Atay b‘nahna – the refreshing mint tea, that is the Moroccan national beverage, is drunk daily and often prepared many times in a row. As a sign of hospitality, when trading at the bazaar, for breakfast, after meals or to end the day – every occasion, every hour is accompanied by freshly brewed mint tea. Hot, both sweet and bitter – that’s how a perfectly brewed mint tea should taste. Green tea has been imported from China since the 18th century and blended with the Moroccan mint (also called Nana mint). Today Morocco is one of the biggest importers of green tea, with about 40.000 tons each year. The spicy beverage is prepared with fresh Nana mint, Chinese green tea (mostly Gunpowder) and a lot of sugar in a beautifully decorated metal teapot. Typically the hot tea is poured from very high up into small colorful tea glasses, so it both cools and foams. The foam is supposed to keep flying sand from falling into the tea.
Gunpowder – the soul of mint tea
Traditionally the beverage is prepared in a short but elaborate ceremony and each family uses their own recipe. Some refine the tea with vervain, vermouth or a dash of rose or orange blossom water. Recipes are probably as numerous as tea enthusiasts in Morocco. All recipes have one thing in common though: they all start with cooking Gunpowder in water, which creates a slightly bitter brew that is called the “Soul of Tea”. In a second teapot green tealeaves are put in water and after a few minutes mixed with fresh mint, the brew, a lot of sugar and put to boil. This mixture is stirred by pouring tea into small tea glasses prepared on a silver tray and then poured back into the pot. This is repeated up to 5 times, so the tea glasses are covered with tea and sugar foam. Usually each guest is served three glasses of tea, the Moroccan motto is “The first glass is as bitter is life, the second one as strong as love and the third as gentle as death.” Even in Morocco this ritual isn’t always applied when making tea. Whether traditionally prepared or not, mint tea is always drunk hot, even as a refreshment in great heat. Due to the high menthol content of the mint, the infusion is a remedy for stomach trouble or headaches. The essential oils stimulate digestion and help with fatigue – that’s why it is often consumed as a digestif, sweetened strongly instead of dessert.
The turkish tea ceremony
Turkish black tea is called “Cay” or “Rize Cay” and is consumed all day in every season and known for being the Turkish national beverage. It is prepared in a samovar with two teapots, called „Semaver“, and has a very strong flavor.
The tea ceremony
In tea shops or tea gardens “Cay Bahcesi” tea is offered from the Semaver. It is filled with water and heated from the inside with electricity or coal. Two teapots are necessary, the smaller porcelain pot on the top holds the concentrate and the bigger one on the bottom holds the hot water. First the tea leaves are washed with warm water in the smaller pot, then the pots are placed over each other. The water is being warmed and the leaves can spread their aroma slowly. The boiling water is poured in the porcelain pot and the bottom pot is filled with water again, which gets boiled slowly. After 15-20 minutes of steeping the strong tea is ready. It is poured through a filter into small, tulip-shaped glasses.
The ceremony at home
Private homes use the Caydanlik, that heats the water in a pot on the stove and is much easier to handle and maintain. Tea is served with fresh Kek (dry cake), Kurabiye (pastries) or puff pastry filled with sheep cheese or minced meat.