Thursday, July 10, 2014

Mint Tea

I've gotten a lot of inspiration from our travels around Europe.  My job as we prepare for our trips is to research the area we will be visiting.  I look up all there is to see and do at our destination.  My husband calls me "our travel agent", a role I am happy to fill.  It's really fun to hunt around for information- I read the guidebooks, ask around for experienced travelers to the area and sift through the multitudes of websites available to me to try to get to know an area before we get there.  I usually end up making a huge list that I know we will never get to complete, but I'd rather have lots of options so that we can choose what to do based on our mood at the moment.

Sometimes my lists include food options- places that people online rave about perhaps or somewhere that I've read about in a review that seems to serve the most traditional foods in the area.  But most often we simply wing it.  We ask the locals or wander the streets until something just seems right- usually it's a little place just off the main square that is full of locals.  Both my husband and I really enjoy seeking out the traditional foods of a place.  It's not only a way to taste the local foods, it's also a peek into the culture of the people.  And that's the best part for me.  You really get to know someone (or a whole group of folks) by what is found on the menus.

It's been a few months since we visited The Netherlands but a few shining food moments still linger in my memory.  The cheese is an easy one- any place that can put together entire towns based on the cheese industry is my kind of place.  Gouda and Edam are just a couple of notable examples.  The other dish (of sorts) that I noticed at every restaurant we ate or drank at was a simple tea.  Europeans might be known for their love of coffee, but the Dutch seem to have an equal fondness for tea.  But not the sort of dried black teas that they brought back from their exploration of the Indian continent.  I noticed quite a lot of people lounging after their meals with glasses of hot mint tea.  Very Moroccan inspired, if you ask me.  And certainly memorable.

So in the face of a huge bounty of mint from my garden and very few ideas as to what to do with it all, I called up my memory of the Dutch after dinner drink and set out to make my own mint tea.  Of several varieties of mint I have growing, I chose a Moroccan variety.  It just seemed a natural fit.  Moroccan mint is very peppermint-like, but a bit sharper (zingy would be a good description).  And with just a touch of honey and hot water, it makes a wonderful tea.  With each sip I am brought back to the canals, tulips and wonderful city atmosphere of Delft and Haarlem.

Mint Tea
Serves from one to many.
For a printable recipe, click here.

There really is no recipe for this tea.  It's so simple.  I'll give you a suggested amount to have per cup of tea, but it's ultimately up to you and your dinner guests.  If you have the access to several mint varieties, try them out to see what you like best.  I like pineapple mint, which is sweeter than traditional mint and has the aroma of pineapple, as well as the Moroccan variety.  I used a very mild blossom honey (from Slovenia!) to gently sweeten the tea and not compete too much with the mint flavor.  The glasses that I prefer for the tea are smaller juice sized ones.

Per glass:
1-2 sprigs of mint, rinsed
1/2-1 tsp light-flavored honey
hot, but not boiling, water

Place the sprigs of mint into the glass.  Pour the hot water over the tea and then stir in the honey to taste.  Let the tea steep for 4-5 minutes.

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