28 January 2014
This is the story I was told... When a Berber girl reaches eighteen years old, she is deemed old enough to marry. Should a Berber boy decide she is for him, he must bring his parents to visit her family home and bring two gifts: eggs for fecundity, and henna for happiness.
When receiving visitors in a Berber home, one must always be sure to prepare the tea in front of your guests, or the subtext will tell them they are not welcome. First you must take a handful of best gunpowder green tea, and throw it into your ancestral pewter tea pot. Then you must rinse the leaves twice with scalding water, to remove the most bitter tasting tannin from the tea, and help the leaves to unfurl. Next you take a handful of fresh mint leaves, and roll them between your hands to bruise them and release the mint oil. This is then added to the pot, and the leaves are then doused in water, which must be at least eighty degrees. The pot is then placed in a brazier of hot coals to warm the tea through. The final ingredient is the sugar. The tea must taste sweet, so a large chunk of raw cane sugar is chipped off a pyramid shaped piece that arrives wrapped in coloured paper, and this is added to the pot. When it has brewed, the tea pot must be held high above the glass to give a good foam on top. Like beer, good fresh mint tea is distinguished by its head. All of this is presented in front of the guests to confirm they are welcome here.
But, when a boy comes to propose marriage, the tea is instead prepared away from prying eyes, as the girl's response is hidden in the tea. Should she decide her heart's desire is to marry and go with him to his own village, she will place sugar in his tea. But if she should wish to refuse his proposal, his tea will be served without sweetness. Then he must leave empty-handed and seek his love elsewhere.