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EAST AND WEST OF THE BOSPORUS

In Turkey and from Afghanistan through Iran to Kazakhstan, tea is also prepared by first making a strong brew that is sweetened and then infused with boiling water. In many Turkish homes, for example, two or three teapots that fit on top of one another are used in the making of tea. The bottom pot is filled with water, while the top pot is used to make up the concentrate. A middle pot can be used to keep water warm while a fresh load is boiled in the pot right at the bottom. The result is that Turkish tea enthusiasts always have a fresh brew to hand, which will be hot, sweet and refreshing. Tea is popular as a breakfast drink in Turkey, and it is also served with main meals. It is served to guests and business acquaintances, and many Turkish men visit tea rooms. These can be found throughout Turkey and in many other places throughout Europe. In Turkish tea shops, a tea master is always at hand to brew the tea and serve it.

INTO THE DESERT

When it has not rained in the Sahara for a very long time, the Tuareg view it as a good sign. The longer it has been dry, they say, the sooner it will rain. They wait, therefore, with a gentle confidence, for the rain to fall. When a sandstorm dies down, they hold a tea ceremony: Chinese gunpowder tea with plenty of sugar is served, or Nana mint on a hot day. When desert travellers come under the Tuareg's care, they are always presented with three glasses of frothy tea. The first is said to be bitter as life itself, the second sweet as love, and the third gentle as death.

Elsewhere in northern Africa, the same culture surrounds tea, and visitors are always greeted with a frothy glass of the stuff. Intriguingly, it is always the job of men to prepare tea rather than entrusting it to women. The most common tea in Africa is Ceylon, and this is frequently offered to friends and business acquaintances. For the Arab, there is often no distinction between these categories, as business is always conducted in a personal manner, with tea drinking very much at its heart.

Tea is often drunk accompanied by dates whose sweet flavour is the perfect complement to a dark, rich, aromatic black tea. Indeed, there is now a Ceylon tea known simply as "date tea" because it is so frequently consumed along with the sticky fruit. Thanks to marriages between Arabs and Indians, masala chai is now very popular throughout the Arab world. And wealthier Arabs appreciate the delicate beauty of white tea, while their health-conscious wives often experiment with green teas and herbal infusions.