When I arrived in the Gambia, I was thinking that I had to concentrate on the reason that brought me. What was the reason that sent me to Gambia? I am in the Gambia to pursue the Barrister at Law course at the Gambia Law School. I have decided to mind my business and pursue my legal education. But, as a science writer, it appears my pen wouldn’t allow me.
I notice one interesting thing walking through the principal streets and ghettos of Gambia. I notice that there is this particular tea that is a ritual they drink. I asked a frequent consumer and he told me that it is called Attaya. Attaya is more than just tea, it’s a way of life in the Gambia. Attaya is associated with a Muslim boy’s name meaning ‘Gifts, Presents.’
I asked what attaya contains, and he said green tea. I was a little bit surprised because I feel the way attaya is consumed, the ingredient should be locally produced but that is not the case. Green tea is sourced from China.
In my curiosity as a medical writer, I asked where I could get one to buy. He directed me and I went to buy one. Indeed, the product I got was Black Star which contains Chinese green tea. When I got to my apartment, I quickly took my laptop and started my literature searches. So in this article, I present to you the most sought-after and highly consumed Attaya, known as African green tea in the Gambia.
ATTAYA IS A RITUAL IN THE GHETTOS IN THE GAMBIA
I asked one man the motivation behind attaya consumption in the Gambia. He said it relieves stress. Another man said it improves their sex drives. This assertion support one report by Ben Turay(2009-2010) that the youths drink attaya to improve sexual desire; to some people, cures Malaria and energizes people, particularly students for burning the midnight candle.
I explored further. I found that attaya consumption goes beyond the Gambia. Other countries such as Sierra Leone and Senegal are also known attaya consumers.
One study by Gegbe et al. (2015) examines the motivation behind attaya consumption in Sierra Leone and found that there is no strong motivational reason for consumers behind attaya consumption. However, the study found that (21%) of the respondents often drink Ataya, (31%) say they drink Ataya every day, (25%) do not drink Ataya every day and ( 21% ) of them say they do drink Ataya weekly. Seventy percent (70%) of the respondents have been motivated by their friends, partners, colleagues workers, or family in drinking attaya while (30%) were not motivated by any of the above in drinking attaya. Sixty-seven percent (67%) of the respondents drink attaya with friends, (10%) with their partners, (23%) with colleagues’ workers, and 0.4% drink Attaya with their family respectively.
Attaya in Ghettos
From Manjai Kunda, Bakau, Kololi, Banjul, Brufut, Fajara, Serekunda, Basse, Bijilo, Kartong, Cape Point, Senegambia, etc, every corner I passed through, Ataya bases have rapidly replaced Ghettos. In the case of Sierra Leone, Ben Turay (2009-2010) reports that over 1,500 ‘Attaya’ bases in the country and 584 registered attaya bases in Freetown, out of the number, 252 are in Eastern, 175 are located in the Central, while 157 in the Western. Each base has over 30 regular members drinking the product. The report further notes that more than 1,500 people take care of families through attaya business which has enhanced Love and Unity across the country.
ATTAYA & NORMAL GREEN TEA
Though attaya is made from green tea. Steven Prihoda(2015) article explained further: “The difference between attaya and normal green tea is in how it is made. A normal green tea takes five minutes; the attaya process can take hours. While some belief attaya to be as caffeinated as coffee, if one were to compare the caffeine content of regular green tea to that of attaya, the difference would be negligible (a simple black tea would be an even better – and faster – choice); and, if caffeine consumption were the desired goal, coffee would remain far more potent than attaya, green tea, or black tea. But while some people in The Gambia do use attaya as their caffeine fix, that’s not the point”.
Attaya, scientific benefits
I wasn’t surprised with the health benefits because attaya is made from green tea which science has proven many times the health benefits.
Green tea comes from the plant Camellia Sinensis. The two main varieties of tea plants are Camellia sinensis, a small-leaf variety native to China, and Camellia sinesis assamica, a large-leaf variety that was first discovered in the Assam district of India. Hundreds of cultivars and hybrid plants have evolved from these two plant varieties over time.
ATTAYA, LIVE LONGER
Studies have found that some compounds in green tea may help you live longer. For instance, Kuriyama et al.(2006) studied 40,530 Japanese adults over 11 years. Those who drank the most green tea — 5 or more cups per day — were significantly less likely to die during the study period. The study found that:
• Death of all causes: 23% lower in women, 12% lower in men
• Death from heart disease: 31% lower in women, 22% lower in men
• Death from stroke: 42% lower in women, 35% lower in men
A previous study( Suzuki et al.2009) examined over 14,001 older Japanese individuals and found that those who drank the most green tea were 76% less likely to die during the 6-year study period.
This means that there could be something special in longevity in those countries such as Gambia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, etc who drink more unadulterated attaya daily.
IMPROVES BRAIN FUNCTION
Drinking attaya improves brain function. For instance, Green tea does more than just keep you alert, it may also help boost brain function. The key active ingredient is caffeine, which is a known stimulant. Though green tea doesn’t contain as much as coffee, however, it has more to produce a response without causing the nervous effects associated with taking in too much caffeine.
A 20-year study by Bah et al.(2013) found that cancer incidence has remained relatively stable over time, in the Gambia. This could be linked to their high attaya consumption. Observation studies review (Ogunleye and Michels, 2009) found that women who drank the most green tea had an approximately 20–30% lower risk of developing breast cancer, one of the most common cancers in women.
Attaya is a ritual in the ghettos in The Gambia
To be continued
BY PROF. RAPHAEL NYARKOTEY OBU