In Moroccan culture, tea is a daily ritual and the ultimate symbol of hospitality. Mourad Lahlou, chef at San Francisco’s Aziza, remembers his grandfather making it every day after lunch, and any time you arrive somewhere you will be greeted by hosts with a pot of freshly brewed tea.
Traditional Moroccan tea is almost always prepared the same way, with four main ingredients: boiled water, green tea, fresh mint and sugar — a lot of sugar. It’s distinguished by syrupy sweetness and a strong mint flavor. Every time Chef Lahlou goes back to Morocco, he finds the tea much too sweet, but drinks it to be polite, often requesting half the usual amount of sugar. Over the course of a few days, however, he grows accustomed to it and starts to crave the sugar buzz.
When Chef Lahlou makes tea himself, it’s even more simple — just boiled water and a handful of fresh mint leaves. Fragrant and delicious, the resulting tea is caffeine-free, healthy, and simultaneously refreshing and comforting.
Fresh mint is almost always the dominant flavor in Moroccan tea, but other herbs may be added as well. Verbena, orange blossoms and wormwood are typical additions.
No matter the ingredients used, it’s the joy of the custom, of brewing tea and sharing it with guests, that makes it special. It’s customary for hosts to do a “high pour,” serving the tea from a dramatic height. The height aerates the tea, creating foam on the surface, and also cools it down for drinking — but the gesture is symbolic as well. It’s often said that the higher the pour, the more someone likes you. And in Morocco, among friends, hosts, and guests, the pour is always high.