Mint Tea Means Time
In some of the literature we send our travellers, we describe Moroccan mint tea like this:
To me, Moroccan mint tea is much more than a pastime.“Mint tea is Morocco’s national beverage and favourite pastime. Steeped in ritual and ceremony, it is always served to a guest when in a home or shop. Even a family without electricity, furniture, or an adequate roof will likely own a silver tray and pot for serving tea.
“Mint tea is green tea, flavoured with fresh mint and heavily sweetened—15 sugar cubes per tiny pot is normal! While the mint is grown all over Morocco, green tea is imported from China. In the south, mint tea is served three times, first strong and bitter, then medium-strong, lastly weak and very sweet.”
This is the formal explanation of mint tea, but this ages-old ritual in Morocco means so much more than the words used to describe it. The drinking of tea is, dare I say, the very foundation upon which Moroccan society is built.
So what’s it all about? Here, one drinks mint tea to calm down. To chill out. To take time. To relax, to look at the world, to debate, to connect. Tea can be masculine (with loads of sugar, and a beautiful demonstration by each man to show how good they are at making it) or feminine (with less sugar, figuring heavily in the ritual of the Moroccan hammam, the spreader of warmth).
Mint tea can be from the north and the Mediterranean coast, or from the Anti-Atlas region, where the custom is to add a pinch of saffron. But in all cases, mint tea is a demonstration of peace and hospitality.
Time is tea; tea is time. Because time for us is luxury, but in Morocco they have an abundance of time (and a lot of tea!). Drinking tea in Morocco teaches us to slow down, to look at each other.
For example, in the West, if you want something you run into a store, you pick up the item with the price clearly marked, you go to the cashier, you swipe your credit card. Done.
Well, it doesn’t work this way in Morocco. You want something? There is nothing you need. Or if you need something, then you may think twice. Slowly you enter the shop and speak to the man there. There is no desk; there is no cashier. There is a teapot and a colorful carpet. You sit, you have a tea, you discuss the price. You negotiate some new colours, some new styles. The whole thing is, between the time you enter the shop and the time you exit the shop takes…well, it doesn’t really matter.
Time, in this sense, is irrelevant here. You have a lot of it, so why hurry? I’m reminded of an old Berber proverb that says, “He who rushes is already dead.” Mint tea means time…and with it, peace.