Taking some time out for mint tea is a must in Morocco. There is much ceremony around it and all sorts of rituals across different parts of the country.
Four simple ingredients
Contrary to what I had thought the tea used is not black tea but gunpowder green tea. This is accompanied by fresh mint leaves, sugar and water.
Before the British brought tea to Morocco in the 18th century, different herbs were used instead giving different flavours and healing properties. Nowadays these herbs are added according to the locality, season or ailment. For example, absinthe and thyme in winter to ward off coughs and colds and keep the body warm whereas a mixture of sage and mint is a Marrakech speciality.
There are two types of mint – the local variety called sheest which is a small woody leaf used rather for cooking and the cultivated mint which yields a large flat leaf. The latter is preferred for tea.
A very specific tea pot
Teapots are an integral part of making the tea rather than being used just for serving. Here’s what to look for:
Making the tea
Firstly add the tea to the pot. About three heaped teaspoons should be plenty for six people.
Add enough boiling water to cover the tea and then place the teapot on the hob and bring to the boil. As soon as it’s boiling, take it off the stove and pour it away. This process uncurls the tea leaf and loosens any trapped dirt and tea powder from the dried leaves as well as removing the bitterness.
Now add a large handful of mint, fill the pot with boiling water again and then add sugar to taste. The Moroccans love their tea sweet so as a guide try 1 teaspoon per person and sweeten to your taste afterwards.
Bring this to the boil and then serve in pretty tea glasses. It’s important to lift the pot to pour as this aerates the tea and adds bubbles which sit on the top showing the tea is fresh.
It’s traditional to say Bessa’ha before drinking which literally means “To your health”.