All tea

Tea Poems

Proverbs and Poems


“Better to be deprived of food for three days than of tea for one” (Ancient Chinese proverb)

“A fine tea has always been mentioned in the same breath with beautiful women” (Su Dongpo).

“Water is the mother of tea. The tea set is the father of tea. Both are essential for good tea.” (Lu Yu, The Classic of Tea (Chá Ching), between AD 760 and 780). Lu Yu explained further that water from the mountains was superior to spring water, and spring water to water from wells; tea only becomes tasty and aesthetically pleasing when it matches well with the tea set and the environment in which it is taken.


“A monk sips morning tea,
its quiet,
the chrysanthemum’s flowering” (a haiku by Matsuo Basho).


Poems and documents, collected by Laksassi and Sebti (2012: 109–111, 336–348) translated from Arabic:
„I saw all of Morocco mirrored in the tea pot“ (title of a poem from the 1950s).
„The tray is the sun, the water is the heavenly pole, the glasses are the stars, and the fire is hell” (from the poem entitled „Al Atay”). (Meaning: The whole world is reflected in the tea equipment).
“The Muezzin stands on the embers and calls for prayer. The kettle represents the Imam, and the glasses are the pious Muslims”. (Meaning: Taking tea brings people nearer to God, it might even replace prayer and the mosque).
“The tea is like the sultan, and the tea pot is his palace. The Sultan needs company. He is the medium that liberates the tongue and makes language more complex. The tea emerges from the tea pot like the sultan leaves his palace. When the tea emerges from the tea pot, the participants watch in silence, as they do when the sultan appears from his palace. The participants begin to talk of after the master of the ceremony has finished his song [task] and bows in front of the assembly” (poem in praise of tea, adapted from Arabic).
The poets of the Berber groups of Southern Morocco practiced competitive recitation or singing debates. One poet recites in favour of one matter; another poet answers with a counter poem in an ongoing alternating recitation, invented on the spot. Tea was a popular the topic for this genre. Examples of such debates are: The debate of the makraash (water kettle) and the barraad (tea pot); the conflict between the coffee and the tea; the coffee and the tea at the court case facing the sugar; or the coffee and the tea in front of the kadi.
Long before tea was introduced, the copper tray had highly emotional connotations and was praised with songs and poems. The bride was carried on a huge copper tray and presented to the marriage assembly. Nowadays, it is the tea pot with ingredients and glasses that is presented on the tray that still carries some of these emotional connotations. (Buob 2006).

Mali and the Sahara:

“The first glass of tea is bitter as life, the second sweet as love, the third gentle as death” (popular proverb)

„Es ist leichter zu hungern, als auf den Tee zu verzichten. Heiß geschlürft, macht er den widerlichsten Tag erträglich“ (It is easier to remain hungry than to refrain from taking tea; slurped hot, it makes the the most horrible day bearable), explained Tuareg to René Gardi 1978, when he travelled in the Tenere desert in Niger.


Buob, Baptiste. 2006. Le plateau à thé à l’épreuve du creuset marocain: histoire, fabrication et usage. Horizons maghrébins – le droit à la mémoire 55: 103–13.
Lakhsassi, Abderrahmane and Abdelahad Sebti: 2012 (2.ed.). Min aschay ila el Atay: Al adar wa at-tarikh (in Arabic: From Aschay to Atay: Tradition and History). Rabat: College of Literary and Human Sciences.
Röschenthaler, Ute. Forthcoming. Teatime in the Sahel: How Green Tea became Mali’s National Drink. London: Bloomsbury. LongJing Tea Museum, Hangzhou, China
For more poems of tea in German language see the websites: goldmä (Teezitate) and (Weisheiten über Tee).