Breaking Fast Swahili Style

Many cultures have different foods they prefer for their meals, eg. I got the shock of my life when I first started watching Asian dramas, movies etc and would see people having rice for breakfast… like really?!! It was such a foreign concept to me but of course now am very used to it.

Same thing for us in Tanzania and most of East Africa I think, when it comes to breakfast a huge percentage of people would have tea and bread (chai na mkate)-that’s like the basics. Others would have chapati, maandazi, vitumbua etc but they would always be accompanied with tea. Tea is such an important part of breakfast that usually the phrase ‘drinking tea’ is taken to mean having breakfast. For example if someone wants to ask you if you’ve had your breakfast they would usually say, umekunywa chai? (have you had tea?) Even if you had porridge or soup or whatever else for breakfast you’ll still answer, ndio nimekunywa chai (yes I’ve had tea).

A cultural note especially for foreigners, offering a guest tea without milk (chai ya rangi) is taken by most people as an insult, it’s like you are giving them low quality tea! In other cultures of course, especially in England where they just love their tea, people don’t feel offended at all and most hosts would ask how you take your tea, with or without milk but even if they give you without milk no one takes it personally. The whole idea behind why we put such importance on the type of tea is that milk to some may be hard to afford hence if someone offers you tea with milk (chai ya maziwa) that means you are important to them/they respect you.

So yeahs keep this in mind next time you offer someone tea, just have milk ready and then ask them how they like their tea and I can assure you most people would say with milk-it’s a status thing ha ha! We also make our tea very differently from our English counterparts who use tea bags. We prefer to actually cook it with plenty of viungo (spices) added to it-comes out oh so refreshing! But that’s another post for another day.

Breakfast today: vitumbua, karanga na chai-with milk of course!!)