I have been in Morocco for more than two weeks now and I have definitely lost the count of the number of glasses of Moroccan tea I’ve been drinking. The first few days I used to seat in a bar and order it, then I realized I could also stop doing that – although I will continue to order it to complement the meal – because there were thousands of occasions when I would have been offered one: at the arrival in the hotels, while negotiating to buy some nice piece of local crafts, to accompany a chat. It’s almost impossible to refuse or, at least, I cannot do that, partly because I love this drink and partly because I cannot decline in front of the smiling faces of all the people who invite me to sit down, relax and enjoy the tea.
I love this tradition, a symbol of warm-hearted people.
The tea is prepared in stunning silver teapots and served in glasses with an extremely fascinating ritual: it is poured into glasses from a height to previously cool the brew and give it even more taste. The gesture used by Moroccans is so harmonious and the gushing tea before my eyes so fragrant that I remain enchanted every time. Not to mention their smiles while offering you the tea, which make you feel welcomed and well-liked.
The tea arrived in Morocco during the reign of Mulay Ismāʿīl as a gift of Queen Anne of Great Britain in gratitude for releasing a group of British prisoners. However it is only in the mid-nineteenth century that it began to become popular: in this period English merchants traded tea massively in the markets of Tangiers and Essaouira. At the beginning of the next century, then, the prices of tea dropped and made it accessible not only among the wealthy classes but also among the poorest to become the most widespread drink across the country.
For the preparation of the Moroccan tea it is strictly used green tea, which has great benefits for the health because, unlike the black, is not fermented. Besides, as Normin – the educated and extremely welcoming owner of the riad where I’ve been in Tetuan – explained me, tea tends to be astringent to the intestines while the mint dysenteric, so the combination of the two helps people to find a perfect intestinal balance. The large quantities of sugar make the drink even more refreshing under the hot Moroccan sun but, at the same time, the boiling temperatures of the drink helps the thermoregulation of the body.
Surely, though, I would recommend not to abuse over a lifetime because so much sugar is certainly unhealthy.
6 teaspoons of green tea in leaves
a handful of Moroccan mint leaves
about 80 g of brown sugar (you can increase or decrease the dose depending on your taste).
Heat the pot on the stove and put in the tea leaves. Pour on it a bit of very hot water and turn quickly the teapot to make the water turn inside it, then throw away this water, but not the tea leaves (you can use a strainer). Then add, together with the tea, the mint leaves and the sugar and pour in a liter of boiling water.
Let all infusing for about five minutes or a little longer if you like strong flavored teas.
Then serve pouring it into glasses with a movement that gradually moves away from the spout of the teapot cup: the tea must come down from the top and form a froth on the surface of the glass.
Enjoy the tea with your guests because this is how they do here.
The guest is sacred and this is a way to honor him.
*cover photo by Thibaut Démare