I remember the first time I tried Moroccan tea. It was winter 2012 and two of my friends had just come back from spending a few days in Marrakech.
“The city was dirty, the souks were overwhelming, and the shopkeepers were incredibly annoying, but their tea… oh Oksana! You are going to love their tea!”, they said handing me a small packed of Moroccan Mint Tea.
I remember liking it, savouring its sweet minty taste for weeks (the packet didn’t last me that long. In case you didn’t know, I drink a LOT of tea!). With every cup, my desire to visit Morocco grew stronger and stronger. I didn’t care about the busy souks, I didn’t care about the hustle and bustle, I just wanted to drink Moroccan mint tea the way one intended to drink Moroccan mint tea.
But it wasn’t until this past October that my dream of visiting Morocco finally came true.
“Deux thés à la menthe” – Max ordered, as we sat down for our first Moroccan meal in Café Tinjis, a local institution found in the heart of the Tangier medina.
Within minutes a tray with two mint teas and 2 stacks of pancakes appeared in front of us, a traditional breakfast that we quickly learned to enjoy in Morocco.
We took our first sips of the mint tea, savouring every drop, carefully isolating the flavours that hit our taste buds. It was sweet, too sweet, but the tantalizing mint aroma seemed to balance out the nauseating rush of sweetness. The fresh bunches of mint were floating at the top, releasing more and more flavour into our glasses as we drank. They don’t call it Berber Whiskey for nothing. The taste was addicting.
“I think I am going to like this tea”, Max announced a few sips later.
“I think I am going to love it!”, I smiled back.
Over the course of the next 2 weeks we slowly but surely perfected our mint tea order. Our favourite was the kind with a green tea base, little bit of sugar, and a one or two mint leaf bunches. “Peu de sucre, pas beaucoup de menthe”, we would ask in our broken French. Little bit of sugar, not too much mint.
We learned that as sickening as sweet mint tea was, mint tea without sugar just didn’t have the same taste. Something about the sweetness actually punched up the flavours of the tea that were lost in the sugarless varieties. Through trial and error, and later through careful explanations from a local tea producer in Marrakech, we also discovered that there is actually such thing as too much mint. And that mint that’s heated along with the tea base can even turn bitter and completely ruin the mint tea experience.
We drank mint tea 4-5 times a day, in the morning with our breakfast, at lunch, at dinner, and a few times in between, and despite our fears, we never got sick of it. Most riads welcomed us with a cup of tea and a bowl of peanuts, and even in the desert, Berber Whiskey was just as delicious!
In fact, we would argue that the true Berbers of the Saharan desert seemed to have the mint tea making process down pat. Perfectly sweetened, perfectly minty, perfectly poured. We couldn’t get enough of it.
“I think mint tea has earned the spot of my favourite tea in the world”, Max finally admitted on our last day in Morocco. I couldn’t agree more! Move over Indian Chai Tea, English Black Tea, and even Chinese Jasmine Green Tea, we are forever in love with Berber Whiskey.
Do you have a favourite tea? Any other Moroccan Mint Tea lovers out there?