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The Story Of Maghrebi Mint Tea

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Although it does not produce its own tea, the North African country of Morocco is one of the largest consumers and therefore importers of tea in the world. Even more so, there is a variety of tea, Moroccan Mint Tea (or Maghrebi mint tea) that has become almost symbolic for hospitality in Morocco and has spread throughout various regions in the Arab world and the Middle East.  

Generally, Moroccan mint tea, as the name suggests, is prepared with fresh mint leaves, green gunpowder tea and sugar. It is believed that the gunpowder tea out of which it is made, which is of Chinese origin, first made its way to Northern Africa through British merchants in the 18th and 19th century. As the Crimean War forced ports in the Baltic region to close, vast quantities of gunpowder green tea were shipped to Morocco instead. The locals took to it almost immediately, adding ingredients like fresh mint (which grows abundantly in the region) and sugar to adapt it to their own tastes. Furthermore, a scarcity of coffee in Morocco at the time exacerbated the popularity of mint tea.  

Ever since, the consumption of tea plays an important role in Moroccan life, and is oftentimes associated with hospitality and prestige. Mint tea is drunk throughout the day and is offered at most, if not all, social engagements. Its preparation ranges from a more modern, somewhat informal method to a more traditional Moroccan tea drinking ceremony.  

During a formal tea ceremony, the preparation starts with boiling water on a stove. After rinsing out the traditional Moroccan tea pot, or “berrad”, with some of the boiling water, green tea is added to the emptied teapot alongside another small amount of boiling water. The gunpowder tea is then left to steep for a short while before the water, or what is known as the “spirit of the tea” is poured into a glass. Subsequently, the mint leaves and sugar are added alongside more boiling water (depending on taste). After steeping for a little while the tea is served three separate times, each time providing a new flavor based on the time the tea and mint leaves have been steeping. The story goes that the first cup is as gentle as life, the second as strong as love, and the third as bitter as death.  

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