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...