Saturday, September 14, 2019

Moroccan Mint Tea - "A Hint of the Forbidden"

Morocco is one of the biggest importers in the world of Chinese green tea leaves and was in 2014 the second most country for tea drinking with an average of 4.34 kg per person. Yet tea has not always had a warm welcome in Morocco

On the health side, of all the teas, green tea is the most famous. He is one of the few to preserve its virtues in hot water because it is the least transformed. according to the National Agency for Food Safety (ANSES) tea contains three main families of antioxidants: catechins, theaflavins and thearubigins.  In a cup of green tea there are up to 400 mg of polyphenols, a family of organic molecules widely present in the plant kingdom, . Thanks to these compounds, tea is considered the drink with the strongest antioxidant activity. The antioxidant power of green tea extracts is four times higher than that of vitamin C. According to several studies, green tea also has beneficial properties in the prevention of cancer.

Yet, over the years, there have been many attempts to ban it and tea has never been well received by some Moroccan scholars. Even in the twentieth century, some of them continued to fight Atay and to try to persuade Moroccans not to consume it.

Morocco's flagship drink, intrinsically linked to the hospitality of Moroccans, tea did not, however, benefit from the blessing of some Moroccan ulemas at its first appearance. Discovered in 2737 BC by the Chinese Emperor Shen Nung, tea did not arrive in the Arab world and Morocco until the 18th century.

Under the reign of Sultan Ismail, tea remains a mainly makhzanian commodity. It is thus served to the king, princes, ambassadors, and prominent personalities of the Sultan's court. In her book " The Art of Tea in Morocco ", previously quoted by Yabiladi, Noufissa Kessar Raji reports that Queen Anne of England (1665-1714) estimated that "two large copper tea fountains and a little tea of good quality would be what could soften the heart of the Emperor of Morocco who held sixty-nine English prisoners of war ".

Years later, the English surgeon William Lempriere, called in 1789, at the court of Sultan Mohammed Mohammed Abdallah (Mohammed III), "surprised that the tea is served in beautiful cups of porcelain from India, a remarkable smallness, the small amount that is used both of this drink shows the whole case that the Moors do, "says Noufissa Kessar Raji.

In an article, the centre  Mominoun Without Borders for Studies and Research (MWB) tells how tea or "Ataty" became famous in the 18th century, after "European emissaries had offered gifts to the Alawite Sultan for the release of their captives, including tea and sugar bags. "

More specifically, the work of Abdelahad Sebti and Abderrahmane Lakhssassi, entitled " From Tea to Atay: history and habits " (Editions Faculty of letters and rights of Rabat, 1999) states that this commodity is widespread in cities between 1830 and 1860.

But while this hot drink is the favourite of Moroccans for several years and is still claimed by almost all tourists visiting the kingdom, tea was the subject of several criticisms, including that of the ulema, when it arrived in Morocco.

For example, Abdelahad Sebti and Abderrahmane Lakhssassi cite several scholars who have expressed their opposition to this new drink for various reasons. They quote in particular the Fqih Ahmed Ibn Abdelmalek Alaoui, a cadi in Fes and Meknes, who died in 1826. Exercising as a judge, he "refused the testimonies [in front of his court] of those who had consumed tea", one writes. The cadi justified his opinion by the fact that "the man must avoid anything of which he does not know the verdict of Allah" and relied on the opinions of El Ghazali and Imam Shâfi'î.

Even at the beginning of the twentieth century, several imams had continued to oppose the consumption of tea. The two authors of "From Tea to Atay: history and habits" report indeed a story relayed by Mohamed Mokhtar Soussi (1900-1963) of Hajj Abed El Baichouri, one of the imams who supported Ahmed El Hiba. Hajj Abed El Baichouri asserted that "tea contains a hint of forbidden". He explained, still according to Mohamed Mokhtar Soussi, to have heard about a "factory in Paris of tea and sugar where they used carrion bones and blood".

Among the fatwas on the consumption of tea having marked the minds of Moroccans, MWB Center quotes Ahmed Hamed Ben M'hamed Ben Mukhtar Allah, Mauritanian Sheikh, famous in Morocco. "Because I was one of his consumers, and I drank it, in many ways and with many fools and miscreants," he explained, assuring "that those who experiment are better than those who hear only." Ahmed Hamed Ben M'hamed Ben Mukhtar Allah said that tea is part of the follow-up of instinct, desire and the devil's way. "I hope that anyone who reads my work will be guided by Allah," he concluded.

The sheikh had also warned against the consumption of tea, saying that the drink "diverts from prayer" and that it "harms health if it is eaten on an empty stomach". He also said that tea leads to "mixing with slaves and young people, hearing obscene speeches and talking about people".

Abdelahad Sebti and Abderrahmane Lakhssassi, for their part, describe how Mohamed ibn Abdelkabir al-Kettani, who had opposed, with other ulemas, Moulay Abdelaziz, had also expressed his opposition to this drink . "He forbade the consumption of tea especially to his disciples and fought him in meetings and occasions," said his son El Baker Al Kettani.

However, more moderate opinions have been expressed by other Moroccan scholars. In "Al It'haf", quoted by Abdelahad Sebti and Abderrahmane Lakhssassi, Abd Rāhmān Ibn Zaydān related the story of the Fqih Idriss (19th century), son of Sultan Moulay Slimane, who "prepared the tea containers at the time of his Classes". "When he saw that his students were getting bored or distracted, he ordered his servants to serve them tea to awaken their senses," said Ibn Zaydān.

MBW quotes another Moroccan imam, Sheikh Mohammed Ben Al Mouayyad Ben Sidi who, in a fatwa issued in 1925, said that "we must not forbid what has not been forbidden in the Koran, "

But over time, all the opinions of the scholarsdid not prevent Moroccans and foreigners visiting Morocco from enjoying tea and discovering its various variations, such as jasmine or mint tea. And even the recent information on traces of pesticides that would contain some brands sold in Morocco do not seem to affect the love of Moroccans for Atay.


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