Moroccan Mint Green

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Moroccan-style mint tea (atai) is now commonly served all throughout the West Arab World (North Africa). It is served not only at mealtimes but all through the day, and it is especially a drink of hospitality, commonly served whenever there are guests. Unlike Moroccan food, which is cooked by women, this tea is traditionally a man’s affair: prepared by the head of the family. It is served to guests and it is impolite to refuse it.

The method of preparation of atai is relatively complex and varies from region to region. It is normally sweeter in the north of Morocco than in the south, and in some places, pine nuts are added. In the winter, if mint is rare, sometimes leaves of wormwood are substituted for (or used to complement) the mint, giving the tea a distinctly bitter flavor. Lemon Verbena is also used to give it a lemony flavor.

The typical green tea used is a gunpowder tea variety imported from China. A simple and practical method runs as follows:

 

  • In a teapot, combine two teaspoons of tea-leaf with half a liter (about 16oz) of boiling water.

 

  • Allow it to steep for at least fifteen minutes.
  • Without stirring, filter the mixture into a different stainless steel pot, so that the tea leaves and coarse powder are removed.
  • Add sugar (about one teaspoon per deciliter [about 2.5 teaspoons per 8oz cup]).
  • Bring to boil over a medium heat. This important step in the preparation process allows the sugar to undergo hydrolysis, giving the tea its distinctive taste.
  • Add fresh mint leaves to the teapot or directly to the cup. Remember to remove the mint within two minutes, as it can give some people acid reflux.

 

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