Tea Pots and Pottery
The medina of Fez is the most ancient city in the Arab world and contains the world's oldest university, still in operation! It is also renowned for its pottery in a striking blue and white color scheme. While we visited we picked out a variety of intricately-painted bowls, cups, and boxes from the government handicrafts academy CFQMA. This training center is passing down traditional arts but is housed in a modern facility near the medina, with markedly superior working conditions than the ceramics factories outside town.
There is no occasion unsuitable for hot mint tea in Morocco. Any time of day, despite sweltering heat, a fresh pot is frequently offered and always accepted whether among friends or strangers.
We were always shocked at the quantity of sugar that Moroccans add, but then again it reminded us of home and the Southern tradition of sweet iced tea, or mint tea brewed in a jar in the sun.
An Australian colleague once remarked to us that people in cities tend to drink coffee while country folk prefer tea. From this he drew conclusions about how the drinks suited the pace of daily life in each environment. His theory holds true for tea-addicted Morocco, where even in the cities time passes at a leisurely stroll and there's always room in the schedule for another cup.
As the weather cools off for winter here, try this recipe for hot Moroccan tea:
- Green tea, Chinese "gunpowder" style if possible
- Sugar, to taste
- Fresh Mint sprigs, about 10
- Boil water (about 5 cups)
- Add 1 tablespoon tea to empty tea pot
- Pour a little hot water over tea leaves, swirl tea pot, and strain water out, retaining tea. This is a key step to warm the pot and rinse the tea, reducing its natural bitterness.
- Add remaining water to tea pot and steep 2 minutes
- Add herbs and sugar to tea pot (Moroccans drink it sweet!) and steep 2 more minutes
- Fill one glass and pour back into pot. Repeat at least 5 times to stir sugar
- Pour tea into cups from as high as you can manage in order to produce a nice foam on the top. This is another key aspect of the Moroccan tea ceremony!
While the above is the most common formula, the following are some variations we learned from local friends:
- A Berber family we visited taught us to add the mint directly to the cup, filling it with mint sprigs before pouring the tea, and this was a common technique in some regions.
- This family also made delicious sweet herbal teas using rosemary, sage, or thyme instead of mint.
- At a stall in Marrakech we had a regional specialty - a piping-hot glass of strong ginger tea, sweet, spicy, and served alongside a bite of ginger cake.
- Our source for rugs in Fez served us black tea brewed with black peppercorns. Our favorite!
Of course, if you're a city folk you can always opt for a 'nuss-nuss,' or 'half-half,' which is a tall drink of half milk, half espresso.