Moroccan Mint Tea
If you visit Morocco or any Moroccan household anywhere in the world, you will definitely be offered the national drink of Morocco: Ataí (tea). Considered an art form and symbol of hospitality, its flavor and scent make me fall in love with Morocco all over again.
Moroccan mint tea has been my obsession from first taste – not only drinking it but trying to perfect making it. I have tried countless recipes. The premise is the same: boil the water, let it rest so not to burn the leaves, wash the gunpowder leaves to remove the bitterness, steep, add mint, and add sugar. Yet it always tastes like I have forgotten something (and sometimes just tastes terrible in general).
When a family known in Marrakech for their unrivaled tea invited us for a visit, I eagerly accepted their offer. I admit I had an ulterior motive of learning their secret. I tagged along into the kitchen and made careful mental notes as I observed the eldest sister making the tea. I copied her method exactly when I returned home, much to the amusement of my husband. He finally let me in on a secret that all Moroccans seemed to know that I didn’t: not everyone has the hand for making tea. While I pushed his Moroccan superstition aside, after 10 + years of making so-so tea, I had finally accepted his wisdom - I had not been blessed with “the hand that makes the tea.” At least not tea that tastes good.
Then recently a friend of mine confided in me that her husband has of late become “the tea guy” by including a secret ingredient into his Moroccan tea. The tea guy is the guy that is always asked to make the tea when Moroccan friends gather. I drove quite a distance to try this new tea of his – skeptical about his secret ingredient - but since I haven’t the hand for making tea, I accept all Moroccan tea invitations. The mark of good Moroccan tea is that its taste and essence bring about an unexplainable euphoric emotional connection to its homeland and its people. Memories of ancient buildings, shades of blue and orange, warm and fascinating friends, exotic food, and date trees flooded my mind. Yes, it was definitely good Moroccan tea.
And thus my obsession begins all over again. If one secret ingredient can transform an ordinary guy into THE tea guy, surely there is hope for me.