make the three rounds of tea tended to keep the attention of all involved focused on the others present, promoting conversation and leading to a strengthening of social bonds.

    For me, learning to experience Attaya time was as much a cultural experience as it was a culinary one. Back in the US I don’t make Attaya daily, mostly because of the time that it takes and the lack of others that would appreciate the difference in the tastes of each round of tea and the time involved, but do very much enjoy it when I do.

    1. Thank you for sharing your experience. It’s great to see how tea culture is enjoyed throughout the world.

    2. Thanks for sharing. I have enjoyed reading your comment. I got my first taste of Ataya (first round). It tastes good.

    1. I believe it was a commonly traded tea within the spice trade. The title rolled green tea pearls maintain the quality and taste while on the long journey between Asia and Africa.

  2. I’m a 15 year old student that lives in Dakar. I try to make ataaya as often as possible but I am restricted from doing so due to my schoolwork.

    Nearly every weekend, usualy Friday night, I invite my friends over to make ataaya on the roof of my appartement building. We sometimes prolong the process by adding more tea and mint every three rounds. We stay up late and make tea for hours.

    The three rounds are symbolic. I have always heard it as “ le premier vert est comme la vie, le deuxième very est comme t’es amis, et le vert finalement est comme l’amour.”

    For those of you who may not speak French that means the first glass is like life, bitter. The second is like friendship, bittersweet, and the third is like love.

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