Tea in Morocco is the exceptional marriage between Chinese green tea and Moroccan mint. Everything begins with a freshly made pot of mint tea. A taste that has become well-known and loved throughout the world. This uncanny duo of tea and mint has produced one of the best teas the world has ever witnessed. Morocco is now the 6th biggest tea-drinking nation in the world. This article covers everything you need to know about Moroccan mint tea, including its origins, how to make it, and how it has become an integral part of Moroccan culture.
In This Post
- 1 History of Moroccan Mint Tea
- 2 Green (Gunpowder) tea in Morocco
- 3 Herbs in Moroccan tea
- 4 Benefits of Moroccan mint tea
- 5 How Moroccan tea is served?
- 6 Moroccan tea traditions and customs
- 7 How to make Moroccan mint tea
- 8 Where can we drink the best Moroccan tea
- 9 Conclusion
History of Moroccan Mint Tea
It is clear that Moroccan tea is iconic and well-known all over the world. What is not so clear is how this tradition came about. We do know that the British began sending large quantities of tea to Morocco in the 19th century due to their loss of sales during the Crimean war (1854).
Morocco became a new market for tea, which suggests that tea was previously not consumed in large amounts or there was probably no local demand for tea. Some say that tea was first given to Sultan Moulay Ismail as a gift by the Queen of England in the 17th century.
There is yet another more outlandish claim that tea was first brought to the region in the 12th century by nomadic Berbers or other travelers. This seems rather unlikely and is not present in the historical accounts of the region. By the 20th century, tea had become a widespread tradition across Morocco and was consumed by people from all walks of life, not merely the elites.
Hadj Hassan Raji, also known as Moul Atay, the founder of the famous Moroccan tea brand Sultan, began marketing and distributing tea in Morocco. In the 1960s, the state established The National Office of Tea and Sugar (ONTS) to control the tea and sugar industry in Morocco, which was by now a lucrative business.
Green (Gunpowder) tea in Morocco
Moroccan gunpowder tea, used to prepare the iconic Moroccan tea, is actually Chinese green tea. There several popular brands sold across the country. Gunpowder is normal Chinese green tea with its leaves tightly rolled into little pellets. Because it is compressed, it is stronger than regular tea leaves. It is called gunpowder because it resembles old-school gunpowder.
It’s believed that gunpowder tea first appeared during the Tang Dynasty, more than 1000 years ago, making it one of the oldest green tea types in the world and one of the first green teas exported from China. Nowadays, gunpowder is the default tea consumed in Morocco and it is literally irreplaceable for Morrocan.
Some of the famous Moroccan gunpowder teas:
- Sultan Tea
- Sbaa (4011)
- Al Bahia
- El Kafila
Herbs in Moroccan tea
We still don’t know why Moroccans use mint and other herbs in their tea and how this unusual tradition started. Some say that while the consumption of tea in Morocco is relatively new, the consumption of other herbal drinks has been present in Morocco for centuries. This could have resulted in the fusion of old and new traditions to produce what is now known and loved as Moroccan mint tea.
Moroccan mint tea is the most famous type of Moroccan tea. However, there are other variants: absinthium, verbena, marjoram, and sage that are used to prepare tea specifically in the North of Morocco. While Southern people prefer to use a pinch of Saffron and some Aniseed instead.
Benefits of Moroccan mint tea
Moroccan tea has all the benefits that are commonly associated with green tea. It is high in antioxidants and can help you lose weight while reducing your risk of cancer and heart disease. In addition, mint is known to have several health benefits.
It can improve brain function, relieve digestion issues, combat cold symptoms, and is great to kill bad breath. The bottom line is that green tea and mint are two foods that you want to incorporate into your daily diet. The best way to do this is to have at least a cup of freshly made Moroccan mint tea daily.
How Moroccan tea is served?
Moroccan tea is traditionally made and served with a Moroccan tea set which includes an elaborate silver tray with three silver containers of tea, mint, and sugar. These ingredients are ready to be mixed into the hot water. There is also a separate tray that has the traditional teapot and glasses. This tray will be used to pour and serve the tea.
The teapots are usually made in silver and decorated with engravings. These engraved Moroccan teapots are beautiful but they are generally saved for guests and special occasions. Moroccans make tea 3 to 4 times a day so they need simpler and more practical teapots. Many opt for something sturdy and easy to clean.
Sometimes the tea service set can include handwashing set for guests and the person making the tea. The set called “Ghessal” which is a water jug and large bowl. The host places the bowl under your hands and slowly pours water over your hands so that you can wash them.
Moroccan tea traditions and customs
Even though you can play around with different ingredients to make Moroccan tea, an authentic version requires these basic and essential ingredients:
- Fresh mint called Nana in Morocco. In winter, which is not the season of mint, we can replace it with a few leaves of absinthium, or Za’atar.
- Sugar, an essential ingredient in Moroccan tea. You can always abstain from using it but it won’t taste as good as the super sweet Moroccan tea.
- Enough boiled water
- Moroccan teapot. Highly recommended for an authentic Moroccan mint tea
The procedure of making Moroccan tea is considered an art that should be preserved. These preparations are usually done by men and are common during special occasions such as welcoming guests and having celebrations.
First of all, the women in the house prepare all the ingredients: sugar, gunpowder tea, and fresh mint in front of the tea maker, usually an elderly man in the house. The man should start the ceremony by washing his hands. Then cleaning the tea by rinsing it in boiled water and then adding mint and sugar to the tea already in the pot and filling it with water. To give the drink a strong taste, they put it on low medium heat for a few minutes, and then it’s time to serve it with some Moroccan homemade sweets and pastries.
Serving tea to the guests is somehow another unique tradition in Morocco. The tea server should make sure the teacup is almost half full, and make white bubbles on the surface. That’s actually how you know a good cup of tea from a bad one. To get the bubbles, the tea server should lift the pot high up when pouring the tea.
Tea is really important for Moroccans as a daily drink. Therefore, wasting neither tea nor time is not an option for them. One-pot of tea can be served up to 3 times by just filling it with water, adding more sugar and mint then straight to the fire. 3 minutes later another full pot of tea is ready for serving.
The Moroccan tea ceremony isn’t just about tea though. It’s about sharing and socializing with one another. People spend hours of their days just drinking tea, laughing, and gossiping. These joyful moments are incomplete in Morocco unless they are accompanied by tea.
How to make Moroccan mint tea
- 2 tsp Moroccan ‘gunpowder tea
- 3-6 tsp sugar (this depends on how sweet you like your tea. Moroccan tea tends to be extra sweet)
- A bunch of fresh mint leaves
- A teapot
- Boiled water
- Add 1 cup of boiling water to your Moroccan teapot and swirl it around. This will help clean the teapot as well as heating it up. Discard the water.
- Add 2 teaspoons of Moroccan green tea (gunpowder) in the teapot and then add 1 cup of boiled water to the tea. Let it sit for 1 minute, then empty the water into a cup. This is called “the essence of the tea”, which means it contains the first burst of flavors from the tea leaves.
- Note: For the tea, if you can’t find a Moroccan brand, just use any Chinese gunpowder green tea or regular tea leaves.
- Add another cup of boiling water to the teapot, swirl around, then pour it into a cup. You will notice that this one is much darker than the other one. This step is to clean the tea leaves now that they opened up after the first contact with boiling water. This cup of water will not be used for drinking.
- Pour back into the teapot the first cup of tea “the essence of the tea” then add boiling water to the teapot until it is three-quarters full. Put on medium heat, bring the water to a boil.
- Remove the teapot from the heat and immediately add a large bunch of fresh Moroccan mint (Nana) and the sugar. Usually, Moroccan mint tea is supposed to be very sweet.
- The authentic way of making Moroccan tea is to add the mint after you boil the tea to prevent the taste of burned mint leaves.
- Mix all the ingredients by pouring the tea into a glass and then pouring it back into the teapot. Repeat this step, ideally three times.
- Now, serve the traditional way by holding the teapot high above the glass, to get the distinctive foamy bubbles.
What do you have Moroccan tea with
Moroccan tea can be enjoyed alone or with some of the delicious Moroccan homemade sweets (Zlabia, Chebakia, Makroud) homemade Moroccan pancakes (Msemen, Beghrir, Betbout) or organic nuts, dates, and figs. Moroccan tea can be served also with food during lunch or dinner.
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Where can we drink the best Moroccan tea
There is no unique answer to this question since Moroccan tea can be drunk almost everywhere in Morocco. Moroccan tea is a way of life for Moroccans. Tea is an important part of every conversation, whether you are negotiating prices in the Souq (traditional market) or visiting a friend you will be welcomed by a cup of tea.
But, Moroccan tea isn’t only about the taste isn’t it? The process of making it is what gives it that authentic Moroccan touch. So, if you’re looking to experience a tea-making ceremony, I would suggest that you snag an invitation to a traditional Moroccan house, or even better, attend a special celebration such as Moroccan weddings, Religious celebrations (Sacrifice Eid and Ramadan Eid), or baby showers.
Moroccan mint tea is refreshing, delicious, and has several health benefits. We have shown that it is easy to make and requires only three basic ingredients, green tea, sugar, and mint. Moroccans are credited as the first people, to include mint in their daily tea routine, which is great because mint only enhances the health benefits already present in green tea.
Over and above that, the tradition of making and drinking tea in Morocco is a very intimate and sociable experience. It is an excuse for people to come together, sit and talk about the events of the day. In a time when there is so much that threatens to divide us, the tradition of drinking tea together is a call for unity, friendship, and understanding.