Thursday, July 5, 2007
Moroccan Mint Tea
When considering nations enthralled by tea, you might think of Britain, Japan, China – even India and Sri Lanka - before your mind's eye falls on Morocco. But, since the British brought tea to Morocco in the 1800s, the drink has become as interwoven into the fabric of life there as it is anywhere. Anytime a guest enters a café or someone’s home, mint tea is served as a vital symbol of hospitality and cultural cohesion.
And by Moroccan Mint Tea, of course, I mean the decadently sweetened Gunpowder tea that's infused with great bunches of fresh mint and poured from silver teapots held at dizzying heights above narrow glasses.
A Moroccan tea service is a stunningly beautiful thing to behold, as is the traditional tea set used for the ceremony. Typically a set includes an ornate tray (usually silver), the pot itself, a bowl with domed lid for holding the fresh mint (spearmint’s preferred – add fresh orange blossoms if they grow where you live), and a cup or goblet for foaming.
Creating a frothy head of foam on the tea is considered the most important part of serving. The feat is accomplished by first pouring the tea from a great height into the glass. But this is only the start. The glass is then lifted and the tea is poured again into the aforementioned cup or goblet. Back and forth the tea goes between these two vessels until the host is satisfied with the resulting froth.
Moroccan tea is served scalding hot, and 3 glasses are traditionally drunk at any sitting – not what you’d expect for a country that lies on the northern Sahara Desert. But trust me: it’s refreshing and wonderfully balancing on a hot summer day.
Serves 4 (3 glasses each)
7 cups boiling water
2 tbsp Gunpowder green tea
½ cup granulated sugar
2 handfuls fresh spearmint, plus extra for garnish
½ cup fresh orange blossoms, plus extra for garnish, (optional)
Rinse your teapot with about a cup of boiling water to heat through. Use a towel or potholder if your teapot has a metal handle – it gets hot!
Put the tea, sugar, mint, and orange blossoms, if using, into the warmed pot. Pour over the boiling water to cover and steep for 3 minutes. I like to wrap the pot in a tea towel during this stage to keep in the heat.
Banish small children and pets from the area. Lift the teapot 6 inches above the first glass and slowly pour a stream into the glass. As you gain agility and courage, you will be able to lift the pot higher. Now hold the (very hot) glass over the goblet (or any other cup) and stream in the tea. Repeat at least once more until there’s a light foam on the surface of the tea. Cappuccino lovers and those of you with leather skin continue as long as you like though. Repeat with the other glasses, garnish each with a spring of fresh mint or an orange blossom, and serve hot.