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Shaah (Somali Spiced Tea)

Shaah (Somali Spiced Tea) 6.000

Scott Suchman for The Washington Post; food styling by Lisa Cherkasky for The Washington Post

Oct 29, 2021

Shaah, a spiced black chai made throughout Somalia, is an important part of Somali cuisine and culture. It’s a cousin of Yemeni, Kenyan and Indian chais, and it’s found across the Somali diaspora.

It differs from other chais in that it often omits black pepper, and the milk is added after instead of during the cooking process. But each family has their own recipe for it. Shaah with milk is called “shaah cadays”; without it is “shaah rinji” or “shaah bigays.” It is served throughout the day, particularly during casariyo, the Somali afternoon tea break.

Many Somalis traditionally prefer a cup of shaah on the sweeter side; you may want to add less sugar. You can adjust the amount of ginger, as well.

Active time: 10 mins; Total time: 25 mins

Storage Notes: Leftover shaah can be refrigerated in a lidded container for up to 1 day.


When you scale a recipe, keep in mind that cooking times and temperatures, pan sizes and seasonings may be affected, so adjust accordingly. Also, amounts listed in the directions will not reflect the changes made to ingredient amounts.

Tested size: 6 servings

  • 6 cups water
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 4 green cardamom pods
  • One (3- to 4-inch) cinnamon stick
  • 3 1/4 ounces unpeeled fresh ginger, or to taste
  • 1/3 cup (67 grams) granulated sugar, or to taste
  • 1 tablespoon loose leaf black tea or 2 tea bags
  • Powdered milk, such as Nestle Nido brand, or fresh milk of choice (optional)

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In a medium pot over medium-high heat, bring the water to a boil.

While waiting for the water to boil, in a mortar with a pestle, pound the cloves, cardamom and cinnamon until roughly ground. Alternatively, place the spices in a spice grinder and process until roughly ground. Add the ground spices to the water.

Slice the ginger root into 1/4-inch thick pieces. Working with a few pieces at a time, smash the ginger in a mortar and pestle until all pieces are smashed (you can also smash with a meat tenderizer or a kitchen mallet). Add the ginger to the water, followed by the sugar and tea, and bring to a boil.

Once the mixture comes to a boil, turn off the heat and let the tea steep on the burner for 10 to 15 minutes. Strain into cups and serve with milk of your choice, if desired.

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Recipe Source

From food writer Ifrah F. Ahmed

Tested by Olga Massov.

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Nutritional Facts

Calories per serving: 43

% Daily Values*

Total Fat: 0g 0%

Saturated Fat: 0g 0%

Cholesterol: 0mg 0%

Sodium: 0mg 0%

Total Carbohydrates: 11g 4%

Dietary Fiber: 0g 0%

Sugar: 11g

Protein: 0g

*Percent Daily Value based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Total Fat: Less than 65g

Saturated Fat: Less than 20g

Cholesterol: Less than 300mg

Sodium: Less than 2,400mg

Total Carbohydrates: 300g

Dietary Fiber: 25g

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