Historians disagree on how and when Morocco was originally introduced to tea, or athai/athay. It may have been introduced by Phoenicians in the 12th century, the Berbers who brought it with them from their native land in Asia, or by European countries such as Britain, Spain or Portugal in the 18th century.
However it came to the the region, tea became an integral part of Moroccan cuisine and culture which has lasted to this day. To Moroccans, welcoming guests by serving athai is a signature statement of hospitality and generosity.
Traditional Moroccan tea is a blend of green tea and mint tea. The green tea is typically gunpowder green tea from China, and the mint tea is made from a mint plant such as peppermint or spearmint. Each region will have its own blend, which may include pine nuts, lemon verbena, or other herbs.
In Morocco, sugar is added to green tea that has already been steeped. This combination will then be brought to a boil, and mint is added last. The amount of sugar used varies according to the region; the tea is sweeter in the northern parts of the country than in the south.
As in many wonderful tea drinking nations and communities, tea drinking is a social rite in Morocco. The women will often prepare the water and the man of the house will serve the tea to the guests. Traditionally there will be three servings after the leaves are awakened with a brief steep of hot water over the leaves. The next pouring will be steeped and served as friends, family and acquaintances connect over a cup of refreshing Moroccan tea. The tea will typically be served three times.
An Algerian proverb describing the tea experience:
- The first cup will be as gentle as life.
- The second cup will be strong as love.
- The third cup will be as bitter as death.
The artistic vessels typically used will be colorful glass cups with exquisite designs. Artistry is important in Morocco, which includes the presentation of food and beverages, and therefore tea. Often the tea will be poured from a high distance allowing for foam to build on top.
My niece Jessica had the wonderful opportunity to visit Morocco. Some of the previous and following photos are from her trip, which capture some of the beauty of the land, culture and people.
We at K’Tizo Tea find Moroccan tea very refreshing. Unlike in Morocco, we often combine gunpowder, peppermint and/or spearmint first, steep the tea in an infuser, and then remove the blend after about 3 minutes. Here in the US, some may then pour it over ice, because it makes a very refreshing iced tea as well. I personally prefer my Moroccan tea unsweetened, but many prefer sweetening with honey, agave, raw sugar or stevia.
Moroccan mint tea is a favorite at farmer’s markets on a really hot day, but also is fantastic on a cold winter’s night. Mint is considered a ‘cooling’ herb for those who like the balance of cooling and warming in their blends. Mint is a great relaxer, aiding in a good night’s sleep as well as improving digestion. No wonder this tea is enjoyed by many: it continues to be beneficial even after we have the pleasure of drinking it! I guess that also helps to make this tea a great tea of hospitality!
Let us know if you enjoy Moroccan Mint, and what some of your favorite teas are to serve to guests when you are showing hospitality.