You have your choice of at least two approaches if you want to enjoy spearmint tea: You can brew leaves plucked fresh from the garden, with just a splash of honey. Or try the more elaborate method traditional in Morocco and elsewhere in North Africa, where spearmint tea is such a standard of hospitality it is called “Berber whiskey.”
Harvest one or two long stalks of spearmint and rinse them under running water. Start a kettle of hot water, and strip the leaves.
You can also use chocolate mint, peppermint, lemon balm or other members of the mint family.
Place the leaves into either a teapot with a built-in ceramic screen or a brewing basket, or at the bottom of a French press.
Toss in a handful of leaves to make a single cup, and two handfuls for a full pot.
Pour boiling water over the leaves — 8 ounces for a single cup or a full pot for multiple servings. Press against the leaves with a spoon to crush them and release their oils. Place the lid on the pot, or the lid with the plunger in the top position on a French press carafe. Let the leaves steep for 5 to 15 minutes, depending on how strong you want the brew. Taste test the spearmint tea for the strength you want — you can create a more delicate brew by only steeping for 3 to 5 minutes — and add honey as a sweetener, or milk.
You can brew dried spearmint as well, by adding 1 level tablespoon of the herb per cup to a teapot or French press.
Create iced tea by cooling the spearmint brew to room temperature, placing it in the refrigerator and serving it over ice with a mint-leaf garnish.
Tea drinking in Morocco is highly ritualized. Your guests drink three cups of spearmint tea per sitting, often out of clear teacups on an engraved silver tray, with the host pouring the tea from a great height, perhaps even out of two teapots. Take your time and savor the experience.
Boil a full pot of water. Place the tea in your teapot or French press — or an authentic berrad, with its potbelly and narrow spout — and add 1 cup of hot water. Allow this to brew for 1 minute and pour the lightly brewed tea — called the “soul” — into a cup.
Pour a second cup of hot water into the teapot and swish it around. Pour out this water and discard. Add the spearmint leaves. Pour the “soul” back in the pot, and add hot water to fill. Allow to steep for 5 minutes. If you have a berrad, place it on the stove and boil for 5 minutes.
Taste the first cup of spearmint tea yourself to check if it has brewed sufficiently. Pour the tea from a height into the teacups, and serve with spoons and lumps of sugar. In Morocco, tea drinkers enjoy the tea with 2 to 3 teaspoons of sugar per cup.