Food The Chefs:

Mysticism of the Moroccan Tea Ceremony

Secret Souk

Ceremonious rituals have always been sacred to me. The Moroccan tea ceremony—begun in the 18th century—conjures memories of a trip to Marrakesh many year ago. Evenings were spent on the rooftop of our Riad as sundown prayers echoed through the city. It was unlike anything I had experienced, a deeply spiritual hummm vibrated throughout my entire being, and to this day sipping on Moroccan mint tea reminds me of the powerful emotion that overcame me. Mint tea itself is central to Moroccan life and a national drink. If you visit a souk or someone’s home, it is customary for them to prepare it in your honor. I can recall many encounters in the markets, as we sought out Berber rugs, where we sipped on tea together with the shop owner prior to negotiating any prices. It lent a nice touch to an occasionally tense process – no business deal can be closed in Moroccao without a cup of this emblematic tea.

The Moroccan tea ceremony that we created at The Secret Souk in NYC was not quite as mystical, void of the haunting prayers or the unusual negotiations. But it was still rooted in ritual, and beautifully transportative. I was taken aback by how detailed the preparation (known as Atai) was and I was honored to once again experience its ceremony in this beautiful soho loft space that Jasmine Hamed and Nicole Francesca Manfron transformed into a moroccan marketplace. Boiling water is poured over fresh spearmint, dried tea leaves, and sugar in a silver pot and then poured slowly into ornate and fragile glasses. As is tradition, the pouring was done from a height of twelve or so inches. The sweet fragrance is immediately detectable as the scent of fresh mint fills the air. During my time in Medina, an invitation to help make the tea was quite flattering, and I felt that once more when invited to take part at The Secret Souk.

Taking part in the ceremony again was therapeutic—I left feeling relaxed and inspired to cherish the little things, like tea, with more enthusiasm. Regarding the slow process involved, Moroccans can be heard saying, “Inshas Allah,” or “God willing, all good things come with time.” It’s a great reminder to slow down and relax, to be patient, and to really look at the world around you.

Photography by Chloe Crespi. Experience my culinary adventure at The Secret Souk here!

Moroccan tea ceremony

Secret Souk

The Ingredients

“Special gun powder” / Chinese green gun powder loose tea leaves

1 bunch of fresh mint

Caster sugar (can be replaced by organic brown sugar)

Hot water

1 moroccan tea pot

1 cotton cloth (tea towel, cotton or linen napkin)

By recommendation of one of our special guests, the tea ceremony at THE SECRET SOUK does add the “secret ingredient” to give your tea a bloomy fragrance by adding 1 teaspoon of ROSE WATER.

The Prep

The moroccan tea ceremony is a tradition to close any meal of the day. it is served not only at mealtimes but all though the day, to share with family or friends, it is especially a drink of hospitality, commonly served whenever there are guests.

Prepare your tea pot by adding 1 tbsp of green gun powder tea.

Boil water, then add 1 cup of boiling water to the teapot and swish it around in order to clean the tea leaves from dust and bitter flavours, then pour away the water remains into a separate glass ( pour the content into the sink). This procedure should be repeated at least one more or two times to completely clean the loose tea leaves.

The traditional method is to start by pouring 1 cup of boiling water, swish it quickly, then pour one glass and keep it aside. this glass contains all strong tea aroma. then do the procedure of cleaning the tea 2-3 times as per description above. by experience i do skip this step, this makes it easier for beginners and you can be sure to have no bitter flavors in your tea)

Add a large bunch of fresh mint (about 10 branches, slightly crushed to make the aroma come out) into the bottom of the teapot, then add 2-3 tbsp of sugar depending on how sweet you would wish to have it (Moroccan tea is generally very sweet, adding up to 6 tbsp). if you have kept the first glass of tea with the strong tea aroma in it, this is the moment to pour it back into your pot on top of the mint & the sugar, before pouring the remaining boiling water.

Add the remaining boiling water to fill your teapot. Make sure that all the fresh mint is covered by water. All non covered leaves will turn black and “burn”, leaving a bitter taste

Place the teapot on the stove on medium heat and bring to boil. As soon as the liquid starts foaming slightly, turn down immediately and take aside. The boiling allows the sugar to caramelize and give the tea part of its special flavour. it is important to wrap the handle of the tea pot with a cotton cloth to hold it, as it will get very hot.

Add the “secret ingredient”, 1 teaspoon of rose water.

Before serving the tea, all ingredients need to be blended by pouring a glass full of tea and pouring it back into the pot. This procedure should be repeated at least 3 times. While pouring it, is important to raise your pot, pouring it high above the glass from a distance of 1-2 feet, so the tea can “breathe” the oxygen and develop its full minty flavor (the pouring from a distance in general needs a bit of practice, to make sure not to miss the glass, so it would be recommended to place a tray underneath your tea glasses)

Pour the tea to serve your guests in the same manner by starting to pour at glass starting at rim level, then pulling it up quickly high above, then lowering it back down towards the glass, the surface of your perfect tea should show a layer of white mint tea foam after pouring.

Serve with moroccan special pastry.

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