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A drink to get hooked on

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Whether you have it by the pot...

...or by the glass...

...Moroccan mint tea is the perfect panacea for all ills.

I am not a tea drinker. Maybe some herbal or floral tea now and then, but green or black tea I only consume when I have an upset stomach. I wasn't keen on drinking thé à la menthe in Morocco initially; I thought, tea is tea, how good can this be? But I do love mint as a herb and it smelled good, so I gave it a try.

* * *
Hello everyone. My name is Marty and I am a mint tea addict.

The first time I was exposed to Moroccan whisky as it's called, the beverage was piping hot and I could only manage to wet my lips; that was all it took to put me on the path of eternal fixation. My brain was hijacked, my emotions running riot. I could not speak; all I could murmur was mmmmmmm and grin like Priscilla Presley's botched perpetual Joker face.

Thé à la menthe is tooth-gratingly sweet and heady, highly perfumed and the most comforting beverage I have ever drunk.

It has been almost 48 hours since my last real fix. Sure, I brought home a sack of dried mint-green tea mix and had a small brew earlier today, but it's not the same without the fresh herb or the authentic touch of the dada (Moroccan cook).

* * *
Latifa Bennani-Smirès writes in La Cuisine Marocaine that in Moroccan homes, the tea is usually made by the matriarch of the household. The taste of mint tea depends on the quality of the tea and mint leaves. She says the best mint comes from Meknès, in northern Morocco, which is strong and highly aromatic.

Mint tea is the beverage of rich and poor, and is served at all times of the day, for all occasions and "is offered with a smile, to a friend, parents, a travelling stranger... It is part of the legendary hospitality of Moroccans."

Here are Bennani-Smirès' instructions for making mint tea for guests:

  • Rinse a metal teapot or samovar (which holds about 750ml) out with boiling water. Put 2-3 teaspoons per person of green tea into the pot and fill with boiling water. Add lumps of sugar according to taste. After the tea has steeped slowly for a few minutes, stir it with a spoon, taste, appreciate and half-fill a glass. After the guest has tasted it and complimented you on the tea, it is time for the second pot of tea with the addition of mint.
  • Into the teapot, in which the first (plain) tea was brewed, push in a handful of mint leaves. Fill the pot with boiling water. Ensure that the mint leaves are submerged or they will not scald, cover the pot and let the tea steep slowly.
  • Then, stir vigorously with a spoon, bruising the mint. Serve after you have decided on the right proportions.
  • Alternatively, you can also infuse the tea with absinthe (wormwood) and for amateurs, other aromatic plants like verbena, marjoram and basil.
To serve the tea, hold the teapot at a height and pour it into the glass to create a bit of foam on the surface of the tea. This, however, should only be done by expert tea pourers. Amateurs are likely to burn themselves or waste tea by spilling it on the table.

I don't know about the diabetes rate in Morocco, but I do know that if you throw a dirham in any direction in the country, it is sure to hit at least one dental surgery and probably a dentist as well (there are a lot of lawyer's offices as well for some reason). Morocans take lots of sugar in their tea and coffee. Coffee comes unsweetened and you add sugar to taste, but as you can see from the recipe above, the mint tea is brewed with sugar and is served with more lumps of it. None of that "teh satu, kurang manis" over there. The thing is, the sweetness seems to enhance the taste of the mint tea or coffee (very good, thick French or Italian roasts).

Moroccans, especially the women, also love their sweets, and you can find a lot of patisseries selling French-style gateaux. These layer cakes are cut into small portions, usually 3cm x 6cm bars, and set out in neat rows in display cabinets. Western-style confectionery are usually huge puff pastry treats, while the smaller Moroccan sweets, many of them filled with almond paste, always attract not only those with a sweet tooth but also swarms of bees! (Unfortunately, I didn't get a good picture, sob...)

1 comment:

  1. Had my first taste of mint tea when I visited Egypt. I like apple tea more.


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