Moroccan tea: the types, the herbs..all about it

Moroccan tea or Attay differs from an area to another. While Moroccan mint tea is the most famous drink to represent Morocco nowadays, it's worth knowing that Moroccan tea is more complex than that.

We have 3 types of Moroccan tea verisons: Attay Sahraoui. Attay be na'na', Attay be tekhlita.

Attay "Sahraoui": The people of Sahara and desertic areas don't use mint. They actually prefer it without. Their method of making tea and filtering it before serving a glass to the guest is far more complex than the usual mint tea we know. It's a show worth watching.

Attay "Sahraoui" has a serious reputation accross Morocco. It's just the strongest and it seems to be good for headaches.

Attay be tekhlita (mix): Going towards Marrakech, El Jadida and all in between, tea lovers like to flavour their mint tea with an array of other mints and herbs, depending on the mood, the seasonality or the occasion. The mix of herbs is called "tekhlita", which literally translate to mix.

Other wild herbs can be added but it really depends on the regions.

Specific stalls in the market selling the Moroccan mint tea herbs. We bring it home and make our own tekhlita
The common dried tea leaves used for Moroccan tea are sold in a pack and referred to as Gunpowder green tea.

The standard dried green tea used for Moroccan tea
Herbs are not only added to flavour the tea but to help with specific nervous or digestive concerns. Thyme or lemon verbena are one of the herbs used for targeted purposes.

Tea served in a tall glass (public stall in a market) with extra sugar and extra mint leaves

Attay be na'na' (with mint): Some other regions or rather families don't even go there. They just pick a few types of mint or just one, mix them and add them to the pot.

Making Moroccan tea also differs from one family to another. While some insist on having the foam on top of their beverage, some don't bother and all they want is a mild glass of tea. This definitely impacts how it will be done after all ingredients are in the pot: Do you "chahhar" or not? Which means do you let it simmer for a few minutes over low heat or you just let it infuse without the heat to serve it afterward? That's the question!

It goes without saying that sugar is an adjustable ingredient to taste. Most of the caterers nowadays serve 2 teas: one with sugar and one without. No one will be surprised if you ask for less sugar or no sugar. However, foreign writers and publishers about Moroccan tea enjoy skipping this change in the habits because they would have tried only a few...But yes, you can always ask that sugar comes on the side or none of it should be around your tea!

I was invited to present a Moroccan tea ceremony to the Dolphin Square's Moroccan Spa and here is the description of the lovely PR lady who took the pain to write all my description on how to make Moroccan mint tea.

I'd rather say that the last glass posted there was the one showing a tea without a "signature" foam on crowning the tea..

Tea with a crown served in a weekly market along with grills.

Along with the usual type of mint used for Moroccan mint tea, we tend to use one or more of these herbs but with parsimony; we add one or two leaves of sage, a stalk of wormwood or verbena, or robert geranium (my favourite, also used during the distillation of orange blossom water).

Waiting for that tea to infuse
In Fez, the city where orange blossom is a big deal, we serve flavoured Moroccan tea with blossoms picked from the cedrat/bigaradier tree (bitter orange) or from any lemon or orange tree in the house. You could also buy the blossoms in the market when in season.

All these herbs can be dried and frozen. We use them throughout the year in case they're not available fresh due to the seasonality.

Herbs used for tea but also in some regional couscous and other recipes

Fliou: Fr = la menthe pouliot, menthe sauvage. Eng = pennyroyal. It brings a peppermint/spearmint layer to the mint and it suddenly becomes so refreshing eventhough it's a warm drink. Pennyroyal is also used to cook dishes such as potato "hzina" or special soups for winter. We also drink a milk infusion of pennyroyal when we catch cold.

Na'Na'/Liqama: Fr = la menthe. Eng = mint. Note that there are many types of mints in Morocco and mixing them makes the best Attay. We usually look for 5 types of mint

Timijja/Timarsat: Fr = menthe ronde ou aquatique. Eng =Applemint, Bowle's Mint. It has an interesting taste and we also use it to make a specific type of harcha or couscous.

 Salmiya: Fr= la sauge officinale. Eng = sage

Left: sage is in the middle of the display. Right: sage in the pot (front)

Merdeddouch: Fr = la marjolaine. Eng = marjoram

Louiza: Fr= ka verveine citronelle. Eng= lemon verbena. So relaxing.

L'aatarcha : Fr: géranium Robert/pélargonium. Eng: Robert Geranium. It brings a flowery and refreshing flavour to the mix.

 Chiba: Fr= absinthe. Eng: absinth/wormwood. It's best to serve it in a glass on the side so whoever wants it adds it to their own glass. Not everyone is found of it. I just found it sold at one of the North African shops in London. I think it's not easy to come by though.

 Azir: Fr= romarin. Eng= rosemary.

Rosemary, between sage and mint
Z'itra: Fr =Thym commun et thym citroné. Eng =Thyme. There are a few varieties of thyme. It's worth mentioning that in Morocco, many people tend to use the word Za'atar or sahtar for thyme (not the Levantine mix) which is oregano.

Lahba1: Fr= basilic. Eng =basil. There are two types in Morocco: the common Italian basil but the best for Moroccan tea is a home grown variety called "lahbaq el beldi" which has rougher stalks and leaves. (No pic)

So how do you like yours?


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