Morocco had its first taste of tea in the 1700s, but it wasn't until the mid 1800s that gunpowder tea came to the mountains and deserts of the Maghreb region (including the Atlas Mountains, Morocco, Algeria, Libya and Tunisia).
When local folks boiled the gunpowder, an everyday Chinese green tea, with imported sugar and a fresh, local spearmint cultivar called Nana, a legendary tea was born.
"Berber Whiskey", as it is sometimes called, has since become as much a part of the culture in Northern Africa as in North America. You can no longer walk through a souk in Marrakesh without bumping into a mint tea stand as you cannot walk through a grocery store in the United States without coming across a box of Moroccan Mint tea.
Enjoyed from sun up until late in the evening, mint tea is a symbol of hospitality and friendship. It brings together family and friends, new and old, offering respite from the dry desert heat. Similarly, I drink it for a fragrant, intoxicating afternoon escape.
The first glass is as bitter as life,
The second glass is as strong as love,
The third glass is as gentle as death.
Traditional Moroccan Mint Tea: To make, put 1 cup of water, 1 tablespoon of sugar, 2 teaspoons of Firepot Moroccan Jasmine Mint tea (click here or the image at the bottom of the page to shop) and 1-2 sprigs (6-12 leaves) of fresh mint together into a teapot or pan. Bring to a boil (the astringency from steeping tea with such hot water is balanced by the sugar and provides a welcome, refreshing pull in the cup). Remove from heat, stir and allow to steep for 5 minutes.
Pour one cup of tea into a tea glass. Now, pour the tea back into the pot. Traditionally, this is the custom. This pouring from cup to pot and back is done over and over again. It helps to:
a) Dissolve the sugar
b) Blend the tea in the pot so that it is of uniform strength
c) Cool the tea to drinking temperature
Alternatively, you can just stir the pot, but there is a certain panache that comes with the pouring that makes for a good show.
Finally, pour the tea into the glass cups from as high as possible. You want to create foamy bubbles on the surface of the tea. One trick is to start low and then raise the pot until it is a few feet from the glass - an impressive trick if you can do it!
Repeat. This can be mind altering. You will want to drink it all day long and forget about everything else.
NOTE: This recipe was created using Firepot's Moroccan Jasmine Mint tea. It uses a high grade Fujian jasmine green tea which is smoother and sweeter than a gunpowder and adds a heady, fragrant aroma to the sweet, minty tea.