Eats & Drinks, Somaliland
Comments 8

what’s to eat #43

Perhaps the best known drink in this part of the world is Somali tea, well-featured on these pages. But there’s another, less-noticed cuppa that pops up from time to time. It’s well-known around these parts, but not as embedded in local culinary identity as Somali tea.

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Khanshar, or xanshar, is the less-caffeinated cousin of coffee, made from the papery husk, or chaff, of coffee beans, that slips off during the roasting process. You can find a similar drink elsewhere in the region and in the world, from the Yemeni qishr to Ethiopian buno or bunna, to cascara tea in El Salvador and Bolivia.

I attended a funeral mourning a few weeks ago in the home of a friend, and she served warm cups of xanshar to visitors, brewed with milk and sugar, to lift their spirits. I wanted to learn more about what goes into (the Somali version of) this drink, so when I came upon large sacks of chaff in the souk, I grabbed a bagful for around $0.30, and asked a few colleagues to show me the ropes.

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The preparation is more extensive than I would’ve guessed. The chaff is first rinsed in water and then spread on a pan over high heat to dry out and toast. Steam rises from the pan, giving off an aroma that’s mellow and slightly fruity.

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The chaff goes from pan to pot of water, where it’s brought to a low boil while the spices are pounded in a wooden mortar and pestle, and then sprinkled in: dried ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and a couple spoonfuls of black tea and Ethiopian powdered coffee.

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For the record, these photos feature our Finance Officer, Hamda, whose skill set extends from Excel spreadsheets to kitchen counters (I’m grateful for both) and beyond.

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Milk (or it’s nearest counterpart) is added next, along with a cupful of sugar. As I stood over the pot, the liquid smelled smoky and slightly Christmas-y with its cinnamon and cloves.

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Hamda brought the mixture to a boil and then strained it with help from a couple of extra hands.

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Xanshar tastes like thin, liquid caramel, with a bit of spice and a punch of caffeine from the black tea, and with a smokiness that lingers after you swallow. We set out the xanshar with an assortment of pastries, but the hot drink took the cake (pun fully intended).

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Thanks to Hamda for warming up our morning, and letting me snap a few shots!

PS–Coffee cups made from chaff!

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