The water boils and is poured atop tiny rolls of dark brown, gunpowder tea pellets. A handful of freshly picked, vividly green mint leaves are stuffed inside of the teapot. Instantly, the aroma rises: a minty fresh scent makes its way throughout the traditional Moroccan household, greeting the guests with hospitality, generosity and a refreshing ambiance.The tea is poured back and forth between glass cups: a routine of cooling, making the temperature just right for the perfect warmth to seep through the fingertips. The Ougaamou family sits comfortably at the dinner table: television on, bread in basket, but most importantly, tea at the center. Moroccan mint tea takes a valued place in the family.
“I cannot imagine my life without tea,” 36 -year-old Hisham Ougaamou said.
Tea is the most widely consumed beverage on the planet, second to water, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Diligent tea drinkers in Morocco certainly add to the large percentage of world tea drinkers. It is Moroccan etiquette to offer tea to any visitor, according to About.com.
Indeed, some Moroccans drink as many as six cups a day.
“I know some people can’t eat without tea,” said Yusef Keihol, a 24-year-old shopkeeper in Rabat’s old medina, an antiquated marketplace surrounded by regal, yet grungy clay walls.
“On the table, they put the tea first. In the middle of eating, they drink tea. Eat. Tea. Eat. Tea,” he said, playfully drinking an invisible cup of tea with his hand, pinky up.”
At the mention of the delectably revitalizing and warm minty liquid, Abdalli, a Hotel Darna employee, instantly sat down, eyes bright and wide, ready to discuss the important place that tea has had in his life.
“When you drink tea, it’s your relaxer,” he said.“It’s as casual as smoking cigarettes. It’s like Moroccan whisky!”
An all purpose drink, it is suitable for a typical Monday morning routine as much as for an elaborate wedding. Many Moroccans can’t go a day without it.
The gunpowder within the brew provides for a bold taste, smoothed over by the subtle splash of mint and sweetened with a prism shaped sugar cube, softening one’s taste palate with an invigorating rush of warmth. However, taste is not all that the gunpowder is good for.
The gunpowder contains a profusion of free-radical-fighting antioxidants, which help to fight any damage that may be caused to cells in the body. Gunpowder has been known to have astringent properties, helping to heal wounds and control bleeding. It also helps with diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome and liver disease, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.
The mint also adds its own splash of healthy fusion to the glass, richly packed with vitamins A and B6, riboflavin, folate,niacin, and potassium. It also provides asthma relief, according to Livestrong.
“We feel it in our veins, [and] it reaches the heart,” Ougaamou said. “It is a tradition that we cannot easily forget because it is our relaxation.”