If you’re like me, tea is a dried thing. It comes either pulverized in a tin or pulverized in a little paper envelope affixed to a tag and string. There is some mystery as to why some tea tastes a certain way, or even how exactly they make those tea leaves anyway.
I have tasted tea “in the raw,” as it were, three times in my life. The first time was when I had an upset stomach, and Daphne, the housekeeper at the place we rent in the Caribbean, went out into the yard, picked some leaves off a bush, put them in a pot of water, boiled it, and gave it to me to drink. It helped. (I am reminiscing about this because I am back in Bequia, I have a head cold, and Daphne is not on the island.) The second time was at my mother-in-law’s house. A girlfriend had lemon verbena in her yard, and had dried the whole leaves and passed along a small bag of the feather-light leaves for making tea. I actually wondered how exactly she dried them … upside down in a dark room? Scattered individually on a cookie sheet? Thrown after just picking them into the same little brown bag they arrived in? So many questions.
The third time was in Morocco. Leave it to the North Africans (those same industrious people who first introduced me to home-made yogurt) to change how I look at green tea forever.
Mint tea in Morocco is known as “Berber whiskey,” since they drink it constantly, on hot days and on not-so-hot days, instead of alcohol. There is great ceremony around offering it any guest, pouring it from so high up that the light green stream cascading out of a very regal looking silver teapot falls with a satisfying burbling into the tiny little glass tumblers no bigger than your fist. But I hadn’t seen it actually brewed until one evening, when a gentleman installed himself right in front of me, cross-legged on the floor outside of the dining room, flanked by a tray of tiny glasses and a pile of newly picked fresh mint.
This is how I can share with you the secret of making Moroccan mint tea.
You take fresh mint. A lot. You stuff it into a glass, right up to the top. You pour boiling hot water over it. You let it sit for 5 minutes. You put in sugar, or maybe you don’t, depending on how you like it, and you enjoy every last drip drop.
When I saw this, it dawned on me that I too could make mint tea. Because I have become a huge fan of mojitos, and as such, I have planted mint in my garden. Mint doesn’t grow so much as it divides and conquers, so the one stalk I had pulled out of my mother-in-law’s garden and plopped into some dirt at home some time back had become a carpet of fragrant green pasture.
Again, there is something innately satisfying about making your own food. Now I realize that plucking a few greens and torturing them with hot water is far from making my own food in the way that whipping up pasta from scratch would be. But it does mean that I don’t need to go to the store and buy little sachets of the stuff. Which is satisfying in its own way.
Anyone else out there grow their own tea?