Tea - photographed recipe

 Green Tea Recipe Tajana Morocco Cooking Drinks

So that you don't say I'm not your friend, here is the recipe for the famous, one and only, Moroccan tea.

Some notes, before we start: Moroccan tea doesn't necessarily include mint (that's the aromatized version, thé à la menthe). It's basically a drink made with tea (the real tea, camelia sinensis, and not any other plant we use to make infusions and generically call tea) and sugar.

To this infusion you can then add herbs that aromatize it, although it is often drank in its basic form; the most commonly used herb is mint, mostly common mint, but you can use any other variety of mint, or even pennyroyal, thyme, sage, artemisia, and I thought I heard someone say rosemary. My favorite is the one made with pennyroyal; thyme is a bit bitter, which teams up with the bitterness of the tea to create an excellent contrast with the sugar. A lot of sugar. This isn't a drink for diabetics.

 Green Tea Recipe Tajana Morocco Cooking Drinks

The kind of tea used is green tea - "thé vert de Chine", you can read it in any label, some adding "extra - chunmee" or "sow mee". This tea gets its name from the shape of its leaves that after being rolled up resemble the delicate eyebrows of a woman, The taste is different from other green teas that I have tasted, mainly some Japanese types of tea (which have a slightly fermented taste) or the Gorreana tea from Azores (which is a tea of high quality, by the way). I have used Gorreana tea to prepare Moroccan tea often; although the result wasn't bad, after a couple of minutes, the tea started to get bitter, which doesn't happen with the chunmee tea. So, no black teas, or Lipton tea bags that say they are green tea. Keep your dignity and got to a good tea house.

Now, for the recipe: you need a kettle, a tea pot, Chinese green tea, sugar, glasses (it's nicer to use small narrow glasses, but that is just a detail) and mint or any aromatic herb of your choice.

 Green Tea Recipe Tajana Morocco Cooking Drinks

Boil the water in the kettle. Place the tea inside the tea pot (two tablespoons for each 4 dl of water). While the water is boiling, pour the equivalent of a glass of water into the tea pot and let it rest for up to a minute. Pour this first infusion into a glass.

Afterwards, pour about the same amount of water into the pot and shake it in horizontal circles. The main purpose of this step is to clean the tea leaves. Some people say that it reduces the bitterness of the tea. After shaking it for a few seconds, throw away this second infusion. I suggest you pour it into a glass to check how dark and dirty this water is - nothing like the golden and translucid water in the first infusion (photo below)

 Green Tea Recipe Tajana Morocco Cooking Drinks

Pour the first infusion into the tea pot; add the rest of the boiling water, the mint, that has been washed and twisted to breaking (but not chopped) and sugar. I can't tell you how much sugar, but more than what you would think reasonable. Although not everybody adds as much sugar as they do here in the Ait Bouguemez valley (the say it's because of mountain life), a good tea is pretty sweet. You can always start with a little bit and add more in the end, to your liking. In the last photo, you can see a sugar-loaf, which is the shape of the sugar that is most used here.

It's also hard to say how much mint to use, but it should also be a lot. Imagine a handful of flowers used to make a nice twig of flowers (what a lovely image). When you look inside the tea pot, there should be tea and mint up to the top of the water. The pennyroyal, which is stronger, can be less. Again, it's a matter of taste.

Put the tea pot on the stove and let it boil for about 10 seconds. The longer you let it boil, the stronger the tea will get (you might not want it too strong). Take it out of the stove and let it rest for a minute. Fill a cup and pour it onto the pot again. Repeat. The goal of this step is to mix the sugar (I suppose). Taste it to adjust the sugar, if necessary (you don't have to boil it again). Let it rest for another minute and serve. If you want some foam, try pouring it slowly from as high as the length of your arm.

 Green Tea Recipe Tajana Morocco Cooking Drinks

Another option is to perfume the tea with saffron, istead of aromatic herbs - real saffron, the one that is really expensive. According to what a kasbah guide from Ouarzazate told me, tea with this kind of saffron is aphrodisiac. I told him that I had drank it and hadn't noticed. He was amazed I hadn't felt anything "inside", but because he spent about an hour trying to convince me to accept a free massage, I'm not sure it wasn't some spur of the moment invention to test me.

The best things to eat with the tea are nuts. Moroccan people drink tea before a meal (and at breakfast, tea time, and everytime they feel like it or are entertaining visitors). A few days ago, during a hike through the Saghro mountains, we calculated the number of glasses of tea we had drank throughout the day. I drank 11; the guide had drunk at least 14. A perfect gluttony that tasted so good.

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