If you missed out on our August session, you missed a most entertaining and delightful experience. Who would have thought that making a cup of tea could be so interesting? Like many Australians, I usually make my cup of tea with a tea bag, add boiling water, jiggle the bag a bit and remove it – nothing special. By contrast, the Tea Making Workshop showed us the intricacies of making tea the Moroccan and Iraqi way. Volunteering their services to entertain and inform us for the afternoon were Mohamed (Marrakesh Restaurant in O’Connell Street, North Adelaide), May (Marion Migrant Women’s Group) and Alex Hadchiti, a talented South Australian-Lebanese musician.
Mohamed was resplendent in his traditional Moroccan dress. A tall, striking figure with a wonderful head of curly, black hair. Meanwhile, the mood was relaxed with Alex playing his keyboard and singing a mixture of Arabic and other popular songs. Soon those attending were starting to dance and sing along too. It was great to see the children dancing around the room and I was encouraged by Zain to join in a dabke dance. I need to work on that a bit!
Then, of course, we got down to the serious business of making tea. From behind the beautifully set table with rich tablecloth, shiny metal teapots and exquisite coloured tea glasses, Mohamed demonstrated the Moroccan tea-making ritual. Moroccans drink around 6-7 small cups of this sweet tea every day. Mohammed used one of the most popular loose green teas from Morocco – gunpowder tea. Amusingly, we learned about his friend who was arrested at London airport with a box of the tea in his luggage. All the writing on the box was in Arabic, other than the word “gunpowder”!
This is my memory of instructions. Once the loose tea is in the teapot, it is covered with boiling water and rinsed to remove any dust powder which clouds the tea. Then sugar and hot water are added, after which it is brought to boil on the stove for 3-5 minutes. Add a generous amount of mint to the top of the teapot but do not stir in – no spoon is allowed in the pot as the metal changes the flavour of the tea. Pour tea into glasses from a height and then put back into the pot – do this 3-5 times. Then pour tea from a height and gradually get higher and higher. The tea should have a froth on it. Mint leaves can be added if desired. It is considered extremely rude to refuse the offer of tea in Morocco. You can accept it and not drink it if you wish but never refuse it. But why would you refuse? It is delicious!
Next, May demonstrated the Iraqi method. Loose black leaf tea is put in a special pot which has a kettle on the bottom and the tea pot on top. May also added cardamom pods, but it could have been plain or with other herbs. The tea is brewed on the stove for 5-10 minutes, over the kettle which is effectively a steamer. The special pot is called a قوري (qoorie) and the tea is then poured into special little decorative glass cups and saucers called إِسْتكان (istikaan). The sugar goes in the cup first and the tea is added to the line on the rim. Stir with a special spoon and hear the “voice” – tinkle, tinkle. An important ritual!
Again, this was excellent tea, and it is used extensively in Iraq to soothe nerves, improve the mood or simply to enjoy any time.
Here is a picture of a typical Iraqi tea glass and saucer with spoon.
All in all, in was a most enjoyable afternoon with a bit of a party atmosphere.
Thank you so much to Mohamed, May and Alex – also to Minerva for making the arrangements.
Photos courtesy of Ahmed Khalidi, Hafiz Nasir, Massimilio Gugole and Doris Abboud
Note: All ALCASA 2017 events are supported by the Minister of Multicultural Affairs, South Australian Government.