Thursday, May 23, 2019

Moroccan Mint Tea - the Chinese Connection

The consumption of mint tea is an essential tradition in the daily life of Moroccans. Serving green tea to guests is a sign of friendliness and a way to welcome them. But how did the tea become part of the customs and traditions of Moroccans? 

Few people know how and why tea arrived in Morocco, a country that does not produce it. Historically, tea appeared in China almost 5,000 years ago. Initially the preserve of noble or royal families, the consumption of tea has become widespread throughout the world over the centuries. Tea broke into the lives of Moroccans during the second half of the 19th century, during the Crimean War between 1853 and 1856 with the Russian Empire against a coalition of the Ottoman Empire. Other historians suggest that tea was introduced to Moroccan culture as early as the 12th century, and is often credited to ibn Battuta.

The peculiarity in Morocco is that, unlike the vast majority of Arab countries, which use black tea, Morocco consumes green tea which is more flavoured, most often with mint, or other medicinal plants. Moroccans consume a lot of green tea - a quarter of the Chinese tea exported in 2018. In figures, some 77,562 tons, or nearly a quarter of China's total exports of this commodity were imported. This places Morocco as a privileged customer of China, but also as a gateway to North Africa and West of many Chinese companies.

According to the South China Morning Post (SCMP), an English-language daily newspaper published in Hong Kong since 1903, Morocco currently has 5 packaging lines of the Chinese company Jinli Tea, the only one of its kind on the market in the area of ​​the North Africa. This company currently has a production capacity of 3,000 tons of tea annually, and totals 8.2 million dollars (79 million dirhams) of investments in the Kingdom since 2015.

How to make Moroccan mint tea
Chinese gunpowder green tea is preferred for making Moroccan tea. The "gunpowder" refers to the compression of the dried tea leaves into tiny pellets; the more compact, the better the quality. A slight sheen to the gunpowder tea is desirable as it indicates freshness.

A generous quantity of fresh spearmint leaves ( na'na in Moroccan Arabic) is essential to mint tea. Quite a few varieties of spearmint can be found in Morocco, depending on the region and time of year. While fresh spearmint is the most popular choice for mint tea, smaller quantities of dried peppermint leaves fresh, wormwood (sheba)  or fresh pennyroyal may also be used, resulting in tea with a more pungent aroma and flavour.

Moroccan tea is not exclusively flavoured with mint, however; other aromatic herbs such as sage, wormwood, lemon verbena, wild thyme, and wild geranium are also used.

1 tablespoon loose Chinese gunpowder green tea
5 cups boiling water
3 to 4 tablespoons sugar, or to taste
1 large bunch fresh mint
Put tea in teapot and pour in 1 cup boiling water, then swirl gently to warm pot and rinse tea. Strain out and discard water, reserving tea leaves in pot.
Add remaining 4 cups boiling water to tea and let steep 2 minutes. Stir in sugar (to taste) and mint sprigs and steep 3 to 4 minutes more. Serve in small heatproof glasses.


No comments: