In Morocco, there’s no such thing as one glass of mint tea. One begins the day with mint tea, one ends the night with mint tea, and everything in between is followed or preceded by sweet, sweet sips of the syrupy brew. Also known as Berber Whiskey or Maghrebi mint tea, for someone who has yet to savour Morocco’s beloved national drink, it’s the beginning of a love affair. Prepare to guzzle glass after glass. Even in the scalding heat, it’s addictive. Read on to find out how to emulate the true Moroccan way of drinking Berber Whiskey on your next trip to the blue city.
It’s a Way of Life
With just one sugary-charged sip and you’ll comprehend the tea’s celebrated reputation. For most Moroccans, preparing and savouring mint tea is part of everyday life – it is part of the routine as drinking water. Being refreshing and delicate, you’ll find that it is ideal for any mood or occasion. Despite the day-to-day tea drinking custom, it is in no way an ordinary cup of tea. In fact, mint tea is emblematic of friendship, Maghrebi hospitality, and it is a practice spanning generations.
A Historic Ritual
The preparation of mint tea is a process called atai and it stems from the 12th Century BC. To make aromatic tea, a traditional Moroccan teapot is necessary. As it is either silver brass or stainless steel, this teapot resists high temperatures unlike a typical ceramic one.
The ingredients used in the tea are actually ubiquitous: loose-leaf Chinese Gunpowder Pearl green tea, a bunch of fresh spearmint leaves or nana mint, and heaps of sugar. However, Morocco’s best-kept secret is the quantity of the ingredients needed to brew the drink.
Most importantly, you shouldn’t mix the tea with a teaspoon as in Western culture. Amalgamation occurs through the repetition of pouring the tea from the teapot into a tea glass at a height until a layer of foam forms on the surface of the tea. The higher the tea is poured, the more foam forms. The end-product: a liquid that is almost golden, mixed with amber hues, and a flavour that is well-balanced and warm.
Finally, the tea comes on a beautifully embellished tray paired with ornate-patterned tea glasses.
The Art of Savoring
As part of the tradition, Moroccans serve mint tea three times without changing the tea leaves. As the Arabic proverb goes, “The first glass is as gentle as life; the second is as strong as love; the third is as bitter as death”. Along with this custom, you must sip and savor the tea rather than quickly gulping it to create a sensational experience.
The Perfect Accompaniment
As locals sip their tea 20 to 30 times throughout the day, the essential drink can accompany anything sweet and savoury. From wholesome couscous and nourishing tagine to moist cornes de gazelle and biscotti-like Fekkas, any Moroccan dish can have mint tea on the side.
It’s Impolite to Refuse
It is rude to refuse a cup of tea offered by a Moroccan according to etiquette. Moroccans are famous for their hospitality, so remember to be polite. If locals invite you to a Moroccan home, a sweet gift can be a sugarloaf or two.
From Carpet Shops to Riads
With mint tea a crucial part of Moroccan culture, there is a myriad of establishments offering the sacred drink. Tucked in the corners of souks or even based on rooftops, some places can be harder to find. Nevertheless, mint tea is in abundance.
Relax and unwind in dedicated teahouses such as the Tchaba Tea House (Marrakech) where they present tea with hourglasses to notify customers when their tea is ready, or Riad Yima,(Marrakech) with multi-colored walls splattered with art. Tea terraces like Le Salon Bleu (Tangier) allow you to escape the bustle with a view. Or maybe, you’ll stumble upon a hidden gem nestled in a narrow alleyway. Order the thé a la menthe in French or atay b’naana in the Moroccan dialect, and you’ll easily have yourself a cup of fresh authentic mint tea.
It tastes great in a riad and even better in the desert. But mint tea tastes the best when shared within the company of friends! Personally experience this wonderful ambience with the sugary tea in hand on one of our Morocco Tours!