The cool comfort of Moroccan mint tea
Recreate a classic tea from a faraway land without stepping out of your home
This week’s tea borrows from the current mood of armchair travel and vicarious pleasures.
With a big bunch of fresh mint staring at me, I called my friend, Nikhila A. She used to be a frequent traveller to Morocco before moving bags and self to Casablanca for a year. Although she returned a few years ago, she was happy to revisit her memories of Morocco.
Moroccans love India, recalls Nikhila, narrating stories of a taxi driver who regaled her with Hindi songs, a little Moroccan girl asking “aapka naam kya hai (what’s your name)?" and the waiter at the café welcoming her with, “Indian? You are one of us!" From her descriptions, I picture a beautiful country, delightful souks, hospitable people and large platters of delicious food. She also paints a lovely picture of their tea ritual, where tea is poured from ornate teapots into decorated glasses, and distinctive rectangular sugar cubes are dropped generously into the pot. Tea, she says, is truly ubiquitous in Morocco.
Although tea is a constant, the size of the glass apparently grows smaller as you travel from the north to the south. In the deserts of southern Morocco, the tea is darker, more concentrated, more bitter.
I wangle a recipe: Take a big spoon of tea leaves, a lot of sugar, and mint—lots and lots of it, stalk included. I improvise with some help from Google.
The Moroccan mint tea is a classic. It’s made with a Chinese gunpowder green tea base—this is a form of Chinese green tea where the leaves are rolled into pellets. It’s easier to transport large volumes and because the leaves are compressed, they keep for a longer time. The name comes from the resemblance to gunpowder.
I locate some Chinese gunpowder green tea in my stash. I heat a cup of water to boiling, let it rest for a couple of minutes, and add 2 tsp tea, sugar (a little extra) and let it steep for 2-3 minutes. I add some fresh mint (about 2 tbsp) and let it steep for another 2-3 minutes. Nikhila says they would sometimes add dried herbs like verbena or sheba (wormwood) but I have neither. The tea was sweet but I suspect not as sweet as an authentic Moroccan tea. And the mint pleasantly dominated the cup. Our pudina also differs from Moroccan mint, so flavours will differ.
I can’t confirm how close it is to the original. But it’s a tea that I will likely add to my repertoire (maybe skipping the sugar); it’s wonderfully refreshing.
PS: If you don’t have Chinese gunpowder green, feel free to make this with other green tea leaves. If using orthodox green tea, add an extra teaspoon to the above recipe.
Chinese Gunpowder Green Tea is available from Chado Tea and TGL Co. Premixed Moroccan mint blends are usually made with an Indian green tea base blended with dried spearmint and peppermint. You will have to try a few to find one that suits your palate.
Tea Nanny is a weekly series steeped in the world of tea. Aravinda Anantharaman is a Bengaluru-based tea blogger and writer who reports on the tea industry.
FIRST PUBLISHED09.05.2020 | 09:20 AM IST