While in Rabat, Morocco, 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. Nearly every Moroccan pauses for tea many times a day. “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 to rest and sit 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. 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, was a warm spirit and incredible cook. She taught us how to make tea, the Moroccan way. Though I’ve found that no two people make it the same, the components always consist of three things: green tea, lots of mint, and epic amounts of sugar. The tea is traditionally made in an engraved silver pot, called a berrad; the berrad can be placed directly on the stove.
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 the boiling water is added. The tea is steeped for 2 to 3 minutes, swooshed around, and then poured into a glass; this “washes” the tea leaves, and the resulting first steep, believed to be full of dust and dirt, is discarded.
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 didn’t sound American to me!) For the true Moroccan 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 a thick and bubbling foam; or as Khadijah explained, “Your tea must have a good turban.”
Finally, the tea is ready to be served in small, traditional etched glasses. Moroccans always drink three or more cups in one sitting.