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Story Publication logo August 2, 2022

The Spiritual Lessons of Mint Tea



Instead of the typical Western embrace of an Arab country, this story examines how the youth asserts...

A breakfast spread cast in warm light.
The foundational mint tea is an essential piece of a Moroccan meal. Breakfast in Ouled Ali, a village in the Atlas Mountains, consists of malawi, walnuts, and the traditional warm beverage. Image by Safi El-Gamal. Morocco, 2021.

The sweet smells of mint tea are a well-known Moroccan treasure. In any free time that lasts more than 10 minutes, I hear the splattered pouring of the silver teapot into a narrow glass, permanently smudged with loving use and memories of good company. The scalding tea takes me by surprise just before I find the familiar aromas of refreshing mint and intense sugar in the bubbly froth.

Mustapha Boujemaoui’s “Kaas Hayati” translated as “Cup of My Life” was completed in 1997 and is currently on display at Mohammed VI Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Rabat. The piece includes the colors of the nation’s flag and the iconic teacup in place of the five-point pentagram, which has been said to reference the five pillars of Islam. Image by Safi El-Gamal. Morocco, 2022.

Mint tea is pervasive in Morocco; any café or home undoubtedly has a silver brass teapot slowly brewing the tea leaves, packed bunches of mint, and pounds of sugar within. It’s a symbol of community and comfort, of lively conversations and cigarettes, of genuine smiles and post-meal bliss. An icon of the nation, the warm beverage is rarely ever turned down, even under the intoxicating rays of the summer sun.

Upon a visit to a local zaawaya, or Sufi lodge, I sit on a nearby cushion against the wall in conversation with the center’s keeper. The woman and I talk about the order’s lineage and dhikr practice as we are greeted with the hospitable glass of tea from a young girl. Holding it patiently with two fingers at the top of the decorative cup, I listen to her words and take in the soothing surroundings of peace and faith as the steam condenses against my hand.

As we begin to sip, my thoughts wander to the fragrance of the fresh green mint. Mint helps in curbing appetite, and is a practice instrumented to tame one’s nafs, or primal instinct. Facilitating fasting and limiting one’s attraction to decadent overconsumption, this drink represents the tradition of simplicity.

Still a staple of Moroccan culture, mint tea is another example of how the region’s influential spiritual history is the foundation within current society. The routine teapot and glass in use at all hours of the day not only preserve but bring to life the words and practices of saints past and present.


teal halftone illustration of praying hands




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