Mint Tea

by Sarah on March 30, 2009

When I was a teenager I went to visit my mother’s relatives in Israel. One of her sisters was married to a Morrocan and by the laws of society she learned how to cook her husband’s food and everyday at 4 pm she would serve us mint tea together with dry cookies. Back in those days serving tea was easy, everyone got a cup of steaming sweet mint tea and there was none of that silliness of multi-flavored fusion tea. Now when I call out to my guests I need to ask them,
“Do you want coffee or tea?”
If it’s tea I continue,
“Do you want passionfruit/mango, mango/melon, lemon/mint, Chinese green tea with verbena, coconut tropic, chamomile, chamomile/mint, hibiscus infused, jasmine white tea, chocolate chip/pecan, pistachio/grapefruit….”
“Just give us the regular tea!!”
“Ok! No problem, … er, what’s regular again?”
I stopped buying all those ridiculous teas in their beautiful boxes because they all tasted the same at the end and simple mint tea or other herbs from the garden was always so much more aromatic. The other teabags must have all been filled with sawdust with a bit of aromatic oils added to it, a waste of money.

Fresh mint is very popular in Morocco where it is combined with Chinese green tea (gun powder tea) and sweetened with sugar cubes. In Morocco traditional tea is served on elegant three legged platters. It is the custom to pour the tea out of a special long spouted teapot from a great height without having the tea splatter all over the place. This supposedly produces foam on top of the tea which is the mark of an experienced tea pourer but more important it is part of the theatrical ritual of serving tea. The green tea tradition in Morocco was an unintentional outcome of the Crimean war when blockades diverted British ships and new ports for their cargo had to be found.
When Moroccans immigrated to Israel they bought their tea drinking custom with them and now fresh mint tea is served in many restaurants, usually with a bag of black tea on the side. Although green tea can be obtained in Israel, in the early years it was unavailable and black tea was used in its place, now it is the standard.
Mint has been long been known to have health benefits and mint tea is an important traditional Arab method to sooth colicky babies. Indeed it has been shown scientifically that mint helps relieve symptoms of dyspepsia and other stomach ailments and now there is mounting evidence that mint is also beneficial in the prevention of some types of cancers. Although tea is considered healthy, some mint species are dangerous when ingested in large doses and of course any type of mint should be taken in moderation.
The Israeli Arabs also enjoy mint tea (תה נענע) but have other types of teas such as lemon geranium, cinnamon, thyme, za’atar, verbena, sage, orange and lemon zest, lemon grass, rosemary, white leaved savory (Micromeria fructicosa), cardamom and an interesting concoction of ground almonds, walnuts and cinnamon (from the book Arab cuisine from the heart of the Galilee by Miriam Hinnawi). Another Moroccan herb tea, which is attributed only to them in Israel is wormwood tea (sheba) but because it is bitter it never became a popular drink (It also doesn’t help that wormwood in large doses in poisonous).

Related Posts with Thumbnails