Last Updated: 2020-09-30
4 SERVINGS EASY 75 CAL DRINK 15 MIN (8 MIN PREP + 7 MIN COOK TIME)
One of the fondest memories of my childhood growing up in Ceuta, the Spanish enclave in North Africa, was when we would take a family road trip to nearby Morocco and my parents would let me have a cup of mint tea. Like the excitement when they would let me stay up past my bedtime on a special occasion, I felt like a grown-up when I was allowed to take a few sips of that hot steamy brew. That beautiful aroma along with the patchwork of color and light we would see as we looked out from the balcony of some little restaurant are etched on my heart forever.
In time, we moved to Spain proper where I have lived most of my adult life. But the memory of Morocco always stayed with me. I heard there was a popular place to get a good Moroccan mint tea near where I lived, so I went to check it out. What a disappointment! It was nothing like what I remembered tasting as a child. So, I figured it must be like those movies that you watched over and over as a kid, but when you see them as an adult you wonder how in the world you could have watched the same movie so many times. Time distorts memory, I said to myself.
Later, I finally went back to Morocco for the first time as a grown woman, and of course I got a table on the balcony of some little restaurant and ordered the mint tea, this time for no particular reason other than it seemed like the typical thing to do in Morocco. The first sip was an epiphany. That aroma, that intense, one-of-a-kind taste was not a figment of my imagination and the years gone by. It was exactly what I remembered as a little girl. It was heaven in a glass at a price of only 4 dirhams.
It’s hard to say why it’s impossible to get a good Moroccan tea anywhere but in Morocco. It’s such a simple beverage… two containers, four simple ingredients prepared in minutes… on paper, it should be easy to replicate. But, somehow you can feel the essence of Morocco in every glass. Maybe you just have to grow up there, in the culture, to be able to make a proper cup of Moroccan mint tea.
Perhaps that is the reason that any Moroccan is capable of serving you a tea good enough to excite your senses, and that this pleasure is practically impossible to reproduce outside the country. I’m not going to fool you: if you want to have a good Moroccan tea, the best way is to go to Morocco. But if unfortunately you can’t go soon, I hope that my humble attempt will at least alleviate the wait.
Let’s get started!
Half a liter of water
1 level tablespoon Chinese green tea leaves (Gunpowder type)
Between 4 and 6 tablespoons of sugar
A bouquet of mint
1 Add a teaspoon of tea leaves to the kettle, then add half a cup (100 ml) of boiled water (optionally, heat it in a separate container). Steep for a couple of minutes, then swirl the kettle and discard the water, in order to clean the leaves. Obviously, if the kettle does not have a filter, use a strainer.
There are two other variations on this first step:
(1) Two-part process: add a small amount of boiled water to the tea pellets to unroll the leaves letting them steep for a minute. Pour out and save this flavor-rich initial infusion (called “the spirit of the tea”) which will be added back later, and then add a generous amount of boiled water again to clean the unrolled leaves. Swirl the kettle and discard the liquid.
(2) No cleaning needed: use non-rolled tea leaves (such as EL TAJ 9371), that you do not need to clean.
The two-part process is the most traditional, and each of the three options varies slightly in terms of final flavor and aroma. Although the “spirit of the tea” improves the flavor a little, it takes longer and uses more cups. Pre-cleaned leaves, on the other hand, aren’t always easy to find for a good price, so I recommend the simple and practical first option.
2 Add 4 to 6 tablespoons of sugar to the drained tea (depending on how sweet you want it) and 2 cups (400 ml) of boiling water. Brew over medium heat, wait for it to boil again and add all of the mint. Reheat for two or three more minutes, until it is about to boil again, and set it aside to steep for 3 more minutes. The timing of the sugar is crucial. Incorporating it now, and not at the end, will cause it to undergo a process similar to caramelization, which is key to the characteristic sweet taste of the tea.
3 Make sure that the water does not come to boil, then add the mint, since it can oxidize and cause a bitterness in the tea. Some let the mint boil for a few seconds because they like this touch of astringency, but I honestly do not recommend it.
4 In order to blend all the flavors together, pour the tea into a container and then pour it back into the kettle, and do this up to three times. This aerates the tea making it more aromatic and makes the sediments fall to the bottom.
Now serve and enjoy a trip to Morocco in a glass! Remember to pour it from as high as your aim allows, like a waiter in a traditional Moroccan restaurant. More than just a show, this technique creates a delicious, frothy layer of foam on top. You can add a sprig of mint to the glass to make it even better.
Interesting Facts about Moroccan Mint Green Tea
– Moroccan tea is not only intrinsically linked to Moroccan culture, it is also the most faithful icon of their hospitality. When entering someone’s house, an accommodation or even a store, immediately after introducing ourselves, we are often invited to sit down and have some tea.
– It is always served hot, regardless of the season, even in summer and in warmer areas such as the desert. Moroccans often say that hot tea quenches the thirst better. This has a certain scientific basis, since our body has to warm up cold drinks to be able to process them, and drinks at a temperature similar to our body’s can be used immediately leading to better hydration.
Delving into the custom of serving it hot, if you travel to Morocco it is most likely that it will be served in a thin glass. Then they leave some room at the top of the glass, with the idea that you hold it by the rim so as not to burn your fingers.
– Although the recipe here is for the most common tea, there are infinite possible variations, which depend on both local customs and personal taste. The most obvious variation is in the proportion of tea, mint and sugar. In the north, it is typically sweeter and in the south more bitter.
Sometimes, they add lemon verbena leaves, which nuance the flavor, and also provide a calming effect. Another way to vary its taste is to add a few drops of orange blossom water and pine nuts, which is typical in Tunisia.
– Although it may seem that tea is an ancient Moroccan tradition, in reality its introduction is quite recent, specifically, from the middle of the 19th century when, in an attempt to expand their market, English merchants began importing it. The locals welcomed it, as it helped to soften their previously popular infusions of mint and absinthe.
– It is said that tea should be served three times; the first glass being “as bitter as life”, the second “as strong as love” and the third “as sweet as death”.
This gradual change in taste occurs because the sugar is added at the beginning of the tea making process and not separately in each glass, as is usual in other teas. The sugar naturally falls to the bottom, so the last glass will of course be sweeter, yet another example of how an apparently simple custom can reflect a whole philosophy of life.
Thus, we wrap up this post on Moroccan tea, hoping that it encourages you to try making it at home. See you in the next post!
If you want to learn more check out our page on Moroccan food.