(photo by Chabi Chic)
The tradition of Attay - the name for Morocco's signature sweet, mint tea - goes back centuries in North Africa, and is a crucial part of daily life. As a traveler or a local, no matter where you go - to a souk, a cafe, a Riad, or the home of a new friend - you are sure to be served a steaming hot cup. On my first visit to Morocco in 2016, I became enraptured with it. After you get used to the powerful sweetness, there are layers to the flavor that are subtle and wonderful. The basic ingredients are fresh mint leaves, gunpowder green tea, sugar, and hot water. But in winter, its common to add absinthe (wormwood) leaves, marjoram, sage, and verbena as well. Different regions of the country are known for their variations - some lighter and more subtle, some darker and more herbal.
The tradition of tea in Morocco includes layers of ritual and artful service. The first step is adding rolled pellets of gunpowder green tea to hot water. After this has steeped for a few minutes, the water is removed from the pot and set aside. This bitter brew is considered the "spirit" of the tea, and isn't discarded. The next step is to add more water, add sugar, and brew again. Once this is finished, fresh mint leaves are added to individual glasses, and the tea is poured into each cup from a great distance to aerate and cool the tea. The "spirit" or initial bitter infusion may be added back in to deepen the flavor.
MOROCCAN MINT TEA RECIPE
Makes 6 servings
- 1 tablespoon gunpowder green tea
- 5 cups boiling water
- 3-4 tablespoons sugar, or to taste
- 1 large bunch fresh mint leaves
Using a 1 to 1 1/2 quart teapot, put tea in teapot and pour in 1/2 cup boiling water. Let simmer for one minute. Strain out and set aside water - this is the essence or "spirit" of the tea. Reserve the tea leaves in the pot.
Repeat this process with a fresh 1/2 cup of water, this time swirling gently to warm the pot and rinse the tea. Discard water.
Fill the teapot with the remainder of the water and the majority of the fresh mint leaves, and let it come to a boil. Once the water has boiled, add sugar and stir until dissolved. Optional: add the "spirit" back in to the tea, one teaspoonful at at time, to taste. Place a few additional fresh mint leaves in our traditional tea glasses, and strain the tea into each glass, making sure that the tea leaves stay in the pot.
(photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images)