02 June 2008

Mint Condition

It may be absolutely gorgeous out this morning, but this past weekend in New York was HOT. Midsummer, sticky, hazy, humid, hot- the kind of weather that makes you consider an Icelandic residency, the kind that makes going anywhere near a heat-producing source (be it laptop or steaming cup of tea) unthinkable.

The only option, then, is iced tea. It's actually saved my life over the past several summers here. I'm not kidding. There was one particularly torturous July weekend a few years back, when a pitcher of iced honey-lemon Darjeeling and crumbly slices of devil's food cake straight from the fridge were all that kept me from combusting. Well, that and a classic James Bond movie marathon.

It hasn't gotten quite that bad here yet, but as it edged up to 80 degrees, I found myself staring into the cool depths of the refrigerator, eyeballing the bunch of mint sharing a shelf with my teas. Yes, it was time for one of my favorite teas: Moroccan mint.

This refreshing, fragrant, sweet brew is the national drink of Morocco, and it's made with Chinese green gunpowder tea, fresh mint, and a liberal sprinkling of sugar. Although I've yet to meander around Marrakesh, I've heard that it's traditionally offered everyplace you go as a sign of hospitality. Thankfully, I didn't have any nomads at my door after I made it, because it was gone within minutes.

Perhaps if I had a set of the colorful, diminutive Moroccan serving glasses, it would have lasted longer. (Santa, are you listening?)

Moroccan Mint Tea
Makes: 4 servings.

8 large stalks fresh mint
8 teaspoons sugar, or to taste
4 teaspoons green gunpowder tea

Combine mint stalks with leaves, sugar and 4 cups of water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then add tea. Cover, turn the heat off, and let sit for 5 minutes. Strain into a teapot or delicate glasses and serve, or refrigerate overnight, until ice cold.

It was too hot to go out just to buy gunpowder tea, so I used the Chinese green I had on hand- Dragonwell- and it worked beautifully. And for those who disdain sweetened tea (I hear you), still try the recipe. The quantities are like a magic formula, the balance is so perfect.

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