Arabian Mint
Answered by: Inge Poot
Question from: Tom Austin
Posted on: April 11, 2000

I have a friend who lives in Englewood, Fla. who lived in a mansion as wife of a very wealthy Saudi Arabian for many years who has royal blood and is directly related to the royal family of Jordon!

She knows all the recipes for Saudi food by heart BUT cannot translate many of the names of the foods they used there into English.

We are now investigating the type of mint they use for making Arabic Mint Green Tea. The closest green tea to the one they use which is very strong is Gunpowder green tea from Barnies Coffee stores.

I copied the entire list of mints Richters has and sent them to her along with the URL to the mint family plants so she could look at the pictures of the leaves. She knows it is not spearmint which they use.

Can you find out what mint they use and if you do not have it, get it ! How about that for a challenging project Inge!

We are going to try to get her ex-husband to bring some with him next time he comes - cross your fingers - with roots!

Well, anyway here is what she says about this mint problem - by the way, the Saudi Arabian Mint tea is delicious with spearmint! I have your Hillary’s mint, lime mint, orange mint and I think I will order some more this year from you to see how they do in Fla. Hillary’s mint is doing wonderfully and was full and bushy all winter long whereas, the spearmint got very thin this winter, as usual.

THE MINT THEY GROW HAS LONG, LONG THIN LEAVES. I TELL YOU, I HAVE NOT SEEN IT ANYWHERE ELSE. THEY CALL IT MADINAH MINT BECAUSE THAT’S WHERE IT COMES FROM. THE CLIMATE THERE IS DIFFERENT THAN THE COASTAL AREAS. IT IS INLAND AND VERY DRY SO THE MINT LEAVES ARE NOT FATTISH, BUT LOOK HYDROPHOBIC.

Here is her method for make Saudi Arabian Mint Green tea:

I always put the water on to boil. In the tea pot I put the tea (loose) and mint sprigs. Do not chop, but tear them whole, just in half. Pour the boiling water over, must be boiling!! And cover and let sit for a few minutes, until the tea is the right color. And must be drunk out of a glass - you are right!!

Check out this cookbook: It says drink 10 cups of green tea a day ward off cancer and heart disease! "The Taste for Living World Cookbook: More of Mike Milken." Many other herbs and spices are mentioned in this cookbook as good for you. This cookbook is on the cutting edge of nutrition to avoid serious diseases! Excellent book and might revolutionize western cooking! With the Arabic tea, of course, we are cutting out the sugar altogether or putting a very modest amount in like an 1/8 tsp. of pure cane sugar per cup. You do not really need sugar if you have all that spearmint in there!

Morrocan Mint Tea

1/4 cup fresh Mint, finely diced (within reason the more you chop, the less mint you need)

2 teabags Chinese Green Tea

2 tablespoons sugar

Combine the above with 12 oz. boiling water. Let steep ‘til comfortable drinking temperature. The Morrocans say that tea should be so hot that it burns your tongue and so sweet that it rots your teeth. In reality, it is sweet as soda pop. Pour over teaspoon into two juice glasses. Morrocans always serve tea in glass, never porcelain! No, they are not being obssessive/compulsive. Tea tastes completely different in glass. After attempting to make Morrocan Mint Tea for over 10 years, I discovered difference is the variety of Mint you use. Any fresh Mint will make a delightful tea, but the flavor will not be quite the same.

Mint Tea

1 rounded teaspoon green tea

5 teaspoons sugar (granulated)

12-14 large fresh mint leaves

1 cup water

1 sprig of mint per glass to be served

Mix tea and sugar. Crush mint leaves in water. Bring to boil. Pour over tea and sugar. Let steep for 5 minutes. Place small sprig of mint in two thick 4-ounce juice glasses. Strain tea into glasses. Drink while hot.

The man I watched make this tea in Lebanon used one of the small brass coffeemakers so common in the Middle East. He boiled the mint leaves, tea and sugar over his charcoal fire. Then he strained this over the sprigs of mint in the glass. I also watched a man do it this way in Morocco, so if you want to be authentic, rather than take an American shortcut, that is the method to use.

How to make Moroccan mint tea:

All of the sudden, at least a dozen tea companies are selling their version of Morocco’s famous mint tea. While these versions are inauthentic at best, you can very easily make your own mint tea at home.

Here’s how:

Boil about a quart of water. Pour a few ounces of the boiling water into your teapot and then discard that water ("scalding the pot"). Put about 2 tablespoons of gunpowder green tea in the empty teapot. Pour about 6 ounces of water into the teapot. Allow the tea to steep for about 2 minutes. Pour out the water and set it aside (it is too bitter to drink). Put several mint sprigs into the teapot. Put several teaspoons (to taste) of sugar into the pot. Fill the teapot with boiling water. Allow to steep for about 5 minutes. Pour tea into glasses and enjoy.

Tips:

Pouring the tea from a good height above the glass oxygenates the tea and improves taste. Make sure you entirely cover the tea and the mint with the boiling water. Use only fresh mint sprigs and do not use mint leaves unless nothing else is available.

This sounds like fun! If the mint is a true mint, it will root very easily from any rootless stem cutting. Therefore your friend’s ex-husband will not have to bring a whole plant, but only a few sprigs. He should wrap them in moist paper towels and pop them into an open plastic bag and bring them in in his hand luggage. The luggage compartments of most planes get far too cold for all but dormant, winter hardy plants to survive the trip.

The book "Arabian Medicinal Plants" by Shahina A. Ghazanfar (CRC Press, 1994) shows a mint on pages 122-123 that seems to fit your description. It is Mentha longifolia (L.)L. with the local vernacular names of Na’ana, gha’gha or habak. It shows a picture of a mint with very narrow long leaves. We sell this species as silver mint. It may be a slightly different variety from the one your friend is used to, because the plant has a very wide natural distribution, but she should try the taste and see if this feature at least stayed constant over the whole endemic area. We would be interested to know the results! If you have to resort to the cuttings brought by your friend’s ex-husband we would love to receive a piece to propagate.

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