Moroccan tea culture first piqued my interest when I first went over to my friend Karin’s house years ago. There was a Moroccan tea set on display – an exquisite kind of silver tea pot I had never seen before and beautifully decorated colourful glass tea cups. At that point, I was only accustomed to Chinese or Japanese style tea pots. This one possessed its own kind of beauty, with its curvaceous body and long spout.
Karin would make me Moroccan tea with the abundance of mint growing in her backyard. My eyes grew big and jaw fell though, when I saw just how much sugar went into each of those tiny (well, tiny in comparison to our big tea mugs) cups. She insists that it ain’t the real thing without all the sugar.
I asked her mother, Rachel, more about Moroccan tea culture to see if I could probe for more information. She said that the original Moroccan “tea” was actually a tisane, an infusion of mint, sugar, and boiling water. She put on the kettle, stuffed a bunch of mint in a keesan (those colourful glass cups) and waited. She said that tea wasn’t used in this beverage until the mid – 1800’s when Chinese gunpowder green tea made its way to the ports of Morocco. Even now, she mostly uses tea to add colour to her tisane.
A quick search online produces many articles and videos on Moroccan tea culture. There are so many ways to make Moroccan tea that varies based on personal preferences and regional differences. But one common characteristic I’ve discovered is the importance of aerating the tea (kind of like how many wines should be aerated before drinking to let the flavours shine), hence the long spout of the tea pot. During the tea ceremony, the tea is poured into the cups from a distance and then back into the tea pot and this step is repeated two or three times to ensure a full infusion of flavour between the elements of tea, mint, water, and sugar. The froth that results from this is desirable and determines how well the tea is made.
Nowadays, people use any sugar or even healthier alternatives in their tea. Traditionally, the sugar used in this tea comes from large sugar cones. My tea books emphasized how big the sugar cones are (you can only get them locally) but I still didn’t expect that they are THAT big!! Check out 1:40 in this Traditional Berber Tea Ceremony video. Basically, knobs of sugar are hammered off the cone and used to make tea.
For those of you who are more visual, you can check out the video for the seemingly complicated process of boiling the water, heating the tea pot, rinsing the leaves, etc. etc. Otherwise, here’s a simple version of a recipe from this amazing book I found: Modern Tea by Lisa Boalt Richardson.
A Contemporary Moroccan Tea Ceremony
- Heat water in a kettle. When the water boils, pour some into the teapot to warm it and then pour the water out.
- Next, add the tea – about 1 teaspoon tea per 6 oz/170 ml of hot water – to the warmed tea pot.
- Add boiling water to the pot, quickly rinse the tea leaves by swirling the teapot, and discard the water.
- Add fresh mint to the tea pot, filling the pot about ¾ full.
- Add sugar to the pot. Moroccans use 3 – 5 tsp sugar for each 6 oz/170 ml water.
- Pour boiling water over the tea and mint, re-cover the pot, and allow the tea to steep for 3 – 5 minutes. Sometimes Moroccans put their teapot directly on the stove and allow the water to come to a boil again.
- After the tea has steeped, you can pour the tea. Hold the pot as high above the glasses as possible. Then, to aerate the tea further, pour the tea back into the pot and once again, holding the pot high in the air, pour the tea into the glasses. If you like, repeat this back and forth one more time.
I hope you guys enjoyed this post! I’m excited to continue sharing about everything to do with tea, while I keep learning about it myself! I’m really excited to announce that I will be attending the World Tea Expo 2016 in Las Vegas this summer! There, I’ll be taking in as much as I can and learning as much about the tea industry as I can. So stay tuned, and you’ll get to experience this vicariously through my posts!