Everyone loves a cup of tea and the way the tea is prepared usually carries a little history of the region it is being taken.
While the British are widely known around the world as tea lovers, one can say Moroccans have inculcated tea drinking into their way of life so much so that Morocco is now synonymous with mint tea.
Morocco does not have its own indigenous teas or there are no known traces of tea being grown in Morocco. The origins of how tea became such an integral aspect of Moroccan culture is debatable. That notwithstanding, it has a thriving tea culture.
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The North African country is one of the world’s largest importers of tea and most of its tea is from China, another tea-loving country.
It is not uncommon to be invited to tea while visiting Morocco. Know that when the invitation is extended, the host is inviting you to participate in an important aspect of the country’s culture. It is what people drink in their leisure moments and a way of showing hospitality to guests.
On the average, a Moroccan can drink over five cups of tea a day. During winter, the consumption of tea increases and the tea can be brewed on fire the whole day.
Mint tea is served with every meal in Morocco and the process of preparing the tea is referred to as atai.
Atai is mostly done in front of the guests and it is usually prepared by the male head of the family. This fine art of atai is skillfully passed down through generations.
At public ceremonies, the host can opt to give the guests a small silver tray that has a pot of boiling water and all other needed ingredients to make their own tea.
Restaurants in Morocco have carved their niche with the making of mint tea. There is a whole ceremony that is staged in the restaurant or café which may include incense burning, dimming lights and playing traditional Moroccan tunes all in preparation for the guests in the restaurant to have their tea.
The most common tea you would find in any corner of the country is green tea, Chinese gunpowder tea to be precise. Every region has a way they prepare the tea and as the weather changes, different variations of the tea are also seen in homes and restaurants.
Now Moroccans are very particular with the brewing of the tea and how it is served, know that Moroccan tea is mostly always brewed with sugar and fresh mint.
To prepare authentic Moroccan tea, put water and loose tea leaves straight into the kettle. The water is placed on a gas burner, at this point fresh mint and sugar is added and allowed to steep for about five minutes.
When brewed the tea is served in a glass, however, the details then lie in how the tea is poured. The tea is poured from a height into a glass. This is done to access if the tea brewed to perfection.
The way the locals ascertain this is when the surface of the glass is frothy after pouring or when there is foam on the surface.
If there is no froth, then the tea is bad, and it is right to start the process again till the foam appears on the glass. An extra glass is also poured halfway and left to sit for a while.
A second cup is then poured, and the first cup’s content is poured back into the kettle while the second cup’s content is discarded. The main reason for this is to help mix the flavors well. Also, there is a claim that when pouring the second cup, toxins are released.
Those who pour it back into the pot do so to remove some of the bitterness that could be found in the first glass or two.
Once the first servings of tea go out, the pot is refilled with more water and mint and brought to a boil again for serving. The first servings are usually strong and the second quite lighter with mint flavours searing through.
Mint tea is not the only tea drank in Morocco. There are other types of tea of which some have medicinal purposes that are used to treat various symptoms.
Different herbs and types of mints are brewed for its medicinal qualities, especially during winter to boost the immune system and ward off cold and other illnesses.
A well-known and exceptional type of tea is called the Berber tea. Different herbs like lemongrass, mint, thyme, wormwood, sage verbena and dried flowers are combined to make this tea.
Seasons determine which ingredients to be added or subtracted. It is optional to add sugar as the ingredients have a sweet aftertaste to it.
Tea is an important extension of the famed Moroccan hospitality. For Moroccans drinking tea is a way of life and most people prefer to have home brewed tea than one bought from a restaurant or café because they have a better chance of brewing it to suit their taste.