Shaah Hawash (Spiced Black Tea) by Haris Coussidis

Somalia – Isse’s story

Originally from Mogadishu, Isse worked for ten years in restaurants before fleeing Somalia and coming to Malaysia in 2008. “Malaysia is a good country to live in, but a refugee does not have the same opportunities” he states. He is used to the Somalian communal society where everybody helps each other whenever a need arises, which is in stark contrast to his life here. His neighbours tend to keep to themselves and are reluctant to socialize.  “We don’t bother them, they don’t interact with us.” It is a sad commentary on the reality of living as a refugee in Malaysia.

Somali hospitality has an open door policy, Isse explains. “You always cook enough for everyone and a bit extra, in case you have unexpected guests drop in. We share what we have” he says proudly. And in Somalia everyone always eats together from one communal plate placed in the center. It is a time to bond together and keep up with each other’s news. It is this culture and sense of Somali identity that Isse tries to preserve at home when he cooks food in the traditional way.

Shaah hawash | Spiced black tea

Shaah, tea in Somali, is a very important social drink and which is consumed at all times of the day. Black tea is flavoured with a mix of whole spices, such as cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, ginger or nutmeg, slightly crushed then boiled together with the tea. The traditional recipe is made with cardamom and cinnamon only. It is usually very sweet and sometimes milk is added, making it quite similar to the Indian Chai.

Serves 4 – 6

2 cinnamon quills
5 cardamom pods
800ml water
Sugar to taste
4 tsp black tea leaves or 3 teabags of regular tea


  1. Lightly crush the spices in a mortar and pestle – this will enhance their aroma in the tea.
  1. Either in a saucepan or stove kettle, combine the water and sugar and bring to a boil over a medium heat. Add the crushed cinnamon and cardamom and continue to boil for 2 more minutes.
  1. Add the tea leaves in the pot, boil for 1 minute then remove from the heat and steep for 4 minutes.
  2. Strain the tea into cups and serve.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *