For a fast paced, modern, developing country, Jordan’s etiquette is on par with nineteenth century Europe (according to my limited historical knowledge ahem Downton Abbey ahem). Although I run the risk of becoming a hot beverages blogger (surprisingly refreshing in the swath of foodie-cum-traveller blogs?), I cannot avoid writing something about tea. I’m British, whaddyagonnado?
We typically make tea to accompany late night hummus and falafel sandwiches, although it is also a penultimate step in the ritual of serving guests. You see, as a hard and fast rule, coffee is followed by juice is followed by tea, which is followed by ‘goodbye coffee’.
As I say, etiquette.
When I first got here I was totally baffled by it all. It was startlingly similar to catering jobs I used to get through agencies, where only the in-house staff knew the timetable for the conference, party, or wedding, and the agency staff would be serving the champagne during the ceremony, and cleaning away the cake before it was cut.
I’m pretty chuffed that I’ve got the hang of it now, although sometimes I wish I could ask management for a print out of the exact timetable.
But I’m not a waitress, I’m just trying to work out the customs.
Arabic tea is not served with milk. That’s something good to know. Water in the kettle is boiled on the gas hob same as coffee, but with two (depending on party size) Lipton tea bags, a bunch of dried sage leaves, and somewhere between 2 and 4 CUPS of sugar.
Recently I was sitting, post-hike, with a group of ex-pats in an unlit carpark by the Dead Sea when we attracted the attention of a local who invited us to some late night chai. Despite the polite protestations, he lit a small fire and began heating a kettle of water. There was a ripple of whispers and wiggling of bums when it got round the circle that he’d up-ended a bag of sugar into the kettle. Tell me I didn’t just see that; all the sugar? etc.
But the smell of boiling tea and caramelising sugar is divine. And I felt so assimilated when I nonchalantly stated, But didn’t you know? That’s how it’s done in Jordan.
Mint leaves added at the end gives a wonderful fresh note to the sticky sweet tea.