Before the riots, I’d read about Tunisia because of tiny Tunisian restaurant on a side street in Cambridge. Every time I go to this restaurant I accidentally walk past it because the sign is so demure and the windows have beads hanging over them, so you think for sure they are closed and your heart sinks. But it’s just a ruse–they are open! I found Baraka Cafe because of a forest green guidebook that I bought when I first moved to Boston. This guidebook had an uncanny knack for recommending restaurants that I liked. Compared to Yelp, it was almost prophetic in its ability to actually predict how I would feel once in the restaurant, which is all one really wants to get out of a good restaurant review.
Anyway, I love going to Baraka because of the woven bench seats, the swinging beads in the door, trying to read the specials that have been scrawled in cursive, their oniony zaatar coco, the tiny space between you and your neighbors, but most of all because of their mint tea. The tea comes in a silver tea pot with small gold etched glasses to pour it in, and it is so dark, minty, and deeply sweet that I want to pick up the tea pot and hide it from my companions for the rest of the meal. But then I remember that we can just order another pot if we run out, and I try to relax.
It has always seemed to me that it would impossible to duplicate their mint tea, because it’s made in their shadowy kitchen, and I have a red tea pot, not a silver one, and surely there are secret ingredients, like mint leaves they only grow in the window boxes of Morocco. But that did not keep me from trying when I saw the mint tea recipe in the New York Times Cookbook.
The recipe calls for loose Ceylon tea, which sounded terrifyingly specialized enough to get me to take the T to the Indian market in Central Square. Once there, I realized Ceylon was actually just black tea. But I was glad I ended up at this market because you also need two bunches of mint, and they sold mint bunches superfluously, for $1.50 each, like it was totally normal to use loads of mint for one afternoon’s drink. So I got my mint bunches and my enormous container of loose black tea and some naan because they had that for pretty cheap too and I am sick of dry old pita.
So all you do is put the mint, tea, and sugar in a pot to boil, and then leave it to steep, and then hope you have something with which to filter it. I did not, so I used the lid of the pot to keep the leaves out, and then tried to get most of the loose tea out with a strainer.
I also didn’t have a container big enough to hold all the hot tea, so I used a bowl. Looking at this picture, you might get the feeling that this recipe was right on the money, just by how you can see your future swirling into the cooling dark water. And it was. Make this when friends are coming over, so you can drink it all right away.
Jennifer’s Moroccan Tea
from page 33 of the New York Times Cookbook
10 cups water
2 tablespoons loose Ceylon (black) tea
2 large bunches mint
3/4 cup sugar
Combine everything in a large saucepan or teapot. Bring to a boil, them remove from heat and let steep for 5 minutes.
Strain the tea, however possible. And serve! I also saved some in the fridge and drank it cold through the next couple of days. Never quite as delicious as the first hot serving though.
Originally printed in “Home is Where the Party Is,” a wonderful article to read if you feel like fantasizing about Moroccan food.