Tea is Served


Lena Nelson

Special to the Valley News

“Hmm, I was sure I ordered black tea,” I thought as I watched a young waiter place a tiny glass trimmed in blue swirls before me. Taking a polished silver teapot off the tray he brought it close to my glass. Then he swiftly raised the teapot up in the air and let a long stream of tea descend into my glass with bubbly golden foam. He swooped down once more – tea is served.

I peeked under the silver lid – the teapot was chock-full of mint leaves. I cautiously took a sip, and my taste buds went a-whirling! I looked around – did anyone notice a starving study abroad student’s reaction to her first cup of Moroccan mint tea? Rich in flavor, yet surprisingly light in color, sweet and minty – I’ve never tasted a tea quite so potent in its ability to make me happy. 

It was five summers ago that I discovered “at-tai bin-nana” in Fez’ LeParis Café. 

Morocco smells like mint, mint smells like Morocco. Heavens must have known the fondness I hold for that part of the world – my new house came with a mint patch. 

I sink my nose into a bowlful of freshly snipped velvety leaves – the familiar fragrance transports me to my host-mother Amal’s kitchen. Today, craving “at-tai bin-nana” once again, I place a whistling kettle on my gas stove and remember how Amal would fill a heavy pot and set it on her black gnarled stove.

I smile as I picture her triumphantly holding up a bunch of fresh mint before she dips it in her rusty-colored sink. I let tap water run into my bowl – rinse, pour, rinse, pour. If I missed something, it won’t live long. 

I imitate Amal as she swished a tad of boiling water in her portly silver teapot. Oh, how she shook her finger at me when I purchased my own, “$11 for much small pot!” 

Amal scooped green gunpowder tea, “Twooo-three… maybe-e-e.” I carefully measure two teaspoons out of my green Twinings tin – my teapot is smaller. 

Packing it full of mint Amal would then add what seemed like a quarter cup of sugar, and fill the pot with boiling water. I am having issues with two sodas’ worth of sugar. I opt for two tablespoons. 

“My teapot is smaller,” I remind myself. I close the teapot’s bell-shaped lid. Ignorance is bliss. 

I forgot to buy a metal mesh ring that kept the curved legs of Amal’s teapot from slipping through the stove’s grill. I maneuver my pot until it’s balanced, set the timer for five minutes and fetch two clear tea glasses.


“Ouch!” I remember the hard plastic handle on Amal’s teapot. My “much small” one came with a metal handle.

Armed with a potholder, I attempt the elegant move, Moroccan trademark of hospitality, as I pour a cup for my daughter and me – tea twirls and bubbles with sweet, minty memories of Morocco. 



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