Monday, November 22, 2010

North African Mint Tea

By Jess Hodges

North African mint tea is a drink made from a combination of green tea and mint which is drunk throughout western and central Saharan Africa. Most people would be familiar with it as Moroccan mint tea and it is also known as Touareg tea or Tuareg tea after the Tuareg, a nomadic people who can trace their way of life back to the writings of Herodotus (around 50BC), the ancient Greek historian.

Whist being part of daily life in five different countries mint tea is especially important in Morocco, hence the association. The country imports more green tea from China than anywhere else in the world.

To prepare it a pot of green tea is made and then strained into a stainless steel teapot. Sugar is added and the tea is bought to the boil, fresh mint is then added either to the pot or the cup when the tea is served. Mint tea is offered as a sign of hospitality and is traditionally prepared by the head of the family. Brewed in the traditional way the tea should be served three times giving three different strengths of drink which are described by this proverb.

“The first glass is bitter as life,
the second glass is as strong as love,
the third glass is gentle as death”

Mint tea has enjoyed a global increase in popularity with many people enjoying the flavour combination of the two main elements. In Morroco however the mint isn't considered vital with many people now choosing to exclude it due to some of the more alarming pesticides it is often sprayed with.

So mint tea is ancient, traditional, poetic and evolving, most importantly it is also delicious. Rather than buying the instant tea bag versions that exist I would thoroughly recommend buying some green tea and some mint and making it properly. Trust me you'll be more than happy to have your traditional three servings!