Moroccan Tea Culture

Not only is Morocco one of the biggest tea importers in the world, but its tea culture is considered an art form. It’s believed that tea was first introduced to Morocco in the 18th century and began spreading throughout the country in the mid-1800s, when trade between North Africa and Europe was flourishing.  Today, Morocco is one of the largest importers of Chinese green tea worldwide.  In fact,according to the Moroccan trade industry, they imported more than $56 million worth of Chinese Tea during the first half of 2006 alone.

Touareg tea (Mint Tea) is a flavored tea that is central to social life in Maghreb countries and its offering can take a ceremonial form, especially when prepared for a guest.

moroccan-tea.jpgThe preparation of Touareg (also called Atai) Tea is a rather complex and long procedure, where green tea (usually strong Chinese tea, e.g. gunpowder, chun mee, or zhu cha) is mixed with fresh mint leaves in large quantity and a lot of sugar (approximately five teaspoons of sugar for one teaspoon of tea). The tea is first put in the teapot and “cleaned” by adding a small quantity of boiling water, which is poured out after one minute (this operation lessens the bitterness of the tea). Mint and sugar are then added, and freshly boiled water is then poured in the pot. After three to five minutes, a glass is poured and then poured back in the pot two to three times, in order to mix the tea. The tea is then tasted and the sweetness adjusted until the infusion feels fully developed. Using a traditional curved teapot spout allows the tea to be poured into tiny glasses from a height of approximately half a meter to form a foamy head and swirl loose tealeaves to the bottom of the glass. It’s then returned once or twice to the teapot for a good mix. Several alternative preparation procedures exist, each with different brewing times for tea and for mint. Touareg is also sold as a ready-to-cook mixture of tea and dried mint, which is easier to store and to prepare, but carries a slightly flatter taste.