The Malian Tea Forge

Bamako is severely lacking in bars and cafés. Coming from Côte d’Ivoire for this visit, it has taken a bit to get used to as the Malian culture doesn’t seem to focus around this aspect of casual life as it does for the Ivorians. What you do see are a group of guys sitting around a small street stove that is boiling a pot of tea that they then serve, drinking with this slurping sound that quite honestly drives me a bit nuts, but seems to be the only way to drink tea here as it’s quite hot once poured.

While #1 Fan and I were rummaging through the many excellent jewelry shops just West of the center (I highly recommend checking them out if in Bamako), I noticed that the owners of one shop understood very well how convection works in fires. Obviously having grown tired of fanning the flames, which I know is quite a bother when I’m firing up in the barbecue back home, they decided to use a forge.

Now, I’m not quite sure if this forge is generally used for jewelry making, but I only saw it used for tea making. Essentially, it’s a raised bed of coals that sit above an air path that has air forced in to it by a blower they picked up from lord knows where, that they crank with a re-purposed bicycle wheel. In a word, it’s genius as it works exceedingly well. For those familiar with how a forge typically works, they’ve greatly improved upon the hand-pumped bellows. It heats up the coals and thus, the tea, incredibly fast.

I love tea and so of course I took the chance to try the Malian take on boiling the magic leaves. Mother if it’s not strong. It’s like an espresso shot in each of those small glasses. It’s highly bitter as well which is most likely why they sweeten the bejesus out of it. It’s still good though, in the way that Turkish coffee is good and this touch with the forge makes it all the more cool.