Drinking tea in Morocco is one of the best ways to get to know its culture.
Something that only needs a couple of containers, four simple ingredients and a brief preparation should be easy to replicate. Probably the whole culture that revolves around it is of vital importance in its preparation. Probably only those who live that culture since they were children are able to materialize it in the form of a drink.
Perhaps that is the reason why any Moroccan is able to serve you a tea good enough to excite your senses, and that pleasure is practically impossible to reproduce outside the country. I will not deceive you: if you want to drink a good Moroccan tea, the best way is to do it in Morocco. But if unfortunately you are not going to go soon, I hope that my humble attempt will at least serve to make up for the wait like my other recipes.
Ingredients (for two people)
- Half a litre of water
- 1 level tablespoon of Chinese green tea (Gunpowder type)
- Between 4 and 6 spoonfuls of sugar
- A bouquet of mint
First we put a spoonful of tea in the kettle, to which we add 100 ml of boiled water (we can heat it up in a separate container). Let it rest for a couple of minutes, and after that time make circular movements with the teapot discarding the water, in order to clean the tea balls. Obviously, if the kettle did not have a filter, we would have to use a strainer.
There are two variations on this first step: in the first one, the process is divided in two, pouring a smaller amount of boiled water and letting it rest for a minute, keeping the resulting infusion to add it later (what is called the tea soul), and then pouring boiled water again, moving the teapot and throwing away that water. The other way is to buy the tea in leaves (for example the so-called TAJ 9371), which will save us the washing. It is your choice on how to do it (the final taste will depend on it and that it keeps more or less properties), but the one I have indicated first is the most common.
Then we add to the drained tea between 4 and 6 spoonfuls of sugar (everything depends on how sweet you want it) and 400 millilitres of boiling water. Put it on a medium heat, wait until it boils again and add the mint. Heat it up again for two or three more minutes, until it is about to boil again, and set it aside for three more minutes.
In this step, the sugar is very important: the fact of incorporating it now, and not at the end, will cause it to undergo a process close to caramelization, which is largely responsible for the characteristic sweetness of the tea. In addition, you have to be careful that the water does not come to a boil when you incorporate the mint, as it can oxidize, causing a bitterness in the tea (some people leave it boiling for a few seconds because they like this touch that gives it, I honestly do not recommend it).
Finally, in order to mix all the ingredients well, we will fill a glass with the contents of the teapot and return it to the teapot, thus up to three times. We will also get all the content of the tea oxygenated (making it more aromatic) and the sediments will fall to the bottom.
All that remains is to serve it in glasses to transport you to Morocco!
Remember to pour it from a distance, as if you were professional cider makers, to generate a layer of foam on the surface. And to top it off, you can add some mint to the glass to make it even better!
Some interesting facts about Moroccan tea
Although the recipe indicated here is for the most common tea, there are infinite varieties possible, depending on both the area and personal tastes. The most obvious variation is in the proportion between tea, mint and sugar, with the north usually serving sweeter and the south more bitter.
On other occasions, some lemon verbena leaves are added, which not only nuance the taste, but also provide a calming effect. Another way to vary its taste is to add a few drops of orange blossom water and pine nuts, this being the usual way of preparing tea in Tunisia.
Although it may seem that the tea has been rooted in Moroccan history for centuries, in reality it is quite recent. Specifically, it dates back to the mid-19th century, when in an attempt to expand its market, it was imported by English traders. It was then that the citizens welcomed it, as it helped to soften the, until then, popular infusions of mint and absinthe.
It is said that tea should be served three times; the first glass being “bitter as life”, the second “strong as love” and the third “sweet as death”.
This gradual change in taste occurs because the sugar is added at the beginning of the preparation of the tea and not in each glass, as it is usual in other teas. It is because of this that the more the tea is served, the more you can appreciate the sugar that precipitates to the bottom. Another example of how a (seemingly) simple cultural element can reflect a whole philosophy of life.