Ataya: A Senegalese Ritual


An Original Poem by Alessandra

Dried mint by the handful bubbles over teapots
Kids run to boutiques for more sugar
Brewed until rich amber is poured out
Foam builds as tea spills into a glass from another

Across Senegal, throughout the day
Mats laid out or chairs brought in
Glasses passed back and forth, gathering small crowds 
Will there be enough–there always is

Between classes, during work, following meals
Come sit and sip it with those around you
Whoever they may be, they are family
If only for a glass of tea


So how do you actually make ataya? Ataya is made using green tea leaves and sugar, but there are other add-ins like fresh or dried mint, mint candies, citronella, and more. After closely watching one of my yaay’s (mother's)–the designated ataya maker in the family–make it nearly every day, I can safely say that this is how you make ataya. However, given the nationality of the practice, not everyone makes it this way, and that is still valid, but theirs probably doesn’t taste as good. 


Man pouring a liquid in the process of making ataya


  • 1 packet of Thé Flecha
  • 1 packet of Valda pastilles
  • Vanilla sugar (measure with your heart)
  • 1 ataya glass of water per person 
  • Handful of dried mint


Step 1: Add the packet of Thé, pastilles, and water to a teapot and bring to a boil.

Step 2: Fog the ataya glasses using the steam of the tea.

Step 3: Pour out a glass of tea (plus a little water) to use to create foam.

Step 4: Replace the same amount with water back into the teapot.

Step 5: Add a glass of sugar (just a baseline, my yaay always adds more at the end).

Step 6: Build the foam for each glass, until about half the glass has foam; this is done by repeatedly pouring the tea from one glass to another with a special technique that I have a hard time replicating.

Step 7: Let the teapot continue boiling for at least 10 minutes, and add in mint somewhere in that period.

Step 8: Return all the ataya to the pot.

Step 9: Taste test. 

Step 10: If it tastes sweet and minty with a strong aftertaste, you are good to serve it!

Three students sitting outside with an adult man who has made and is serving ataya
Alessandra Faccone