Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Moroccan Tea Time

moroccan still life, originally uploaded by christian wind.

moroccan still life , originally uploaded by christian wind

I've already told you before about my paternal grandmother, who made Aliya from Morocco.

Her afternoon tea ritual was something I always enjoyed and will never forget. The culture of tea arrived to Morocco most likely travelled to Morocco through Europe and became popular in the 18th Century, when trade between Morocco and Europe flourisehd and tea spread throughout North Africa and became an integral part of hospitality in the region. The French imperialism made the rituals even more elaborate with the addition of many French-influenced pastries, some of them exceptionally fancy. But Moroccan tea time remained mostly about hospitality and tea, and even the simplest pastries made the occasion special. The addition of fresh local herbs made the tea distinctively of the region - spearmint and lemon verbena in the summertime to make the tea refreshing and cooling (even when it is hot!), and bitter mugwort or sage in the wintertime for their medicinal properties.

Morocco is currently the first consumer of green tea world-wide, and is one of the only two Muslim countries to drink green tea (the other being Afghanistan). Green tea was probably not available at all in Israel in the 1950’s, when the Moroccan immigration was at its peak, and the Jewish Moroccan had to make do with black tea. But this did not make the tradition stop or diminish. In fact, the custom spread throughout the country and even Jews from non-Moroccan decent enjoyed black tea with a sprig of mint. Black tea with spearmint is served in all the Narguilla (Shisha) houses, with a great amount of sugar to help reduce the dryness in the mouth caused by the tobacco smoke and steam.

At my grandmother’s balcony, every afternoon tea was served with sweets and pastries suitable for the occasion. The staples were simple galettes - these were not crepes, but a long wavy biscuit type of hardly sweet cookies, which I am still hunting for a recipe for; or fennel flavoured biscuits and savoury sesame bagel-shaped cookies. Other staples that my grandmother almost always had on hand were round almond cookies with a single clove-bud stuck in the middle looking like a belly-button; and my than favourites - coconut cookies, with a silvery pearl-shaped decoration candy - both baked in the tiniest paper cups which made them look even more adorable.

When it was a holiday there may be some specialty pastries, as well as when her sisters came to visit from Paris. But either way, the conversations during tea time were exclusively in French so I was able to absorb the sound but focus on the flavours.

Sometime last year, I’ve tried to capture the aromas of this quiet tea time with a scent. Now it is offered in a very limited edition of 3 bottles for those smitten with mint and tea or who share my nostalgic Moroccan tea time memories.

Top notes: Spearmint, Black Pepper, Bitter Almond, Fennel

Heart notes: Rose Maroc, Honey, Licorice Mint

Base notes: Green Tea, Massoia Bark, Atlas Cedarwood

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