A sweet, minty treat served in ornate tea-ware is a ceremony central to the social life in Maghreb (a region of the Northwest Africa consisting of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, and Mauritania) and to the rest of the world it is simply Moroccan Mint Tea.
The history of Moroccan Mint Tea
The History of Tea in Morocco is debatable. Some trace its origin to the 12th century while others claim that tea was introduced to Morocco only in the 18th century, but whenever it was, today tea has become a way of life in this region. The process of making Moroccan mint tea (also called Maghrebi mint tea) is no less than an art and is rather ceremonious when a guest is present, with the head male of the family preparing and serving tea in the traditional way.
How To Make Mint Tea:
The ingredients that go in making mint tea, aka atai in Morocco, are Chinese green tea (typically a variety called “gunpowder tea” from the Zhejiang Province of China), sugar, fresh spearmint leaves and water. The traditional preparation of this refreshing minty delight starts with steeping green tea in a small quantity of boiling water in a bred (Moroccan teapot) for 20-30 seconds. This initial infusion results in a deeply flavored liquid, known as the spirit, which is poured out and kept aside to be added later, after the tea leaves are cleaned. A small quantity of boiling water is added to the tea leaves and poured out after a minute as a process to clean it and also reducing its bitterness.
Then fresh spearmint leaves and sugar is added to the pot along with boiling water. The pot maybe heated further to increase the flavor of the infusion. Moroccan mint tea is supposed to be very sweet and hence the quantity of sugar added is typically 5 spoons for one spoon of tea. After brewing the tea for several minutes it is poured out in a keesan (tea glass) and poured back in the pot several times to mix the tea. The tea is served quite spectacularly as the host holds the teapot several inches above the glass and elaborately pours the tea from a great height giving the tea a frothy appearance.
Tradition also requires Moroccan mint tea to be served thrice and this ritual is explained by the famous Maghrebi proverb as follows:
The first glass is as gentle as life,
The second is as strong as love,
The third is as bitter as death.
Come winter and our craving for a hot cup of tea becomes threefold. Brew yourself a pot of sweet minty Maghrebi tea in a much simpler way:
- Steep 2 spoons of green tea (we recommend Billimalai Long Ding) in half litre of boiling water for 15 minutes
- Filter and pour out the infused liquor in another pot
- Add sugar (as per your taste) and bring to boil
- Add fresh mint leaves either in the pot or directly in the cup before pouring the tea.