Wednesday 10 March 2010

Mint tea

Mint tea or better yet, green tea with leaves of mint, lavishly sweetened with sugar, is nowadays the national drink of Morocco. The making and serving of tea is an important ritual at social occasions and it is immediately offered as a gesture of welcome and hospitality.

Although mint tea is famed for being a traditional Moroccan drink this is not entirely true. Only half a century ago green tea and sugar were expensive and only available in the cities. Due to poverty and lack of frequent transport from the cities to the rural areas these products were extremely rare and unaffordable for the Berbers.

Here in the Valley of Ourika there are many locals who remember the absence of green tea and sugar. They still tell the stories of those rare festive occasions when a pot of tea was served in honour to a guest or celebration.

Nowadays green tea and sugar is widely available throughout the country, however not every pot of tea in the High Atlas Mountains region is served with mint. Instead sage and herb louisa (verveine) is often used to flavour the green tea. Sage grows readily in the mountains and the Berbers regard it as a warming stimulant with medicinal qualities to relieve discomforts during the cold months of winter. Even though herb louisa is not an indigenous plant it is now widely grown and renowned for its refreshing and stimulating qualities.

Befriended locals often welcome us with a wonderful tea serving and it didn’t take us long to discover the delight of drinking green tea with freshly plucked herbs. Every day now begins with a delicious pot of tea with sage or herb louisa. Only the commonly accepted noisy slurping of the tea we’ll not include in our tea rituals!

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