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. Be prepared 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 as 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 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 the aromatic tea, a traditional Moroccan teapot is used. As it is composed of 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, the tea is not mixed 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 is formed on the surface of the tea. The higher the tea is poured, the more foam created. 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 is served on a beautifully embellished tray paired with ornate patterned tea glasses.
The Art of Savoring
As part of the tradition, mint tea is served 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, the tea must be sipped and savoured rather than quickly gulped, 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, Moroccan mint tea is a faithful and satisfying partner.
It’s Impolite to Refuse
It is considered rude to refuse a cup of tea offered by a Moroccan. As a visitor, you are bound to be offered tea by grateful shopkeepers after a purchase or even for no reason at all. Moroccans are famous for their hospitality, so remember to be polite. If you’re invited to a Moroccan home, a sweet gift can be a sugarloaf or two.
From Carpet Shops to Riads
With mint tea delicately intertwined with Moroccan culture, there are 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-coloured 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!