While here in Rabat, Morocco with Cross Cultural Solutions, I must confess: coffee hasn’t been part of my daily life. It’s hard to find much coffee drinking happening anywhere, though there are a few cafes that serve it. Instead, Moroccans get their energy from very strong, sweet mint tea. This tea is a part of the country’s social fabric. No matter what their day is like, every Moroccan pauses for tea many times a day. They live very slow and steady, full of ritual and peace. They are a positive people, without worry; “Inshallah,” they say — God willing. In other words, why worry? It is out of one’s control. Their tea drinking reflects this; there is always time for a pause, a time to rest and be with others.
Mint tea is served in the morning when one wakes, and at night before sleep — and every hour in between. It is presented to guests to welcome them, consumed after meals and in celebration. It is ingrained in every Moroccan’s consciousness — one cannot separate Moroccan culture from mint tea. In fact, it is offensive to reject an offering of tea, and one is expected to drink, at the very least, two cups when offered.
Our house manager, Khadija, is a warm spirit and a mean cook. She taught us how to make tea, the Moroccan way. Though I’ve found that no two people make it the exact same way, the components always consist of three things: green tea, lots of mint, and large amounts of sugar. They typically make the tea in an engraved silver pot, called a berrad. This can be placed directly on the stove, and the entire process takes place in this pot.
First, boil water in a separate kettle. Green tea leaves are added to the berrad (or any pot in which one plans to serve the tea in), and a small amount of boiling water is added. The tea is steeped for 2 to 3 minutes, and then poured into a glass; more boiling water is poured into the pot, the tea is swished around, and poured into a second glass. The second glass of tea is the “dirty” tea, the dust and dirt that they believe is left on the leaves after the initial steep. Therefore, discard the second glass of tea.
Fill the pot with water once again, this time filling the pot completely. Put the berrad on the stove and bring to a boil, then add a handful of fresh mint. True Moroccan tea is incredibly sweet; all around Morocco, we were often asked if we wanted the tea Morocain or Américain – apparently American tourists find the tea too sweet (which doesn’t seem very American to me!) For the true Morocain taste, add two large sugar sticks. Moroccans never stir their tea, it is simply poured many times to dissolve the sugar. The tea is poured into accompanying glasses from a high distance, then poured back into the pot. This is repeated three or four times. The pouring must be done from a high distance to get the proper layer of foam that Moroccans strive for; “your tea must have a good turban,” Khadija told us.
Finally, the tea is ready to be served in small, traditional etched glasses, allowing many cups to be had (Moroccans always drink 3 or more cups in one sitting). It is sweet, strong, and minty, and is always accompanied by good company. It’s the Moroccan way.