Just my cup of tea – Somali shaah redolent with spices

There is a fine tradition in Somali society known as casariya, a word that is loosely translated to mean afternoon tea. Wonderfully spiced tea called shaah in Somali is often served with various types of sweet or savoury treats. And you never, ever have shaah without sheeko (stories)!

If you get invited to a Somali household for casariya beware that you won’t get asked how you like your tea. You will be served tea just the way Somalis like – full of spices and sugar! Cardamom is usually the strongest scent in Somali shaah. Somalis will often ask for tea that has so much cardamom that it should make the person sneeze!

Tea with milk is called shaah cadays, however, it is customary to serve black tea called shaah bigays after a heavy meal.

This recipe is from Nadia Faragaab aka the ‘Shaah Queen of Melbourne’. Nadia makes exceptional Somali shaah and always has a good sheeko or two up her sleeve!

Nadia started making shaah when she was about 10 years. “My family decided that as the tomboy in the family I should learn to make shaah. It was a way of inducting me into housework,” she jokingly says.

“I was also taught how to make canjeero (a Somali sourdough pancake) for breakfast, but I quickly realised that waking up at the crack of dawn wasn’t quite my thing. Making shaah wasn’t dependent on an early morning wake-up call so it became my thing,” adds Nadia.

According to Nadia, the interesting thing about making shaah is that somehow each cook’s tea tastes different. “It is almost as if they’ve added a bit of themselves to the tea,” she says.

Well, without much ado, here is Nadia’s shaah recipe. Make it your own! This recipe makes four cups of tea.


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Somali Shaah

Recipe by:
Nadia Faragaab


• 14 green cardamom pods, ground finely
• 10 cloves whole
• 2 quills of cinnamon, broken into small pieces
• 1 teaspoon ground dry ginger
• 1 teaspoon of black tea leaves
• 4 ½ cups of water
• Sugar to taste


  1. Step 1: Bring all the spices to boil in the water, adding sugar to taste.
  2. Step 2: Add the tea leaves and simmer on low heat for a few minutes or until the tea turns amber in colour.
  3. Step 3: Sieve the tea into cups and serve with your favourite snack.
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 4 - 5 people

12 Responses to “Just my cup of tea – Somali shaah redolent with spices”

  1. Katie

    I just moved into a neighborhood with a large Somali population. I just tried the tea today and found your website. I’m so excited to explore more foods the community has to offer. If you have any suggestions as to what to try, let me know!

    • Somali Kitchen

      Hey Katie, thanks for reaching out :). Somali tea is one of our favourites – an every day must drink! Try the bariis iskukariis (savoury rice) – you can add 1/2 kilogram of meat to this instead of vegetables. The anjero – sourdough pancakes if you are feeling adventurous, the suqaar – diced beef is great for breakfast or lunch. And since you like tea try the African doughnuts – you will love them – very moreish. One other recipe – easy to make too is the corn in coconut sauce and while you are at it you can also try the coconut candy (there are two recipes). Quite a list, hey! Enjoy and do let us know what you think!

  2. Hanan

    Thanks for the ingredients! I think without them, I might of blown up the kitchen!

  3. Sarah

    Can you use black tea tea bags instead of the actual tea leaves? If so, how many tea bags would you recommend. I make shaah daily during the winter months and sometimes it’s spot on and other times it’s missing something so good to have some actual measurements!

  4. Rev Ann Scull

    G’day I am a Uniting Church minister and I am writing send home services at the moment. Next Sunday’s church service is on hospitality and I have been lucky enough to have Somali tea in a Somali home so I wondered if you would mind if I included your recipe and photo and web page on my printed At home church service

  5. Jake F

    Thanks for the recipe. What kind of black tea do you use (or what do Somali Americans use)? I haven’t seen specifically Somali tea in supermarkets here (New York area), though I can find Indian, Chinese, Thai and western brands if I look around, all with different flavors going on.

    • Somali Kitchen

      Hi Jake, use any black tea. We prefer Kenyan, Ceylon or Indian teas. Many western brands are fine as they tend to use black plantation teas from Africa or South East Asia. If having the tea black use less tea leaves as most Somalis like it light, but personally we like stronger teas for milk shaah.

  6. Ankit Jain

    Thanks for sharing such an insightful article. Looking forward to reading from you.

  7. Juliana

    Thanks for sharing the recipe! I can’t wait to try this! One question…when the recipe says “green cardamom pods, ground finely,” does that mean that you grind the outer green shell along with the seeds inside? Or do you crack the shells open and just grind the seeds? Thank you.


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