Imagine the embers of a smoldering fire, a blackened metal tea pot in the middle, a bird singing nearby, mountains rising around you, perhaps even an orange sun setting behind one, and then a glass of tea, brewed patiently with the smoke of the fire.
For a tea drinker like me, this is an enormous gift, one that as you can see brings fond memories. The best picnic in Kurdistan ends with a sweet, strong, and smoky tea.
The Kurdistan Region of Iraq is my tea paradise. It’s the place where tea is always ready to be served, even at the front lines. When I visited the Kurdish frontlines with ISIS near Bashiqa a couple of years ago to talk to one of the generals, there came the tea, fresh and hot. As was the case in most of the offices I visited to speak to government officials, managers, and directors.
Kurdistan is a place where they know how tea should be made. Good chai is made from the best leaves that are put in a pot with cold water, brought to a boil, and then allowed to boil for a minute. Sometimes cardamom is added to enhance the taste and the smell. A pot of hot water is placed on top of the teapot to water down the brew, so every tea drinker can have it at just the right strength.