Story of a Moroccan whiskey - Everything you wanted to know about Moroccan mint tea
Muslims are officially not allowed to drink any alcohol. That is probably why they call their tea, Moroccan most traditional drink, Moroccan whiskey, with a smile on their face. Moroccan tea means much more, than just a drink.
It is a symbol of Moroccan hospitality, tradition and culture.
History, tradition, culture
There are many stories about how Moroccan tea got to the country. One of them says, that tea leaves were part of a package, which British queen sent in the end of 17th century to Moroccan sultan as a thank you for Europeans released from captivity. Another possibility is, that during Crimean war in the middle of 19th century a certain business man didn`t manage to sell tea shipment in Baltics, that`s why he had chosen Morocco as a substitute destination.
Another theory says, that tea has been brought to Morocco by Phoenicians.
No matter what theory is right, thanks god the tea got to Morocco at all and that it was adopted by Moroccans their unique way and enriched like this tea culture around the world.
Moroccan tea is very intense. Nothing in the tea is put in a decent amount. There is huge portion of everything - tea leaves, herbs and especially sugar. Preparation and tea serving in Morocco is a domain of men. It is a ritual, where each step has its meaning.
The fact, it is a real national drink is proved by a fact, that Moroccan king is holding a glass of tea on many photos decorating public places all around Morocco.
My first trial
When I got to Morocco, the very first day I went to the market and full of enthusiasm bought loads of Moroccan mint, loose green tea, plastic bag with a huge sugar lump and couldn`t wait to prepare my beloved tuareg.
And not just the tiny portion, like the Moroccan style - size of a large shot, but a huge pot.
I tried to make it back home a few times, but it never worked. It never tasted even a bit like the tea in Morocco. "This has to be the different kind of mint" I was thinking for myself.
So now that I had the proper ingredients, I jumped, full of high expectations, into cooking.
I poured water of around 70°C over the tea, waited 2-3 minutes. Simply as I usually do with green tea. Then I put some sugar in, loads of their mint and mixed it up. With a tea spoon of course. I was too impatient to mix it Moroccan traditional way. I got my first cup and sipped.
What? What is this? This has nothing to do with the tea I was looking forward to so much. It tastes like an over sweetened broth from old socks.
All disappointed I put the cup aside and mused, where the mistake was coming from.
Only later I managed to reveal secret of Moroccan tea on Moroccan traditional, souk. There I found out, that green tea in Morocco is prepared a completely different way.
What you need
- 0,5 l water
- 1 tbs Chinese green tea gunpowder
- 2 handful fresh mint (or other herbs, see below)
- 6 or more sugar cubes
- stainless tea pot
- heatproof tea glasses
Which herbs are added into Moroccan tea and why:
- fresh mint - 2 handful - in hot days to cool you down
- fresh wormwood - just a piece of twig - in cold days, as wormwood warms you up
- dried lemon verbena - 1/2 handful - for pleasant lemon aroma
- star anise - 1 star - for pleasant anise flavor
- saffron - a few pistils - for a special taste
Put loose tea into a teapot. Pour with a bit of boiling water, rinse by gyration, set aside for a few seconds and pour the water out (the tea leaves stay in the pot).
Now fill the teapot with boiling water completely, put on fire on a very small heat and let boil slightly for about 2 minutes. As soon as the tea starts foaming, wait about 30 more seconds and withdraw from the stove. Keep the tealeaves in the teapot all the time, even while serving.
Moroccan tea is served on a special tray, where they place the teapot with tea, herbs, loads of sugar and tea glasses.
In Morocco it never happens to you, that you get just one tea glass, even if you order tea for just one person. As Moroccan hospitability counts with the fact, that somebody can appear who you may love to share a glass of tea with. He or she doesn`t have to be your acquaintance. Simply anybody passing by.
It happens very often in Morocco, that you get invited for a glass of tea by somebody you have never met before just for no reason. Now I am not talking about tea invitations from vendors during your walk in a touristic center with various shops and stalls. That is another story :)
They add one of the herbs mentioned above and loads and loads of sugar. The sweeter the tea is, the more the guest is valued by the host.
Do you want to mix the tea with sugar and realize, that the waiter probably forgot to bring you a teaspoon? He didn`t. This is another part of the Moroccan tea serving ritual. The tea is not mixed by a teaspoon. It is mixed by repeated pouring the tea from a teapot to a tea glass and back until a foam on the tea surface starts creating. By pouring the tea this way you mix it, cool it down and create the required foam. A very important factor of mixing the tea is the height to which the host lifts the teapot while pouring into the glass. It shows importance of the guest for the host. Again, the higher, the more important the guest is.
Where to get all you need for Moroccan whiskey
To buy gunpowder tea:US, UK, Europe, Moroccan teapot: US, UK, Europe, Moroccan tea glasses: US, UK, Europe, Saffron: US, UK, Europe, Wormwood / sheeba:US, UK, Europe, Lemon verbena: US, UK, Europe, Star anise: US, UK, Europe
Useful Arabic tea words
tea - atay
sugar - soukar
mint - naanaa
wormwood - sheeba
lemon verbena - louisa
less / without sugar - shweeya / ble soukar
Check more authentic Moroccan recipes.
About Bo on the road, the author