Caramelised Tea & Mint Leaves

For a fast paced, modern, developing country, Jordan’s etiquette is on par with nineteenth century Europe (according to my limited historical knowledge ahem Downton Abbey ahem). Although I run the risk of becoming a hot beverages blogger (surprisingly refreshing in the swath of foodie-cum-traveller blogs?), I cannot avoid writing something about tea. I’m British, whaddyagonnado?

We typically make tea to accompany late night hummus and falafel sandwiches, although it is also a penultimate step in the ritual of serving guests. You see, as a hard and fast rule, coffee is followed by juice is followed by tea, which is followed by ‘goodbye coffee’.

As I say, etiquette.

When I first got here I was totally baffled by it all. It was startlingly similar to catering jobs I used to get through agencies, where only the in-house staff knew the timetable for the conference, party, or wedding, and the agency staff would be serving the champagne during the ceremony, and cleaning away the cake before it was cut.

I’m pretty chuffed that I’ve got the hang of it now, although sometimes I wish I could ask management for a print out of the exact timetable.

But I’m not a waitress, I’m just trying to work out the customs.

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Arabic tea is not served with milk. That’s something good to know. Water in the kettle is boiled on the gas hob same as coffee, but with two (depending on party size) Lipton tea bags, a bunch of dried sage leaves, and somewhere between 2 and 4 CUPS of sugar.

Recently I was sitting, post-hike, with a group of ex-pats in an unlit carpark by the Dead Sea when we attracted the attention of a local who invited us to some late night chai. Despite the polite protestations, he lit a small fire and began heating a kettle of water. There was a ripple of whispers and wiggling of bums when it got round the circle that he’d up-ended a bag of sugar into the kettle. Tell me I didn’t just see that; all the sugar? etc.

But the smell of boiling tea and caramelising sugar is divine. And I felt so assimilated when I nonchalantly stated, But didn’t you know? That’s how it’s done in Jordan.

Mint leaves added at the end gives a wonderful fresh note to the sticky sweet tea.

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7 thoughts on “Caramelised Tea & Mint Leaves

  1. You ARE fast becoming a hot beverage maven! And what’s with certain cultures’ love of sugar? In Mexico recently, I was overwhelmed by the predilection for ultra-sweet things. I do not generally have a sweet tooth, but I must say caramelized sugar (so much better!) is pretty appealing. I have not had the super-sweet tea you mention, but it sounds pretty good! Then again, I’m a no-milk (and certainly no-sugar) tea and chai girl, so maybe it would be too much for me. But I digress … loved this post!

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    1. Haha I’m really excited by all these coffee and tea traditions for some reason!
      I heard that about Mexico – that they love super sweet things, also lots of fried foods? Or is that just the US’s take on Mexican food?! I would love to go there… is it wonderfully bright and colourful like I imagine?
      I’m not into sweet stuff either, and like you say with Mexico, it’s a huge part of lifestyle here. Every dessert or treat is *soaked* in sugar syrup and I’m not really a fan :p But the sweet tea is great! (did you know ‘chai’ is the word for tea in Arabic – fun fact! haha) Thank you for commenting – your comments are always thoughtful and make me smile! 🙂

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  2. Mexico: Yes, so colorful and vibrant in every way! You’ll have to go sometime! (Meanwhile, not sure if you saw my two posts from the summer on Mexico City, but if not, you can pay a small visit that way!) And also yes, Americans do make some Mexican food even less healthy, but I’d have to say it’s a pretty fatty, sugary cuisine by nature, at least to my taste.
    Chai: Haha – I did know that chai is the word for tea in many languages, but somehow I still distinguish between the kind of tea I think of as English tea and the spicier kind I call chai. I even drink them at different times of day! I do draw the line at saying “chai tea” – definitely redundant!

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  3. Hmmm, well, I’m not sure what typical Mexican ingredients you have access to in Jordan, but one thing you could do at home is make some of your favorite recipes in general and just add some Mexican flavors, like cumin, coriander, oregano and, of course, ancho or chipotle chile peppers or powders. For example, we slow-cook beef, chicken, ground turkey, or even tofu in spicy sauces and then put into tortillas with lettuce, tomatoes, jicama, avocado, and cheese. I even make a vegetarian Mexican version of lasagna using the normal pasta sheets but adding all the Mexican spices to the tomato sauce and layering those with veggies and a Mexican white cheese (more healthful than the meaty, cheesy Italian version, too!)

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    1. Those ingredients sound perfect!Those ingredients sound perfect! I’m going to try making some tortillas – thanks for the tips! I’m going to try making some tortillas – thanks for the tips!

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