By: Ariel, NSLI-Y Morocco, Academic Year 2013 – 2014
When I get back to the United States, I will be immune to caffeine. I will be immune to the caffeine pills they sell in Walgreens, a venti Starbucks black coffee, and even to the Thai tea boba I can get two blocks away from my house. These things used to keep me up until the wee hours of the morning, if consumed after three pm. You may be wondering why I will be immune to caffeine. No, a caffeine filled spider didn’t bite me and make my blood content solely caffeine, it’s the Moroccan mint tea. I have yet to go one day without drinking this tea. I have about four cups in the morning (keep in mind these cups are small), two cups during our mid morning snack at school, and then a few cups during the afternoon, the amount depending on whether I venture into Jamaa el Fna (the main market in Marrakech) and whether I go visit my friend Youssef the shopkeeper. In short, I consume A LOT of tea during a regular day. And I can slowly feel myself becoming immune to caffeine, which will prove to be problematic in college.
In Moroccan culture, it is customary to offer a guest tea when they visit your house or shop. I’m not complaining, in fact I adore Moroccan tea and tea time. Tea time in Morocco is a time in which Moroccans can cool off after a hard day, they can sit around and converse with friends or family, among the many things they do during tea time. If a shopkeeper in the souk invites you in for tea, you know that you have a friend in the souk business now. In Jamaa el Fna, you will often find yourself walking behind a man carrying buckets filled with a brred (Moroccan tea pot) and tea glasses. This man’s job is to give tea to the various shopkeepers that want tea at that time. Around five pm is ideal tea time for Moroccans. At this time, you’ll find shopkeepers sitting and drinking tea, and cab drivers will be very reluctant to give you a ride anywhere because they are on their tea break. I have made the mistake of interrupting a cab driver during his tea/cigarette break, and it ended with him taking the extremely long way to my house. I ended up paying an extra five dirhams, which may not seem like much but to a student, five dirhams is the difference between eating out or eating at home.
The Moroccan way of preparing tea is also quite different from how westerners prepare tea. First off, it is very sweet. My host mom prepares tea with a lot of sugar, about three sticks of it. She brews the looseleaf Chinese tea first, and then adds a lot of mint and sugar. She then pours two glasses of tea, only to pour them back into the brred, in order to mix the sugar that might have settled into the tea. Finally, the tea is ready to serve. Moroccans don’t simply pour their tea in a simple way; there is an art to it. Moroccans pour tea starting close to the cup, and slowly move the brred higher and higher up, farther away from the cup. You, however, must not fill the cup all the way because the cups are made of glass, and therefore they are scalding. Always leave some room for the tea drinker to hold his cup. Watching my host mom pour the tea is always a treat, since she has become an expert at it. The first time I drank tea, she informed me that the foam at the top is a way of telling whether the tea is good or not. The more bubbles/foam there is, the higher the quality of the tea is. Moroccan mint tea can also be mixed with Louiza, a lemon verbena tea. I personally prefer the straight mint tea to the louiza, but to each their own.
Now I know that your mouth must be watering to taste this amazing Moroccan tea. You can of course try to make it (although unless you have a Moroccan teaching you, I doubt it will be as good as it is here in Morocco) or you could visit Morocco, try the tea and discover that Morocco has much more to offer than just tea! Since the tea is only the tip, you can surely imagine all the other wonderful things Morocco has to offer.