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About the Foundation

Tea in Northwest Africa

North Africa’s tea-drinking tradition is relatively recent. Tea has become part of everyday life and plays an important role in social gatherings. It is prepared following a very precise ritual.

Tea, as a symbol of hospitality

Tea only arrived in Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia in the 19th century, but was immediately adopted by the entire population, especially in Morocco. It is offered everywhere to welcome guests, it serves as a pretext for a moment of conviviality and business cannot be conducted without it. It is prepared with ‘Gunpowder tea’, a richly-perfumed Chinese green tea that is rolled into small pellets. 

The preparation ritual

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Serving tea near Marrakesh, Morocco, 1999
© Getty Images / LightRocket / Wolfgang Kaehler          

Traditionally it is the men, either the head of the family or his son, who prepare the tea. Every step is important. Tea is placed in a metal teapot (warmed beforehand); a little boiling water is then poured in and immediately discarded, to remove any bitterness. A handful of fresh mint is crushed in the hand, to release its aromas, and then added, along with some sugar. This is covered with boiling water and allowed to infuse for five to six minutes. The tea is served very hot, according to a specific ritual. It has to be poured from a great height to release oxygen, then the teapot is lowered and raised to produce froth.

The tea is served in small decorated glasses, specially designed for this purpose. Toasted pine nuts may also be added and some pastries offered as an accompaniment.

Tea in the Sahara

Green tea can always be found in tents in the Sahara desert, where it is offered as a sign of hospitality. It is customary to drink three glasses. The first infusion is light and is said to symbolise the gentle things in life. The second is stronger and symbolises love. The third is bitter and evokes death.