In Marrakech, tea is not just the cultural tradition of hospitality, a refined ceremony, or a drink shared with friends and strangers alike. In Marrakech, tea is an experience. One simply cannot separate the taste of the sweet green tea with fresh mint leaves from the wanderlust of colors, scents, flavors, and buzz of human activity that is Marrakech. And believe me, you will find yourself enjoying this unique national beverage in you vacation, immersed in all of these!
A TRADITION OF HOSPITALITY
Charming traces of this ever pervasive tea ceremony culture are found all around, and they are naturally part of the most luxurious experiences in Marrakech. At Iberostar´s Club Palmeraie Marrakech, guests are offered mint tea in the Moroccan Tea Room as a fitting complement to the local Moroccan cuisine on offer throughout the resort. Yet the tradition is strong on modest street corners as well as at the high end, with tea savored seemingly countless times a day, offered and shared everywhere from carpet shops, restaurants, hotels, homes, and tea stalls in the medina. Sharing tea is the time-honored sign of hospitality in Marrakech, a welcome into one’s home, one’s world, one’s culture. Unlike the quick handshake and a smile, or a bonbon appreciatively popped into one’s mouth, tea requires a sit down experience shared together. This is neither mere politeness nor obliged social graces. This is time, this is art and skill, this is the sharing of “our inner world” with you. This is “welcome” Marrakech style. Have a seat, sip down tea, and breathe in Marrakech. Welcome.
A CEREMONY TO TREASURE
And what a welcome it is. One has to experience a traditional tea ceremony to fully grasp the magnificence of the offering. This is no ordinary “pour hot water and steep” tea routine. Not at all. First, let’s start with the ingredients and the making of the tea. The most common tea used is of the green variety, Chinese gunpowder tea to be exact, scooped from an ornate metal box. The name is derived from its processing: it’s tightly packed into little pellets. The higher quality teas will have been packed very tightly and produce a subtle sheen over the liquid’s surface.
Water and loose tea leaves are added to the tea kettle and set on a gas burner until it boils. Once the water boils, fresh loose mint leaves, often up to three different varieties from the local markets, are placed in the kettle along with plenty of sugar. Moroccan tea is sweet, sometimes exceptionally so. Enjoy it. Once all the ingredients have steeped for about five minutes, which may involve a second boiling of the water, the first glass is poured, but never ingested. A second glass is transferred and discarded, and the first glass is poured back in the pot. Thus, the ritual begins.
While cooking is the domain of women, it is more often the men who are trained in the pouring of tea, an art form passed down through generations. When the tea is ready, the host or hostess lifts the teapot, called a berrad, with its elegantly curved spout, ceremoniously high above the small glass teacups (some say the higher the tea is poured, the more important the guest) and both effortlessly and dramatically tips the pot to fill each glass with a steaming glass of tea with a topping of foam bubbles. No splash, just bubbles. There must be bubbles! After your awe subsides at the display of the streaming tea falling from what seems like a steady spring filling a tiny crater far below, perfectly to the rim, it is time for tea. Lift, sip, enjoy, and repeat again, and again. You are among friends. There is no hurry.
TEA, TEA, AND MORE TEA
The prevalence of tea in the life of Marrakech cannot be stressed enough and the importance of it can’t be overstated. Bread dipped in tea is often the first thing babies taste after the milk of their mothers! Tea is served with breakfast, in the afternoon, often with dinner, before bed, and always when a guest is received. Although green tea with fresh mint is by far the most common, a variety of delicious teas mixed with a garden of Moroccan herbs are readily available and frequently enjoyed by locals and visitors alike. In fact, Moroccans have used the healing powers of herbal teas for their medicinal qualities for generations. Different fresh herbs and types of mint treat a number of different symptoms and illnesses - a practice now gaining popularity in the U.S, as science backs up some of the medicinal claims.
Particularly around the area of Marrakech, local tea drinkers like to blend a wide variety of herbs into their teas, in a medley called tekhlita which translates to “mix.”
AN ALL-INCLUSIVE EXPERIENCE
The variety of colors, scents, and tastes of teas mirrors the exotic magical sensory overload of Marrakech itself. The dusty roads, the sandy-rose hued buildings, the shiny trinkets, swords, boxes, and teapots hanging from the market stalls, and the carpets weaved of every color under the rainbow stacked along the wall. The scents of cumin, coriander, cinnamon, turmeric, and ginger piled high in pyramids of powder at market stalls fill the air and wafts through kitchens, restaurants, and down alleys with open stoves.
The tastes of couscous and tanginess, fresh bread, olives, and dates. One’s head simply swirls in the colors, scents, and tastes of Marrakech, like the patterns woven in the local tapestries, or the winding, twisting, looping alleyways of the medina itself. And always there is tea, beckoning you to take a seat, relax, and watch the frenzy of the medina or experience the relaxation among the serenity of the palm trees of Palmeraie at the Iberostar Club Palmeraie Hotel.
TOP TEATIME SPOTS
Coffee shops abound in Marrakech, like the world over, thanks to the Starbucks revolution. Not so, with tea. Tea is not a beverage or a drink unto itself. Tea is always part of a larger experience… a home, a restaurant, a hotel, a carpet shop. While nothing tops the welcoming of a full tea ceremony performed in a private home or luxury hotel in Marrakech, there are several spots in the city ideal for one of your several daily tea breaks.
Afternoon tea in the quiet of the Palmeraie district is a must. Many of the exquisite resorts in this upscale oasis filled with thousands of palm, date, olive and fruit trees offer a full Moroccan tea ceremony service complete with Moroccan pastries each afternoon. Made from local ingredients including orange water blossom, rose water, and plentiful almonds and dates, sweet Moroccan pastries are the perfect accompaniment to mint tea and frequently served together. This is luxury at its finest.