First in my life when I tasted a mint flavored drink, was in Italy. I was just 16. I remember I was on a vacation with my parents in Florence, when in one scorching hot afternoon I felt like having a no sweet soft drink. There were many street vendors in the shopping area so I pointed at one of them’s bluish color drink. I took a swig at it but almost spat it because it tasted like toothpaste for me. Later on I figured out that the soft drink was a menthol drink.
My second encounter with the mint came to in San Francisco, when Conny (my girlfriend) invited me for a cup of tea. She offered a divine brownie cake slice with After Eight choco on the top (melted) and we drunk a hot ginger-lemon-mint tea to it. The melted chocolate-mint gave a special twist to the cake so I asked for the recipe.
In 2003, when I worked in an international language school in Brussels, (teaching) it was customary to finish the year with a fancy fair. We got a fixed sum of money, from which we could prepare some traditional dishes in order to present our country. Helene and Morgane, (a Belgian and a French student) helped me to prepare the Hungarian meat loaf, the famous ham rolls with horseradish & cottage cheese cream fillings. The Hungarian ambassador contributed some salami and delicate wine to the party as well.
The party was held in an old castle near the European Parliament. In a large hall 25 counters were set up not in alphabetic order but rather according to the degree of the lingual difficulties. On an interesting manner we Hungarians were squeezed between the Arabs and the Turkishs (why not next to the Chinese?). Needless to say that the “fashirt”-meat loaf (you can find the recipe among my blogs: I am in fashirt with you) was a huge success, not to mention with the horseradish cream filled ham rolls slapped into two brioche and of course the delicious wines of Tokaj. When the first visitor’s attack ended, I left our “shop” for Helene and walked around in the room in order to check the other nationalities’s counters. Since from the first moment the faculty of the Arab’s kept staring at our goodies with hungry eyes I stepped toward them and offered them some meatloaf. In return I got a glass of Tuareg tea. Because of the perfect combination of the tea and the fresh mint, I felt that I’ve never drank so delicate tea in my life.
“Moroccan mint tea or Touareg tea is prepared in northern Africa and in Arabian countries. The serving of mint tea can take a ceremonial form, especially when prepared for a guest. Whereas cooking is women’s business, the tea is a male affair: usually the head of family prepares it and serves to the guest, at least three glasses of tea.
The preparation is a rather complex and long procedure: you need green tea (usually strong Chinese tea), fresh mint leaves in large quantity, and a lot of sugar (approximately five teaspoons of sugar for one teaspoon of tea leaves). The tea is first put in the teapot and a small quantity of boiling water is added, the tea is left to infuse for a short time (approximately 20-30 seconds), this initial liquid is poured out and kept aside. This is the “spirit” of the tea and will be added back after the tea is washed, in order to restore the “spirit” to the tea (the “spirit” of the tea is essentially a strong, deeply flavoured liquid from the initial infusion, which adds extra flavour to the final infusion). The tea is then “cleaned” by adding a small quantity of boiling water, that is poured out after one minute (this lessens the bitterness of the tea), this process may be repeated more than once. Mint and sugar are added, and water at the boiling point is then poured in the pot, the pot may then be taken to heat and further boiled to increase the flavour of the infusion. After three to five minutes, a glass is served and poured back in the pot two to three times, in order to mix the tea. Tea is then tasted (sugar if needed may be added) until the infusion is fully developed. Tea is poured into glasses from height in order to swirl loose tea leaves to the bottom of the glass, whilst gently aerating the tea to improve its flavor”.