Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Thé à la Menthe Algerien

About 15 years ago, I went to Paris for the first time and had a blast trying on vintage clothes at the "Marche aux puces de Montreuil" with my friends, Agnès and Laurence. We stopped at a catering truck parked nearby comically called, "Le Roi de Frites" (French-Fry King) run by a guy who also served the greatest North African Mint Tea I'd ever had up until last week. I loved it so much that when I got back home to Chicago I immediately grabbed some fresh mint from the garden and steeped it in just-boiled water for 10 minutes. The result was nowhere near. I tried with Celestial Seasonings' peppermint tea, which was certainly better but still not the real deal. I had no idea how to make mint tea taste like the stuff I had in Paris.

Then last weekend, we were invited to our friends', Sana and Maher's for a Lebanese/Algerian Sunday lunch. After the baba ghanoush, the hummous, the tabbouleh, the rice pilaf with sausage, chicken, pine nuts and raisins and the amazing super hot roasted green pepper dish whose name I don't remember, our hosts made us thé à la menthe, Algerian style topped off with toasted pine nuts.It was such a wonderful way to end a big meal. We sipped our the a la menthe and smoked a narghilé with rose-scented tobacco and spent a couple more hours relaxing and talking. What a way to undo the stresses of the week! Here are us two innocent Alices sipping our tea and flanking a couple of hookah smokin' caterpillars. I must say smoking scented tobacco from a narghile is far more pleasant that smoking a cigarette. The smoke, having filtered through a pool of water goes down cool and when you exhale, leaves a perfumed flavor/scent that's just so pleasurable I'm glad I don't have one of these in my home or I might never leave it.

Anyway, the important thing here is I got the recipe! I now make iced tea out of this thé à la menthe, which is even more refreshing. Here's the recipe:

2 cups water
2 scant teaspoons loose green tea (I use Chinese Gunpowder tea)
4 tablespoons of whole mint leaves
sugar to taste

Bring the water to a boil then reduce heat to the lowest setting and add the green tea leaves. Let simmer, not boil for 10 minutes. Strain and pour the clear tea back in to the pot. Add the mint and simmer for another 2 minutes. Add sugar and stir. Pour into a teapot and serve immediately, piping hot with or without pine nuts or chill and serve as iced tea. Music to chill out and sip thé à la menthe by: "Le Roi Soleil" by Kahimi Karie off Chicago indie label, Minty Fresh Records. So cool...


Blogger Ms Adventures in Italy said...

That looks so cool and refreshing!! Yum.

I tried a hookah with the apple tobacco and I liked it. I don't smoke cigarettes but it was a nice experience.

6:42 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Sounds like mint tea + rosy hookah + good friends = memorable evening. This post was fun to read!

12:28 AM  
Blogger J at said...

Where were you when I needed you? I served crappy iced tea a few weeks ago at a bridal shower. Sigh.

3:57 AM  
Blogger Susan in Italy said...

Hi Ms., Have you ever been to a "hookheria" in Milan? I haven't seen any here but Paris is full to bursting with 'em.

Hi Christina, It was sooo relaxing! Thanks for the kind words.

Hi J., This recipe is my new favorite. It's even better than the orange blossom water tea, which is also nice. The orange blossom one is less fussy as a recipe, though.

11:10 AM  
Blogger ML said...

YUMMY sounding tea!

...Baba ghanoush, hummous, tabbouleh, the rice pilaf with sausage, chicken, pine nuts and the amazing super hot roasted green pepper dish...

I'm drooling here. I love these foods! Well, with the exception of the roasted green pepper dish...I don't think I've tried something like that, but it sounds so good!

6:02 PM  
Anonymous Paz said...

Sounds like a nice Sunday was had my all. Would love some of that North African Mint tea you described. I'm not sure anything I'd try to replicate would come out successfully.


6:19 PM  
Blogger Lotus Reads said...

What a fascinating post, Susan! The tea looks so inviting especially on a hot afternoon like today...I am definitely going to have to give it a try. You took me down memory lane with your description of the hookahs and how it feels to smoke one. When we lived in Dubai, we would often go to a coffee shop and smoke one (my favorite flavor was "green apple") and watch the older Arab gentlemen play're right, it is such a lovely way to relax.

That's a great photo too!

9:31 PM  
Blogger Susan in Italy said...

Hi Paz, I'm sure you can do it! I had no experience whatever and just did what Sana told me to do.

Hi Lotus, Oh! What a great time you must have had! I imagine that cultural differences make life hard regardless of where in the world you move but to spend an afternoon sipping tea, smoking a hookah (or do you call it narghilè?) and talking with friends and family would be such a pleasure!

12:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

thanks for this recipe! I had what was billed as 'the du Nil' in France some years ago and I think this is the nearest I have come to finding something similar. Lx

6:11 PM  

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