This online exhibition introduces the rich West African tea culture of the Sahel countries, its history, material culture, ceremony and meanings, and above all to its colourfully-designed tea packages. The main body of the exhibition presents a growing collection of 210 tea packages from various West African markets and beyond. The majority of the tea packages was collected in Bamako, Mali’s capital, which is also a vibrant centre of tea distribution. Other packages were collected in adjacent African countries such as Ghana, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Niger and in countries further away such as Cameroon to where Malian migrants have travelled. Some of the packages appear to look the same but often small details differ and provide evidence of the packages’ individual history, of copying and counterfeiting.

The idea for a collection of tea packages goes back to a research trip by Ute Röschenthaler to Mali in 2005. In Bamako, everywhere and at all times of the day, groups of people were sitting together, discussing and chatting, while one of them prepared the beverage. Tea had become like a national drink. The tea they consumed was green tea from China, supplied in small colourful packages of 25g. On Bamako’s market many such tea packages were found in 2005 and in the following years their number constantly increased. This observation was the beginning of this collection, which subsequently was supplemented by packages from other West and Central African countries.

Part of the collection of tea packages has been presented from 7 February – 25 April 2019 at the Schule des Sehens, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, Germany, in an exhibition entitled “Ataya – Chinesischer Grüntee in Mali: Ein Genuss, ein Gedicht, ein Business”. The exhibition was created in collaboration with students from the department of Anthropology and African Studies. The virtual green tea museum intends to share this fascinating tea culture with a wider public. It is a non-commercial project. We would like to encourage you to include your own images to enrich this online exhibition. If you want to share your images of green tea packages, and other information, please contact us at roeschen@uni-mainz.de.

The realization of the online museum project was supported by the project “Africa’s Asian Options” (AFRASO), Goethe University Frankfurt, funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, and the Schule des Sehens, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz. The web design of the virtual green tea museum was created by Clement Manyo Takang.