the thick, sweet Winter Drink


Egyptians are very particular about their drinks! There are many and varied in:

  • colour
  •  ingredients
  •  look
  • texture and
  • temperature.

One of the rather more interesting drinks is called:


This is the official Winter Drink of Egypt! It will produce a frown and a gasp of horror if you ask for it when winter is over. Guests have described it as a “hot dessert in a glass”! And indeed it is: a sweet, hot, creamy tea!


In many a previous era, Sahlab was drunk before tea and coffee were the order of the day. In those times, Sahlab was made (apparently) from the powder by drying and crushing the tuberous root of a wild, white orchid: the orchis mascula. In Ottoman days it is said to have been drunk as an aphrodisiac, as well as being thought to be very nutritious for invalids, and medicinal for gastric irritation.

In more recent days, this lovely wild orchid is becoming more and more rare, and more expensive to buy, so tastes have become more simplified, more instant.


The new recipe for Sahlab replaces the wild orchid powder with corn-starch and milk. Some people like to add rose-water, to give a floral hint. But this thick milky drink then has many other things added to it, depending on the taste of the drinker:

  • coconut
  • raisins
  • sugar
  • nuts (usually pistachio)
  • sesame seeds

Nowadays you can get this all in a pre-packed package, only needing to add water or milk, and perhaps an extra topping or 2! Or you can buy the ready made powder in a local souq (market) from a large bag, measuring out the quantity you want.


With the thick consistency of this sweet milky drink, with nuts and coconut on the top, the biggest dilemma is whether to drink it or eat it! All we recommend is that you have one: take a sip, but have a spoon nearby to scoop out all the goodness within your glass.

But be warned: this is like a meal in itself….. not to be drunk flippantly or with a meal: it is a meal on its own: warm, sweet and very yummy!

On a cold day in Egypt….

it is just the thing.

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