Tea is one of the most enjoyed drinks around the world. In fact, around the world, 2.6 million tons of tea were drank in 2016 alone! Whereas China, India and Pakistan rank as the top three countries by total tea consumption, it is a beverage that is universally loved. And two cultures which prominently enjoy the beverage are Persian and Moroccan culture.
As we discussed on our blog post covering the five most popular Persian drinks, no single beverage single handedly encompasses Persian culture more so than hot tea. For Persians, tea is so much more than just a drink. It is a way of opening up to one another, learning about one another's’ life stories, and serves as the intermediary of spontaneous therapy sessions. For Persians, no tea is ever hot enough. Even when it’s scolding, poured straight from the kettle, Persians are able to drink the tea with no concern for the safety of their tastebuds. Whether it’s at the start of a business meeting, at the end of a dinner, or during a spontaneous 4 PM hangout session, the answer is always tea.
Chaii (the Persian word for tea) truly forms the bedrock of Persian culture. When served in a group setting, it is customary to use a samovar to heat and boil water. Whereas the samovar originally got its start in Russia, it has since spread throughout Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Samovars have now been used in Iran for over two centuries! Samovars are now used as surfaces to represent a country’s artistic styles, and many Iranian samovars are actually housed in museums due to their tremendous beauty. The hot water from the samovar is used to dilute the pure darkness of the tea. It is a matter of personal preference as to how dark you choose to enjoy your tea.
Persian Tea: How Did It Get Its Start
Tea has not always been the go-to beverage option in Persian culture. In fact, back in the day, coffee was the most consumed beverage in Persia. However, all that started to change towards the end of the 15th century. Given ancient Persia’s limited proximity to any coffee-growing nations, and the start of the “silk road” trading path with China, tea became a much more economical option. Starting in around 1890, Persians began cultivating their own tea after leaves were brought back by an individual after his travels to India. Smuggling tea at the time was not legal, as the British had a tight rule over tea production. The man pretended to be a French businessman and smuggled these tea leaves with him out of Iran! Tea is still so highly demanded in Iran that domestic production is not able to meet demand, requiring the import of tea from outside countries.
Inclusions and Sides
Persian tea is not usually served with cream or milk (unlike English tea). Instead, it often comes with sugar cubes, rock candy saffron, or little cookies on the side. The sugar cube is usually dropped in the tea and stirred, whereas the little cookies are munched on in between sips, further lengthening the time over which the tea is enjoyed. For a super traditional way of enjoying the tea with sugar, place the little cube of sugar in between your tea and allow it to dissipate in your mouth as the hot tea washes over it.
Teahouses: The Original Starbucks
Chaikhanehs, or tea houses, can in some sense be referred to as the original Starbucks, given their sense as a “third home” to gather with friends and discuss life or business over a cup of tea. While previously primarily frequented by older Iranian men, chaikhanehs have gained more and more popularity amongst Iran’s youth, and are now placed where individuals catch up on life in general. Whether it’s reclining on a platform covered in rugs or playing some backgammon, chaikhanehs provide the perfect outlet to escape reality and enjoy tea with friends or family.
Moroccan tea is actually quite different from Persian tea. Moroccan mint tea is also known as maghrebi mint tea. Unlike Persian tea, which is on the darker side and served unsweetened with sugar on the side, Moroccan mint tea is prepared with spearmint leaves and is sweetened with a tremendous amount of sugar. Gunpowder tea, a type of Chinese green tea, is used to make Moroccan mint tea. To this day, China still remains the primary exporter of tea to Morocco.
Much like Persian culture, Moroccan tea is served during any time of day, whether that’s for breakfast, lunch, a mid-afternoon snack or after dinner. It’s always a good time for tea. In fact, it is considered rude to not offer an individual tea when welcoming them into your house or business.
The process of pouring Moroccan tea into individual glasses is quite the spectacle. Don’t expect it to be a quick one either, as the entire process of preparing and serving the tea can take up to fifteen minutes. By pouring the tea from from above, this allows for improved aeration and for the flavors to come out to their absolute fullest. Additionally, it is purposely used as a spectacle in order to impress and entertain guests. Moroccan tea is more than just a beverage. It is a way of life.
Summary of Differences
As discussed, while Persian and Moroccan tea form foundational bedrocks of their respective cultures, and have become embedded ways of living, there are differents in the preparation of each tea. Persian tea is often prepared using a samovar, whereas Moroccan tea is poured from high atop a small teapot into individual glasses. Persian tea uses black tea leaves and is often served unsweetened, whereas Moroccan tea uses mint leaves, green tea, and is extremely sweetened. You’ll have to try for yourself to taste the differences and determine your own favorite.
While hot tea forms the bedrock of Persian cuisine from a beverage perspective, tahdig serves that part from a food perspective. If required to pick one food that best represented Persian food, tahdig would be that dish. Fortunately, Baaz Bites’ mini basmati rice tahdig cups bring the authenticity of Persian food to your own house, allowing you to heat up these crispy rice cups in a matter of minutes. Make sure to have the Persian tea ready to go, as that’s a real winning combo!