Arabic Tea 101: Mint + Sage Infusions!
Today I want to give a big shout out to comfort companions. Comfort companions are food/drinks/activities that we turn to on rough days (or even every day) for reassurance and love. Mine include listening to This American Life on NPR, the smell of frying onion and garlic, and aimlessly browsing the shelves of our local used bookstore Mr. K’s.
And tea. Lots and lots of tea.
At my mom’s house we would go through a gallon of good ol’ Southern Sweet Tea nearly every day. Glasses filled with ice would fog up as you poured sweet sunshine from the gallon jug with a blue pop-up lid. I remember that on one occasion I griped about being asked to make tea and mom said, “What do you think I had kids for?” (a joke, of course).
My love of tea extends to hot tea as well. As a child, I was very interested in drinking the hot tea my Palestinian grandmother poured out of an intricate and beautiful thermos following family meals. My Auntie Samar would give me a “kid’s tea” (diluted with milk) which I would drink before running back upstairs to join my cousins in throwing toys at each other across the room (a game we naively called World War III).
It’s very common in Arab cultures to drink hot tea infused with mint or sage in the morning, following the evening meal, and to greet guests. When I visited my in-laws in Palestine a few years ago, even I was shocked at the number of glasses of tea I consumed each day visiting family and neighbors. Holding a warm tea glass, steam curling and disappearing from the top, while watching the sun set over Palestine is an incredible experience.
At heart I am a teacher and I want to share this experience with you. Here’s my take on classic Arabic hot tea:
Start by choosing your favorite tea pot (or water boiler and thermos). I have a couple but 99.999999% of the time I use this worn out beauty.
I’m fairly certain my husband brought this bad boy home before it was going to be thrown out by a friend. It still has plenty of life left in it.
Fill your tea pot with water and set on a medium/high burner and grab your tea bags. I recommend using your favorite black tea, it does not have to be an Arabic brand to have a great flavor. However, some of my favorite teas are Alghazaleen Tea and Alwazah Tea. Both are Ceylon Teas from Sri Lanka. You can find them at your local Arabic grocery or online. Today I’m actually using Rituals’ Orange Pekoe & Pekoe Cut Black Tea.
No idea where I got these from, but they are yummy! I prefer to use two tea bags because I like my tea fairly dark. However, you can definitely get by with one (steeped longer) if that’s what you prefer.
While the water is boiling, I either go out to the yard to clip some fresh mint or get dried mint or sage from the pantry. If you have never grown mint, I highly recommend it. It is very low maintenance and will expand all over the place. More mint = more mint tea!
There are many varieties of mint and sage. You can buy them dried from the Arabic grocery or order online. I set aside about three tablespoons of dried herbs or two long sprigs of fresh for a whole pot of tea.
Once your water begins to boil add your tea bags and mint/sage. Lower temperature and allow to gently boil about three minutes. Turn off the stove and allow tea to steep for about 5 minutes before serving. Again, I love the depth of flavor of dark tea. It’s all about personal preference and you can certainly remove the tea bags earlier.
But what do I serve it in?!
There are only two things I (consciously) collect: books and cups/mugs. Choosing the perfect cup for your tea adds to the entire incandescent tea drinking experience. On the top left we have the standard glass with a handle found in many Arab American households (purchased from Ross/TJ Maxx). Second in line is an IKEA mug also with a handle and holds a bit more tea than the first.
The third pictured is a cute little glass with no handle but a colorful coaster. (Fair warning: you probably have to drink about 5 of these to get your fill.) Lastly, we have what I like to call “The Asheville.” This was gifted to me by my student teaching cooperating teacher. It is the perfect size to warm up one hand while you have a book in the other.
Pour, sweeten, enjoy! Here’s a Pinterest board of some of my other comfort companions.
What comforts you? Leave a comment below!
The no frills recipe:
Arabic Tea with Mint/Sage Infusion
You need: teapot, water, two tea bags (black), 3 tablespoons mint or sage (fresh or dried)
- Fill teapot with water and heat to boiling on medium/high heat.
- Once boiling, add two tea bags (black) and 3 tablespoons of either mint or sage
- Allow to boil for about 3 minutes and turn off the stove.
- Let tea steep for another 5 minutes to achieve a dark tea but then remove tea bags to prevent bitterness.
- Sweeten (if you like) and serve!
I am, etc.
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Categories: Food and Drink