Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Moroccan Mint Tea

"Le premier verre est aussi amer que la vie,
le deuxième est aussi fort que l'amour,
le troisième est aussi doux que la mort."

"The first glass is as bitter as life,
the second glass is as strong as love,
the third glass is as gentle as death."

Summer time means so many things; fresh air (sans allergies!), beach, dresses, and in general clothing that is mostly geared toward lazy outdoor activities.

For many, it also means gardening. It sure does for my family. As soon as the weather gets warm enough we are at it; planting all of our favorites. This year's crops contain peppers, okra, eggplant, onions, tomatoes, basil, spinach and, the topic of today, mint.

Of all the aforementioned garden fresh produce, mint is seemingly the least significant. I mean, let's face it, when do you ever see mint being used asides from as a misplaced garnish on your raspberry lime sorbet or in a marinade for Mediterranean lamb chops (those do sound good though, don't they?)?
I agree, yet I also love the flavor of mint and am looking for more ways to highlight that flavor on its own. The first way I thought of doing so was to make the simplest thing; mint tea.

My research:
As the title of this suggests, mint tea is commonplace fare in Morocco where it is served at many times throughout the day and is the first thing served to guests. It is generally prepared by the male head of household in Morocco. I have heard that it is made exclusively with green tea, and have found no evidence to the contrary when looking up recipes. Traditionally, it is a very sweet tea, which I found to be strange seeing as how I never add any form of sweetener to my green tea.
Those are the few facts I learned before making it a couple of nights ago.

My preparation:
While I have of course had mint tea before, picking fresh mint leaves from my backyard instantly delivered the promised calming effect associated with mint. I picked about 15 leaves for this preparation.
My green tea was loose leaf tea and I used two teaspoons. You could use tea bags as well and I would say that three would be a good substitution.
To sweeten, I added one tablespoon of sugar or two packets of artificial sweetener. Honey or agave nectar could also be added but I did not want to muddle those flavors with that of the mint.
These amounts were for 16 ounces of water (my teapot holds slightly less, I added more to account for evaporation).

My twists:
As in most tea cultures, preparation is a big part of the tea experience, and I wholeheartedly agree that it should be. While I do strive for authenticity, I feel that my way of preparing delivered the freshest mint flavor. Also, this tea is traditionally prepared by men; so clearly I am breaking the first rule already.

My steps:
Boil 16 ounces of water.
When it reaches a boil, remove from heat and add two teaspoons of green tea leaves.
Let this steep for no more than 60 seconds or it will turn bitter.
Strain into a teapot and add 10-15 mint leaves. I like to rip them in half to release more flavor.
Add two packets of artificial sweetener and stir.
Let steep for a few minutes before pouring.

I prefer to prepare it this way because the green tea flavor remains subtle while the mint develops as it steeps.
This tea is the perfect evening refresher as the mint has a soothing affect. For me, it definitely helps me wind down from the day.

Below you can see how this tea is traditionally served and how I serve it in the evening after dinner.
My favorite thing about this? It's an excuse to use my favorite pink teapot (pictured below) while plowing through my summer reading list.

A very elegant yet simple drink with rich traditions, mint tea is the perfect tea drink for summer and I hope you plant your own mint plant to enjoy all season long.

Happy drinking
X Jill

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